A Park for the People

70 years of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

In the evolution of this outstanding landscape, fashioned over millions of years, a period of 70 years barely registers on the timescale…

Yet for the Pembrokeshire Coast the last 70 years have been of vital importance. Although people have inhabited the areas that now form our National Park over thousands of years, and no doubt marvelled at its beauty in much the same way as we do today, it was only in 1952 that it was awarded legal status as National Park and a place to safeguard and cherish for all time.

It wasn’t an isolated moment of post-war radicalism that brought about the designation of the Pembrokeshire Coast, though. Tempting as it is to view the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 as the ‘Big Bang’ moment in the creation of our National Parks, the drive to protect the UK’s most breathtaking areas of wilderness had been gaining momentum for at least a century.

As the Industrial Revolution transformed the UK’s towns and cities into overpopulated urban centres, people began yearning for the beauty of the countryside and the sanctuary it provided from urban life. This was reflected in the writings of Romantic-era poets such as Wordsworth, who famously declared the Lake District a “sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.”

Not all landowners agreed, though, and it took a century of failed rebellion – and increasing conflicts between those who owned the land and those who felt they had a right to access and enjoy its benefits – before the all-important legislation was passed.

By this time, the Pembrokeshire coastline along with its wildlife rich offshore islands, the Preseli Hills, and the upper reaches of the Milford Haven Waterway – the Daugleddau – had all been earmarked as areas worth safeguarding.

Black and white photograph from 1950s showing 3 men digging a path on a grassy clifftop

There were mixed feelings about the highest level of protection being bestowed on such a large portion of the local landscape. While some worried about planning issues and a potential deterrent to business development, others were concerned that without National Park status, the county would be “disfigured” by “garish seaside villas and summer shacks” and succumb to the trappings of other seaside resorts around the country.

Three years on, in a tumultuous Leap Year that had already seen a change of monarch, the abolition of wartime ID cards and the creation of the UK’s first atomic bomb, the Pembrokeshire Coast became the fifth National Park to be established in the UK, following the Peak District, the Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor.

Skomer Island viewed from the Deer Park

National Parks are all things to all people, and for the last 70 years the Pembrokeshire Coast has been no exception. It’s a place where people come to enjoy the countryside and all its recreational opportunities, and also a place where people live, work and raise their families.

While no one could have anticipated the global circumstances that have led up to the celebration of this remarkable milestone, it seems fitting that as the Pembrokeshire Coast marks its 70th anniversary, our appreciation of our wild and natural places has reached a level unseen since the creation of National Parks.

As we look towards the future, we hope that the Pembrokeshire Coast will continue to be a place of sanctuary and refuge, for people, plants and animals alike, for many more years to come.

Find out more about the National Park

Discover more about the National Park