Just before Christmas last year, Leni Hatcher, roving reporter for The National Trust, came to visit the school where I teach, as part of a new initiative by them called, ‘Outdoor Nation’. The article below summarise what this great project aims to find out.
National Trust inquiry into whether Britons are losing touch with the outdoors
People run the risk of becoming ‘terrified of the countryside’, warns Fiona Reynolds, Director-General
We’re kick-starting a six-month nationwide project to find out if the UK public is losing touch with the outdoors.
The launch of our 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, offers huge potential to improve our quality of life, health and wellbeing.
These show, for example, that as little as five minutes ‘green exercise’ can have a significant effect on self esteem in a nation where 1 in 4 adults experience mental illness in their lifetime, at an annual cost of £77bn to our economy and that walking may protect the brain against shrinking and preserve memory in the elderly.
Fiona Reynolds, National Trust 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 and there is a real danger of a ‘generational gap’ opening up where young people feel terrified at the prospect of going into the countryside.
‘As the caretaker for coast, countryside and local green space, equivalent to the size of Derbyshire, it’s important for the Trust to understand whether we really have lost touch with the outdoors, if it matters, and if so, what we can do to help.
‘The Government’s forthcoming natural environment white paper offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to start focusing on bridging the growing gap between people and the natural environment.
‘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 aboutour relationship with the outdoors. The unfolding outdoor nation journey will be reported at www.outdoornation.org.uk with video interviews and a blog, with opportunities for users to comment on the findings, put forward ideas and suggest avenues for investigation.
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 I’ve since seen it everywhere in the Western world – Australia, Europe, everywhere. 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. It is such a big part of what makes life special. Giving every young person an adventure in the outdoors is what Scouting is good at, and young people today need that adventure in their lives more than ever. Outdoor adventure empowers and brings confidence to people that society can often leave feeling vulnerable and disconnected.’
The findings from the project will be published early summer 2011.
Leni came and spent a day with us at school and filmed some of the activities going on….. here is the film they produced. The whole article can be seen HERE