The UKâ€™s National Parks and Forest Holidays are partnering on projects that will enable up to 6,000 young people across the country, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to experience and explore the best of the UK countryside.
Starting in summer 2018, the partnership is driven by a shared ambition to empower young people to engage with nature, both to improve their well-being and to ensure that National Parks are valued, understood and cared for into the future. Research by Natural England* shows that 90% of children report feeling happier and healthier as a result of outdoor learning, and 95% say that outdoor learning makes lessons more enjoyable.
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. National Parks have a particularly important role to play in helping to inspire and encourage young people to make the most of the natural environment.
In 2018 Forest Holidays is supporting three projects for young people in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Yorkshire Dales and Brecon Beacons National Parks, that will together engage around 3,000 young participants. In addition, a new Forest Holidays National Parks travel fund will enable an additional estimated 3,000 young people from across the UK to benefit from paid-for journeys to their nearest National Park.
Forest Holidays and the UK National Parks have an ambition to expand these projects with a longer term national partnership to be launched in 2019, the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.
Chair of National Parks Partnerships, Steve Curl said: "Children in the UK need more opportunities to explore and learn in our wonderful National Parks. Forest Holidays is helping us to make this a reality for 6,000 young people this year. We look forward to developing a long-term partnership from 2019 that has potential to engage thousands more young people."
Bruce McKendrick, CEO of Forest Holidays, said: "We are incredibly proud to be working with the UK National Parks in order to help young people experience and enjoy the UKâ€™s special landscapes. A recent report found that three quarters of children today spend less time outside than prison inmates, an unacceptable situation which we all need to work to rectify."
"We support the aim in the 25 Year Environment Plan to connect all parts of society to the environment to enjoy the benefits to individual health and wellbeing. Forest Holidaysâ€™ core purpose is to help the British public enjoy the UKâ€™s forests, which is only possible through our unwavering commitment to protecting and enhancing natural landscapes and habitats, as well as to public ownership of and access to woodland spaces."
Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, Gordon Watson, said: "Weâ€™re delighted that with support from Forest Holidays, we can further extend how Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park actively engages with young people to learn and benefit more from the outdoors, this year and beyond."
"This support has enabled us to deliver our first hosted residential programme for young people, an additional Junior Ranger programme with high school pupils in West Dunbartonshire, enhanced volunteering opportunities for young people and support to create films led by and starring young people. Ultimately itâ€™s a great help towards increasing the opportunities for young people who might not otherwise get a chance to experience the National Park."
The three supported projects are:
'Go Wild' in the Yorkshire Dales National Park â€“ 10 free of charge, drop in sessions for children and their families to enjoy exploring and learning about the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The 'Fair Play' initiative in the Brecon Beacons National Park, providing funding for transport for schools and youth groups within and around the National Park to explore and learn on site. Transport is the biggest barrier to groups visiting and 'Fair Play' will enable up to 1,000 inspiring experiences in nature.
Support towards the 'Year of Young People' in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park â€“ funding will be used to expand the range of activities available to young people including a Junior Rangers residential; an outdoor festival and special volunteer activities for young people.