Letter: A millennium park for the stifled south

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Sir: A major new National Park in the pastoral south-eastern corner of the country would be a wonderful millennium project (leading article, 13 December). This could buy up set-aside farming land (ideally in hill and remote countryside) and landscape it, removing modern field patterns, fences and walls to create a large area of old-style heathland or deer forest in which walkers and horse-riders could roam free. As a climber I would like to see such a national park contain artificial cliffs, boulders and edges (carefully designed to blend into the environment), and water sports could also be catered for with large lakes drained at times of spate by wild water rivers for rafting and canoeing.

The "Capability" Browns of the 21st century could make their reputations by providing pleasing environments, not for a privileged aristocracy but for mass popular use. The car could be restricted to the periphery and the odd through route. Adjacent railway stops could allow easy access from the cities.

I recall with despair the very inadequate walking and outdoor recreational possibilities within striking distance of north London when I lived there in the Seventies. Public footpaths were jealously hemmed in with barbed wire fences and areas of open hills, fields or heathland were in short supply. Contrasting this with the magnificent moors, forests, rivers, crags and lakes that I can now enjoy in close proximity to my home near Macclesfield, I am amazed that people in the south have put up with outdoor recreational poverty for so long. Every weekend, thousands of them pack the motorways on the long trek north or west to the distant national parks.

A large area (or areas) of public recreation space linking up the fields, hills, copses and rivers in some of the remoter areas of, say, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire would be a priceless national asset for the future and would also create jobs and boost tourist-related activities in an area now given up mainly to monotonous modern agriculture.

KEN WILSON

Langley, Cheshire

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