Tells the untold story of the architect behind Britain's National Parks, John Dower

Fight for It Now

John Dower and the Struggle for National Parks in Britain

David Wilkinson

National Parks are Britain’s breathing spaces – protected areas enjoyed by the millions of visitors attracted every year by their tranquillity, beauty and landscape. Fifteen National Parks cover a significant share of Britain’s total land area – 10 per cent of England, 20 per cent of Wales, and 7 per cent of Scotland. Yet despite their importance, few people today are aware of the campaign in the 1930s and 1940s to establish National Parks. And fewer still know the name of the man who was its principal driving force. 

John Dower was an architect, a planner, a prodigious walker, an accomplished writer and, above all, a fighter. Fight for It Now is the first biography to be written about him, and the title reflects his one great objective and the increasing urgency of attaining it as his health declined. Drawing on extensive national archives and his private papers and letters, the book describes Dower’s early work with pressure groups like the Friends of the Lake District and the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and then his subsequent move during the Second World War to an influential position inside government, focusing on post-war reconstruction. While German bombs were falling on British cities, it was part of Dower’s job to quarter the English countryside and identify potential areas for National Parks. 

Dower’s most influential contribution was his ‘one-man White Paper’ National Parks in England and Walespublished at the end of the war in 1945. The ‘Dower Report’ addressed key questions on the criteria for selecting National Parks, where they should be located, who they were for, and how they should be administered, and it paved the way at last for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, seventy years ago this year. While overcoming opponents both outside and inside government, Dower wrote continuously as though his project could only be hammered out at white heat. And all the while, the one struggle he knew he could not win was the tuberculosis that eventually killed him, at the tragically early age of forty-seven.

For most of his working life, David Wilkinsonhas researched and lectured on British and European environmental policy and politics – within higher education, an environmental think-tank, and the UK’s wildlife and countryside agency, Natural England.  Fight for it Now is the second of his biographies of pioneer environmental campaigners, and follows a portrait of writer and broadcaster, Kenneth Allsop (Keeping the Barbarians at Bay, Signal Books 2013).  

£25.00 hb

Buy now

288 pp, 33 colour photos
October 2019
ISBN: 9781909930797