The international award is a sign to the public that Lepe, River Hamble, Queen Elizabeth and Royal Victoria country parks boast the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained, and have excellent visitor facilities.
Royal Victoria Country Park has also received the much-coveted Green Heritage Site Accreditation for the management of its historic features.
Councillor Woodward 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.
“We know how much quality green spaces matter to residents and visitors, and this award celebrates the dedication that goes into maintaining the sites by staff, volunteers and partners who are rightly proud of this excellent achievement.”
International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “It’s fantastic that we have more Green Flag Awards in the UK than ever before, joined this year by 131 International winners.”
“Each flag honours the thousands of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. We congratulate each and every winner on their fantastic achievement.”
The County Council is investing extensively in its Country Parks to make them even more enjoyable, with projects that have collectively attracted nearly £7 million in external funding, as part of a £18.8 million total spend.
For example £2.9 million was invested in Lepe Country Park to rebuild the visitor centre, including contributions from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and New Forest National Park authority. At Royal Victoria Country Park a £3.5 million project enabled refurbishment of the Chapel, with substantial backing from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. These projects are successfully increasing visitor numbers as well as ensuring the parks are on track to become financially self-sufficient in the future.
The transformation of Queen Elizabeth Country Park is underway and work to River Hamble Country Park will start in the autumn. This work will include providing new and improved visitor centres, restaurants, play equipment, trails and parking, as well as enhancing the unique habitats, heritage and breath-taking scenery.
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 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. The ongoing transformation of this park this year will see a new visitor centre, improved play equipment and better paths and trail signage to attract more families and make it more accessible.
- 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 to include 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. The refurbishment of its historic Chapel, the only remaining part of what was once the world’s largest military hospital of its time in 1863, has provided an extremely popular historic attraction for visitors.