Grant helps give new experience in the UK’s oldest National Park to hundreds from inner city Nottingham

One of the projects that we have supported with an #itsgreatoutthere grant this year is True Nature Project, an initiative by the non-profit organisation AKA – Health, Wealth and Oneness CIC, in Nottingham, UK. AKA teamed up with coalition member Equip Outdoors to propose an ambitious plan to take young people and adults from the inner city and give them access to hiking and other activities in the Peak District, the UK’s oldest National Park. With the support of a grant, the team helped over 250 people to participate this summer, with some very positive responses from those involved.

We spoke to AKA, namely Antwon, Kevin and Anton, about their project, and how the #itsgreatoutthere grant had helped them achieve their objectives this year.

Talking about the mix of participants and what they did, AKA commented:

Participants have been from all age groups and ethnicities. Some sessions have focussed on teenagers, some have been for families and children, and others open to all! The Peak District is our closest National Park, being within an hour and a half’s drive. Mainly we have been hiking in various locations, as well as doing some bike rides and scrambling.

We had a real mix of people who got involved, with varying levels of experience. The majority had never been to the Peak District before, or any other National Park for that matter, so this was a new experience.”

 

We asked AKA what they felt were the biggest barriers that had deterred the people they work with from getting into the outdoors before.

One of the main barriers can be financial. Although walking itself is a free activity, the cost of travel to a National Park is not cheap, or convenient. Alongside this, there’s also the issue of having access to suitable footwear or clothing. You can hike in anything, but if the weather turns and you're not prepared, it can really put a downer on your experience and make you less likely to return.

Finally, having the knowledge and confidence to get out there in the first place can be daunting for many people of minority ethnic backgrounds from the city. National Parks are big, so knowing where to go and what to do can be overwhelming, along with being aware of the countryside code, and even just knowing where you can - and cannot - walk.

These are all barriers that we as AKA are striving to overcome in order to introduce people to the outdoors and build their confidence.

Addressing all of these issues presents big challenges to potential participants, but also to those organisations that are trying to encourage them into the outdoors. Inevitably, access to funding is a core concern, as AKA note: 

The biggest challenge for us has been finding and securing funding which allows us to deliver in a way that aligns with our core values and principles as an organisation.

So, put simply, we asked if the #itsgreatoutthere grant had made a significant difference. The answer was clear: 

The support has enabled a small new organisation like us to reach and introduce hundreds of people to the great outdoors who otherwise may not have gone there!

However, the support of the coalition and its members went further. Rab and Lowe Alpine helped provide another vital piece in the jigsaw. 

Rab and Lowe Alpine really helped to connect us with organisations that have much more experience of the outdoors than we do, so that we can get information, advice and guidance. They have also provided our staff team with outdoor clothing, which is key to delivering our programme. This helps us look and feel more professional and we are more confident knowing that we can rely on the kit, whatever the weather, day after day.

This all sounds wonderful, but did the 250 plus people who visited the Peak District with AKA this summer agree? 

The response from participants has been exceptional - the smiles and looks of awe on faces when people first see some of the views were priceless. Meeting new people and forming connections is also another big part of why we do what we do. The outdoors is a great place to get to meet and make new friends, including people who you may not usually come into contact with or talk to in your everyday life. Being outdoors and in nature helps you see others from a different perspective and in a much more open way. “Lots of people have now become regulars at our events and also through social media, we have been able to see them strike out on their own and explore. This ripple effect is immeasurable and so brilliant to witness!

Once again, an #itsgreatoutthere grant has delivered exactly the kind of results that we aim for when supporting organisations, and that added value that the brilliant team at AKA was able to get from collaborating with Equip Outdoors clearly made a crucial contribution too. It’s a win-win for the coalition and most importantly for those citizens in Nottingham who have been able to experience the wonderful Peak District during its 70th birthday year!

We continue to award #itsgreatoutthere grants to deliver Outdoor Activity Days around Europe – keep checking our website for news from those projects. You can find out more about our grants programme here.