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Walking in Poverty

January 8, 2012

According to a newspaper I was reading, (The Weekly News), the poor and the unemployed are the groups least likely to visit or walk in our countryside.

This is pretty obvious. Accessing the countryside, if you are a town or city dweller, is harder if you have no money to get there. Public transport in Britain is prohibitively expensive. If you have motor transport, petrol is dear and some car parking charges are outrageously costly – yes, you, the Lake District.

If you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance (less than £70 a week), spending a good proportion of that on a weekly walk is not easy, with utility bills and food being the price they are. Subscriptions to outdoor organisations are not attractive if you have your electricity or gas bill to pay.

It was not always thus.

In the 1930s the bulk of ramblers were probably in a similar boat, but managed to get out on their walks. When I was on the dole in the 1980s, we could still afford to get out for country walks, because we were not fleeced by so many businesses or over-charging local authorities.

Because of the costs, rambling has become – very much – a middle-class pursuit. (The fact that we still think in terms of class in this country shows how much our politicians have failed).

What are groups like the Ramblers and other outdoor organisations going to do to include the poor, the unemployed, the struggling elderly and sick? Many of whom cannot afford to pay even the present discounted subscriptions?

If we are not to exclude millions of people from our ranks (and probably millions more in the years to come) we need to give it some serious thought.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2012 5:27 pm

    Dear Stravaiger John
    Re: Walking in Poverty

    Your point is a good one but the really sad thing is not that the fells have become in real terms more inaccessible but that the desire to enjoy them has diminished.

    I have spent very many happy hours roaming the uplands of britain wearing crummy DIY/running kit with a £15.00 Regatta cagoule and some eccles cakes as my emergency gear. Often I use Hi-Tec trainers bought from TK-Max in Torquay (max price £25.00) on my feet, but all with this I’m still better equipped than my rich equivalent woud have been 35 yrs ago.

    Part of the blame must lie with the extra-ordinary over specification of outdoor kit, many people I saw on a recent jog up Helvellyn were equipped (LITERALLY) better than climbers 25 years back would have been to tackle the Walker Spur or the Eiger North face minus ropes etc.

    Of course Elf an Safty psychosis hasn’t helped especially especially within Education, and it has struck disproportionately at the poor. The nice public school boys of Eton and Harrow bizarrely are positively encouraged to risk life and limb in the outdoors their contemporaries in the state sector (with a few honourable exceptions) are molycoddled and nicely set up for a life of obesity and heart disease.

    Their are whole PhDs to write on this subject, perhaps its time to head back to college.

    I enjoy your thoughts as always, happy trespassing


    Rupert Kempley

  2. January 15, 2012 3:56 am

    Hi John, I’m not so sure that the unemployed have less money than us employed (who are funding them) nowadays – it seems pretty much the other way round from what I’m seeing. They can certainly afford newer and better cars than me and more nights out. It probably depends on how many offspring they’ve produced.

    But I do think they would find it easy enough to access the countryside as nowhere in Britain is that far from reasonable walking countryside and could easily be cycled out to. I’ve just been reading an article on a Glaswegian’s blog about all the hills and glens immediately surrounding Glasgow and how many Glaswegians make an effort to escape to the surrounding countryside on a regular basis.

    I think the main thing stopping people getting out into the country is the rise in indoor pursuits (such as gaming and couch-potatoing in front of the TV) and the fact that, somehow, ‘urban’ is becoming fashionable – goodness knows why. Personally, I think there is nothing more boring than the town – but I know many townsfolk who find the countryside exceedingly boring.

  3. January 15, 2012 8:55 am

    Think what we really do need is a cheaper and more reliable public transport system.

  4. January 15, 2012 11:50 pm

    Our public transport is very reliable round here – I can’t say it’s cheap though!

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