Cotswold Outdoor x Columbia: Celebrating Our National Parks

In collaboration with Columbia, we tasked some of our favourite adventurers to discover the outdoors in their local National Park. Here's what they had to say about their favourite hidden gems and why we should be protecting our National Parks for generations to come.

Ollie Smither: New Forest National Park


What does it mean to you to be able to explore the National Parks? 


In today’s fast paced, digital world it’s easy to get lost in the business and chaos. Having untouched, natural spaces to visit gives us the perfect opportunity to ground ourselves and re-connect with the world around us. National Parks provide a space to take a break from day to day life, breathe fresh air, go wild swimming and feel the ground beneath your feet again. 


What’s your favourite hidden gem in the New Forest? 


One of my favourite places in the New Forest is Bolderwood deer sanctuary. Make sure you take a camera as this place provides a perfect space to lose yourself in nature and watch the wildlife around you. 


Why do you think it’s important to protect our National Parks? 


The world is full of breathtakingly beautiful places; however, these are slowly being overtaken with manmade buildings and roads. Without the preservation of natural beauty and wildlife, these spaces will eventually be lost and their beauty will no longer be able to be enjoyed by the generations to come.

Beth Squire: Snowdonia National Park


What does it mean to you to be able to explore the National Parks?


I’ve loved the freedom of National Parks from a very early age and this sense of wildness has stayed with me. Too often I find myself too busy to pause and appreciate life and the world around me, so immersing myself in nature gives me that chance to recharge, reflect and reconnect with both myself and all the beauty that surrounds me.


What’s your favourite hidden gem in Snowdonia?


I have a few favourite spots in Snowdonia, not sure if they would be classed as hidden gems but my favourite places to explore are Cadair Idris which is an amazing hike that has 360 views at the top and a gorgeous little lake named Llyn Cau which you can stop off at on the way up. My other favourite place is Coed-y-Brenin which is a beautiful forest with so many trails, and there’s also chance to take a dip in the water along the way, if you’re brave enough!


Why do you think it’s so important to protect our National Parks?


We’re lucky to have a number of National Parks in the UK and as there’s been an increase in leisure time there’s also been an increase in the use of our National Parks. For me personally they’ve helped me with my mental health, physical fitness and creativeness which I can’t do my job without and I think many people feel the same. They are a place for people to escape, to learn and to enjoy and not protecting them would mean so many beautiful parts of this country would just be lost! We should not only protect them for ourselves and future generations but for the species and plants that live within them because after all, being out in nature is not an experience that can be substituted or replicated.

Ieuan Barrett: Brecon Beacons National Park


What does it mean to you to be able to explore the National Parks?


Living so close and being able to explore the Brecon Beacons National Park is amazing. It allows me to reset and rethink my plans ready for the week ahead. In terms of mental health, walking up mountains and skirting along rivers not only reduces any worries or pressures I have from other areas of my life but gives me an opportunity to focus on what I’m going to photograph and appreciate the environment that I’m surrounded by. This can usually be as simple as the sound of flowing water in a nearby stream or the silence whilst at the top of a mountain.


What’s your favourite hidden gem in the Brecon Beacons? 


My favourite hidden gem in Brecon Beacons National Park would have to be Craig Cereig-gleisiad. The angle of the mountain and the surrounding geology reminds me of how these valleys were shaped and formed through the power of ice and Glaciers. The cliffs make for some dramatic backdrop when the bowl of the mountain is smothered in fog which creates an eerie atmosphere but one of which I can also feel at ease.


Why do you think it’s so important to protect our National Parks?


The protection of the National Park is a must, not only for the needs of the people who explore it but more so for the wildlife and fauna which inhabit it. There are so many habitats and ecosystems it’s paramount we do what we can, when we can to protect it. This may mean having designated paths and areas to walk in to protect from path erosion but this is essential to protecting mosaic grasslands, fauna and wildlife. This is a place of beauty which expands over a vast distance, if everyone stopped congregating in one area and decided to explore new areas within the park I think this would dramatically increase the potential of protecting the national park from further habitat loss or damage. 

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