3 July 2012
Natural England, with support from the Forestry Commission and Defra, has published its third year of findings in the definitive survey of the way people enjoy the great English outdoors. The Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey, which sampled 47, 000 people in 2011/12, provides a unique data set on long term trends in countryside usage.
This year’s results show that:
Volumes of visits to urban parks have increased 13 per cent and visits to paths, cycleways and bridleways have increased by 20 per cent since 2010/11.
68 per cent of visits were to places within two miles of the respondent’s home.
93 per cent of the population agreed that having open green spaces close to where they live is important. Also 86 per cent agreed that spending time out of doors was an important part of their life.
Nearly 2.7 billion visits were made to English countryside, coast and open spaces last year - around 65 visits per adult.
An estimated £20 billion was spent during visits to the natural environment in 2011/12.
Nearly 1 in 6 people (16%) only visit the natural environment twice or less a year.
The increase in visits to urban parks in particular made a contribution to the overall increase in the volumes of visits across England between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Some of the many reasons for visiting local places within two miles include:
dog walking (61 per cent of all visits)
playing with children (11 per cent of all visit)
to relax and unwind (23 per cent of all visits)
to watch wildlife (11 per cent of all visits)
Natural England’s Executive Director for People. Landscape and Biodiversity, Jim Smyllie said “Today’s evidence underlines the important messages set out in Government’s White Paper on the Natural Environment: high quality local green spaces matter, especially for those in towns and cities who can’t afford trips out to the countryside. The challenge for the 21st century is to create and maintain high quality natural green spaces at the heart of where people live. This makes the data in MENE more important than ever in helping design and deliver them, and it’s good news that the survey is being continued for a further three years.”
As well as shaping programmes that aim to help people get the most from the natural environment, MENE is being used by Public Health England to measure numbers of visits taken for health and exercise reasons across the country. The survey is also being used to measure public enjoyment of the outdoors for the England Biodiversity Strategy. This shows that since 2009, the proportion of adults in England visiting the outdoors several times a week or more has changed by only one per cent. Nearly one in six people claimed to have only visited the natural environment twice or less over the same period.
Pam Warhurst, Forestry Commission Chair, added: “This important information is fantastic news because it backs up the hard work that we do to get people enjoying visits to the countryside, and especially to their local woodlands. The Forestry Commission wants more accessible woodland closer to people and we continue to work hard to achieve this ambition in priority areas we have already identified. The Public Forest Estate plays an important part in engaging people with the natural environment and I'm delighted to say that our forest sites get a four out of five star rating for an enjoyable day out in the great outdoors.”
Notes to editors
For further information, please contact Lyndon Marquis, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0300 060 4236
The MENE survey was commissioned by Natural England, Defra and the Forestry Commission and is carried out by TNS Research international. Respondents were asked to think about occasions when they had spent time out of doors, which was defined as “open spaces in and around towns and cities, including parks, canals and nature areas; the coast and beaches; and the countryside - including farmland, woodland, hills and rivers”. A visit could be anything from a few minutes to all day, and could include time spent close to home or workplace, further afield or while on holiday in England. Respondents were asked to specifically discount routine shopping trips, or time spent in their own gardens, although a separate set of questions covered gardening. The data collected helps us to understand how people use, enjoy and are motivated to protect the natural environment and monitors changes in use and enjoyment of the natural environment over time at a range of different spatial scales and for key groups within the population. The survey year runs from March to February and the data is collected in weekly waves of interviews. See the 2011/2012 survey.