Time to get real?

Children taking part in coasteering at Stackpole
Published : 18 Jan 2016

We spend nine times longer searching screens for inspiration than seeing Wales for real. National Trust Wales aims to move people from online scrolling to real-life strolling

New research commissioned by National Trust Wales reveals just how few of us are ‘plugged in’ to what’s right on our doorstep in Wales, favouring to spend more time online and being stuck to our phones.

According to the research conducted with 1,000 people in Wales, those questioned spend almost nine times more time annually online than they do indulging in outdoor activities across the country.
Compared to the 1,040 hours we spent online in 2015*, those questioned dedicated only 124 hours to doing things outdoors in Wales last year. This equates to a mere five out of the 104 weekend days we have available each year spent outside.

The new research also indicates that roughly one third of those questioned have only ever seen Snowdon or Pen Y Fan on a screen (34 and 29 per cent respectively), despite 82 per cent of them wishing they had more time to visit our local attractions or plan more short breaks.

Surfers at Rhossili
Surfers on the sand of Rhossili Bay, Gower, Swansea, Wales.
Surfers at Rhossili

When it comes to making the most of Wales’ famous coastline, the survey also showed that despite nearly half of those questioned (47 per cent) thinking that lying on a Welsh beach is more relaxing than browsing social media (6 per cent), the average person in Wales has not dipped their toe in Welsh waters for more than four and a half years.

Furthermore, a quarter of those asked haven’t been to Rhossili in Gower (25 per cent), despite it currently ranking as the UK’s third best beach** and UK’s first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Year of Adventure

Commissioned by National Trust Wales and supported by a Cardiff University researcher, the new survey aimed to explore how we spend our time online versus in the real world – showing those in Wales are increasingly at risk of missing out on sensory, real-life experiences.

The research has been revealed as Visit Wales kicks off its official ‘Year of Adventure’, a year of activity which aims to position Wales as the world’s capital of adventure tourism and promote its inspirational landscape as the ideal place for personal adventure.

The Brecon Beacons has benefited from Vale of Glamorgan Association support
Figure in low cloud in the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales
The Brecon Beacons has benefited from Vale of Glamorgan Association support

Commenting on the findings, Cardiff University Professor Ian Jones, a psychiatry expert based within the National Centre for Mental Health, said: 'It seems there may be a real imbalance between the time we spend behind a screen, dreaming about what we could do and actually going out and experiencing things ourselves. We have such fantastic places to visit on our doorstep in Wales and these experiences can be good for our overall wellbeing.'

It seems we are also a nation that would happily travel further afield than spend time exploring closer to home – as while 43 per cent of those questioned have visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris and 61 per cent have been to Big Ben in London, only one in three (34 per cent) have been to the very top of the nation’s most famous peak in Snowdonia.

#TimeToGetReal booth

In a bid to turn online scrolling into real-life strolling, National Trust Wales is today taking over an area of Cardiff city centre to give passers-by a taste of just what 2016 could look like if they simply tuned-in to what is actually around them.

The Trust’s #TimeToGetReal booth will use Wales’ stunning landscape as the backdrop and submerge people in the adventures that they can plan for 2016, including climbing Wales’s tallest peaks, exploring woodlands, gardens and the great outdoors and holidaying in spectacular locations in some of Wales’s most beautiful countryside.

Justin Albert, National Trust Director for Wales, said: 'Social media and technology is definitely a fantastic tool to inspire you to want to do and see more; we think it’s better used as a catalyst to help plan real-life 3D adventures and short breaks that bring more meaningful memories to our lives.
“With that in mind, we’re calling on those in Wales to balance their tech use and make getting out and about part of their regular routine – not just by planning a quick fix but by really turning their lifestyle into local adventures and memorable holidays. By bringing the balance back to their lives, they may even surprise themselves by how much they can see and do so close to home.'

Cycling through the woods
A family cycling through the woods
Cycling through the woods

Based in the St David’s Centre all day on Friday 15 January, the booth will aim to inspire people to press the refresh button on their lives and make a bigger lifestyle change that involves physical experiences that don’t need technology to make them happen.  

Professor Jones continued: 'A number of studies suggest that there are mental health benefits in planning and taking part in enjoyable activities, particularly if they involve social contact and physical exercise. In Wales we have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Whether it’s walking in the countryside or taking on a personal challenge like a 10K run, the act of planning and enjoying experiences first-hand can make us feel more satisfied and bring real benefits to our mental health.'