South Downs National celebration on 1 April 2011

Exciting plans for the launch event for the South Downs National Park (SDNP) in Petersfield on 1 April are in their final stages. This is the only major event being staged on 1 April for the new National Park opening.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the SDNP Authority, will lead the celebrations, in the company of Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire, other local dignitaries, schoolchildren and activity groups from across the South Downs.

The Square, Petersfield, will throng with schoolchildren, a giant map of the South Downs, a marquee, a gypsy caravan, canoes, hang-gliders, zorbers, a large Mongolian yurt, and 25 exhibition stands.

Exhibitors from many activity groups will have set up stalls round the Square. These include walkers, runners, ramblers, cyclists, hang-gliders, zorbers, and nature conservationists.

Among these exhibitors are: Hampshire Fare; the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust; the SDNP and the South Downs Society; Butser Ancient Farm; the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester; the Seven Sisters Canoe Centre in East Sussex; Orb 360; the Ashford Hangers Volunteers; Petworth House; Shipwrights’ Way; South Downs Hang Gliding; the Steyning and District Partnership; Forest Knights Bushcraft; and the Museum, the Round Table,the Food Festival and the Tourist Information Centre from Petersfield.

The programme starts at 10am with the opening of a riverside walk in Liss by Margaret Paren. Then the focus switches to The Square, Petersfield, for the ceremonies, which begin at 11.45 with pupils from Petersfield Infant School singing a song.

The opening is at noon by Margaret Paren and includes the unfurling of the new National Park flag from St Peter’s Church tower. Then Mrs Paren will ring a handbell to set off a peal of bells to more than 20 churches across the South Downs – from Petersfield to Eastbourne.

At 12.15 Philip Young, Chairman of the Petersfield Musical Festival, will conduct a choir of 140 pupils aged between 9 and 13 from various local schools in a song which he has specially composed to celebrate the new Park – the 10th National Park to open in England.

The event has been organized by a group of volunteers led by Philip Haines, of Haines Net, and Gareth Gammon, of Navigate.
Event manager Philip Haines says: “This puts us right at the heart of the National Park. This is a celebration and it is just nice to do something that is all good news in the current climate.”

“It’s wonderful how the local community has come together to organize this unique event in a very short space of time,” adds Gareth Gammon.