A plush Westminster room on a London evening may seem an unlikely place to be rallying support for our hills and mountains, but when you get about 130 avid outdoor fans together, chuck in some free wine and sprinkle a few Alan Hinkes jokes, it does the trick.
The reception in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons earlier this week was intended to galvanise early support for the ambitious BMC-coordinated appeal to raise £1 million for some of Britain’s best-loved landscapes – Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million.
It was headlined by Alan Hinkes OBE, the first and only Briton to climb the world’s 14 mountains over 8,000 metres. In a lively speech liberally peppered with his ‘unique’ brand of Yorkshire humour, he told the story of how the UK’s national parks provided the inspirational platform for his adventures at altitude.
A huge range of key supporters of the appeal were in attendance. MPs, Lords, business heads and big donors jostled together with outdoor activists, path repairers and volunteers, as well as a few well-known faces: mountaineer Mick Fowler, author and BMC ambassador Mary Ann-Ochota and physics writer Dr Melanie Windridge were spotted mingling.
The event was generously sponsored by specialist sport and recreation insurance broker Howden and chaired by BMC Acting President Nick Kurth CBE.
Ruth George, the MP for High Peak, sponsored the event and led the talks. She described her family’s connection to the Great Ridge, which lies within her constituency. The appeal is seeking to repair the heavily eroded Great Ridge, one of Britain’s most popular hill walks, at a cost of £140,000.
Ruth George, High Peak MP, addressing the reception. Photo: Alex Messenger:
Other MPs confirmed as attending the event included John Mann, Lilian Greenwood, Peter Heaton-Jones, Nik Dakin, David Rutley, Chris Davies and Angela Smith. Many of these are members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering, for which the BMC is the secretariat.
Steve Curl, a member of the Lake District National Park and the chair of National Parks Partnerships, outlined some of the stark challenges of looking after our landscapes and the importance of Mend Our Mountains in rallying the outdoor public to rise to them.
Greg Niewenhuus, the CEO of Outdoor and Cycle Concepts, the company which owns the appeal’s headline sponsors Cotswold Outdoor and Snow + Rock, lightly admonished the gathering for “not being outdoors” but spoke of his first-hand experience of the parlous state of many of our mountain paths on a recent fell race in the Lake District and the need to support them.
Matthew Bradbury, chair of the BMC’s charity the Access and Conservation Trust, explained the aims, objectives and timeline of the appeal. While coordinated by the BMC and funded by ACT, the appeal is a team effort by a diverse UK-wide coalition which brings together more than 20 National Park authorities, outdoor enthusiast groups, charitable trusts and mountaineering councils.
Supporters of the Peak District's Great Ridge and Cut Gate projects arrive at Westminster. Photo: Chris Maloney
The appeal, as Matthew explained, is divided into three phases. The first phase (‘Base Camp’) will run between now and the spring of next year, during which time our fundraising focus will be on drawing in large donations from high net worth individuals, businesses and grant-giving bodies.
The second phase (‘The Climb’) will run over the spring and summer of 2018 and will see the main drive to encourage the public at large to donate. The third phase (‘Summit Push’) will run in the autumn of 2018 and will see a crowdfunding ‘crescendo’ aimed at raising the remaining sum of money.
It may have been a far cry from the wilderness, but it did the trick of galvanising early support for the year ahead. Watch this space for more news on Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million and how you can get involved as the campaign progresses.
WATCH: the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign film
(From L - R) Physicist and writer Melanie Windridge, Alan Hinkes and mountaineer Mick Fowler. Photo: Alex Messenger.
BMC Acting President Nick Kurth and Outdoor and Cycle Concepts CEO Greg Niewenhuys. Photo: Alex Messenger
BMC hill walking officer / Mend Our Mountains campaign manager Carey Davies and BMC ACT chair Matthew Bradbury. Photo: Alex Messenger
Mend Our Mountains campaign coordinator and event organiser Inigo Atkin. Photo: Alex Messenger
Author, presenter and BMC ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota and Claire Carter from the Outdoor Industries Association. Photo: Alex Messenger
BMC Peak Area Access Coordinator Henry Folkard and Alan Hinkes OBE. Photo: Alex Messenger
Matthew Bradbury, Outdoor Industries Association Chief Executive Andrew Denton and David Rutley MP. Photo: Alex Messenger
Nick Kurth and Lilian Greenwood MP. Photo: Alex Messenger
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million
Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is the new BMC campaign to raise £1 million to repair paths across the UK's 15 National Parks.
If you love the outdoors, we're asking you to support your favourite mountain by donating to Mend Our Mountains. You can donate online here.
WATCH: Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million