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The British countryside remains a distinctly white and often intimidating place for BAME communities. We interview three outdoor enthusiasts seeking to address this lack of diversity. T he British countryside being the preserve of the white middle classes is a perception that is backed by stark figures, with ethnic minorities often deterred from heading into the outdoors due to deep-rooted, complex barriers.

Yet a study by Natural England found that just The reasons behind this reluctance to venture out are complicated. Recent Sport England research identifies six barriers to participation in outdoor activities for people from an ethnic minority background: language, awareness, safety, culture, confidence and perception of middle-class stigma.

Even more acute were the findings from a diversity review commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Defra. In June this year, the BBC show Countryfile looked at British black lady seeks love interest diversity and it was argued that a lack of access to the city for traditional countrysiders was the reason for the disconnection and perceived hostility to minorities.

Over the past few years a of groups and individuals have been working to address this imbalance, overcoming these barriers by encouraging others to venture out, as wells as urging leading outdoors brands to embrace diversity. The Guardian spoke with three women, hikers Zahrah Mahmood and Rhiane Fatinikun and wild swimmer Omie Dale, all of whom felt it was time to challenge the status quo and make the outdoors more inclusive, and at the same time help others from similar backgrounds see the benefits of what they could achieve when they ventured out.

The first time Mahmood hiked a Munro she found it so difficult she hung up her walking boots and vowed never to return. Mahmood took up hiking when a friend coaxed her on to Ben Lomond to reduce the stress of her chartered ancy exams.

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I struggled and complained … but there was something else, I was the only non-white person in a hijab on the entire walk and I just felt so out of place, so I decided to never return. However, Mahmood did return. Shortly after that first hike she ed a gym and embarked on a of low-level flat walks, including the mile Kiltwalk for charity, and now describes Glen Coe and the Lawers range, which takes in seven Munros, as her favourite places to hike.

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Mahmood, who regularly prays outdoors during hikes, reveals the challenges of being in the outdoors are not only physical ones. She is often stared at and has suffered racism. Sometimes, prayer times fall during a walk so I might have to stop and pray, which can cause more unwanted attention and stares. While I mostly welcome questions, sometimes I just want to enjoy my time outdoors and switch off. Mahmood is now part of a growing movement in Britain that is seeing more people from BAME communities taking up hillwalking. Currently, she is collaborating with outdoor clothing and equipment brand Berghaus, and in the long term hopes to encourage more outdoor brands to embrace diversity.

And, actually, it does more damage than good. In the middle of winter last year, Fatinikun was on a train travelling through the Peak District when she saw a group of hikers disembarking.

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She was fascinated, and decided almost immediately that she would give it a go — her new year resolution. AsFatinikun, of Nigerian, Jamaican and English background, never ventured into the countryside but then a few years ago she had a car crash and began to suffer from anxiety.

It has helped with my confidence in so many ways. Wanting to be sociable, Fatinikun decided to set up an InstagramBlack Girls Hike, allowing others to her on walks. The has become a charity, and soon to be social enterprise, with support from sponsors including Berghaus, Lowe Alpine and Vivobarefoot, and Fatinikun has become an inspiration to many black and mixed-heritage women.

It gives black women the confidence to go to places they might not have done before. Pre-pandemic, the group would meet twice a month with more than people, from older women to those in their late teens having ed in.

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Since lockdown, Fatinikun has been going on solo hikes, often heading to Entwistle Reservoir near her home town of Bolton — one of her favourite walks. Now a qualified lowland leader herself, she has also been focusing on a future goal: helping to train more people from BAME backgrounds to become outdoor instructors. But it is also important that those leading these hikes and activities are from a diverse background; that will stop making people feel like the countryside is not for them.

Whether it was plunging into the waters of the Nene valley near the Cambridgeshire village of Castor or diving into the sea on the Norfolk coast, Dale, spent much of her childhood swimming outdoors. Her family rarely went on holiday abroad, instead collecting tokens from the Sun for cheap UK trips.

I have always found the water such a comfortable place to be. Now Dale is focusing on diversity in outdoor swimming, both on Instagram and through swim groups, particularly in collaboration with Mental Health Swims. She is also hoping to set up open water sessions in south London for all levels, including beginners, and trying to remove the barriers for those who would otherwise not swim.

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And as a volunteer for the Black Swimming Association, she has been exploring the issue of diversity in aquatics and the leisure industry. Health and fitness holidays. This article is more than 7 months old. Rhiane Fatinikun centrefounder of Black Girls Hike.

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Photograph: Sebastian Barros. Nazia Parveennorth of England correspondent. Wed 2 Dec Reuse this content.

British black lady seeks love interest

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The BAME women making the outdoors more inclusive