There are National Parks all over the world, set up by nations to protect their most valuable scenery and wildlife. Some National Parks are in wilderness areas, others are landscapes where people have lived and worked for thousands of years, but all authorities obey one set of common rules. The purpose of a National Park, first introduced in England as the National Parks Commission in 1949, is not to change the character of a chosen territory, but to 'control it's development so that it may harmonise with and preserve the characteristic beauty of the landscapes within a park, whilst also providing the visiting public with ample access and facilities for recreation and enjoyment of the chosen areas'. The National Parks Commission not only strives to protect the amazing landscapes within the English countryside, but also offer protection to hundreds of rare and endangered trees, plants and forms of wildlife.

Whilst the various National Parks cover an area of some 13,618 km2 (nearly 10%) of the total area of England and Wales, the Commission also has the power to designate areas of England and Wales outside of the National Parks as 'areas of outstanding natural beauty', and had defined some 33 areas as such by 1997.

Under the Countryside Act of 1968, the National Parks Commission was reconstituted as the Countryside Commission, and the areas recognised as National Parks grew. In 1988 a special authority was formed to manage the 120 miles of waterways constituting the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, and in 1991 National Park status was granted to the New Forest. After growing pressure, plans were announced in 1998 to create Scotland's first National Park, which is to cover Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

The National Parks Commission works in partnership with landowners, farmers and many other residents to care for each designated area. Covering such a vast area, not all of the land contained within a National Park is the property of the National Parks Commission or is Common land, and much of the locations are either privately owned, or are owned / managed by the Park Authority, National Trust, Forestry Commission, Countryside Council for Wales, or other such governing bodies.

To date, the National Parks of England and Wales are:

Brecon Beacons
The Lake District
The New Forest
The Norfolk / Suffolk Broads
The North Yorkshire Moors
The Peak District
The Pembrokeshire Coast
The Yorkshire Dales

Futher information on the structure, policies and purposes of the National Parks Commission may be found at where some of the above information was taken from. Due to the proposed increase of National Parks in the UK, this resource is non-exhaustive, and will be updated as and when appropriate.
Pears Cyclopaedia (1999-2000)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia