Children should be taken on mandatory visits to the countryside as part of the national curriculum, a charity has demanded.
Research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England suggests that an overwhelming majority of parents in Yorkshire would support the idea, and that if taken up it could help protect green belt areas from future development.
The organisation said that with more than a third of England’s population lacking easy access to a National Park or designated Area of Natural Beauty, the importance of urban green spaces had never been greater.
Its poll of 2,000 parents nationwide revealed 96 per cent in favour of children spending more time in the natural world. In Yorkshire, 88 per cent also supported making such visits compulsory during school time.
The findings come a month after the same charity warned that harmful development of land released from the green belt was “squandering” the nation’s assets under the guise of affordable housing.
Crispin Truman, the organisation’s chief executive, said that although the national curriculum included classroom learning on biology and nature, it was “not the same as getting out into the countryside and experiencing it first hand”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s a real issue that kids are not getting the experience of the countryside they need, and it seems parents agree with us.
“Young people can learn so much just from a day on a farm. It’s not only good for them but it reconnects people with the countryside, which is good for the countryside, too.
“The more people understand the joy of it, the more they will care for it.”
But he added that while his charity would like to see the next government giving every child guaranteed access to a protected rural area, the distances involved made it difficult for some.
“Parts of the country are a long way from any protected countryside, and there are transport issues especially for families with lower incomes,” he said.
“That’s why it’s important that we protect the countryside that is close to where people live and close enough for schools to realistically get to on a day trip. There’s plenty of room for housing developments on previously developed, brownfield sites.”
Some 30m people are estimated to live in close proximity to protected green belt land.