Britons are being urged to protect the UK’s wild spaces as they look forward to a summer in the great outdoors.
Almost 70% of British adults said they were looking forward to a walk in nature over the warmer months, with 46% saying they could not wait to kick off their shoes for a barefoot stroll.
A survey for the National Trust found the public’s renewed appreciation of nature and the simple pleasures it brings, brought about by lockdown, will continue once restrictions are eased.
The YouGov poll of 2,193 adults found 46% were looking forward to going on a day trip to the countryside with their family this summer, while 42% said they enjoyed a picnic in a green space.
With most people expected to holiday in the UK this year, the National Trust is calling on everyone spending time in nature to care for it by binning their litter or taking it home with them.
It is also asking people to avoid disposable barbeques that are often abandoned and risk causing wildfires.
The trust said cleaning up after visitors diverted rangers from their conservation work.
It said despite the efforts of staff and volunteers to avoid a similar situation this year, some beauty spots were already experiencing issues.
In the past two years, the RSPCA has received 8,000 reports of wildlife injured or caught up in litter.
Celia Richardson, director of communications and insight at the National Trust, said: “We know from the volume of visitors we’re seeing at our places just how popular walking is for all age groups and we look forward to welcoming people over the summer as they enjoy the hundreds of walks across our landscapes, woodland, trails and coastal footpaths.
“With more people having to ‘staycation’ this summer due to restrictions on foreign travel we want people to be mindful of their surroundings and look after the very thing they are there to enjoy.”
She added: “We all need to stick to pathways, to take litter home to recycle or dispose of, and not use disposable barbeques, which can be very hazardous.”
The scheme aims to help families get active and connect with nature through challenges such as “go barefoot”, “make a splash” and “work together”.
Annie Reilly, experience development manager at the National Trust said: “With people’s desire to reconnect with family and friends, and to enjoy time outdoors and the simple and sensory pleasures in life, we will be concentrating on ensuring families can do just that at many of our places this summer by providing safe spaces to enjoy and to have fun.”
Lockdown had the biggest impact on the youngest cohort’s relationship with nature, with 75% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they now had a greater appreciation of life’s little pleasures.
Just over half, 51%, said they felt their children or grandchildren had more of an appreciation of simple pleasures, largely due to having more time to spend outdoors during lockdown.
And 52% said listening to the sound of the sea was one of the simple pleasures they are looking forward to.
The survey found the nation’s favourite summer scents are freshly cut grass at 29%, with the smell of the sea, flowers, summer rain and barbeques all coming second at 13%.