Why the Ramblers is committed to being an anti-racist organisation 

Opening the way for everyone

Going for a walk is something many of us take for granted. We enjoy being outside and exploring new places. We know where there are great walks locally and feel confident to explore new routes.  Our health and wellness benefit from the time we spend outdoors. 


Access to nature isn’t equal

But unfortunately, this isn’t everyone’s experience. There is plenty of research showing that access to nature isn’t equal. Just 1% of visitors to National Parks in England are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds despite these groups making up around 17% of the GB population. Just 2% of Ramblers members and volunteers are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. There are many different reasons why people don’t feel able to, or don’t chose to spend time doing outdoor activities such as walking. Here are some examples: 

  • From our own research we know that in England and Wales, the most white-dominated areas have 144% more local paths than the most ethnically diverse and residents of the most affluent areas enjoy 80% more paths in their local area than the most deprived.   

  • Research by CPRE, the countryside charity, found that experiences of racism made many people of colour feel unsafe or fearful when in the countryside.   

  • Research conducted by Leeds Beckett University identified the biggest single reason as cost. But other reasons included lack of confidence, lack of role models and negative experiences. The key research findings are summarised in this snapshot.   

  • A survey by Backbone of professionals and volunteers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds working in the Scottish outdoors, found that more than half had experienced or observed racial discrimination. 

One standout perspective from a respondent of African-Caribbean heritage in the Leeds Beckett University research was: “As people of colour we always have to risk assess where we go and preparedness for being racialized in shops or pubs that we stop by. The gazes are still profound and a few comments. If we go with a mixed group the White friends always feel they have to speak up if they see or hear something inappropriate. There is definitely safety in numbers and I would not take children on my own of mixed heritage or Black identities if I was not confident that I could deal with the expected ignorance.” 

A participant in the study by Backbone observed that even where there was no direct discrimination the atmosphere could be very uncomfortable because "everyone looked at me, but no one looked like me".   

Zahrah Mahmood, president of Ramblers Scotland who is of South Asian heritage, has a similar view: “Some of the factors stopping ethnic minorities enjoying the outdoors are the same for a lot of people regardless of background; finances, access, time and other priorities. But another barrier is fear of putting yourself in a situation where you know you will stand out in a predominantly white space. That unfortunately has a lot to do with the lack of representation from outdoor companies and brands, and not seeing someone who looks like you being represented in a meaningful way.”   


Being an anti-racist organisation 

Racism is a form of discrimination where people are treated unfairly or badly because of their race, ethnic background, or the colour of their skin. 

At the Ramblers we open the way so everyone can get out and go walking. Ever since the earliest days of the Ramblers, the aim has been to break down barriers that stand in the way and make sure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy walking. We’re committed to fostering an environment that values and celebrates everyone’s unique experiences, perspectives and backgrounds.  We recognise that systems of inequalities exist which create barriers to people participating in sport and physical activity, including walking. We want everyone to feel welcome in our organisation and when they go out walking.    

To do this we need to be anti-racist. Being anti-racist means challenging and breaking down racial prejudice, racial discrimination, and systemic racism to create a fairer and more just society. If you’d like to understand more about what being anti-racist means, this BBC Bitesize video is a great place to start

Whether in the countryside or in towns and cities, whether alone, with friends or within a walking group, people of all backgrounds must feel they are welcome to enjoy walking.  Sadly racist attitudes, comments and behaviour are still commonplace and we want to play our part in driving change to ensure that walking truly is the inclusive activity that it should be.  

We all can and should play our part in supporting everyone, no matter their background or ethnicity, to enjoy walking outdoors without fear of experiencing racism, whether as part of the Ramblers, alone, or within other organisations and initiatives such as Muslim Hikers, Boots and Beards or Black Girls Hike. It might require us to step out of our comfort zone and challenge our assumptions and ways of thinking, but we can learn a lot by having an open mind and listening to the lived experiences of those from different backgrounds.    


Find out more

A wide path lined with tall trees.

The Ramblers commitment to being an anti-racist organisation

We want everyone to feel welcome in our organisation and wherever they enjoy walking so we are committed to being an anti-racist organisation.

Two walkers enjoying a laugh and a smile together

A glossary of terms relating to anti-racism

To grow our collective understanding of the issues surrounding racism, our glossary explains more depth of the terms we are using in our communications.

Five walkers strolling through a long grass field while chatting

Safeguarding at the Ramblers

Our duty of care to our employees, members, volunteers, supporters and members of the public.