The BMC's Mend Our Mountains Campaign
Inigo Atkin is the Project Manager for the British Mountaineering Council's (BMC) Mend Our Mountains campaign, which raises funds to support the restoration and maintenance of some of the UK's most iconic upland paths and landscapes. In this interview, Inigo shares some background on the campaign and its evolution and some insights into the BMC's approach to conservation and community involvement.
One of the key themes that emerge from the interview is the BMC's commitment to making the outdoors accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or experience. Inigo discusses some of the challenges involved in balancing the need to protect fragile environments with the desire to encourage more people to experience them and highlights how the Mend Our Mountains campaign is working to address these issues.
Tell us about a Mend Our Mountains success story that stood out to you.
The work we did in the Peak District was pretty fantastic. It's a great example of communities coming together to make a real difference for a place they all care about. We had a couple of projects there, but one in particular called Cut Gate stands out. It's a popular bridleway on the moors that's used by walkers, mountain bikers, and even horse riders.
Now, this was a bit of a new thing for us because we don't typically reach out to the mountain biking community. But we quickly learned that they're just as passionate about the trails and the environment as anyone else. They might be a little more off the beaten track and alternative, but they really care about the places they ride. And we were able to find some local organisations and people who felt the same way, in particular Peak District MTB and Ride Sheffield, as well as the brilliant ‘Keeper of the Peak’ account on Twitter! Before we knew it, we had this groundswell of support for the project.
Seeing how different communities could come together like that was amazing. We had support from both walkers and mountain bikers, and it just snowballed from there. We raised all the money we needed and made a real difference for the trails and the environment.
But it wasn't just about raising cash - we also raised awareness and changed people's behaviour and mindset about how we should care for the places we love. Overall, the Cut Gate project was a brilliant example of what's possible when people come together and work towards a common goal.
Find out more about this story here.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and how do you overcome them?
You know, there are people out there who have reservations about the number of people using the trails. Some believe that bikes do more harm than good and that they have no place in the outdoors. But we believe that the great outdoors should be accessible to everyone, no matter how they choose to enjoy it.
Sometimes we come across people who want to close off car parks or limit access to certain areas, which can be frustrating. But our mission is all about inclusivity, ensuring everyone can enjoy the outdoors in their own way. We all have a stake in protecting these spaces, and it's up to us to work together to ensure that they remain accessible for generations to come.
Do you collaborate with other campaigns, such as the Right to Roam?
We fully support the Right To Roam and generally what they do around the country.
We're also very fortunate to have the Access and Conservation Trust (ACT), our charity, which alongside the BMC is slowly expanding and changing the types of projects we support and the partners we work with.
We don’t just fix paths and put stones in the ground but we also encourage positive behaviour. Campaigns like Mend Our Mountains lend huge credence to the BMC’s wider policy work as they lobby for improved access rights, whether that’s with local or national government organisations. We’re excited to be making an impact and we’re now in a position to advocate for change on a larger scale.
This is why campaigns, like Mend Our Mountains are so important. They give us a platform to amplify our voices and the voices of other organisations like the Ramblers and Right to Roam.
How do you involve local communities and volunteers in the campaign? What role do they play in your campaign goals?
In the past, we mainly funded skilled professionals to work on path repairs, but now volunteering plays a vital role in our strategy, especially for certain types of work that don't require much training. As part of our new Mend Our Mountains initiative, we're expanding our volunteer program called Get Stuck In, which is currently based in the northwest of the UK, but we plan to increase its capacity and spread it across the country.
Additionally, we're funding more projects with a volunteering angle, such as the Cotswolds project, which aims to involve people from less privileged communities in learning new skills and doing path repairs.
Our next Get Stuck In event takes place on 7th June, 2023. Visit this page and grab yourself a ticket, for free! If you can't make that date, check out the events on 16th August 2023 and 18th September 2023.
How can we continue to make people feel included in these outdoor places?
Inclusivity was a crucial part of our campaign groundwork as we set out to establish our third iteration of the Mend Our Mountains campaign. And our research showed that we needed to get people more involved in our cause.
It's a delicate balance between promoting outdoor activity and preserving nature. To strike that balance, we began working with parks closer to population centres. National Parks tend to be remote, so we sought out projects with links to nearby urban centres.
For example, Roseberry Topping in the North York Moors is in a National Park but right on the edge of the Middlesbrough/Stockton area. Our campaign is not just about remote mountains; it's about the everyday places people visit for a walk, places like this that are accessed regularly by diverse communities.
Where do you see this campaign progressing over the next couple of years?
In the past, we used to set a fundraising target and try to raise all the money for that one campaign before granting it out to our partner.
Now, we have multiple projects that we fundraise for. As each project gets closer to its funding target, we give the money to our partner so they can start the work. We keep this rolling basis going indefinitely, so conservation community members know they can come to us for potential funding for upland restoration work.
We work with partners all the time, and while some of them are core partners that we know well, we're always looking to expand our coalition and bring in new people. This could be corporate partners, individuals with a large donation, or other organisations that can offer valuable expertise, knowledge, or advice. Our goal is to create a system that is always on and available to those who need it and constantly evolving to meet the needs of the conservation community.
The BMC are in partnership with Snow+Rock and Cotswold Outdoor. Becoming a BMC member not only supports all their great work but it's also packed with great benefits. Find out more here.
And lastly, we'd love to hear more about the people on the ground. For example, how do they estimate how much rock is needed and where? It must be a challenging task!
When they drop the bags of stone or aggregate from a helicopter onto the path, they must be positioned just right. The team on the ground does their best to place them accurately, but it's not an exact science. For example, they can't predict how much material they'll need per metre or how deep they'll need to go. They also have to place the bags well ahead of time, sometimes even 6-12 months before the work team arrives, which makes it tricky to get everything right!
Sometimes when the repair team finally gets to that section of the path, they realise that the materials are either too close together or too far apart. It's not an easy job, and they're doing their best to repair the paths with limited resources. Airlifting materials to the site is both the biggest cost and logistical exercise involved in repairing these paths, so the teams do what they can to make it work.
But despite the challenges, they still manage to repair the paths and make them safer for hikers and climbers. It's really impressive how hard they work to mend our mountains and protect our natural spaces!
It was great speaking with Inigo about the BMC's Mend Our Mountains campaign and the incredible achievements they’ve made. At Cotswold Outdoor, we are proud to partner with the BMC in their efforts to ensure that the outdoors is accessible to everyone. The Mend Our Mountains campaign is a prime example of how we can all come together to protect and preserve our natural landscapes. Thanks to the entire BMC team, and their network of incredible delivery partners throughout the National Parks - including the path repair heroes themselves for their hard work and dedication to this important cause. We look forward to continuing our partnership and supporting the campaign's ongoing efforts.
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