As a team all deeply passionate about the benefits of the active outdoors, we’re proud to share our support for Sport England’s new 10-year strategy unveiled today. It represents an important vision for the decade ahead, to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity.
The strategy identifies five major themes, and we believe these can all be delivered through the outdoors and adventure sports in several ways.
‘Recovering from the biggest crisis in a generation and reinventing as a vibrant, relevant and sustainable network of organisations providing sport and physical activity opportunities that meet the needs of different people.’
There has been no better time in our nation’s history to re-engage the population as knowledgeable, safe and responsible users of the outdoors, and in doing so set them up for a lifetime of engagement with it. At Plas y Brenin, we have already seen the appetite for accessing the outdoors that Covid restrictions have fostered, with huge surges of visitor numbers to national parks and green spaces between lockdown restrictions.
We want to create and collaborate on new opportunities for people young and old, and with all backgrounds and abilities, to engage with the outdoors respectfully, responsibly and sustainably.
- Connecting health and wellbeing
‘Strengthening the connections between sport, physical activity, health and wellbeing, so more people can feel the benefits of, and advocate for, an active life.’
Not only are the benefits of physical activity on both physical health and mental wellbeing well proven, but there is also an increasing body of evidence that simply spending time in nature and the outdoors has these benefits as well. Outdoor and adventure sports represent a ‘double-bubble’ of health and wellbeing. However, we know people must feel able and confident to participate in them. We will work with our partners to further evidence these benefits, while continuing to provide individuals, clubs and communities with the support, knowledge and skills they need.
- Positive experiences for children and young people
‘An unrelenting focus on positive experiences for all children and young people as the foundations for a long and healthy life.’
We welcome and encourage developmental experiences for children and young people to embrace a wide range of outdoor activities and sports. Our experienced team knows that behaviours established and skills learned through early years in the outdoors establish benefits that carry on through entire lifetimes.
In both our direct provision for children and young people, and our training for coaches and leaders who work with them, we have a vital role to play as a national centre. Our unrelenting commitment and excellent track record in safeguarding and responsible practice aligns to the national need to ensure all groups feel confident and safe to undertake physical activity.
‘Focusing on sport and physical activity’s ability to make better places to live and bring people together.’
Here at Plas y Brenin, we see first-hand how true adventure, leadership and coaching in the outdoors brings communities together. It can be a fantastic way of building engagement and inclusivity among people of any ability and from all backgrounds. Not only can it increase diversity and inclusion across all its forms, but it also builds communities of practice, helps build understanding between landowners and users, and aids the right balance between conservation and access. From groups (for example, local walking groups), to clubs (such as in paddlesports, mountaineering and rock climbing), and a strong sense of community at crags and climbing walls, out on the hills, and on the waterways, the outdoors has a long tradition of building community. This formula must be championed and made relatable to all, regardless of where we each live.
Sport England’s new strategy seeks to tackle long-standing inequalities that have existed within the sports sector and have been reinforced by the disruption of the pandemic. We fully support this vision and the plans required to make meaningful and long-term change.
‘Creating and protecting the places and spaces that make it easier for people to be active.’
According to a Public Health England review last year, green space in England declined by 8% between 2001 and 2018. Using green space in rural areas is also challenged by access issues, rights of way, enclosed farming, and greenbelt development to name a few. England’s national parks represent just over 9% of its total area and touch only 16 English counties (out of 27).
In terms of blue space, access to waterways is even more complex. According to the Clear Access Clear Waters Campaign, less than 4% of rivers in England and Wales have clear rights of access – yet more than 2 million people go paddling at least once per year, and we know popularity is growing.
These green and blue spaces can and should be active environments for all, but we must protect them and enhance access to them in respectful, safe, and sustainable ways.
The launch of Sport England’s strategy is now followed by a consultation phase starting 9th February, ahead of publication of a long-term plan in late summer.
As Sport England’s National Outdoor Centre, our team intends to take the lead on ensuring that outdoor and adventure sports are at the forefront of the implementation plan for the new strategy.
We will support lifelong participation in the outdoors, serve all people at all levels, broaden who we welcome to the centre and onto our courses, all while actively protecting our classroom. We will work in partnership with others to deliver these objectives – from sports and activity clubs to community groups, membership organisations, education providers, local authorities, and healthcare organisations.
By doing this we will inspire many more people to be as passionate about the active outdoors as we all are.
You can find out more about Sport England’s new strategy at unitingthemovement.org