There has been much fuss on Twitter recently about research reported in the Daily Telegraph which appears to show that younger people (25 to 30) know less about nature than do older folk (over 51).  Whilst there is something rather inevitable about that (they are younger, after all, and have had less time and inclination, perhaps, to learn), it will surprise no one who has been paying attention to such similar stories over the last few years.  As we know, grandparents may well be better placed to interpret the natural world, than are parents – other things being equal.

However, when you look at the report, you have to wonder whether it’s about understanding nature at all.  The Telegraph reports a few of the questions:

  • What are female foxes called?
  • Where do foxes live?
  • What are male rabbits called?
  • Which trees do conkers come from?

But these are hardly questions that get to the heart of what nature is; they are isolated cultural facts that some know and others don’t.  It turns out that the research, if it really can be called that, was carried out by Sylvanian Families, a collectible toy company celebrating its 30th anniversary.  By very happy coincidence, it has just entered a partnership with one the the National Trust’s properties in Surrey, which is opening a children’s nature trail.  Toy characters from Sylvanian Families will be used on the trail to “educate children about different animals ranting from rabbits to squirrels and hedgehogs.”

Sally Carnall, SF’s marketing manager is reported as saying:

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Hatchlands Park to open this new nature trail.  We hope that fans of Sylvanian Families will love spotting their favourite characters, but more importantly we hope the trail will inspire families to explore and discover nature.”

Mark Harvey, house steward at Hatchlands, said:

Sylvanian Families is incredibly popular with children as well as adults, and its core values of nature and imaginative play fit with those of the National Trust.  I’m sure this is going to be a hugely successful attraction.”

No doubt that will be the case, but whether anyone will learn anything worthwhile about nature and it’s importance to us, is more of a moot point.