Cherelle is the founder of Steppers UK, a community group based in the Midlands, focused on encouraging more people from under-represented backgrounds into outdoor activities including walking. She says that they’re all about #GoodViewsGoodVibes.
Finding Our Way podcast champions diverse outdoor voices and is proudly sponsored by Berghaus.
Why did you set up Steppers UK?
I wanted to encourage more people to get outdoors and explore the profound benefits that I realised that nature gives me. Some people say that walking and other outdoor activities just aren't in the culture of Black, Asian or some other communities. I don't think that's true. A lot of people often have history and culture within countries that are abundant in nature. For example my family's from the Caribbean and everyday life there is about being in nature. I do think there has been a disconnect with people in the diaspora, though, and there are barriers that stop people, especially in cities, from accessing wild places.
What inspired me to connect with nature was actually reggae music and Rastafarianism. All you've got to do is listen to a Bob Marley song to hear him talking about nature and his love and appreciation for it. And that resonated with me so much - it awakened a level of consciousness in me that I don't think I had until I heard someone who was from the Caribbean, that looked like me, talking about those things. I want to tie in back to countries that my parents and grandparents came from and also other people within the group. How can we connect people from the Caribbean, or from India, back with nature? I've got a friend who's from St Lucia and he goes to the Lake District all the time because it reminds him of home. I think that's so beautiful.
What are the barriers to accessing the countryside for people from Black and Asian communities?
It's not just one thing that stops people. Black and Asian people aren't just one person. But there are some more complex barriers that do affect those particular communities, such as lack of representation. The reality is that if you don't see someone that looks like you, it's harder for you to visualise yourself in those positions. There's also distance and transport. A lot of black and Asian people live within cities, so those countryside locations are harder to get to.
Some of the spaces historically were unsafe spaces, particularly for black people. And attitudes have been passed down through generations. So, for example, it wasn't a priority for my grandparents to go to the countryside because they came to the country to work. Going to places like the Lake District was just not something that was a priority to them.
What’s the Steppers UK approach?
Watch out for language – I say we go for walks with good views – words like ‘hiking’ and ‘hill walking’ can put people off. I recce the route so I can tell people if they can do it in trainers, or if they need boots. Then they can decide if it’s right for them. I use the term 'good views, good vibes' - the 'views' part is self-explanatory, and the 'vibes' is, 'Just come along, you can just be yourself, be free'. We aim to upskill people so they can embed this activity in their own lives and with their own friends and families. And fun. People don't have enough fun, that's one thing we really want to push through Steppers.
What does walking mean to you?
Walking is freedom!
SUPPORT: Steppers’ AONB challenge
Glover Landscapes Review See pg 87: Proposal 9; New long‐term programmes to increase the ethnic diversity of visitors
Walking skills training
Meet our guests from Season 1:
Rehna Yaseen: Free kit, ‘BAME’ and inspiring young South Asians
Euan Ryan: Making films, climbing and hidden disabilities
Bonita Norris: Everest, ethics and disordered eating
Rob Mitchell: Cake, maps, and gay, bi- & trans lads outdoors
Cherelle Harding: Urban community, reggae and rolling down hills
Stu Skinner: Deserts, jungles and mental health training
Finding Our Way is sponsored by Berghaus, and hosted by BMC walking ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota and expedition leader and equity champion Cress Allwood. Our editor is Chris Stone.
Get involved with the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the BMC Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #FindingOurWay.
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Finding Our Way is the new BMC podcast where our guests are as diverse as the outdoors should be.
Hosted by BMC Hillwalking Ambassador and TV Broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota and Expedition Leader and equity champion Cress Allwood, the podcasts aims to diversify the people we normally hear talking about the outdoors, celebrate their stories and shine a light on their insights.
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