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Connecting Young People With Nature

This year, in the 70th anniversary year of the UK’s National Parks, ‘National Park Futures’ will help to tackle one of the major barriers for young people to experience outdoor learning – the cost of travel.

Over the next five years ‘National Parks Futures’, a joint initiative between the UK National Parks and Forest Holidays, will deliver at least 15 flagship education projects reaching 5,000 young people as well as covering the travel costs of an estimated 15,000 National Park visits for young people.

This year it is supporting three projects that will see young people exploring and learning about the outdoors in the Cairngorms, Exmoor and the South Downs National Parks. These projects include a rural skills day, a family programme and residential trips.  

A successful pilot year in 2018 funded the involvement of 5,000 young people in activities run by their local National Park and included many from disadvantaged backgrounds. One pilot year location was the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Simon Hosking, a teacher at Ysgol Y Cribarth Primary School, said, “By receiving the travel grant our pupils have been able to access a learning opportunity in the great outdoors. We have loved learning more about the Brecon Beacons National Park and what makes our local area so special.”

The UK Government and the devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales all recognise the importance of connecting people with nature to improve health and well-being.

This is a year that sees the UK Government champion the Year of Green Action and National Parks celebrating the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.

It’s a good time to underline the important role that National Parks play in inspiring and encouraging young people to make the most of the natural environment.

The Year of Green Action’s #iwill campaign is working with partner organisations from the business, education and voluntary sectors to enable young people, wherever they live and whatever their background, to make a difference through environmental social action.

Through this new initiative, Forest Holidays, an #iwill4nature business pioneer, and the UK’s National Parks have pledged their support by providing opportunities for young people to connect with nature to inspire them to take action in their local communities.

Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of Step Up to Serve, the charity leading #iwill4nature, said, “The #iwill campaign wants taking part in social action to be the norm for 10-20 year olds. Young people have a vital role to play in supporting the environment – and we know that 44% of young people who have not been involved in social action are interested in addressing environmental issues.”

Cat Hawkins, Chair, National Parks Partnerships, added, “Connecting young people with nature takes time, expertise and funding. Forest Holidays’ long-term commitment to ‘National Parks Futures’ will enable thousands of young people to experience learning in amazing natural settings.”

The three supported projects are:

Cairngorms National Park – ‘Rural Skills Day’ – a hands-on Rural Skills Day offering school children a unique opportunity to learn more about what a career in woodlands or forestry entails. As part of the Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend, the Skills Day featured people working in a variety of land-based careers.

They demonstrated skills from sustainable timber processing to green woodworking and bush craft. Professionals working in forestry, fishing, farming, estate management, environmental education, conservation, tourism, recreation and health & wellbeing spent a day with up to 300 school children to give a taster of what working in rural landscapes could mean for them.

Exmoor National Park – The ‘Reaching Out’ initiative supported two residential trips from urban schools. Experience has shown that for many young people a residential experience in a special place can be a transformative experience but for many schools the cost of a residential visit can be prohibitive.

South Downs National Park – Support towards the ‘John Muir Families Outreach Programme’ – funding aimed to expand the range of activities available to families. For young people and families who have had little access to wild places, the Programme offers ways to share new and positive experiences.

In addition, by experiencing the outdoors together, families are more likely to use them in future, outside of the scheme. This family aspect makes this programme unique from other initiatives which focus solely on young people.

Give Nature a Break

Forest Holidays launched its 2019 Black Friday offer this month in partnership with the UK’s National Parks. The offer – ‘Give Nature a Break’ – gives guests up to 20% off bookings made until 3 December, valid on breaks until 30June 2020.

It will see a £20 donation from every sale made during the period to support threatened species in the National Parks; Forest Holidays aims to donate in excess of £50,000.

The donation is really relevant with the 2019 State of Nature Report revealing that UK biodiversity is under unprecedented threat. The report found that 15% of species are currently under threat of extinction, with a further 2% of species having already disappeared for good.

Julia Bradbury, co-founder of The Outdoor Guide, said, “It’s easy to take the wildlife we see in our beautiful National Parks for granted. But species that we might think of as commonplace, like bees, butterflies and red squirrels, are actually under threat.

“Forest Holidays and the UK National Parks #givenatureabreak campaign is a brilliant way to support some of the threatened species that make our National Parks so special.”

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