Celebrating our environment today, and looking to tomorrow

As people across the globe celebrate World Environment Day today, we take a look at how this year’s theme of “connecting people with nature” is being reflected here at the National Trust. 

Walkers admire the view at Crowlink, part of the Seven Sisters Cliffs, East Sussex. ©National Trust Images/John Millar.

This year World Environment Day is about celebrating people’s connections with nature.

For young and old, present and past, the UK’s beautiful natural environment is a source of pride, a place for recreation, inspiration or quiet appreciation.  We receive around 200 million visits to our outdoor places every year, and with 58% of the UK’s adult population, saying they make one leisure visit or more to the outdoors every week, nature’s call to people is clear.

Indeed, in 2012, our countryside was voted the number one thing that makes us most proud to be British, at 51%, topping even our sense of humour at 45%.

For all these reasons and more, nature remains important to many people.  86% of those surveyed in 2015 by YouGov believed that encouraging children to spend more time in the outdoors and with nature was very or fairly important.

Yet the MENE survey in 2016 revealed the worrying statistic that 1 in 9 children had not set foot in a forest or similar outdoors environment for at least a year.

At the National Trust we’re committed to playing our part in celebrating nature today, and continuing to make this possible for the generations of tomorrow.  We believe that if a generation grows up without experiencing the outdoors, they’re less likely to value and protect it.

“The need of quiet, the need of air, and I believe the sight of sky and of things growing, seem human needs, common to all”

Octavia Hill, National Trust founder

For future generations

Our 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 campaign is key to our work to promote greater natural engagement amongst children, and we’ve worked alongside Defra and others to share and advocate for further initiatives to get kids outdoors and enjoying nature first hand.

Children playing by the lake at West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire

Children playing by the lake at West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire ©National Trust Images/John Millar.

Thinking local

As well as experiencing nature at our places, we know that closer to home for many, our urban parks are key places for children and adults to engage with nature, go for a walk or jog and enjoy the health benefits they provide.

We recently launched our Future Parks Lab toolkit, designed to support local groups and park authorities in finding a sustainable funding future to keep parks open to the public, in increasingly financially constrained circumstances.  Our toolkit aims to provide a framework, with advice for park maintenance and governance models going forward.  We’re currently working on expanding this further, with differing levels of support tailored to meet local need.

From local to coastal

Through BioBlitzes at our places we’ve been mapping and surveying vital coastal species, central to our natural ecosystems.  These interactive surveys along our coast provide a valuable opportunity to monitor how the coast is changing, and how we can best utilise natural processes to protect it.

We’re also aiming to make space for people and nature around our shores, and support the creation of coast paths around the UK.

© National Trust Images/ John Millar

Looking Ahead

We’re intimately involved with land management practice in the 250,000 hectares within our care and are exploring ways to restore a healthier, beautiful natural environment, in partnership with our tenants, local communities, other organisations, Government and advisory bodies.

We’re also working with others in our sector, as part of the Greener UK coalition, to help ensure the environment doesn’t lose out as we leave the European Union.

An Environment for Everyone

Today, as the world reflects on its appreciation for environment and the threats it faces, we continue to advocate for the greatest possible environmental quality and access here at home.

As we celebrate our connections, successes and engagement with preserving nature today, we continue to look to the future, and ways to preserve our green spaces for ever, for everyone.

Have you been following Springwatch at our Sherborne estate?  Take a look at our website for more details, and catch up on previous episodes here.

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