• Kevin Murphy

How has lockdowns changed our relationship with nature?

The lockdowns as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic has changed how we interact with our surroundings in new ways. Bedrooms are now converted to also being offices, our gardens have received more attention and nature areas have become popular for exercise walks and seeing nature have become more popular with visits to parks and green spaces. A new report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) researched the impact of lockdowns and asks has the pandemic forever changed our relationship with the outdoors?

In the initial lockdown exercise became a popular way to to take advantage of the free time created for us other leisure activities became less available with the rules of the lockdowns. The ONS research states that much of this was the result of having to work at home rather than the commuting to our offices.

The ONS reports:

"Around one in three workers (33%) were based exclusively at home in the spring 2020 lockdown (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) survey, 14 to 17 May 2020); this had dropped to around one in five (20%) by late summer (26 to 30 August 2020), when restrictions had been eased.

Between 7 and 11 April 2021, 28% of working adults worked exclusively from home. More than three-quarters (76%) of people who only worked from home in this period had left home for exercise in the previous seven days, compared with 52% of people who only travelled to work. Those working from home were also more likely to visit a park or local green space than those who travelled to work (45% compared with 30%)."

Percentage of adults leaving home for selected reasons (of adults who reported they had left home in the past seven days for any reason), Great Britain, 14 May 2020 to 18 April 2021

As peoples interest in getting more exercise so did nature, the ONS found that in May 2020 36% of respondents to the People and Nature Survey by Natural England had increased their time being outdoors with a rise of 46& in July 2020.

The Wildlife Trust Charity and the RSPB had increased amounts of enquiries in web traffic during the first national lockdowns at 69% year-on-year in March to May 2020 with 79% of those users being new to the website. There was also a tenfold increase in visits to the Build a bird box website.

Once the lockdowns were lifted in the summer of 2020 the great outdoors became prominent outdoor leisure time and holidays.

When lockdown restrictions lifted in summer 2020, people relied on the outdoors for leisure time and their holidays. Additionally children's play areas closed to ease the spread of the virus visits to parks decreased in the spring but the summer months saw a return in 2020 out performing previous years according to Google Mobility UK.

During this period the British tourism sector had a difficult summer in 2020 as a result of social contact, but camping sales increased in July and August in year-on-year sales. Outdoor gear such as bicycles and other leisure equipment and campervans.

Use of parks in country and rural areas declined when compared to pre-pandemic visit numbers there was an increase in the summer as mostly a result of domestic tourism.

The report by the ONS finds:

"For example, visits to and time spent in parks in Cornwall increased by 4% between the start of the year and lockdown, but then went on to rise by 280% between the start of the year and September, with similar patterns in Devon, Norfolk and East Yorkshire. High Peak and Ribble Valley are notable as two rural areas that saw high mobility both during lockdown and in September."

The complete report is at : How has lockdowns changed our relationship with nature

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