SIX stunning Buckinghamshire parks and Burnham Beeches have been recognised for their beauty with a prestigious Green Flag award.

Buckinghamshire Council said it was “proud” that six of its parks - The Rye and Hughenden Park in High Wycombe, Higginson Park in Marlow, Vale Park and Bedgrove Park in Aylesbury and Heartlands in Buckingham - retained their Green Flag.

The historic and scientifically important Burnham Beeches, which is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation, also scooped the award.

The county’s open spaces were a “lifeline” for residents throughout the pandemic, with research carried out by YouGov over the summer highlighting how almost six in ten people said they felt “less stressed” when using a park.

The Green Flag Awards scheme, which is now in its 25th year, is run by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and looks at whether the park is a welcoming place, is healthy, safe and secure and well-maintained and clean.

Judges also study the biodiversity, landscape and heritage of the area, its community involvement and overall management.

Speaking after the announcement, Clive Harriss, Buckinghamshire Council cabinet member for culture and leisure said: “Parks and open spaces have always been significant but over the past 18 months in particular, we have come to truly appreciate their importance for both our mental and physical health.

“The pandemic has helped us appreciate how vital it is to have access to outside areas to enjoy some leisure time and exercise and appreciate the joy of our natural environment.

“I am delighted that we have retained our Green Flag awards and would like to thank all our council staff as well as the many voluntary groups and individuals who support their local parks, for their hard work in helping to keep them in such good condition for the whole community to enjoy.”

Meanwhile, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Graeme Doshi-Smith said: ““Burnham Beeches has been a lifeline for visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, helping people get exercise and fresh air, and benefitting both mental and physical health.

“The site is treasured by our local communities and international visitors alike.

“I thank our staff and volunteers for the excellent job they do in Burnham Beeches to such a high standard, keeping it accessible for everyone and giving people the opportunity to explore the natural world.”

Burnham Beeches was bought by the City of London Corporation in 1880 to protect it as a public open space and wildlife reserve.

It has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1951, was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1993 and designated as a Special Area of Conservation in 2005.

A total of 2,127 parks and green spaces won a coveted Green Flag Award this year.