THIS year will mark 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament which established the family of UK national parks as we know it.

To celebrate, a new interactive exhibition which delves into the history of how and why these scenic spots came to be, and what the future holds for them has launched at the Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre, located within Northumberland National Park.

The park’s in-house team curated the Yours Since 1949 exhibition to teach visitors about the birth of the national parks, which began as a just a piece of legislation and which recognised on paper the value which these special places have for everyone.

At the heart of the exhibition are the faces behind the parks, such as Pauline and John Dower, the founding members of the National Parks Commission, who shared a love for Britain’s landscape and the wildlife who call it home.

John was an architect who developed an interest in natural planning. In 1943 he delivered a paper to the Royal Institute of British Architects which argued that the holiday use of the countryside and coast was second to none in giving physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness to ‘the whole mass of the people’. This paper was pivotal in establishing the principles by which national parks were to be designated.

Like John, Pauline felt that ordinary people had a right of access to England’s beautiful countryside, especially the soldiers returning from the trenches of World War II.

Sadly, John never saw his plans come to life as he died from tuberculosis in 1947. Pauline continued to work on John’s dream however, and after his death she became the first woman to sit on the National Parks Commission, where she remained for 16 years.

Attending the opening of Yours Since 1949 was Pippa Ross, a national park member whose father John Ross was instrumental in bringing Northumberland National Park to the public.

In the 1950s, John worked as a county planning officer, where he was responsible for overseeing the creation of the park.

“He loved Northumberland – he was born and bred here, and he was immensely proud of his home,” said Pippa. “This was why he was so devoted to getting the county on the map.

“He was a campaigner for greater public access to the countryside because he believed in its restoring power on the mind, and this I think was inspired by his experiences at war.

“Whilst in Germany he led his platoon in to relieve Belsen concentration camp. The horrors he must have seen there would have been unimaginable. Although he never talked about his experiences in detail, I believe that having seen such destruction in the camp, made him want to rebuild, reconstruct and find beauty in things wherever he could.”

Featured in Yours Since 1949 are number of interactive elements such as digital story maps, a 3D holographic archive of archaeological artefacts and a virtual reality flying experience, where visitors can experience the breadth of Northumberland National Park from a bird’s eye view.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to view two specially commissioned films. Campaign for National Parks, narrated by actress Caroline Quentin, and a short animation from Arcus Animation Studios give audiences of all ages a chance to learn the history of how the parks came to be.

Children can also enjoy getting hands-on with experiential activities such as soft shapes and light play inspired by nature, or dress up as some of the wildlife and foliage found in Northumberland National Park such as a Cheviot goat and even a waxcap mushroom.

There is also a interactive game designed for children which turns them into a tree, with the aim to teach them about cause and effect. If they remain rooted and still, branches will grow and eventually bear fruit, but if they move too much, leaves will fall.

“It shows children that how they treat nature and the world around them has positive or negative effects. In order to preserve sites like Northumberland National Park, we need future generations to take action, and understand that what they do has an impact,” said Tony Gates, chief executive at Northumberland National Park Authority.

Head of activities and exhibitions at the authority Sarah Burn said: “We’re incredibly proud of what we have created.

“Not only does the exhibition celebrate the history of our Parks – and all the rangers, ecologists, planners and volunteers who have worked so hard to get us to where we are now – but it also explores how people will play a part in the park’s future.”

Yours since 1949 is open to the public now and will be on display in The Stell temporary exhibition space at the Sill until October 2019.