The National Trust has announced it is kick-starting a six-month nationwide project to find out if the UK public is losing touch with the outdoors.
The launch of the Trust’s Outdoor Nation initiative follows a series of high-profile reports and academic studies that have all shown a growing disconnection between people and the natural environment.
Recent reports have shown, for example, that 64 per cent of children play outside less than once a week and the distance children stray from their homes has decreased by 90 per cent since the 1970s. Meanwhile, some 26 per cent of teenagers believe that bacon comes from sheep and children are more likely to recognise a Dalek than a magpie. Also, one third of all under 16s avoids playing outdoors because they don’t want to get their clothes dirty.
At the same time a growing body of evidence shows that taking part in simple outdoor activities, such as going for a short walk every day, helps to improve people’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.
Fiona Reynolds, the National Trust’s director-general, said: “For generations we worked the land, marvelled at its beauty through art and literature and explored our country paths and mountains. For some, these pleasures remain one of the great joys of life. But we can’t ignore the fact that, whether through pressures of time or physical access, as a nation we seem to be increasingly disconnected from the fabric of the country. We hope our Outdoor Nation project will help foster local and national partnerships that can help deliver on the huge opportunities offered by the outdoors as we look to its ongoing protection and promotion.”
The project also aims to explore how changes introduced by the Government in recent weeks could present opportunities for ‘Big Society’ partnerships between NGOs and local community groups to help provide greater access to local green space.
A roaming reporter will travel across the country talking to people and organisations about their experiences of the outdoors and views about their relationship with the outdoors, with the unfolding Outdoor Nation journey will be reported at www.outdoornation.org.uk.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, said: “I saw the problem first in America and thought it might be unique to us, but the UK is no exception. Nature-deficit disorder poses real risks. If our children lose their connection to the natural world, future generations might never get it back.”
Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, said: “It’s so important that we don’t lose our connection with the natural world around us. Outdoor adventure empowers and brings confidence to people that society can often leave feeling vulnerable and disconnected.”