Our children need nature and it needs them

Child holding a frog © Amy Lewis

Children and young adults getting out into nature is a fabulous thing, we all know that. There are a growing number of respected reports that tell us it improves physical and mental health, builds creativity and reduces stress but it is also something that many of us just feel we know intuitively.

Children and young adults getting out into nature is a fabulous thing, we all know that. There are a growing number of respected reports that tell us it improves physical and mental health, builds creativity and reduces stress but it is also something that many of us just feel we know intuitively. How many of your favourite childhood memories start with phrases like, “we were in a wood and...” or “we were at the park and...”

At the same time chances for children to regularly be in nature are decreasing, for example, the roads between our homes and local greenspaces are busier and it is getting easier for trips out to become less frequent and seem more of a chore. This all leads to the other side of the coin that if children have fewer exciting experiences with wildlife and do not build a relationship with the natural world why would they want to protect it in the future? As David Attenborough said “No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

Both of these reasons are why we at the Wildlife Trust are passionate about giving children more chances to be outdoors - quite simply our children need nature and it needs them! One of the main ways we do this is through our Wildlife Watch and Tots Groups. For well over 15 years we have run these regular kids clubs where families can come and get some quality time in nature, with a local Wildlife Trust Watch Leader on hand to suggest fun activities or identify that bug you've just found! These clubs are tried and tested ways for young people to meet and fall in love with the natural world. We know this because some of our current members of staff used to attend.

Children pond dipping © Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Chris Lycett one of our Reserves Officers says “I attended Wildlife Watch from the age of four and it kindled my love for wildlife and the outdoors. One of my earliest memories is of finding a fawn whilst out with Watch and its memories like these that have fuelled my passion for the environment.”

We also want these opportunities to be available to as many people as possible. We request a small donation per child to attend but the amount charged does not cover the cost of running the clubs. Luckily we also get valuable support from corporate partners like Hildon Ltd and Southern Co-op.

For the past 3 years Hildon Ltd has donated money to help us provide Wildlife Watch groups. Their regular donations mean that we can plan for the future, train new Watch Leaders and supply essential kit for the groups to use. Southern Co-op have donated funds through their Love Your Neighbourhood carrier bag levy scheme. We are so grateful for this help to keep these amazing and effective clubs alive.

Debbie Jones, Executive Director at Hildon Ltd said “We have always been keen to support local wildlife and the environment on which it depends. Having supported Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust for many years we were delighted and proud to offer support for their wonderful educational initiative, Wildlife Watch Groups scheme. This scheme will create our wildlife ambassadors of the future who will be the guardians of environment and protectors of our wildlife so that generations can enjoy what we have today tomorrow. A brilliant scheme!”

Gemma Waters, Wildlife Trust Education Outreach Officer said “I still remember some of my earliest childhood experiences exploring nature with my family, and I know that these were the foundations for my love of wildlife today. Our Watch groups provide so many opportunities for children and their families to enjoy the outdoors together and to discover the amazing wildlife we share our local area with. Support from our fantastic team of volunteers and Hildon Ltd are invaluable for Watch’s success in Hampshire and Isle of Wight”.

So if you and your children have not come along to a Wildlife Watch Group before then why not try one out, you can find your local group here

And if you are a company who, like Hildon, would like to help this or similar projects in your local area please contact Steph.Watson@hiwwt.org.uk to find out how to get involved.

Children exploring wild places

© Matthew Roberts