Britain’s Newest National Park

So Britain has its newest (and ninth) national park! Stretching from Beachy Head in Sussex to the very edge of the city of Winchester, the South Downs National Park contains some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. The new Park covers over 630 square miles and contains the Winchester villages and towns of the Meon Valley.

So what is the impact, particularly on local business, of being situated within a National Park? Let’s look at those communities and what makes them tick?

Alresford , a lovely little town with a wide main street, individual and elegant shops and some good pubs and restaurants, has a thriving tourist industry, centred largely around the wonderful Watercress Line steam railway which runs up to the market town of Alton.

Bishop’s Waltham has a beautiful set of palace ruins which was once home to the powerful bishops of Winchester. Tthis busy little town is very much a local commercial hub attracting local shoppers from all around the local villages. The community is an active one with much effort put into the Britain in Bloom entries and also with a well known local music festival in the palace grounds.

Cheriton, Chilcomb, Corhampton, Droxford, Exton, and Meonstoke are small, largely residential villages now with few local facilities, except for the ubiquitous village pub and church.

Warnford is the home of Hampshire’s famous watercress. As you drive through the village they line the road and are an important and traditional local speciality crop.

Wickham – with its large and attractive village square, dating back to the middle ages but with fine Georgian buildings, Wickham is another local shopping centre serving the farms and smallholdings of the area.

So these communities have a number of key business sectors which keep them viable – agriculture, local shopping and finally, tourism and hospitality.

Agriculture is probably the most critical to the character and appearance of the South Downs themselves. The landscape has been shaped by its interaction with man from earliest times. The new National Park has a Management Plan which covers the classification of the land into various categories of agricultural land and into non-agricultural land and also its own planning guidelines. However, as agriculture is seen as so critical to the landscape and to the natural history of the area, no significant restrictions have been placed on either land use or buildings for the farming community.

Shopping is an important factor in the area as it maintains the importance of these local communities and provides a useful outlet for local produce. The National Park has no negative impact here and indeed may, through support for sustainable development and tourism, actually improve the business climate.

Tourism and hospitality are likely to thrive under the new regime. A higher profile, through the work of the South Downs National Park and its promotion of the area, will bring a wide range of tourists from the UK and beyond to sample the delights of the area. Whether they are walking the South Downs Way or taking a leisurely drive out from Winchester through the Meon Valley, perhaps down to the Solent, they can stop and enjoy a pint and a ploughman’s at any village in the Park.

For more information about the Winchester area, go to Activ Winchester

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