06 September 2013 by Mary Gough
I’m a Ramblers volunteer and I’ve been trained to carry out ‘Walk n Talk’ sessions to find out what people think about the future of the outdoors. Since the summer I’ve been talking to all sorts of people who like to get active outside - from young to old, hikers to strollers, families to individuals.
I’ve held 73 interviews and 3 group meetings. I’ve spoken to people in Cotswold Outdoor stores, Green Gym meetings, family gatherings, local nature reserves, country fairs, at the beginning of walks – and of course down the pub.
I’m also planning to visit RSPB reserves, local golf clubs and the Scouts and Guides. So far I’ve found that the best results are from people sitting in their cars waiting for a walk to start. It relieves their boredom.
I’ve been asking what people think about the outdoors, what their concerns are and what role the Ramblers should be playing. The results so far have been interesting. Development has come up again and again as the big issue impacting on enjoyment of the outdoors, alongside pollution and HS2. Council funding cuts and poorly maintained paths is also an apparent barrier to getting outdoors.
Perhaps surprisingly, climate change has not been identified as a major issue by the people I’ve spoken to. A lack of money and/or not being comfortable with the outdoors has also been given short shrift. All you need is a pair of shoes, one person told me.
It’s reassuring that most people have heard of the Ramblers – and that they think we’re doing a good job! However, we should be doing more to attract younger people as we’re in danger of becoming a senior citizens club! We should also be advocating the health benefits of walking more, said some.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, quite a few of the people I’ve spoken to seem to take the outdoors for granted, not really thinking about issues that might impact upon it. I wonder if that is an important point in itself. Perhaps the Ramblers future vision should be focussed on educating people to engage with the outdoors, and value it more highly. Perhaps we need to help people to appreciate why it’s essential that now more than ever we work to protect the outdoors, and ensure everyone can enjoy it.
Do you agree with what people have been telling Mary? Go all out and have your say about the future of the outdoors.