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Making Kids Part Of The Landscape Of Our Countryside
27/01/06

Giving young people access to outdoor educational opportunities helps them to experience and understand the sense of freedom, inspiration and enjoyment the countryside brings, Jim Knight told a national conference today (Thursday 26).

photo courtesy of farm-images.co.uk

farm-images.co.uk -

Speaking at the Farms for Schools National Conference in Kettering, Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, said:

"Farmers not only produce most of the food we eat, they also shape our landscape and manage the habitats of some of our wildlife.

"The Farms for Schools programme helps children and young people properly understand this reality, helping them towards healthier diets and an appreciation of our landscape, as celebrated by our artists, poets and musicians.

"Our natural resources and our wealth of biodiversity - the plants, animals and landscapes that make our country special - are there to be enjoyed by all. We must all work together to help others understand more and experience more than they currently do, in particular our children and young people."

Mr Knight continued:

"An improved understanding is one of the key elements to protecting the countryside and stimulating people to experience the pleasure and freedom it brings, is the best way to get them to value it properly.

"We are already spending more than a million pounds each year, through the educational access strand of our Environmental Stewardship Scheme, working to encourage a better understanding and more engagement with our natural environment. Driving up standards in the way that educational experience is one of the elements to this work."

Research published by the Countryside Agency last year, looked at why some groups in our society do not make as much use of the countryside as others do.

"It shows that people from inner cities, disabled people and the black and minority ethnic community are among the groups whose needs could be better served by many organisations who offer outdoor recreation opportunities. Once they have 'tasted' the experience, these groups are keen to continue visiting the countryside.

"We need to find ways to make the countryside more attractive so that as many people as possible can benefit from all that it has to offer.

"It seems there is a tendency for young people to have a negative view of life in the countryside, even though they understand some of the benefits it can have for their physical and mental wellbeing. We need to challenge and change that perception, not least because it is vital to the future of our rural areas," Mr Knight said.

Addressing the question as to why more young people do not seem to fully understand and appreciate their natural environment, Mr Knight said:

"One of the reasons is the concern that parents have, when their kids are involved in countryside or "adventure" activities. I am sure we can all recall incidents in the media where school trips, for example, have gone terribly wrong.

"However, programmes such as Farms for Schools are going a long way to allay those fears and change those perceptions. Providing proper safety checks and risk assessments can really help to address some of the concerns that teachers and parents have about outdoor educational activities.

"I look forward to watching your further progress on helping more children and young people see the countryside as the inspirational and exciting place to visit that it is."

link 'Green' Farmer Brews Up New Attraction For Northumberland
link Delicious, Nutritious And Good For Local Businesses
link Environment Secretary visits award-winning Sussex vineyards


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DEFRA
Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs