The international award, now into its third decade, is a sign to the public that Lepe, River Hamble, Queen Elizabeth, Royal Victoria and Staunton country parks boast the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained, and have excellent visitor facilities.
Councillor Seán Woodward, the County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, said: “We’re delighted that our popular country parks have once again been recognised as world class open spaces for people to enjoy. Green Flag Awards are hard earned and are only given to the best green spaces across the globe. Our staff, volunteers and partners are rightly proud of this excellent achievement.”
International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme, with more Green Flags awarded this year than last year.
“Each flag honours the thousands of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. We are proud to have so many wonderful green spaces in the UK for people to enjoy, and hope that next year, we award even more flags.”
The County Council’s vision to make the parks even more enjoyable continues with a programme of improvement work which includes providing new and improved visitor centres, restaurants, play equipment, trails and parking, as well as enhancing the unique habitats, heritage and breath-taking scenery found at the five country parks.
Councillor Woodward added: “For over 40 years, these parks have welcomed visitors, encouraging them to explore and enjoy the natural environment. That’s why it’s important for us to continue to strive for excellence, by investing in our country parks - which will improve visitor facilities and make more of their natural and historical features.”
Each of Hampshire’s country parks offers something unique:
- Facilities at Lepe Country Park on the coast of the New Forest have been improved thanks to £2.9 million investment from the County Council, with a new restaurant offering views of the Solent and Isle of Wight, sensory garden, play equipment, landscape works, improved play and better car parking.
- River Hamble Country Park, near Bursledon, can be enjoyed by all - whether it’s walking, cycling or horse riding in the woods, or on the banks of the River Hamble. Children can enjoy meeting the animals in the historic farm, or play in the Barnfield play area.
- Queen Elizabeth Country Park, near Petersfield, is Hampshire's biggest country park with more than 200 acres of woodland and downland. The park’s visitor centre will be transformed as part of a planned £2 million programme of improvements, including a bigger restaurant, more welcoming entrance, outdoor sheltered area and space for tourism-based businesses.
- Royal Victoria Country Park sits on the shores of the Solent, near Netley. A £3.5 million project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the County Council is approaching completion; this will conserve its historic Chapel - the only remaining part of what was once the world’s largest military hospital when it was built in 1863.
- Staunton Country Park, near Havant, will have its 200-year-old Regency landscapes restored, and a new visitor centre installed as part of a £4 million project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund and the County Council, ahead of Staunton’s bicentenary in 2019.