The Sensing Nature fieldwork consisted of two overlapping research phases.
Phase I involved volunteering with a range of activity groups around the country to build an initial awareness of people’s diverse sensory worlds.
Phase 2 incorporated a series of in-depth interviews with 31 people living in both rural and urban areas around the country. Our participants were:
15 men and 16 women;
Aged from mid-20s to mid-80s;
Living with a range of eye conditions, with varying degrees of residual vision.
Of the 31 people who took part in Phase 2, everyone participated in an initial nature-themed interview. This examined what ‘nature’ is to them; how they experience different types of nature during their everyday lives; how this has changed through the different ‘chapters’ of their lives; and how they feel about existing efforts to facilitate inclusive multisensory nature encounters. This type of discussion is typically called an in-depth ‘narrative’ interview and was informed by participants’ experiences within the UK and beyond.
25 of the 31 participants took part in a second ‘go-along’ interview within a setting they valued for supporting routine access to nature. These in situ interviews offered subtle insights into the strategies used to negotiate varied forms of nature. Settings included participant gardens, local residential road and path networks, urban parks, woodland, coastal, and countryside areas.
Interviews are valuable because they allow us to take an open, exploratory approach to research. They enable participants to share stories in their own words and on their own terms. By listening to these accounts, we were keen to understand more about people’s varied multisensory interactions with nature and to learn how, if at all, life with visual impairment shapes those experiences.
They also helped us to understand how different people have addressed particular fears about using these spaces, and how we can minimise these anxieties in the future.