Born to be wild: Grandparents most adventurous in great outdoors

Grandparents were much more adventurous during their youth in the great outdoors than today’s youngsters – half of whom have never even climbed a tree, a survey shows.

With 61% of grandparents helping with childcare during school holidays they are the perfect motivators for getting kids to spend more time enjoying nature.

Parents looking for ways to get their kids to spend more time in the great outdoors during the summer holidays need look no further than willing grandparents, keen to spend quality time outside in nature with their grandchildren

Research by leading conservation charity, the National Trust, reveals grandparents are the key ingredient to helping today’s generation develop a connection with nature. Over three quarters (76%) claim they were far more explorative and daring in their youth compared to both their own children and grandchildren, with a huge majority (92%) saying that they take great enjoyment from teaching their grandchildren about these adventurous activities, such as building a den or flying a kite.

The research also reveals that 4 in 5 (79%) adults believe children today have less freedom to explore and play outdoors, compared to their own childhood. While 75% of grandparents said climbing trees was one of their favourite childhood memories, half (51%) said their grandchildren had not experienced this activity.

Nearly half (49%) of grandparents take on the role of childminding more than twice a week to support parents with this increasing during the school holidays by almost two-thirds of grandparents (61%). A whopping 9 in 10 (92%) said that when they do spend time with their grandchildren, they are keen to actively encourage them to take part in explorative outdoor play rather coop up indoors.

The research polled 1,000 grandparents and parents for the charity as part of its ‘50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ initiative –  which aims to encourage families to get outdoors and enjoy spending time together – looks at the importance of outdoor family play and how this builds a stronger appreciation and connection to nature.

National Trust research also found:

· Children today spend 57% less time exploring outdoors than their parents and grandparents did – on average just 1 hour 20 mins a day, vs. 2 hours 40 mins (parents) and 3 and a half hours a day (grandparents)

· 87% of parents and grandparents said they enjoy seeing their offspring running wild and carefree, with 80% taking pleasure from seeing them playing outdoors away from technology devices

· In addition, 95% of parents and grandparents agree that it is important for children to connect with nature so that they can build a relationship with the great outdoors and help future generations care for and protect it

To celebrate the joyful experiences the natural world has to offer, the Trust has created a wildlife documentary-style film, bringing to life the innate connection we all have with nature with grandparents leading the way. To view the film, please visit: [insert appropriate url to YouTube full length edit]

Supporting the National Trust’s findings, Behavioural Psychologist Donna Dawson (BA, MSc, PhD) adds:

“Grandparents today are spending more and more time with their grandchildren in the roles of childminder and carer, and consequently getting to share real ‘quality time’ with them. And the research shows that one of the things they are sharing is a love of nature and the great outdoors, something that harks back to their own happy childhood memories. Learning to appreciate Nature at a young, impressionable age makes it much more likely that children will grow up to pass on their love of outdoor experiences to future generations. As a grandmother of seven, I have seen the effects on my grandchildren myself: they are never happier then when running free in the fresh air and sunshine, exploring and asking questions about the natural world around them.”

The National Trust, funded from the support of the public through membership and donations, is looking to inspire the next generation of children to plant their roots and kick-start a lifelong love affair with nature through its ‘50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ initiative.

National Trust Ranger Kate Jones, adds: “This summer, we want to inspire children, parents and grandparents to get outdoors and develop their relationship with nature together as a family. With so many fantastic ‘50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ events taking place at Trust locations across the country there’s no better time to go wild and explore the great outdoors taking inspiration from our challenges. We know that sharing these outdoor experiences with family and friends from a young age, helps to foster a stronger and more ingrained connection to nature, which we hope will be passed on for generations to come.”

For more information on the National Trust’s ‘50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ campaign’, head to: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/50things or search #50things.

Former traffic blackspot recognised as wildlife haven

A once notorious traffic blackspot has been converted into a top wildlife haven after habitat restoration by the National Trust with Natural England.

The Devil’s Punch Bowl, which was separated from Hindhead Common by the A3, has undergone huge improvements after the creation of the Hindhead Tunnel by Highways England.

Six years on from the opening of the tunnel, which saw the restoration of  this Surrey Hills nationally protected landscape, management techniques set out under Higher Level Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship have also seen the restoration of fragile and endangered historic heathland habitat, and the return of rare and diverse breeding birds such as woodlark and nightjar.

Devil’s Punch Bowl

Hindhead Tunnel (picture: Highways England)

Devil’s Punch Bowl

 

The nationally scarce heath tiger beetle has been sighted, and conditions are now favourable for the return of the silver studded blue butterfly.

The Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) has now been assessed by Natural England as meeting its nature conservation targets, and is considered to be in favourable condition.

It’s not only the removal of the A3 which has made Hindhead and the Devil’s Punch Bowl so special.

The SSSI is one of the highest points in Southern England.  Just under 1,000 feet above sea level, the relatively cool, humid climate of this “lowland” heathland contains species normally associated with more upland sites such as bilberry, and trees festooned with lichens and mosses.

The mosaic of habitats found on site include  upland and lowland heath, bog, streams, ancient woodland, and free draining sandy soil, making the site challenging to manage.

Matt Cusack, Lead Ranger for the National Trust said: “I am thrilled we’ve achieved favourable status for Hindhead and the Punch Bowl during my watch.

“The removal of the A3 in July 2011 was a major milestone, enabling us to thin trees and transform the site into a swathe of heathland.  But the site has been under a Higher Level Stewardship agreement since 2008.  Heather mowing, the introduction of woodlark nesting areas, grazing and scrub management conducted under the scheme has transformed it.  This couldn’t have been achieved without the support of my team and Hindhead’s dedicated local volunteers.”

Transformation of the SSSI and the restoration of the landscape within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have also boosted visitor numbers, up 20% from 2011 to approximately 700,000 per year, with visitors now choosing to spend longer exploring the stunning heathland and views.

New paths created by Matt Cusack and his team offer walks for differing abilities around the Devil’s Punch Bowl, enabling visitors to enjoy the tranquillity of the site while avoiding wildlife disturbance on sensitive heathland areas.

Graham Steven, Conservation Advisor for Natural England said: “Matt and his team at the National Trust have done a fantastic job at taking on board actions needed to achieve favourable status.

“They have balanced the needs of different habitats to create a haven for the endangered species that live here such as Dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar.  The success achieved at Hindhead and the Devil’s Punch Bowl demonstrates what can be achieved when we work in partnership to balance the needs of people and wildlife.”

Henry Penner, Senior Environmental Advisor with Highways England said: “The Hindhead Tunnel is a ground breaking piece of engineering and shows how, by working together, we can deliver a road network fit for the 21st century in a way that not only protects but enhances the environment. “The tunnel is the longest of its type in the UK.  The old A3 around the Devil’s Punch Bowl was filled in using sandstone excavated from the tunnel and a mix of seeds to match the surrounding environment.

“I am delighted that six years on it has been recognised for playing its part in the wildlife success of the Devil’s Punch Bowl SSSI, and recognise the excellent work that Natural England and the National Trust have done to protect and enhance this special place for the country.”

Rob Fairbanks, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Director added: “The Hindhead Tunnel scheme was the largest landscape restoration project in any National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is wonderful to see that the vision of reuniting the commons and enhancing the heathland habitat has proved so successful.”

National Trust response to Michael Gove’s first major speech as Environment Secretary

Patrick Begg, National Trust rural enterprise director, said: “Michael Gove’s speech shows there’s a strong consensus that funding for farmers and land managers should be based on public money buying clear public benefits. There’s no longer any real debate about whether change will happen – the key questions are now when and how it happens. Putting environmental benefits at the heart of the system that replaces CAP will help safeguard natural resources and ensure a long-term future for farming.

“It was also encouraging that the speech put stewardship of the countryside and our natural resources at the heart of wider policy, whether in trade deals or tackling waste. We look forward to working with Michael Gove and his team over the coming years as they turn these ideas into plans and legislation.”

END

Helen Ghosh to step down next year as Director General of the National Trust

Dame Helen Ghosh has announced she will be leaving her role as Director General of the National Trust in March, next year.

Helen, who has led the conservation charity since 2012, will take up a new position as the Master of Balliol College, at Oxford University.

The Trust said it would begin the process of looking for a new Director General in the autumn.

Paying tribute to Helen’s time in charge of the Trust, Tim Parker, the organisation’s chairman said: “Helen has done an outstanding job as Director General.

“She will be leaving the organisation in great shape – one clear of its future direction with ever growing levels of investment in conservation.

“We are indebted to Helen for all she has done and wish her well in her new role.”

During five years at the helm, Helen has overseen the implementation of an ambitious 10- year strategy, which has seen the Trust return to its roots by playing an active part in meeting some of the big challenges facing the nation such as the declining health of the natural environment, and the loss of green spaces in towns and cities.

Membership numbers and visits have soared since 2012, with both now at all-time high. Around 25m people paid to visit a Trust property last year, while there were an estimated 200m visits to the coastlines and countryside the charity looks after for the nation.

Under Helen’s leadership, income has also grown significantly and its finances strengthened. This has allowed the Trust to spend more than ever before – over £100m a year – on the conservation of its houses, collections, coast and countryside. The charity has also been able to invest more in specialist posts,  doubling the number of its curators, and employing more rural surveyors, gardeners and building surveyors to support its strategy.

Commenting on her decision to step down, Helen said: “There is never a good time to leave a job that you love, so the decision was a very tough one. But the Trust is in a great place and in great hands, and 2018 which will be my sixth year here seemed the right time to hand over to someone else.

“I am enormously proud of all the Trust has achieved over the past five years, with the conservation of nature and heritage at the heart of what we do and an extraordinary growth in membership, support and visits.”

Helen will remain in post until March 2018. She begins her new role at Oxford in April.

Ends