The Natural Environment White Paper sets out the Government’s ambition to strengthen connections between people and nature, and in particular ‘for every child to be able to experience and learn in the natural environment’. The White Paper acknowledges that the opportunities to benefit from spending time in natural environments are currently not open to everyone, which can contribute to health and other inequalities.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the Natural Environment White Paper called for DEFRA to set a target to increase public engagement with nature and for the Department for Health and the Department for Education to define measurements which demonstrate how greater public engagement with nature delivers gains in public health and education.
So Natural England in partnership with the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, Public Health England, English Heritage and King’s College London launched a two year pilot to develop a national indicator for children’s access to the natural environment to help respond to these ambitions and challenges. This pilot is part of Natural England’s Outdoor Learning and Outdoors for All Programmes. The aim of this pilot was to test the development and delivery of quantitative indicators of the scale and scope of children’s access to the natural environment.
The results from year 1 were published in 2014 (HUNT, A., BURT, J. & STEWART, D. 2015. Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: a pilot for an indicator of visits to the natural environment by children – interim findings from Year 1 (March 2013 to February 2014). Natural England Commissioned Reports, NECR166.)
Data from both pilot years 1 and 2 are presented in this final report.