08 February 2021 by Tanne Spielman
“I'm so happy that I have a group to go out there so that I don’t need to go out on my own. As an immigrant from Brazil, after taking part in the Out There Award, I feel like I am part of the community.” says Flavia from Inverness.
At the Ramblers, we believe everyone, no matter what age or background, should have the chance to discover the joy of walking in the great outdoors. And that’s exactly what the brilliant ‘Out There Award’ that is delivered by Ramblers Scotland is all about.
The free programme kickstarts 18 to 26-year-olds’ journeys into the outdoors, learning outdoor skills, going on a challenging walk and taking part in volunteering on three-day sessions.
This couldn’t be more timely. There is growing evidence that many young people’s health and wellbeing is poor and the anxiety and stress of life in the current context is having a serious impact.
A recent YoungScot research shockingly showed that 25% of 11- 25 year olds rated themselves as moderately or extremely concerned about their own physical and 39% moderately or extremely concerned about their own mental wellbeing.
Now more than ever, young people can benefit from walking and getting close to nature.
The Out There Award participants gain the vital skills needed to safely and responsibly explore the outdoors on foot – while also gaining all the health, wellbeing and happiness benefits that go along with that. But it’s not just about being outdoors, it’s also about connecting with other like-minded people. Loneliness in the younger generations can too often be overlooked.
“Doing the Out There Award really put me in connection with people in my area who want to do the same thing which is go out and see lovely Scotland. The award has encouraged me to do something and not feel isolated, to get outside and take a lovely hike.” says Gerald from Stirling.
Walking is a way to connect with others from all walks of life. The Ramblers 2020 YouGov poll found that 46% of people aged 18-24 say that green spaces are a good place to socialise in, compared to only 29% of those aged 45-54. Yet meeting new people to explore the outdoors with locally can be daunting. It can also be hard for beginner to know where to start. The Out There Award is designed to help young people overcome these barriers.
“What took me by surprise was how enthusiastic and friendly everyone was. I attained valuable knowledge about how to plan and prepare a walk. This knowledge, and the friends I made, motivate me to explore the incredible sights of Scotland.” says Jenkins
Participants taking part in the Out There Award are invited to join one of six successful young Ramblers walking groups across Scotland. Throughout Britain, the Ramblers has an array of thriving young walking groups that are connecting young people at a local level.
When I joined the Metropolitan Walkers, one of the Ramblers young groups, in London one evening for a walk around Hyde Park and spoke to their members and social secretary, I was really struck by how it felt like stepping into a fully formed friendship group.
One member told me she didn’t know anyone when she moved to London but by joining the Ramblers she gained lifelong friends and they even go on regular weekend walking trips across the country, as well as socialising beyond the walks.
“I’ve seen young people from the Out There Award connect with members of their local Ramblers group, such as in Inverness. That’s exactly what it’s about, creating a movement of young people who can inspire others to explore wild places and local green spaces together.” says our Sam Knight, our young adult development officer.
What’s most striking about the programme is the personal growth of the participants, the practical skills they gain as well as increased confidence. Many people feel barriers to walking and hiking but with the right skills, knowledge and support, anyone can get started.
The stats show that participants love the experience, and that it’s breaking down barriers to the outdoors:
- 79% of participants to date are female
- 37% are from minority ethnic groups
- 90% left with more walking buddies
- 85% gained new navigational skills
- 98% of entrants complete all award days
- 100% would recommend it to other young adults
Across Great Britain, the Ramblers is here to help more young people find their feet.
“After taking part in the Out There Award, I feel like I can participate in outdoor activities with more knowledge and a better sense of myself and my own capabilities.” says Grace, who took part in a Glasgow-based award.
Now that’s something to celebrate. It’s with thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Scottish Government in funding the Out There Award that the next generation of walkers is discovering our beautiful countryside and green spaces for the first time.
While the Out There programme and local walking group activities are currently on pause with Covid restrictions, as soon as it’s safe to do so, Ramblers Scotland will be restarting the small local outdoors-only Out There Award courses again.
For now, we can all be inspired by the resilience, commitment and passion of these young people who are putting one foot in front of the other to head out on adventures close to home, while discovering themselves and everything they are capable of along the way.
Find out more about the Out There Award.
Read all our latest Covid guidance.