The Forum’s Advisor (and former Trustee) Adrian Thomas devised this study, which was a professional Omnibus survey commissioned from YouGov. The questions went out to 2,027 adults in Britain over 3rd-4th December 2020. The key benefit of this survey was it contacted ordinary people chosen at random, and so was a genuine sample of the population as a whole, rather than the already interested people who respond to charity or gardening press surveys.
Other highlighted results are:
•About one in six (17%) do ‘a lot’ for wildlife in their gardens
•91% of people believe that gardens are important places for wildlife
•87% like to see and hear wildlife in gardens
•88% think it is important we do all we can to help wildlife thrive in gardens.
These findings are extremely encouraging, confirming that we really are a nation of nature lovers, who recognise the value of our own green spaces and want to make the best of them for wildlife as well as ourselves.
The results are especially pleasing given all the growing concern that people are becoming disconnected from nature; it appears that we are getting much of our connection straight outside our back doors. The topic feels even more meaningful in lockdown, where the pleasure gained from watching and helping wildlife is a bright light in these tough times. Here is proof that the love of wildlife starts at home, the very place where we can have some of our most incredible encounters with all sorts of amazing creatures, and where simple actions can make an immediate difference.
We summarise the major findings below, but you can download the full interim report here
The survey asked four questions:
1. How much do you try to help wildlife in your own outside space?
This revealed that 13% of the people surveyed don’t have access to their own outside space, and it seems likely, given housing trends, that this figure will increase further. It suggests how important local greenspaces such as parks could be to give people that close-to-home connection with nature that so many of us clearly benefit from.
Of the people with gardens, 37% did lots or quite a lot for wildlife, and 84% did at least something. While this was very encouraging, it’s obviously something we would like to see even higher. Given that over 60% of the Forum’s members are female, we were not very surprised that women consistently did more for wildlife in their gardens than men. Likewise 59% of garden owners aged over 55 did plenty fpor wildlife, compared with 28% aged 18-24 and 35% in those aged 35-44. Rural dweller did more than urban dweller, and Londoners did least of all.
2. Which, if any measures do you take to help the wildlife in your own outside space?
This question went out to people who did a lot or a fair bit for wildlife. Ten basic measures were listed, and growing flowers, feeding birds and growing trees and shrubs were most popular with 75% or more doing them, but of course flowers and shrubs are part of most gardeners’ activities regardless of wildlife. Encouragingly two thirds avoided using pesticides. Other actions were less common, with only 47% having a birdbox, and 20% with a pond. Again, women were more involved in all activities than men.
3.What are the barriers to you doing more to help wildlife in your outside space?
A quarter of people felt there were no barriers to limit their wildlife gardening, while 23% either weren’t interested in gardening or didn’t have control over the space.
40% said they didn’t have enough space, time or energy. Only 11% said they lacked energy or physical capability, and a vanishing 1% didn’t know where to buy garden supplies or tools.
Overall, the biggest single barrier to people doing more to help wildlife in gardens is they don’t have enough knowledge about what to do.
The good news is that there is more information at people’s fingertips than ever before, with books, websites, magazines and social media sites all offering tips and advice. The Wildlife Gardening Forum’s own website is a mine of scientific and practical information, while our Facebook group has over 65,000 members and is a vibrant hub where you can ask questions, seek advice, and share stories and photos of things you’ve done to help nature.
For people who feel constrained by time, there are lots of simple and rewarding projects and we are creating a new “How-to” website section which will help and encourage people to make just a little more effort.
4. To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?
4a In general, gardens and urban greenspaces (e.g., town parks) are important places for lots of wildlife
Over 90% agreed on balance, and 60% strongly agreed. Only 1% actively disagreed, while 8% either didn’t know, or were not sure. While this is very good news, there is still some work needed to help the undecided. Again, women were rather more positive than men, and the youngest (18-24) group least convinced.
4b I like to see and hear wildlife in my garden or local urban greenspaces (e.g., town parks).
87% agreed, most agreeing strongly. Only 3% disagreed, and 10% didn’t know or weren’t sure. 92% of the over 55s agreed, and again women were a bit more keen than men.
4c It's important that we all do what we can to help wildlife thrive in gardens and urban greenspaces (eg town parks).
Again, people overwhelmingly agreed, with 88% “yes” to only 2% saying “no”, but with 11% uncertain or don’t know.
It’s good to know how positive most people were about their garden and local wildlife, and this message has to go out to government and planners – and those investing in health and welfare projects. In particular, we should campaign to make sure the numbers without access to garden space doesn’t rise further. It’s reassuring that people in the poorer socio-economic groups were just as keen their wealthier neighbours, and that although city dweller could do less for wildlife, they still appreciated it very much.
It would be worth looking into reasons why men lagged behind women consistently in their levels of interest and commitment. The youngest adults were also much less motivated, and while at that age there is so much else to think about, could we find ways to reach them more effectively?
What has come out clearly is the need to put more effort into giving people easy access to information and practical advice, particularly how to start with simple tasks and projects. While this is what the Forum has always concentrated on, we now have plenty of evidence to make us redouble our efforts.
• We are working on a extended report in which we will use statistics to give confidence about the significance of the
patterns we are seeing. This will appear on the website when it is finished.
• We plan to repeat this survey after perhaps five years so that we can start to pick up on changes in people’s
attitudes and efforts as time moves on.
• We will create a new website section with lots of simple instructions and advice on worthwhile practical projects for
the garden, encouraging more people to “do a lot for wildlife”
• We will devise ways to make even more people interested, involved and taking pride in their garden’s wildlife.
• Working with other organisations, we will try to make governments and other decision makers fully aware of the
importance of gardens and green space for all of us.
The full interim report is available to read here.
Page summarised from Adrian Thomas's full report by Steve Head