Listening to young people’s views of the coast:Living Coast Youth Voice

Pound, D, Larkins, Cath orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2999-6916 and Pound, J (2019) Listening to young people’s views of the coast:Living Coast Youth Voice. Technical Report. Natural England.

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We have summarised the knowledge that was co-created with young people here. However, we would like to encourage those adults who planned to read just this summary to also hear directly form the young people by reading Chapter 3.

Living Coast was a national partnership pilot project developed by Natural England1 (an organisation that looks after nature and landscapes in England). Natural England wants to help people from all walks-of-life enjoy the benefits of a new long distance path around England: the England Coast Path. By 2020, the path will stretch for approximately 2,700 miles around our beautiful English coastline and open up new stretches of the coastline. Natural England wants to understand how and why young people already use and enjoy the coast, and why others do not (or cannot). They want to know what can be done to help as many young people as possible benefit from the spectacular views, sea air, exercise and nature that the path and
surrounding areas offer.
In this research, we worked with young people aged 11 – 18 to create new knowledge about what makes it easy or hard for them to make the most of the coast, and what they suggest would help. This is important because there is little other evidence about this, nationally. This research took place in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria – a place with a high quality natural environment and areas that fall in the bottom 10% and 3% nationally on measures of deprivation. Cumbria was one of three Living Coast pilot areas in 2018/19. The other two are on the Durham Heritage Coast and the Solent. All three will inform how Natural England and its partners develop work at the coast.2

Research focus
The study asked the following research questions:
Q What do you think of the coast?
Q How do you use the coast?
Q How do you benefit from the coast?
Q What makes it easy to go to, and enjoy, the coast?
Q What makes it hard to go to, and enjoy, the coast?
Q What would help you to go more often?
Q What suggestions would you make to Natural England about how they can help?

Methods used
Our methods mixed and blended methods, techniques and principles from participation practice and
social science.

To do this we: 2

1. In total, we met 59 young people from a mix of ages, genders, ethnicities, and distances from the coast, prioritising those who live in areas that fall in the lowest 3% or 10% in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.
2. Set up a Participatory Advisory Group (PAG) of eight young people, aged 14, to be our research advisors, comment on our methods and help us interpret and analyse our findings.
3. Met with 47 young people in six groups, from a range of community and educational settings, for 90-minutes each. During these sessions, we worked with young people to create maps, discuss their good and bad experiences, ease of getting to the coast, and the influence of money, jobs, belonging and culture to their views of the coast.
4. Summarised what young people said in this first round in pictures.
5. Ran two ‘Creative Horizons’ events a fortnight later, in two sessions when 22 young people (of those who had taken part in the mapping sessions) were joined by 4 new young people. In these sessions young people took charge of which topics to explore and how to create new knowledge through art, story, rap, music, poems, drama, or discussion.
6. Faithfully reported what young people said in this report and in a film.
We found that young people have a mix of attitudes towards the coast, with some finding it a place of enjoyment, peace, and adventure and others finding it boring, uncomfortable and a place of natural and human dangers. Young people go to a mix of places. Some are familiar beaches, which are closer to home and easier to get to, and others are destinations young people enjoy with friends and family but require transport to get to. Walking and dog walking were most often mentioned as activities to do at the coast, with some saying they swam in the sea but many others not mentioning swimming at all or saying they couldn’t swim. For a few, cycling was a key part of enjoying the coast and a couple of young people mentioned anglin g
and water sports.
Young people in all groups described psychological, physical and social wellbeing benefits of being by the sea. They said that it helped them cope with stress, be fitter and enjoy time with family and friends. The things that made it easier to go included: their own attitudes and confidence, being able to get there, having someone available to go with, feeling safe and belonging and also the time of year and the weather. The barriers to going to the seaside were numerous and interconnected and particularly hard for young people living with multiple pressures and disadvantages. Negative personal attitudes and fears included boredom and anxiety, such as about risks or body shaming. A range of issues around social
barriers included not feeling safe from attack, feeling they didn’t belong, that adults and peers were judging them badly as well as outright racism, sexism and homophobia. Young people also said they lacked information about where to go, how to get there, what to do once there, natural risks such as tides, quick sands and rock falls. Getting there and affording to go were practical barriers, as was having someone available to go with them. Litter and dirty beaches deter young people. At this exposed location, bad weather with fierce winds and driving rain can make it too unpleasant to go.

Young peoples’ messages to the Natural England and its partners about enjoying the coast:
 Help make it safe (from attack and by changing adult attitudes toward us)

 Help us get there
 Give us information
 Provide affordable events and activities
 Run nature trips
 Provide shelters

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