Today is World Nature Conservation Day, a global event dedicated to highlighting the importance of protecting and safeguarding our natural world. Here in Britain, we’re blessed with some truly remarkable pockets of countryside that are protected by the government to safeguard them for future generations- here’s a pick of our favourites from around the UK.
Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire
With its 19th century lighthouse and majestic white chalk cliffs, Flamborough Head is a remarkable area for a stroll both day and night. The government first designated this headland a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1952 due to the 189 habitats and 788 species which call this picturesque promontory home.
The Lizard, Cornwall
Stunning good looks aren’t the only thing that Cornwall’s The Lizard has to shout about. Along with its award-winning beaches and wonderful time-forgotten hamlets, this evocative finger of land is also a Special Area of Conservation thanks to the diversity of its flora.
Solway Firth, Dumfries & Galloway
Lagoons, mud flats and tidal rivers are just a handful of the natural features which await in Solway Firth, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty famous for its frequent dolphin sightings. Solway is one of Scotland’s most stunning bodies of water, and there has been talk of the region becoming the UK’s second marine national park.
North Norfolk Coast, Norfolk
Ribbons of soft sand and miles of undulating shingle dunes make the North Norfolk coast one of the best in the UK. Coastal highlights in the region include Holkham Beach and nature reserve, as well as Hunstanton Beach, a sandy stretch of coast renowned for its unusual red and white cliffs.
The New Forest, Wiltshire
Take coniferous woodlands and water fringed fens and what do you get? The New Forest of course! A designated Special Area of Conservation, the New Forest is an ever popular base for tourists thanks to its numerous walking, cycling and adventure trails, which criss-cross for miles across the woodland.
Simonside Hills, Northumberland
Located in the nether regions of Northumberland lie the Simonside Hills, a band of uplands protected for their biodiversity and wild, untamed landscapes. From atop these rugged hills, hikers are granted a panoramic view of the neighbouring Cheviots, making the 430m ascent well worth the effort.
Peak District Dales, Peak District
Perhaps the most famous protected land mass in the UK, the Peak District is by far the most popular designated Special Area of Conservation on this shortlist. For decades, people have flocked to the region to indulge in any number of the outdoor pursuits on offer, yet the Peak District’s main appeal comes from the sheer beauty of its natural backdrop.
Quantock Hills, Somerset
As England’s first designated Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, the Quantocks have a lot to prove. Thankfully, the area’s spellbinding vistas and rare flora more than live up to this prestigious mantel, and to top it off, the area’s been designated a Special Area of Conservation too- what more could you want?
Synonymous with sturdy mares and rich moorlands, Dartmoor is the ideal place to escape the daily grind and venture out into nature. Walkers will love cherry-picking their favourite routes from over 450 miles of public footpaths in Dartmoor, whilst mountain biking, horse riding and geocaching provide fun alternatives for the more adventurous.
Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight
Named after Britain’s late poet laureate, Lord Tennyson, the Tennyson Down is a chalk ridge forming part of what has come to be known as the ‘backbone’ of the Isle of Wight. Here, rare seabirds nest in the shingle sea cliffs and cows and rabbits graze on rich, emerald grasslands that extend right to the very edge of the headland.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our shortlist of Britain’s best conservation sites. Of course, this is but a sample of all the protected areas that are publicly accessible here in the UK. To find out more about Britain’s special areas of conservation, please visit the JNCC website. Alternatively, if you’d like to get involved in World Nature Conservation Day, click here.
Jonathan is a lover of books, music and good food. Originally from Yorkshire, there's nothing he likes more than a cycle in the country. One of his favourite spots in the UK is Tenby, where he spent many a happy holiday as a child.