The coronavirus pandemic triggered a surge in outdoor hobbies, with half of people trying out popular pastimes like fishing, a poll reveals today.
Some 14 months after the first lockdown, the public are relishing being among nature, with 38% reporting feeling happier and “enjoying better wellbeing overall when spending time in green spaces”.
An online OnePoll survey of 4,000 people this month found a boom in numbers taking to the outdoors.
Two in five had done gardening or tended an allotment during the crisis, 21% had been cycling, 19% went running and 16% went hiking or birdwatching.
Some 47% of those quizzed said they spent more time outdoors to improve physical health or take exercise, while 46% said it was to help their mental health and wellbeing.
Forty-one per cent said a “change of scenery has given me an escape from staying at home”, 28% said they “needed the ‘me time’” and a quarter wanted “time away from screens” such as Zoom meetings or smartphones.
Fishing benefited from a rise in demand, with the Environment Agency issuing 1,019,723 freshwater licences in England in the year to April, compared with 882,989 in the previous 12 months – an increase of 16%.
The Angling Trust’s head of participation Clive Copeland said: “It’s great to see the surging popularity of fishing and other outdoor pursuits continuing as we head into summer with people becoming much more engaged with nature and the benefits that participating in new activities provides.
“We’re hearing reports that people are becoming more mindful of the environmental impact of outdoor activities and this, coupled with a willingness to try new experiences, is reflected in the types of sustainable activities that are becoming more popular.”
Fishing fan Beverly Clifford, a social media influencer with 15,000 Instagram followers, said: “Angling has seen a huge boost since the pandemic with people returning to fishing, and also coming into the sport for the first time.
“We’ve seen a lot of women coming into the sport during this time and enjoying the many benefits of angling, such as reconnecting with nature, positive affect on mental health, as well as being a low-impact form of exercise and a great way to make new friends.”
The Agency seized on the figures to trumpet the benefits of connecting with nature – a key plank of the Government’s plan to cut infection numbers by encouraging people to enjoy fresh air and be outdoors.
Its fisheries partnerships manager Heidi Stone said: “Fishing has benefited the mental health of hundreds of thousands of people in the past year and is a great option for people who are looking for a long-term connection with nature.”