Last weekend I took my son out to the New Forest for a sunny evening visit to look for nightjar.

Now for those who have no idea what a nightjar is, it’s best explained as a nocturnal bird, about the size of a kestrel in flight that flies at night and catches insects. It makes the noise of a two-stroke motorbike and can continue for up to 10 minutes at a time. We watched two of them wheeling over the heathland with the sun setting in the background. It was great and he enjoyed it, but the most startling feature was we were alone.

Where were all the other kids and families? Presumably most were in front of a TV or computer monitor. According to a recent National Trust survey the average 11-15 year old spends 20.5 hours glued to a computer screen each week. And the average eight-year old sits in front of a TV for 17 hours. That is the majority of young people’s spare time! One in three children has (apparently) never had a picnic in the countryside and a massive one in four has never splashed in muddy puddles.

As the countryside is increasingly seen as a place for older people and for prospective developers (!) there is a growing disconnect between the next generation and the very things conservationists are fighting to protect. If our average teenager as never been to see a nightjar (or indeed a forest sunset) why should they feel there is any need or urgency to protect either? As land in the UK becomes ever more valuable and the demand for prime housing locations grows, don’t for a minute think that areas like the New Forest are truly safe. Assuming that is a bit like assuming the US will see sense and not vote for Trump.

If we are to collectively give our young people a reason to passionately campaign about our wildlife and wild spaces we need to find clever ways of reconnecting them to nature, so that means doing more of the following:

1) Take a night drive and go looking for exciting animals like foxes, badgers, owls and nightjars. If going alone feels a step to far Romsey and District Society, Hants Wildlife Trust and the local RSPB all organise trips suitable for families with teens.

2) Grow your own. Put aside a little corner of your garden and encourage them to grow something you can eat, it’s a real winner for those under 11!

3) Let them take risks – join a paddle boarding club, coasteering course, surfing club, anything that will get them out there and suddenly thinking there is good reason why this should be protected. Especially if there is effort involved. Avoid quad biking, motor-boating etc. Anything that created huge noise and scares everything away is a mistake. It just reinforces the separation. But get you shoes off, get on a paddle board and get close to the water? Fab; they will see some amazing things and also see some pollution, which in turn will make them think a bit more.

And for us adults who moan and groan about the state of things, the best idea I have for the rest of us is join in. We only have one life, we only have one planet, every day can only be lived once. So get out there and enjoy what’s out there while we still have it – tread lightly, but enter the adventure. We live on the edge of a truly amazing national park and a fantastic coast. So let’s make the most of it and campaign hard for things that we value.

Because if we don’t fight for it, there will be a day in the not too distant future where it is too late and we see fracking in the forest or a new housing estate on the heathland.