If you live in a in a rural area, it’s easy to lament the lack of people coming to make use of it and appreciate wild spaces. But in reality, access to wild spaces remains difficult for many, for a multitude of reasons. A study by Campaign to Protect Natural England found that “Children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic […] backgrounds are half as likely to visit the countryside than White children.” And further, work by Natural England found that “ethnic minorities represent only about 1% of visitors to National Parks”.
Both papers found that there are significant barriers to visiting green spaces, and an overarching sensation for those in the BAME community that they’re unwelcome in them. A report called the Landscapes Review was published in 2019 by journalist Julian Glover, Associate Editor of the London Evening Standard, in which he succinctly describes the problem:
“We are all paying for national landscapes through our taxes, and yet sometimes on our visits it has felt as if National Parks are an exclusive, mainly white, mainly middle class club, with rules only members understand and much too little done to encourage first time visitors.”
Lack of access to wild spaces isn’t even limited to the BAME community, it can also look like exclusion for other groups, such as people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, for women of all kinds, and sadly, almost any marginalised group you can imagine. The only happy part of this story, is the fact that many groups are fighting this inequality, and whilst there are a few hundred you could join or support – here are six fighting the good fight.
Starting life as a birdwatching club in 2020, Flock Together has become so much more since. Using community programming, it helps many get their first steps into nature. In their own words “challenging perceptions on what ‘nature’ is and who it belongs to.” In their initial phase they challenged the underrepresentation of POC individuals in the outdoors space but are now growing to bring the masses into nature. Founded by Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera by their mutual love of birds, this London phenomenon now has chapters in Tokyo, Toronto and New York.
We’ve been lucky enough to host Amira Patel of Wanderlust Women on our podcast, so you might already be familiar. If you haven’t listened along, The Wanderlust Women is a hiking and adventure group dedicated to providing like-minded women with “the space, knowledge, and skills to traverse green space with confidence.” Their audience is primarily Muslim women, and through their work they look to break the barriers and stereotypes placed upon them, using representation, inclusivity and visibility. Outings can be here in the UK or even abroad as far as Morocco, Iceland or Tajikistan.
One massive boundary almost anyone can face in terms of experiencing wild spaces, is having the cash to take part. Whilst a walk in the local park, or a stroll round the local woods is a great start to getting into nature – some adventures go a little further afield. And when you do, you might be looking at all sorts of costs, transport, food etc. But one important difficulty can be having the right kit, there’s no getting around how important walking boots are for a hill climb, or a coat for a hike across the moors. Kitsquad provides donated second-hand adventure gear to low-income individuals.
Queer Surf Club has a pretty amazing call to arms on their site: “Surfing level is irrelevant here, so whether you’re a pro, or yet to take your first lesson – if you’re drawn to the waves, you’re still a surfer.” Founder Frazer formed the group after learning, whilst boarding a flight, that in the country he was headed to surf in with his partner, it was illegal to be gay – with a punishment of three years in prison. Never wanting to have to fear this again, or for others to feel marginalised, he formed the group to create a community that promoted access to the oceans for underrepresented groups.
Focusing on providing experiences for people of all abilities, Able 2 Adventure provides access to climbing and abseiling, canoeing, paddleboarding, packrafting and much more to those with additional needs. Using specially adapted equipment, they’re able to bring the outdoors to people traditionally, and unnecessarily excluded. With a phenomenal team of core adventurers leading the charge, Able 2 Adventure is able to offer a wide range of activities, courses and training. They also run events throughout the year that support access to adventure sports for the disability community, like The Trailblazer Wheelchair Race or The Young People’s Paraclimbing Camp.
Founded by Rhiane Fatinikun in 2019, Black Girls Hike (BGH) was created to offer a safe space for Black women to explore the outdoors. They help encourage Black women to reconnect with nature, as well as creating role models and figureheads for younger people of colour to normalise seeing BAME individuals in wild spaces. BGH host group hikes all over the country of various difficulty levels, as well as activity and training days that can range from yoga to skiing! Their work also sees them running volunteer Duke of Edinburgh Award centres and groups, helping to teach and inspire the next generation of nature enthusiasts.