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Peaks of Colour: Radical self-care through walking

New walking group aims to provide a safe and inclusive space for people of colour to explore nature and the outdoors.

bamford edge
Zhi Xuan Hew (Unsplash)

Founded by local activist Evie Muir, Peaks of Colour is a new informal walking group for people of colour based in Sheffield and its surrounding areas. The group will organise monthly walks and expeditions into the Peak District which are exclusively by, and for, people of colour. Locations will include Kinder Scout, Ladybower, the Monsal Trail and many more.

Muir launched Peaks of Colour on this month with the aim to "break down some of the barriers to Sheffield-based people of colour, which in turn exclude us from the widely documented mental health benefits of being in natural spaces."

Muir says she also wants to offer people a reprieve from the current socio-political climate, which can often inflict further stress and harm on racialised communities.

The project was inspired by groups like Black Girls Hike and Black Men Walking, but also by the growing research base around the under-representation of people of colour in natural space.

Recent statistics from the Campaign to Protect Rural England indicate that, in 2019, only 1% of visitors to UK national parks came from ‘BAME’ backgrounds. Similarly, Natural England has found that a mere 26% of Black people spent any time in the countryside, compared to 44% of white people, with people from Asian communities being the least likely to visit the natural environment.

When asked why a group like Peaks of Colour is so important, Muir told Now Then: "Peaks of Colour is founded on the Black Feminist principles of radical self-care.

"A concept pioneered by the likes of Angela Davis, radical self-care is the recognition that to look after others, be that our familial obligations or community activism, we must first look after ourselves.

"We hope we can offer a space that permits people of colour across Sheffield to do this whilst taking up space in rural settings which are largely dominated by white middle-class demographics, and are therefore presented as uninviting, unwelcoming, and unsafe."

The walks will feature different levels of hikes to appeal to adventurers of a range of abilities and accessibility needs. They will also be child-friendly and inclusive of all those who identify as a person of colour.

One key requirement of members attending the walks is that they commit to ensuring the group remains a safe space for all people of colour, Muir says.

"We are an intersectional, inclusive space and welcome those of all cultures, faiths, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexualities, and gender identities. Our only rules are to have fun, make friends, uphold a zero-tolerance policy on bigotry of any kind, and ensure that we remain a place of safety and support – the outside world tries to tear us down enough."

Peaks of Colour may be a space for people of colour only, but the group also wants to encourage allies to recognise their privilege in these spaces and engage with the project in a less involved way. A 'pay it forward' scheme has also been launched by Peaks of Colour, called the POC Fund, where people can donate and offer mutual aid. This fund will be used to remove the financial barriers to accessing the Peak District that some might face, such as transportation or equipment costs.

"Since launching only a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been delighted and humbled by the positive response to the project – the overwhelming sentiment being that people are thrilled to have a space in nature by and for people of colour," says Muir.

Each walk will be announced via the closed Facebook group, and will include dates, times, and the meet-up locations. The first walk will take place this Sunday 18 July.

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