Cows hibernate in winter, grey squirrels are native to this country, conkers come from oak (or maybe beech, or is it fir?) trees, and of course there's no such thing as a leaf that can soothe a nettle sting. Or so, according to a new survey, believe between a quarter and a half of all British children. You can't really blame them: if, like 64% of kids today, you played outside less than once a week, or were one of the 28% who haven't been on a country walk in the last year, the 21% who've never been to a farm and the 20% who have never once climbed a tree, you wouldn't know much about nature either.
The survey, of 2,000 eight-to-12-year-olds for the TV channel Eden, is the latest in a string of similar studies over the last couple of years: more children can identify a Dalek than an owl; a big majority play indoors more often than out. The distance our kids stray from home on their own has shrunk by 90% since the 70s; 43% of adults think a child shouldn't play outdoors unsupervised until the age of 14. More children are now admitted to British hospitals for injuries incurred falling out of bed than falling out of trees.
Does any of this matter? In an age of cable TV, Nintendos, Facebook and YouTube, is it actually important to be able to tell catkins from cow parsley, or jackdaws from jays? Well, it obviously can't do any harm to know a bit about the natural world beyond the screen and the front door. And if, as a result of that, you develop a love for nature, you may care something for its survival, which is probably no bad thing.