Collaboration and Celebrating Diversity through Adventure

I would like to dedicate today’s blog to the issue of encouraging access for everyone – no matter what background, age or ability – to our glorious countryside as championed by the social enterprise organisation backbone in a really innovative project called “Our Natural Heritage” and funded by a range of organisations including:

  • Cairngorms National Park Authority
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Scottish Natural Heritage

And supported by diverse ranger services including:

  • Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service
  • Forestry and Land Scotland Ranger Service
  • Local Community Trust Rangers
  • Glen Tanar Ranger Service
  • Balmoral Ranger Service
  • National Trust for Scotland Ranger Service

The benefits of visiting the countryside are legion and include enhanced health and well-being, cultural exchange, fostering a desire to protect the natural world and building the confidence to explore. The outdoors belongs to everyone and experiencing nature can be genuinely cathartic.

Helen Rowe of Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service, Pammy Johal – the director of backbone and myself welcomed a group of New Scots from Inverurie to the reserve over the weekend. We set the moth trap the night before and were lucky enough to share this male feathered thorn (amongst others) with the group.

A male feathered Thorn moth

Working with backbone and New Scots has certainly opened my eyes and since I have done a bit of homework on ethnic minority participation in the outdoors . The James Hutton Institute published a report in 2018 on adult use of the outdoors

Its key findings show overall that:

The population groups least likely to report using the outdoors on a weekly basis include Muslims and Black and other non-white minority (BME) ethnic groups.

It states “There are many possible reasons for this difference in use of the outdoors between white and BME populations in Scotland. Particular barriers faced more by those of ethnic minority groups can include economic factors (e.g. around lack of transport), fear (of attack, discrimination, of pests and dangerous plants and animals), unease or feeling unwelcome or out of place (particularly in relation to rural settings), and language barriers “.

Backbone’s ambition is to nurture and empower marginalised Scots to become happy and active citizens. backbone recognises that outdoor spaces are powerful playgrounds and encourages the use of the natural environment as a classroom together with creative experiential sessions to encourage open and honest conversations and solutions.

Pammy has organised for 48 visits to the countryside by marginalised communities to occur across the length and breadth of Scotland within a year.
The next step for the visiting groups as part of a 1 year leadership training project is to undergo some navigation training, first aid training and under take their mini-bus license and so begin to explore as communities, for themselves, the wonderful nature of Scotland.

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