The British countryside being the preserve of the white middle classes is a perception that is backed by stark figures, with ethnic minorities often deterred from heading into the outdoors due to deep-rooted, complex barriers.
At the time of the last census in 2011, 13% of the UK population, around 8.1 million people, identified themselves as black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME). Yet a 2017 study by Natural England found that just 26.2% of black people spent time in the countryside, comparedwith 44.2% of white people.
According to a separate report, only 1% of visitors to UK national parks come from BAME backgrounds, and statistics from the outdoor sector paint a similar picture, with only around 1% of summer mountain leaders and rock-climbing instructors in the UK from ethnic minorities.
The reasons behind this reluctance to venture out are complicated. Recent Sport England research identifies six barriers to participation in outdoor activities for people from an ethnic minority background: language, awareness, safety, culture, confidence and perception of middle-class stigma.
Even more acute were the findings from a diversity review commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It highlighted that despite people from ethnic minority backgrounds valuing the natural environment and the slow and simple life of rural communities, they felt excluded and conspicuous in what they perceived as an “exclusively English environment”.
Only 1% of visitors to UK national parks come from BAME backgrounds