Your Movement Matters – opening the way for everyone

Silhouette of four people walking along a hilltop as sunset

Going for a walk is something many of us take for granted.  I consider myself a ‘walker’, someone who loves being outside and exploring new places – confident I have enough experience to pack a bag and go, but mindful of my own limitations, fitness etc.  I know where to go for inspiration, I have the basic skills and ‘kit’, I feel safe, and whilst access to public transport continues to be massively frustrating – I get out and about and encourage others to do so.  

But unfortunately, this isn’t everyone’s experience.  This quote from the recent Your Movement Matters research, really hit home with me:

“I love walking in the hills but have not kept it up regularly as I got older, I had less people around that wanted to do this with me. Tried to get family members to participate but 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.”

This really made me reflect.  As a white man, I don’t have to think twice about whether I’m likely to not be welcomed by others.  And I have never once questioned whether I feel the outdoors is for me.  The Your Movement Matters research clearly demonstrates that there are multiple things getting in the way of more people enjoying the outdoors and going walking.  Things that many of us may never have had to consider ourselves.

It’s not just the negative attitudes and reactions of others that are highlighted.  Others talk about being unable to access green spaces from where they live, not being able to afford the ‘appropriate kit’, having safety concerns, not having role models they can identify with, or having the confidence and skills.  And yet there was huge recognition of the massive benefits of walking.

At the Ramblers we believe the joys of walking belong to everyone: no matter where you live or your walk of life. We are dedicated to removing barriers so everyone can enjoy the pleasures of walking and this recent research highlights how vital our work is.  We need to acknowledge we have a long way to go for everyone to feel welcome in the outdoors.  Just 1% of visitors to National Parks in England and 2% of our members and volunteers are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.   This is the start of a journey.

What do the Ramblers need to do to tackle these barriers?

This is not a definitive list, but I think there are some clear areas of focus for us as an organisation:

  • We need to shout about what others are doing, provide support and work in partnership.  It’s been fantastic to see the emergence of groups and initiatives enabling more people to enjoy the outdoors – from Muslim Hikers, Boots and Beards and Black Girls Hike to those targeted at people with disabilities such as Dementia Adventure.  It can be lonely and hard to take the first steps on this journey and we take our bobble hats off to them and others for opening the way.   How might we enable them and others to make more of this to happen?
  • We need to do more listening and understanding of different people’s experiences.  Jumping to solutions we feel are right are unlikely to work – or we wouldn’t be in this situation still now!
  • We need to feature walkers of all backgrounds, all shapes and sizes, and all abilities in our communications to truly represent the breadth of the walking community.#
  • We need to continue campaign for and make sure more paths are more accessible, for example by working to remove stiles and other barriers to access for all.
  • We need to continue to track and measure progress – holding ourselves and others to account.  Your Movement Matters is an important piece to this jigsaw.
  • I would also encourage you, as walkers and members of the Ramblers, to use this research to reflect on how we can all play our own part in opening the way to walkers of all backgrounds.

Find out more about Your Movement Matters and to read the full reports

You can also see a snapshot of the findings.

Big thanks to Leeds Beckett University for carrying out the research and to Mountain Training for instigating and bringing the various partners together.

Mark Crosby, Head of Ramblers Operations