Young people are visiting England’s woodlands and open spaces more than ever before, as a new appreciation for natural spaces sweeps across Instagram, with Ashdown Forest reaching the top five of the most-snapped woodland spots.
Visitors to the ancient area of heathland in East Sussex have shared photos and posts of the forest more than 58,000 times on Instagram under the #AshdownForest hashtag.
Ashdown Forest is famed as the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood, the setting for A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books.
The analysis of data from the photo-sharing app was commissioned by waste removal company ClearItWaste, which showed Ashdown in fifth place behind Epping Forest in Essex, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and, in first place, the New Forest in Hampshire.
While restaurants, leisure centres and indoor spaces closed during Covid restrictions, the nation’s 1,500 national forests remained open to visitors.
For dog walkers, runners and families, the forests became a space to relax, exercise and escape, while for young people it became a place to appreciate and share natural spaces and their effects on wellbeing.
Visits continued increasing last year, with 296 million visitors to the nation’s forests, up 77 million from the year before, according to Forestry England.
‘Increasing visitor numbers and decreasing levels of funding’ were factors cited by the Conservators of Ashdown Forest last year, when they announced plans to introduce parking charges.
Parking charges are set to be introduced at 47 car parks across Ashdown Forest, with fees ranging from £2 an hour to £5 for all day, with annual passes available at £80, or £50 for a six-month winter pass.