The UK’s National Parks and Forest Holidays have today announced the launch of 'National Parks Futures'. The new 5-year initiative will connect 20,000 young people with nature and deliver at least 15 flagship education projects across the UK.
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 5 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.
2019 marks the 70th Anniversary of the UK National Parks and this year 'National Parks Futures' will support 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 says "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. In a year that sees the UK Government champion the Year of Green Action and National Parks celebrate the 70th anniversary of the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, this is a 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. Forest Holidays are demonstrating the role businesses can play to turn that interest into action, equipping young people with the skills to make a positive difference".
Cat Hawkins, Chair, National Parks Partnerships said:
"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. Forest Holidays share our ambition to improve lives through connecting to nature, and thanks to them, 'National Parks Futures' will help to inspire the next generation to love and care for our precious landscapes."
Bruce McKendrick, CEO of Forest Holidays, said:
"The UK’s National Parks are breathtaking and inspiring landscapes of which we should all be proud. Our generation has a responsibility to offer young people the opportunity to experience these places first hand and it’s a pleasure to observe the positive impact spending time in nature provides. For too many young people there are practical challenges of accessing places like this and we are committed to changing that. Most young people care deeply about the world in which they live and as more and more make their voices and passions clear, it’s important that we all listen and respond in meaningful ways"
Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said:
"This partnership with Forest Holidays means that school children and young adults who live in and around the UK’s largest and most northerly National Park can benefit from first-hand experience of rural skills that care for our natural world. It will encourage the younger generation who are considering their future career options to think about opportunities which allows them to live and work in rural communities and to get more involved with nature."
Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive Officer, Exmoor National Park Authority said:
"We are delighted that Forest Holidays is supporting our work providing opportunities for young people from a wide range of backgrounds to visit Exmoor, be inspired by, and learn about our amazing landscapes, wildlife and heritage. This funding will enable us to offer a full residential experience at our Pinkery Centre for Outdoor Learning to young people from schools from more urban settings who have not visited before and we are really looking forward to welcoming them."
Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive, South Downs National Park Authority said:
"John Muir was one of the founding fathers of the National Park conservation movement and his legacy lives on today by inspiring people of all ages to get close to nature."
"This generous funding from Forest Holidays will support a brand-new initiative in the South Downs, allowing us to expand the range of activities we are able to offer families. Our new John Muir Outreach Programme will encourage families to connect with, enjoy, and care for the South Downs, its special landscape and incredible biodiversity."
"With two million people living within 5km of our National Park, we know this funding will make a real difference and allow many more people to benefit from the many health, well-being and educational opportunities in the South Downs."
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 will feature people working in a variety of land based careers demonstrating their 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 will spend 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 supporting 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 will be used 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.