A survey has revealed that the overwhelming majority of parents consider it important for children to visit the countryside and enjoy nature.

The online survey of more than 2,000 parents - commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and carried out by OnePoll - found that 96 per cent of parents thought it important that children spend time in the natural world, with 69 per cent saying 'very important' and 27 per cent saying it is 'quite important'.

As well as this, 85 per cent said that every schoolchild should get first-hand experience of the countryside as part of their curriculum.

The reasons parents gave included improving physical health (74 per cent), learning about science and nature (74 per cent), improving mental health (70 per cent), the thrill of first-hand wildlife observation (65 per cent) and improving understanding of the need to protect the countryside (63 per cent).

Emma Bridgewater, President of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: "Younger people are leading the way in changing the way we treat our planet. Programmes like Blue Planet have done so much to raise awareness of the need to recycle and have succeeded in building awareness of the impact of climate change among children and young people.

"But we all have a responsibility to continue to support children on their journey towards making our world truly sustainable. We have many amazing green spaces on our doorstep, which benefit everyone in so many ways – by improving their mental health, physical wellbeing through the ability to experience nature first-hand. What is needed is decisive action from the next government that will ensure all children can access these treasured areas and green landsapes."

Michael Morpurgo, author and co-founder of Farms for City Children, said: "It should absolutely be part of every child’s life to walk the fields and forests, stomp through leaves, up hills, through rivers, to see buzzards floating high and mewing, to glimpse a fish jumping, to feel wind and cold, to see a sheep give birth, a cow give milk, to plant potatoes, dig potatoes, to look up on a dark night and see the stars, to hear silence.

"How good is that for us, to know that this world is beautiful and that we are part of it."

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: "The climate emergency is high on the political agenda and yet the recently-published political party manifestos suggest that policy makers have failed to recognise how experiencing nature directly links with the desire and will to combat the climate emergency. The research also shows that parents see the countryside as good for children’s health and well-being.

"CPRE therefore urges the next government to introduce measures to improve access to the countryside for all, including the 30 million who have the Green Belt on their doorstep, so our green spaces can be a focal point for experiencing, learning about and investing in our environment."