Access all areas
By Jill White
Around 10% of the UK population is from black and minority ethnic (BME) group backgrounds, yet only approximately 1% of visitors to National Parks are from these groups1. The Campaign for National Parks (CNP) set up the Mosaic project some 10 years ago to try to improve this situation and to help the National Park Authorities (NPAs) and the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) increase the diversity of their visitors and governance structures. Mosaic has now completed its third phase (from 2009–12) with associated work still ongoing.
The project initially focussed on increasing BME involvement with NPAs by creating better links with communities in and around the boundaries of the participating parks. I worked for Mosaic during its second phase, which ran from 2005–2008.
Barriers to access
Some people from BME and other traditionally harder-to-reach groups, such as disabled and young people, may well be unaware of the existence of National Parks and what activities might be available there. They are more often found in the lower income groups who will not have the disposable income needed for the usually expensive transport to get to a National Park. People from BME groups may have concerns that their cultural needs will not be met, for example with separate facilities for men and women and with facilities for prayer. They may also be worried about going to remote and unfamiliar areas or feel vulnerable to attack or racial abuse. For example, I heard disturbing stories of threats of physical attack from far-right groups in Yorkshire. This will be something which does not even cross the minds of most National Park visitors, as they set off for a pleasant day’s hiking.
Mosaic was set up to manage these issues and to build long term and sustainable links between BME communities and the NPAs/YHA. Its project officers established links with community groups in areas in and around the parks, especially in neighbouring urban areas. They identified individuals interested in arranging group trips to National Parks, helping to organise and fund the visits. These ‘community champions’ were then provided with training by Mosaic and taken to their local National Park in small groups, to assess what was available and how they might organise group visits for their communities. Mosaic linked champions with NPA staff and with the YHA (a major Mosaic funding partner), organising dedicated accommodation in its hostels with ongoing residential support.
Since it began, Mosaic has introduced at least 28,000 people from BME groups to the National Parks, including at least 9,000 who have been taken on visits to a National Park for the first time2. In addition to community groups, champions have come from health projects, such as ‘Walking for Health’ linked to hospitals and
GP surgeries and other initiatives.
The most recent phase of Mosaic focuses exclusively on involving young people, using the same model to recruit young champions. Patrick Villiers-Stuart, a project officer from Northumberland National Park said, ‘The Mosaic Project continues to enable people alienated from the countryside to establish connections with wild places... The model seems to flex to meet the demands of the partner National Park Authority, and the opportunities and difficulties particular to each national park.’
Linking people with landscapes creates sometimes surprising links and affinities. On one visit I accompanied a group of BME older people on a visit to the Yorkshire Dales where a hill farmer took the group around his sheep farm, sharing his enthusiastic knowledge of the huge range of dry stone walling techniques and styles. Some of the visitors had themselves been mountain farmers before coming to the UK and were intrigued to see similarities with some of the landscape character and the problems faced by its farmers. It produced a remarkable cultural crossover and was a fascinating exercise in sharing global landscapes.
Interestingly, people of BME background in this country are frequently associated with urban and not rural areas, often denying their experience. Refugee and migrant groups have become involved with Mosaic in its later phases and the NPAs have been playing an important role in helping displaced settlers find a new place to feel ‘at home’ – a new landscape to feel a part of and to enjoy. This has often made a significant contribution to mental health and well being.
The business case
So what else do the NPAs and YHA get in return for their funding and support? There can be a significant economic return in terms of volunteer time inputs, which the organisations may use to obtain match funding and other external finance, especially when adding the NPA’s own staffing ‘in kind’ time. This has been estimated to be worth an estimated £50,000 per partner per year
Organisational change has also resulted from involvement with Mosaic. For instance, the YHA has improved its governance structure by co-opting a champion as a trustee to its board. The Peak District NPA has invited champions’ representatives to its planning and consultation meetings on its management plan.
Champions at North York Moors NPA have a regular slot at members’ meetings to represent their audience.
Catherine Kemp, who undertakes outreach work in the Yorkshire Dales National Park told me, ‘The lasting impact for us is that there are many more people from BME backgrounds visible in the National Park...
For the authority the Mosaic experience has led to a better understanding of equalities and the needs of different groups... I think the high profile the project created meant that it reached many more people from BME backgrounds than we actually worked with and it sent out a very clear message that National Parks are a place for everyone.’
National Park staff and Trustees are now much more aware of the barriers facing BME groups in their interface with the parks The Mosaic model will be developed to further improve access and involvement of disabled people with the National Parks. There will also be a greater focus on health initiatives linking people with the landscape, an area in which the Landscape Institute is also currently actively engaged
Jill White is a landscape architect practising in the southwest. She is a member of the editorial advisory panel of Landscape.
Mosaic Final Evaluation: Executive Summary, 2012 (p.1) – undertaken by The Gilfillan Partnership for CNP
Value of Ethnic Minority Engagement to Partner Organisations, 2012 (p.1) – CNP
NPAs of North York Moors/Peak District/Yorkshire Dales/Brecon Beacons together with CNP and YHA
Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund; Nationwide Building Society; NPAs & YHA
NPAs of Broads/Dartmoor/Exmoor/Lake District/ New Forest/North York Moors/Northumberland/ Peak District/Yorkshire Dales together with CNP and YHA
Funded by Natural England through Access to Nature programme (part of Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces Programme) with other funding from Nationwide Building Society; NPAs & YHA
From Jan 2012 – NPAs in Wales of Pembroke/Brecon Beacons/Snowdonia
From March 2013 – NPAs of New Forest/Exmoor/Lake District/Northumberland/Yorkshire Dales
Funded by the National Lottery People and Places fund and NPAs/YHA and CNP