“Every city must have a recreation area”

INTERVIEW: Why best-selling American author Bill Bryson backed the South Downs as a national park.

The South Downs is Britain’s 15th and newest national park. It took 60 years and the backing of many thousands of people to win this status. Celebrated author Bill Bryson was one such supporter in his role as president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The 62-year-old claims he knew almost nothing of the South Downs, but became “swept up” in other’s enthusiasm for it.

“I’m obviously not a trained geologist or botanist, but, I do have eyes, and like anyone else I can appreciate beauty when I see it.”

Much of the lengthy debate concerned the park’s boundaries.

Describing Secretary of State Hilary Benn’s decision to include the Western Weald as “heroic”, Bryson criticised the “preposterous argument” of those, namely local politicians, who believed the park should be defined by the chalk ridge:

“Nobody’s ever going to build an ASDA on top of the chalk ridge – that was never the part that was threatened.”

Comparing Britain’s national parks with those in his native America, Bryson celebrated, “how lucky you are in this country to have this much unspoilt land so close to the bigger city.”

“The very fact that there could be these green, pleasant landscapes on the doorstep of London is a real achievement – something that would have been very foolish to throw away… because every city must have a recreation area”.

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