People and nature in a pandemic: Studying nature engagement and wellbeing pre, during and post Covid-19 to support the UK (green) recovery

Start date

July 2020

End date

June 2022


On 23 March 2020, the UK went into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 threat. As a result, many people’s engagement with natural environments will have changed substantively, something which is likely to have had significant impact on their wellbeing. We aim to understand these changes in nature engagement and wellbeing in the UK before, during and after lockdown and help understand what Government and Statutory Bodies can do to ameliorate the impact of Covid-19 on wellbeing now and as part of the Green Recovery from Covid-19. This will be done through four research studies.

Aims and objectives

The project aims to:

1. Examine how wellbeing during and post lockdown has changed and to what extent this is associated with changes in access to- and engagement with- different natural environments. We will explore questions such as:

  • To what extent is wellbeing associated with differences in access to natural environments?
  • How are vulnerable groups affected?
  • Have people established new habits and perceptions of nature during lockdown?

2. Create a mapping of different wellbeing outcomes associated with different types of natural environments and the use of these environments for different activities. We will explore the role of the activities conducted in these environments (passive versus active, alone or with others) as well as specific environmental features (size, biodiversity).

3. Contribute to theory development through improved measurement and examination of “a sense of being away”. We will examine where people find a sense of being away during lockdown. We will examine how perceptions of “being away” change during and post Covid-19 and how this affects the attractiveness of different natural environments (near and far) to get away.

Study 1: Longitudinal survey

A questionnaire examining wellbeing and the use and perceptions of different natural spaces during lockdown. The longitudinal survey will compare data from a nationally representative sample of UK households immediately post lockdown and one year later.

Lead: Birgitta Gatersleben and Kayleigh Wyles

Study 2: Social media analysis

Secondary text analysis on public comments posted on social media in response to videos during the pandemic by Chris Packham and BBC Springwatch.

Lead: Tracy Xu­­­

Study 3: In-depth interviews

An interview study with adults from up to 30 UK households will explore the use of natural environments during lockdown, exploring family dynamics and changes in implicit and explicit (intentional) engagement with natural environments for leisure.

Lead: Caroline Scarles

Study 4: National secondary data analysis

Using the Natural England People and Nature survey, cross-sectional changes in use of and benefits from nature will be derived.

Leads: Birgitta Gatersleben and Kayleigh Wyles

Download project summary (PDF)

Stay connected


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Very happy to welcome Anna Bornioli @lucytalk to the team!
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Call for abstracts to the British Environmental Psychology Society Conference @BrEPS **ends 11 June**! xx #envpsy
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Funded PhD on Dynamic lighting intervention to reduce falls and improve health in care home residents


Placement student

George Murrell

Placement student

Natural England partners

Beth Brockett

Natural England

Cheryl Willis

Natural England


Project workshops

In December 2020, our first (online) interactive workshop was held. The two-day workshop brought together nearly 70 researchers, policymakers and practitioners to share ideas, challenges and experiences with respect to nature engagement, wellbeing and Covid-19.

Download workshop report (PDF)

Progress reports

Progress report January 2021 (PDF) Progress report June 2021 (PDF)

Research reports

Download Garden Report (PDF)



Gatersleben, B., White, E. V., Wyles, K. J., Golding, S. E., Murrell, G., Scarles, C., Xu, T., Brockett, B. F. T., & Willis, C. (2024). Everyday places to get away – Lessons learned from Covid-19 lockdowns. Landscape and Urban Planning, 246, 105026.

White, E. V., Golding, S. E., Gatersleben, B., Scarles, C., Wyles, K. J., Murrell, G., & Xu, S. (2024). Trees and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic (Research Report No. 2).


White, E. V., & Golding, S. E. (2023). Trees and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Invited presentation to Trees Outside Woodland and Public Values Advisory Group (Defra, Forestry Commission, Forest Research, Natural England)


White, E. V., & Golding, S. E. (2021). Five ways to use your garden to support your wellbeing. The Conversation.

Xu, S., Murrell, G., Golding, S. E., Brockett, B. F. T., Gatersleben, B., Scarles, C., … Wyles, K. J. (2021). #Springwatch #WildMorningswithChris: Engaging with nature via social media and wellbeing during the Covid-19 lockdown. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 701769.

Gatersleben, B. (2021). Finding freedom in a pandemic? Podcast for the series. Human-land: The environmental psychology podcast

Gatersleben et al., (2021). Nature engagement & wellbeing pre, during and post Covid-19: Supporting the UK (green) recovery. Progress report, January 2021 (PDF).

Gatersleben, B., Scarles, C., et al. (2021). Nature, women and wellbeing. Paper presented at the Department of Health and Social Care lunchtime seminar event for international women’s day. 9 March 2021.

Scarles, C., Gatersleben, B., et al. (2021). People and Nature in a pandemic, reflections on gender. Paper presented at annual outdoor recreation network conference, 10 March 2021.

White, E. V., Gatersleben, B., Wyles, K. J., Murrell, G., Golding, S. E., Scarles, C., & Xu, S. (2021). Gardens and wellbeing during the first UK Covid-19 lockdown (Research Report No.1)  Download Garden Report (PDF)


Gatersleben, B., et al. (2020) People and nature in a pandemic; studying nature engagement pre-during and post Covid-19. Invited Keynote presentation at the fourth Conference on Environmental Psychology in Norway - 19th - 20th of November 2020. 

Golding, S. & Scarles, C. (2020). Inequalities in Accessing Nature During COVID-19 Lockdown. Presented at People and Nature in a Pandemic; two day interactive on-line workshop, December 2020.

Natural England (2020). The People and Nature Survey for England: Key findings for the period April to June 2020 (Experimental-statistics

White, E., Gatersleben, B. & White, E. (2020). Longitudinal examination of nature engagement during & post Covid. Presented at People and Nature in a Pandemic; two day interactive on-line workshop, December 2020.

Xu, T. & Murrell, G. (2020). #Springwatch #WildMorningswithChris: Nature engagement on social media & wellbeing during Covid-19. Presented at People and Nature in a Pandemic; two day interactive on-line workshop, December 2020.

Research groups and centres

Our research is supported by research groups and centres of excellence.

Environmental Psychology Research Group Centre for Digital Transformation Visitor Economy School of Hospitality and Tourism Management  Covid-19 research

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