Lake District is "exclusive, mainly white, mainly middle‐class club..."

Discussion in 'Media Links' started by Lempo, Dec 29, 2019.

  1. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Big debate going on in Lake District. (Coincidentally, I'm here right now).

    The head of the Lake District National Park Authority in Cumbria says the rugged landscape excludes too many people and must change to attract a more diverse mix of visitors.

    Meanwhile an £8m project to create an accessible multi-user trail with a tarmac surface between Keswick and Thelkeld has been condemned by Keswick Town Council.

    The author, writer Julian Glover, described them as an "exclusive, mainly white, mainly middle‐class club, with rules only members understand and much too little done to encourage first time visitors".
  2. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    The first big problem, IMHO, be it 4x4, wild camping, mountain bikes, camper vans, or just people out for a stroll in the countryside, is the UK is quite small and our national parks are very small.

    I am a total believer in people getting out and enjoying the countryside. Realistically though if one wants that then an infrastructure of better, wider roads, adequate car parking, affordable quality public transport, and some footpaths able to withstand the numbers, are needed.

    The second much bigger problem is very political alas. Actually, no, it's more very very very very political, and then some. Because at the centre of this is the unequal distribution of wealth, and the number one reason the older white middle class club are benefiting disproportionately from the great outdoors is, they can afford it. Same with the NT, and then some.

    Let's also remember that there is more to the outdoors than the wilder parts and national parks. In my part of the world, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, quite a few former pits and industrial areas have been turned into country parks, we need more of that. Creating many smaller areas closer to where people live would help get folk outdoors and might be a more effective way to spend public money.

    Ultimately, though, the unequal and non-diverse mix of Lake District visitors is a symptom of a much greater problem than muddy footpaths, it has to do with political thingies.
    Heltrekker, Daymoth, Brendan and 4 others like this.
  3. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Now it made the Daily Fail

    Screenshot 2019-12-29 at 13.16.23.jpg
  4. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    JKM and Lempo like this.
  5. cathyjc

    cathyjc Thru Hiker

    And there are those who think that the way to attract a more diverse array of folks - is to make it more "accessible"…..
    And I don't mean car parks/roads - but "attractions" - as in zipwires etc. etc. :(
    I'm pretty sure that's the way the some folks (at the Daily Mail ?? ) would think ….
    Developers would love it :cry:
    Michael_x likes this.
  6. Bmblbzzz

    Bmblbzzz Ultralighter

    A couple of thoughts:
    • Rather than changing the terrain, it would make sense – if they/you/we want more and more diverse people there – to popularise its attractions.
    • Does it matter if a particular activity is dominated by one demographic, as long as everyone is made welcome?
    • I remember a radio programme (back in the days when I could bear Radio 4) in which some refugees, recently arrived in Britain, were taken on a walk as part of introducing them to typical British activities. They said it was very nice but what was the point of walking over hills and through forests unless there was something concrete at the end of it: food, peace, work, that kind of thing?
    And some thoughts to my thoughts:
    • Adaptation happens regardless, but if it changes the essence of the thing, it's more than adaptation. Assuming the 'essence' can even be agreed on.
    • Demographic domination does matter because it's self-reenforcing regardless of will. Like attracts like and no one wants to feel the odd one out. Nevertheless, plenty of activities seem to intrinsically appeal to certain similar people. Inclusion doesn't necessarily lead to diversity and lack of diversity isn't always a sign of lack of inclusion. You have to actively present a slightly distorted image in order to attract the people who are not currently attracted. More than this, it depends how that dominance is used; often unwittingly it creates the conditions which put off others.
    • Refugees are an extreme and misleading example. Also not particularly relevant to this matter.
    Also, what Michael X said about wealth (including wealth of leisure time).
    Taz38, Enzo, Michael_x and 1 other person like this.
  7. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    If they wanted to increase and control the visitors, they could build dedicated parking lots with rubbish collection and public toilets on the popular route start/end points (to reduce the burden of locals living in the area) and maybe dedicated unmanned camping areas with toilets/rubbish to minimise rubbish in the nature. This is what it was like in NZ and it seemed to work very well.
    Michael_x and cathyjc like this.
  8. cathyjc

    cathyjc Thru Hiker

    NZ - we found almost every car park (trail head) regardless of how remote had toilets. 'Long Drop' or 'Compsting' if the regular WC wasn't possible.
    It felt like the "authorities" provided for the "needs" of folks, rather than wringing their hands over spending the £'s, and then wondering why they had a mess to clear up/deal with.
    Michael_x and Lempo like this.
  9. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Even just going to our local SDW trailhead, which is rather small parking lot (maybe 10 cars), it's usually full to the extent there's a queue in and out while people searching for a spot and people start parking on the roadside of already narrow road causing an accident risk. There's a bus route to get to trailhead but only during weekends.

    If councils want people out in the nature, they should make the access easier.
    cathyjc likes this.
  10. paul

    paul Thru Hiker

    The old railway line between Keswick and Threkeld is pretty much hard pack gravel trail all the way now so I don't see what diff A bit of tarmac would make. I managed to push a pushchair down it when my daughter was a baby so it's hardly a wild trail now. It's a nice route for the more casual walker and has a nice pub at the end.

    There were many initiatives to get more minority groups into the outdoors but I think the funding went away in the big adult funding cull post the 2008 crash.

    But yes I think all national parks are dominated by white middle class folk. Where I'm sat now in North Norfolk is no different and probably has more Range Rovers per sq mile than Belgravia. Most of the houses aren't lived in other than as let's.

    Given the nation's mental health crisis in think more should be done to encourage wider use of wild spaces. It could well save lives and be money well spent
    Teepee, Peterbob67, cathyjc and 2 others like this.
  11. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    Sadly I'm not optimistic. It seems so self evident that providing adequate inexpensive or free facilities, be it transport, parking, toilets, low level tarmac paths, etc would encourage visitors and diversity. That such would pay for itself in improved health and quality of life for many many people. It's almost as though, in truth, "they" don't really want it.

    Wealthy visitors visiting towns to spend huge wads of cash in clothes shops buying Arcteryx and Patagucci, yes "they" just about tolerate that though "they" don't half whinge about the traffic and, etc, yadda, yadda, etc.

    Who are "they". Well, hypothetically, wealthy retired businessmen, probably from down south, spring to my mind. With the time and cash to get involved in the council, run pressure groups, lobby their MP's, etc. Keeping the barbarians out. NIMBY is alive and well as always.

    Can't really blame them, it's sadly human nature, and we all do it at times, in various ways, and find arguments to justify it.

    I'm not entirely sure where this rant thinks it is going but I'm pretty certain it should go no further. Politics, and such.

    Diddi likes this.
  12. MyHatGandhi

    MyHatGandhi Summit Camper

    While I'm all for increasing accessibility and diversity, I'm uneasy with the thought of popularising places too much.
    Take Pen-Y-Fan in the Breacons for example, I dread the stretch from the road to the summit whenever I need to pass through it because it's like a congested motorway. Don't get me wrong, it's great that people are out walking and enjoying but the majority only climb the summit to take a few selfies for Instagram and Facebook, then head home to brag that they've climbed Pen-Y-Fan as if it's a challenge. 50m on the otherside of the summit it's very quiet, the experience of crowded summit to peace within 50m is surreal...

    What's the point making such places more accessible if it's not really making a difference to their regular lives, and consequently making it worse for the "regulars" who enjoy nature for other reasons? Surely the money would be better spent raising awareness and status of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, kayaking by improving funding for groups, clubs, subsidised equipment etc...

    As for diversity, it's difficult to change some mindsets. My two main hiking buddies are black and took some convincing to come camping with me but now they love it. The others in the black community I hang around in don't like the idea though and I've heard many say things such as "dude, black people don't hike or camp, that's a white person thing" which I find bewildering. It's going to be difficult to be more inclusive until people are more open minded to experiencing nature in the first place.

    A few important notes just in case my tone seemed off:

    I am in no way saying that all minorities think like this! :)

    I do think key places should be more accessible to people with different abilities. If something happened to my ability to walk I'd still love to experience nature.

    I'm not convinced that 4x4 etc... are a good addition to nature, but some ways should be preserved for those currently enjoying the outdoors.

    I'm for an expansion to tranquil areas.
  13. cathyjc

    cathyjc Thru Hiker

    The sparcity of folks from an Asian background in the outdoors is particularly noticable - given they are probably the largest "non-white" community.

    There are 2 "Asian" (maybe not the best adjective?) hillwalking group I read about recently.
    First a group for the guys, followed by one for the women. I guess their culture engenders the need for a female only group (I wish it didn't but it's not my say).
    I think it's great that these groups exist - anything which helps a wider group of folks out helps more people CARE about the outdoors too.

    Also came across an explanation as to why few folks from hotter climes "don't hike".
    If you live in the "Sub-Continent" or similar climate you may a) not have access to hiking, or even walking, "country" and b) it's much too hot.
    Sitting inside to keep cool during the day is what you do.
    When they come to UK (and other European countries) they mostly settle in cities and don't understand our outdoors culture. Just outside their experience and expectations.

    I did recently come across a big group of Asian youths (boys) with adult 'leaders' in the Glen Clova car park. No females :mad:. They went off up the glen to 'do stuff'. Bit the same as a scout group might. Talking to the Park Ranger at the visitor center, the following day - he'd had to go and speak to the group for inappropriate behaviour - fires etc.
    It was good they were out there but despite plenty info. at the center still didn't know what was OK and what not.
    Education required - but our schools do nothing about outdoors education …..:(.
  14. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    In NZ we saw quite a few Asian hikers, but they were from Korea or Japan. I've also read up on Hong Kong locals doing thru-hikes in HK by making their own HK trail. Maybe hiking is not so common in mainland China, which is where most of the UK based Asians are from, afaik.
  15. Balagan

    Balagan Thru Hiker

    Hong Kong thru-hiking, I'd like to see. The longest trail in HK is 100 km. ;)
  16. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

  17. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

    you don’t see many white middle aged women at kizomba clubs either. Each to their own, whatever floats your boat.

    more public transport would be good.
    Imagedude and Lempo like this.
  18. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Yes, a minibus or sorts stopping at trailheads on long distance trails would be great or something like that.
  19. Balagan

    Balagan Thru Hiker

    "The Hong Kong Trail. Easily accessed but poses a conundrum for the thru-hiker. With no official campsites on Hong Kong Island you have two options. Go light and batter all 50 km in one go, or bring along a tent and rough it in a makeshift site for one night and split the hike over two days." I rest my case. ;)
  20. Bmblbzzz

    Bmblbzzz Ultralighter

    There's a new word/thing I've learnt today. If I'd had to guess, I might have said "zombie role play". Good job I wasn't asked then!

    Actually, I'm kind of surprised if "a genre of dance originating in Angola" doesn't attract white middle aged women. I'd have thought it might attract a similar crowd to yoga and pilates and stuff. But then I hadn't even heard of it till five minutes ago...
  21. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    I did read trip report someone doing it without doing 50k days, unfortunately I don't remember where I read it.
  22. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

    Sounds reasonable. I’m in the yoga Pilates and stuff crowd and did consider going to a kizomba club, but thought better of it, hopefully wisely. I’m not a good dancer.
  23. cathyjc

    cathyjc Thru Hiker

    In UK "Asian" is usually represented by folks from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (~5.5%). A large minority.
    Chinese communities have been here for centuries but are ~ 0.7%

    2011 census figs.
    Lempo likes this.
  24. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    I've noticed more and more Asian men and women hiking over the past year. The men are usually in groups of young men or early middle aged. They always appear happy and optimistic, even though a few could do with some pack advise.
    They always seem to be in groups of 5+ and the ladies in groups of 4 or less.
    I like quiet times on the trails but it's good to see groups from all ethnicities and backgrounds on the hill.
    Hill happiness is for all...
    PhilHo and cathyjc like this.
  25. lentenrose

    lentenrose Trail Blazer

    i live on the north downs ----easy to get to----30 miles from london---lots of car parks---dedicated mtb trails----the national trust estimate we have 60000 visitors a year into our area--- tiny amount of ethnic minoritys-----i think the reason is cultural----in third world countries poor people walk----rich people drive
    Lempo, rikdon and cathyjc like this.

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