Hill walkers have spoken

Posted by Carey Davies on 24/10/2013

We have had a fantastic response to the BMC Hill Walking Survey, with more than 2,000 people taking the time to fill it in. Here is a snapshot of some of the feedback we gathered.

The BMC is currently looking to improve and expand the work it does for hill walkers.

Following the appointment of our hill walking officer this summer we launched a survey to gauge the views of hill walkers and test their perception of the BMC. The survey ran alongside our BMC on Foot initiative and has been a great success, garnering more than 2,000 responses and enough written feedback to make a small book.

Many thanks to all who took the time to complete this survey – your feedback is valued enormously and will go into bolstering the work the BMC does for hill walkers and supporting hill walkers generally.

Here is a small summary of some of the results we received.

The walkers polled are clearly an active bunch, the majority going hill walking once a week or more often during the summer. During the winter the frequency dips but only very slightly, showing many or either unfazed by the prospect of snowbound hills or welcome them.

A large majority of the walkers polled said they were not a member of a walking club. While individual membership of the BMC has risen significantly over the last decade, club membership is in gradual decline. A vibrant network of affiliated clubs is vital, and we hope to reverse the downward trend with the appointment of two Regional Development Officer’s (RDOs), while there are projects in the pipeline to boost participation in specifically hill walking at a club level.

Past surveys and a wealth of anecdotal evidence has consistently found that walkers perceive the BMC as being ‘mainly for climbers’ and is either uninterested in walkers or gives them a secondary importance. This perception was confirmed again in the answer to this question, though it was heartening to see many comments acknowledging there had been a change in emphasis recently.

BMC membership entitles you to a host of benefits, but we are always looking for potential new ones that could be useful to our members. With this question we were interested in what hill walkers in particular prioritise. As well as the results above there were nearly 400 suggestions for new benefits we could offer, ranging from discounts on online mapping services to cheaper car parks and more affordable insurance. A few comments said the benefits we provide were too climbing-focused. All these suggestions will be taken into consideration.

Okay, this one is a bit of a jumble of numbers, but some themes do emerge. This question was designed to get a sense of what people feel most strongly about across the spectrum of issues people who love walking in the outdoors care about. The BMC is involved in some way with most of the above. Freedom of access, mountain safety and litter emerge as the ones the most people ticked as ‘very’ important. ‘Loss of wild’ land is also seen as an important issue. Biodiversity, coastal access and footpath maintenance also figured prominently in people’s minds. Other subjects appear to come lower down, but there were no cases where the majority ranked a given subject as ‘not important’ or ‘don’t know’, suggesting all these issues are seen as important to a greater or lesser extent.

Inside the BMC, we have discussed expanding the BMC’s Regional Access Database from its sole coverage of climbing crags to encompass walking areas. This would require a big investment of time and energy, so we wanted to see how useful people would find it. It seems a majority can envisage themselves using it at some point, with nearly a third saying they would use it often.

We are looking to improve and expand upon the hill walking content feature in Summit, the BMC’s membership magazine. We wanted to know what types of content walkers would find most useful. Skills and routes got the most ‘Very important’ votes by some margin, though all types of content had a majority of ‘Very important’ and ‘Important’ votes.  

The BMC uses a variety of methods to keep in touch with its members. As well as the website you are currently perusing, the BMC has a hill walking Twitter feed, a Facebook page and an email newsletter. We have also just launched our exciting new video channel, BMC TV. But when we asked by which method people would prefer to be kept in touch with about hill walking news and stories, the good old medium of print won out. Summit magazine took the largest share of votes, confirming its importance as the BMC’s mouthpiece and the most tangible reflection of the BMC’s values and priorities. It was followed closely behind by the BMC’s website and email newsletter, evidence walkers value these lines of communication as well. Despite its seeming ubiquity in public life, poor old Twitter came trailing behind in fifth place.

Thanks to everyone who answered the survey, and congratulations to Lindsay Robinson, who bags £350 of Berghaus gear after winning the draw for taking part.

This survey was run alongside BMC on Foot, a push to raise awareness of the BMC’s work for hill walkers and its stance on a range of topical issues affecting hill walkers. Follow the link for the full list of articles.

For updates on the BMC's hill walking work, interesting links, and what's what in the world of mountain walking, follow BMC Walk Talk on Twitter.



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