Sunday, March 7, 2021

How Walking Groups Have Led The Way In Diversifying The Outdoors

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Where are Black Girls Hike two years on from their first hike? The group is continuing to make strides as they further progress on diversifying the countryside. Their Instagram page (@bgh_uk) is only a few followers away from 10,000, with one of those followers being survival expert Bear Grylls. Yet, the one accolade that stands out above all the rest for Black Girls Hike is the amount of expansion they’ve managed in such little time.

They currently have three regional walking groups, with the main aim now being to offer outdoor leadership courses to their current members.

“We started doing walks in the midlands at the end of last year, and then we also started our London group this year [2020] where we had over 100 people come to our first London walk. We are also working on mountain training so we can get people to be outdoor instructors. We want people to have basic navigation skills and support them to become mountain leaders.”

“We had over 100 people come to our first London walk”

Rhiane’s future hope for Black Girls Hike is that they continue to expand and cover further pastures as walkers and as an organisation.

“The ultimate goal is to have chapters all over the UK, we’ve got some new leaders ready for lockdown to be over in Yorkshire and the East Midlands and look forward to being able to hold space for Black women wherever they need it,” she tells me.

Rhiane has a clear vision when it comes to Black Girls Hike, and that is to give black women all over the UK safe spaces to explore.

“Safe space is really important for communities that are historically marginalised because they represent safety and community, and they are good for building confidence and mental health. To have that relief, I think it’s important everyone gets that chance to reset.”

“I’m proud of the platform it’s become”

The dedication to diversifying the outdoors has not gone unnoticed by the big players in the industry. Berghaus, one of the biggest creators of outdoor gear, is fully supporting Black Girls Hike. The group has been featured in their 2020 Spring / Summer Collection, and Vivobarefoot’s 2020 Winter campaign.

Black Girls Hike were named ‘Campaigners of the Year’ in the Great Outdoor Magazine Awards 2020. They’ve also been featured by the BBC, ITV, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Women’s Health Magazine, and a number of other media outlets as they continue to gain support for their cause.

The benefits of walking are well documented, but Black Girls Hike are putting this into practice.

“It’s your mind, body, and soul, it’s great for your physical health, and it’s also great for your mental health because it’s a distraction,” Rhiane says. “When you’re outdoors, you kind of have less time to worry about things because you’re too busy taking everything in. It gives you time to put things back into perspective.”

“When you’re outdoors, you kind of have less time to worry about things because you’re too busy taking everything in”

Walking has been the saving grace for many during the coronavirus pandemic. Making the separation from the technology that dictates so much of our lives has been eye-opening for the founder of BGH.

“How many times have you sat there with your laptop, TV, and phone on whilst also scrolling on your phone? We’re so overstimulated, we’re constantly taking stuff in, which you can’t always filter. It’s important to have that space, your diet isn’t just what you eat it’s everything you ingest, and we should be more mindful of that,” Rhiane says.

Credit: Black Girls Hike UK (Instagram)

As well as seeing the first-hand benefits Black Girls Hike is having on people, Rhiane also notes how it’s helped her grow. “Black Girls Hike is probably the only thing I’ve ever consistently worked on, and I’m proud of the platform it’s become. Every day has been a school day, I’ve had to learn so much both personally and professionally.

“Black people are not a monolith. We don’t all have the same principles, values, beliefs, etc. But, unfortunately, we don’t have the privilege as being seen as individuals. I don’t see myself as a leader, but running a platform where our voice is perceived by some as representative of our community does add pressure and a sense of responsibility.

The obstacles that Black women face outdoors will not be solved overnight, and Rhiane knows much more work must be done to educate people on them.

“You have this thing where they keep using the term BAME at the moment and acting like all the barriers the groups face are all the same”

“There are so many issues, you can’t pinpoint just one. Skills, attitudes, access, they all play a part, and it’s important for organisations to have a more nuanced understanding.”

Rhiane also spoke to me about the barriers that black people face in the outdoors and how they differ from other groups.

“I think there are just too many barriers. It’s difficult to say this is what the issue is. You have this thing where they keep using the term BAME at the moment and acting like all the barriers the groups face are all the same. People don’t look into all the intersections of all the different people that are in this category and what all their different kind of barriers might be.”

Looking ahead to 2021 for Black Girls Hike, Rhiane is very keen to grow the group further by continuing to provide opportunities for black women to enjoy the outdoors.

This is something that resonates with Cherelle Harding. Cherelle just so happens to be the Midlands Lead for Black Girls Hike, something she’s used as a stepping stone in order to create her own group – Steppers UK.





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