MORE than half of over 16s in Dorset spent time outdoors at least once a week before the coronavirus lockdown.

Now the head of a wildlife trust is urging more people to people to engage with wildlife once the pandemic is over.

Experts believe the lockdown may be giving people a renewed appreciation of nature as they are forced to stay indoors.

Data from Natural England shows that 57 per cent of locals aged 16 or over spent time outdoors at least weekly, slightly lower than the average for England.

The figures are based on 10 years’ worth of surveys from the government body's Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment report, the final of which was completed in 2018-19.

It includes visits to parks, canals and other urban open spaces as well as rural settings.

Paul Bunton, from the woodland conservation charity the Woodland Trust, said: “We are pleased that the trend seems to show that people are spending more times in the outdoors, albeit in the current crisis they need to heed government advice and not travel to our woods at this time.

“We understand the many positives of visiting woods – they are wildlife havens, a way to destress, have an adventure and learn about their importance, for example in tackling climate change."

Where people do not have woodland on their doorstep, Mr Bunton suggested going to the nearest park, adding that the charity had "huge aims" to increase tree cover and protect urban trees.

He added: “All of this, and our woodlands, will be there to enjoy once the current national crisis abates.”

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman said people should follow the Government’s guidance on using green spaces during the Covid-19 outbreak:

Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.

Only go outside alone or with members of your own household.

Keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times.

Take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors.

If walking your dogs in areas used by other people, keep them on a lead to ensure you can safely keep two metres away from others.