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Lots of learning from Access to Nature

9 October 2012

In this guest blog, Natural England’s Steve Roberts tells of the impact of the Access to Nature scheme, highlighting a series of findings papers full of learning about encouraging people to discover the great outdoors.

Steve Roberts

Steve Roberts

Access to Nature is a scheme run by Natural England and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. We work on behalf of a consortium of eleven other major environmental organisations and distribute £28.75 million of Lottery funding under the scheme.

Access to Nature has been developed to encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors, particularly those with little or no previous contact with the natural environment. Funded projects range from local community-based schemes through to national initiatives from large organisations.

This diversity in scale is mirrored by a variety and richness of project-type, from those providing equipment allowing people with disabilities to access the natural environment, to others supporting disadvantaged groups and those who ordinarily face barriers to visiting the countryside.

Many of the projects we fund also provide a range of volunteering and educational opportunities for local communities and young people. The benefits we’re now seeing are very encouraging indeed. Watch these videos from funded project, Let Nature Feed Your Senses, for an example of the kind of work being carried out.

We recently produced a series of six findings papers which demonstrate what is being learnt about encouraging people who have little or no experience of the natural environment to access the great outdoors.

A heart-warming scene from ‘Can’t put a price on it’ - a video produced by a funded project, ‘Let Nature Feed Your Senses’

A heart-warming scene from ‘Can’t put a price on it’ – a video produced by a funded project, ‘Let Nature Feed Your Senses’

These papers seek to inspire those taking action for people and the environment.

They share learning about the practicalities of engaging with people from all walks of life, form part of an ongoing evaluation, and raise the profile of work done by Access to Nature and the individual funded projects.

They also form part of the legacy of the scheme for Natural England, the projects and for BIG.

We’ll be distributing them widely to Access to Nature projects, our stakeholders and many other organisations involved in similar work. They’ll also be made available through our online publications catalogue which you might like to take a look at.

Some of the benefits to recipients identified in these papers include:

  • overcoming barriers to engagement and changing perceptions;
  • increased self confidence, improved communications skills, improved health, widening of horizons, development aspirations and improving employability;
  • developing stronger partnership working and building relationships; and
  • providing opportunities for organisations to reach a different audience or to engage their current beneficiaries in new ways.

Information about Access to Nature and selected projects is widely circulated via a new quarterly newsletter, the first issue of which can be seen here (PDF). The second is due to be published in December and will be available via our website. We hope you’ll be interested in hearing more about our work in the months to come and that which we have already completed.

Steve Roberts is Lead Adviser (Communications) for Natural England’s Access to Nature scheme.

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