People, Policy & Planet: Accessing and Maximising Nature in England

How can we balance conservation and restoration of habitat with people’s need to access nature in England? On 19 April, the English Policy Group will launch its People, Policy & Planet in-person event series with an exciting lineup of speakers discussing public access to nature in England.

A path through the woods

The People, Policy & Planet series will feature networking and knowledge exchange events, bringing together ecologists and policymakers to discuss policy-relevant and timely ecological topics in a relaxed and informal environment. Come along to our first event on accessing and maximising nature!

Time and place

The first People, Policy & Planet event, ‘Accessing and Maximising Nature in England’, will take place 2-6pm on 19 April at the British Ecological Society in London.

About the event

The issue of public access to nature in England is currently making the headlines, including protests around the recent legal decision to restrict wild camping on Dartmoor, and the Labour Party announcing an upcoming ‘Right to Roam’ bill. On one hand, an increasing number of studies are revealing that spending time in nature has a wide range of benefits for human health and wellbeing. On the other, public access is often associated with increased risk to species of conservation interest in these areas. How can we balance this public need for nature with conservation and restoration of habitat? What are the current policies around public access to nature in England and how should they change to ensure equitable access while protecting wildlife from human disturbance?

Our six expert speakers will give informative, provocative and entertaining insights into these important questions, followed by an opportunity to discuss policy recommendations for public access in breakout groups.

The event will operate on Chatham House Rules to keep the debate as lively as possible!


Rob Rhodes

Photo of Rob in front of a tree

Rob has worked for the National Trust for over 25 years, managing estates in Shropshire, Hampshire and Dorset. Now based in the central team, he is currently the Head of Countryside Management and Rangers, leading for the professional development of the ranger community including entry level recruitment and training. He has a passion for sharing the countryside with others and is therefore championing public access and nature connections across the organisation. He brings a wide range of practical experience alongside strategic planning and leadership.

Sarah Howes

Portrait photo of Sarah

Sarah is a lecturer in mental health nursing at the University of Plymouth. She has studied the use of green prescribing for Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, and the impact of nature as a wellbeing strategy within nurse education. Sarah has authored materials for the NurSus project, winner of the Guardian University Award for Sustainability Project in 2018. She co-leads the Sustainability Health and Wellbeing Interest Group at Plymouth, supporting students, academics and clinical staff locally, nationally and internationally to develop more sustainable, nature aware practices.

Dr Michael Pocock

Portrait photo of Michael

Michael is an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, interested in the diversity of citizen and community science, its use for ecological science, and in supporting people’s connection to nature.

Dr Amy-Jane Beer

Photo of Amy-Jane in a garden

Amy-Jane is a biologist, naturalist, writer and campaigner for nature – of which humans are part. She is a columnist for British Wildlife, Country Diarist for The Guardian, and her most recent book, The Flow: rivers, water and wildness, explores themes of nature and connection. She is a member of the core organising team of Right to Roam, campaigning for a right of responsible access to England’s countryside within a new cultural ethos of Wild Service.

Beth Collier

Photo of Beth sitting next to a tree

Beth is a Nature Allied Psychotherapist and ethnographer, teaching woodland living skills and natural history. She specialises in working with relational trauma in our connections with people and with nature.

Dr Durwyn Lilly

Durwyn Lilly photo

Durwyn is a founder and director of Footprint Ecology, a nature conservation consultancy based in Dorset. Much of Footprint Ecology’s work has revolved around balancing access and nature conservation.  Durwyn has worked across the UK on projects that include ecological research on the impacts of people in the countryside, visitor surveys and the collection of visitor data, policy (such as enhanced coastal access and  the access provisions under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000), planning policy and training.  His research interests cover the bird disturbance with work on Ringed Plovers, Nightjar and Stone Curlew and ways to combine visitor and ecological data.


A summary of talks and discussions will be written up into a report on the BES website. All contributions will be anonymous due to Chatham House rules.


This event is now sold out. To join the waiting list, please contact

Register here

Registration is free, and includes tea and coffee during the event and drinks and nibbles after the event from 5-6pm.

Capacity is limited, so if you register and cannot attend, please cancel your place so we can accommodate others.

Please direct any questions to India Stephenson, Policy Officer