Posted on 29th June 2021 by National Trust

Britons ‘vote with their feet’ for a summer of simple pleasures

Research suggests the UK’s renewed appreciation of nature and of simple pleasures endures, as the nation looks forward to the future. The Trust will work to help get people out and about safely all summer as the UK holidays at home.

A YouGov Poll commissioned by the Trust, Europe’s largest conservation charity, found that more than two thirds (69 per cent) of Brits are looking forward to celebrating summer with a walk in nature – with almost half (46 per cent) looking forward to going barefoot[3].

But the research also suggest that adults appear to have fallen out of love with, or simply forgotten, the simple outdoor pleasures and childhood favourites of skimming stones and playing Pooh sticks, with just 10 per cent and 9 per cent of adults, respectively, looking forward to doing these activities this summer[4].  Both are some of the many activities that will be on offer to visitors to National Trust places over the summer holidays.

With Brits having endured 15 months of varying restrictions on normal life since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last March, it appears that the nation’s new-found appreciation of the outdoors and nature has not waned.

More than a quarter of adults (26 per cent) say the outdoor simple pleasure they are looking forward to the most is walking in nature[5], followed by listening to the sound of the sea (10 per cent).

And, the activities that people are most looking forward to doing with their family this summer are going on day trips to the countryside (46 per cent), spending time in nature (45 per cent) and enjoying a picnic outside in a green space (42 per cent).  The Trust is therefore asking people to help look after wildlife and landscapes by binning litter or taking it home to dispose of safely.

Last year, the charity found the increased volumes of litter and equipment from flycamping diverted ranger teams away from vital conservation work to help nature.  Coast and countryside teams together with volunteers are working hard to prevent a similar scenario this year, although some places are already experiencing issues.

Litter and debris can cause huge issues for wildlife by injuring animals and damaging ecosystems[6].

Celia Richardson, Director of Communications and Insight at the National Trust said: “Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic we know how much time in nature and daily exercise outdoors, has helped people in terms of feelings of wellbeing.  And, despite restrictions having eased little-by-little, particularly over the past few months across the different nations, it appears that this appreciation remains high.

“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 – we all need to stick to pathways, to take litter home to recycle or dispose of, and not use disposable BBQs, which can be very hazardous.”


Visitor walking along the coastal path on the Rumps at Pentire, Cornwall



Other results also found that people appear to have more of an appreciation of the simple and sensory pleasures in life since the start of the pandemic with 60 per cent of UK adults feeling  they have more of an appreciation[7].  The age group who felt they had the most appreciation was the youngest questioned, the 18-24 year olds with nearly three-quarters, 75 per cent, agreeing this was the case.

And, when adults were asked about their children and/or grandchildren’s appreciation of the simple and sensory pleasures in life since the first lockdown, just over half (51 per cent) felt that their children and/or grandchildren had more of an appreciation, largely due to having more time to spend outside in nature (21 per cent) and appreciating the simple pleasures more after being restricted to the indoors (19 per cent).

When asked what activities people had missed during lockdown, seeing family was top of the list (67 per cent), followed by seeing grandchildren or great grandchildren (59 per cent), going on holiday (55 per cent) and going out for dinner (54 per cent).  Just under a third of adults (31 per cent) said they had missed visiting museums/cultural heritage sites.

Asking more detail about one of the simple summer pleasures, and where Brits like to go barefoot, 55 per cent of adults who like to go barefoot on the beach, often or always do so; and 41 per cent of adults who say they go barefoot in gardens, often or always do so.

The top three benefits people felt from going barefoot outdoors was the sense of freedom, (45 per cent), a feeling of being connected to nature, (42 per cent), and a sense of wellbeing, (35 per cent).

Annie Reilly, Experience Development Manager at the National Trust said: “Going barefoot is one of those simple pleasures that forces you to stop to be more aware of your surroundings and is  a really great way of connecting with nature.

“We know other simple sensory pleasures such as smelling flowers, listening to birdsong and noticing butterflies and bees can also help[8] with nature connection and encourage feelings of wellbeing.

“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.”

From next month, more than 100 National Trust places will be ready to ‘Get Set Go’ with a range of active, sensory and playful activities to appeal to the young and young at heart, thanks to funding from Sport England.

Families will be encouraged to get active through a series of 24 activities such as ‘go barefoot’, ‘make a splash’, ‘work together’ and to hit the ‘back of the net’ – to stretch those lockdown legs – to explore and get outdoors together – and to connect with nature.

For more information visit


A family playing in the water at Lake Windermere near Wray Castle in Ambleside, Cumbria





Editor’s notes:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2193 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10-11TH June 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

(1) Just over half (52 per cent) of adults said listening to the sound of the sea was one of the outdoor simple pleasures they are looking forward to this summer’.

(2) The nation’s favourite natural scents of summer are freshly cut grass (29 per cent), with the smell of the sea, flowers, summer rain and BBQs all coming second, with 13 per cent.

The natural sights that best symbolise that summer has arrived are sunshine/blue sky (36 per cent), trees in leaf/lush greenery (18 per cent) and summer flowers in gardens (16 per cent).

The natural sounds which best symbolise summer are birdsong (35 per cent), buzz of bees/insects during the day (17 per cent) and the sound of the sea (16 per cent).

(3) Includes going barefoot on grass, on the beach or to paddle in the sea.

(4) Skimming stones and playing pooh sticks are two of the activities in the National Trust’s ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 ‘ – a campaign launched by the charity a decade ago (summer 2012) to help reconnect kids with nature through encouraging them to complete a ‘tick list’ of fun things to do outdoors.  For more information see:

(5) Respondents were able to select one of from a list of 22 outdoor simple pleasures which included: the sound of birdsong, the sight of a sunrise/sunset, sunbathing, the sound of the sea, going barefoot on the grass, going barefoot at the beach, paddling in a steam, river, lake or sea; wearing sandals, smelling summer flowers, playing outdoors, playing pooh sticks, skimming stones, sitting under a tree; watching insects/bees, picnics outside, sound of leaves rustling in the wind, reading a book outside, walking in nature, swimming in the sea/river, cycling outside.

(6) The RSPCA has received over 8,000 calls over the past two years with reports of animals injured by litter or animals caught up in litter.  See

(7) Over two thirds (67 per cent) of women agreeing this was the case versus just over half (53 per cent) of men.

(8) See the National Trust’s Noticing Nature report published last year in partnership with Miles Richardson at the University of Derby.  Going barefoot was one of the pathways to nature connection in the report which looked at the link between various simple activities and connecting to the natural world.  See pp40-45.





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