How to get accredited status for your country park, find out if you’re eligible, how to apply and what happens next.

Why get accredited

Country parks are areas for people to visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment. Managers can apply for accreditation for their country parks. Accreditation shows potential visitors that your country park has essential facilities and services that you would expect to see in a country park. The accreditation criteria show designers and planners what a good country park should offer.

Accredited country parks receive a:

  • certificate to display to visitors
  • logo to use on signs, online and in printed marketing
  • place on a register of country parks

Who can apply

Managers of country parks can apply for free. You can even apply if your site has another primary function as long as it has the facilities expected of a country park.

To get accreditation, you need to send Natural England evidence that your park meets the following criteria. You may have most of this in your management plan. Written statements, maps, activity programmes, leaflets and photos will also be accepted. You’ll be given full criteria and ideas for evidence to submit when you contact Natural England to apply.

Your site must have all of the essential criteria and at least 10 of the desirable criteria to get accreditation.

Essential criteria

Your park must be:

  • at least 10 hectares in size
  • defined by a clear boundary – marked on a map, whether it’s open or fenced in
  • accessible – less than 10 miles from a residential area
  • free to enter
  • inclusive and accessible – show how you’ve met equality and disability needs and provided for varied groups
  • predominantly natural or semi-natural landscape, eg woodland, grassland, wetland, heathland or parkland, with no more than 5% of the area built upon (excluding car parks)
  • signposted and easy to navigate – visitors should be shown where they can go and what they can do and directed along footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes
  • visibly staffed, eg litter collection and maintenance
  • available for public or educational events
  • near public toilets – either onsite or a 2 minute walk away
  • informed by the local community – the public should have some influence over the management and development of your site

Desirable criteria

Your park should ideally have:

  • a visitor centre
  • play facilities
  • catering
  • bike and horse trails
  • art and sculpture
  • permanent staff presence during the day
  • detailed information available to visitors eg leaflets
  • brown and white tourist directional signs and shown on an OS map
  • activities outside eg water sports and adventure sports
  • achieved, or is working towards, Green Flag Award (GFA) status
  • a green transport policy, eg buses and cycle routes to your site
  • facilities for less able visitors eg easy trails, seats and information available in accessible formats
  • planned for the management of biodiversity, geodiversity and preservation of historical environment
  • opportunities for practical community involvement, eg volunteering
  • promoted the health benefits of walking
  • an outreach programme promoting your site to less represented sectors of the community
  • a programme of events and guided walks, promoting healthy living and environmental awareness

How to apply

  1. Email cpas@naturalengland.org.uk or call 0300 060 1115 for an application form and further advice.
  2. Complete the Microsoft Excel form, that Natural England will send you, electronically.
  3. Return the form and all evidence to cpas@naturalengland.org.uk.

You should only post your application if you’re sending:

  • more than 7MB of data - put it on a CD not a memory stick
  • physical items, such as leaflets and photos, that you can’t scan

Mark the envelope and documents with your reference number found (starting with CPACC) on the applicant details page of your form. Send it to:

Country Parks Accreditation Scheme
Natural England
Block B
Government Buildings
Whittington Road
Worcester
WR5 2LQ

Next steps

If you prove your park meets the criteria you’ll be accredited for 3 years and will be sent a certificate. After this, you’ll be asked to send updated evidence to renew your status.

If your evidence doesn’t prove that your site meets the required standard then you’ll be told where more is needed and given 2 weeks to submit further evidence. If after this your evidence still doesn’t prove your site meets the criteria you’ll be invited to reapply when it has all of the facilities and services required.

Even if you’re unsuccessful, you’ll get advice on networking opportunities to improve your site and evidence for areas needing improvement which can be useful for funding applications

Checking standards

Natural England conduct ‘mystery shopper’ style visits to accredited country parks. If your park doesn’t meet the criteria you’ll be given a report and allowed one month to bring your park up to standard.

After this, if your site no longer meets the criteria then your accredited status will be withdrawn. You’ll need to return your certificate and stop using the logo on your marketing.

You can reapply for accreditation once you can prove that your site meets the accreditation criteria.