A number of themes emerged from the meeting. Many people shared similar concerns and opinions regarding the subject of the study. Most expressed the view that there is not a single definition of nature, as it depends on a person’s educational, ethnic and cultural background. However, they all agreed that the definition of “nature” should not be limited to the physical environment, since it includes “anything that is living”, and that the term is wider than “wilderness”. They also stressed that nature should not be always associated with the countryside as the former is wider and more embracing than the latter.
Another recurring theme was the social benefit of nature. Attendees listed a wide range of social benefits such as flood management, water quality, recreation, health and wellbeing, arguing that nature can break down barriers by being available to everyone. They realised, though, that there can be an elitist quality in gaining access to nature, as access to some areas has been restricted to long-standing, close-knit groups. Until very recently, many nature reserves were seen as ‘out of bounds’ and this is still sometimes the case. Fortunately, the situation is improving and wider sections of the community will now visit nature reserves regardless of this perceived elitism or exclusivity. In the East Midlands there are large areas of intensively managed, privately owned farmland with little public access, which leads to an attitude that such places are sterile. As a result, nature has less value in people’s minds in the East Midlands.
In conclusion, everyone agreed that nature contributes to the quality of life by making people feel good, giving them a sense of place and an experience that cannot be derived elsewhere. Nature provides a vitally important sense of freedom from the stresses of modern life caused by offices, deadlines, computers, traffic congestion, noise and consumerism.