60 miles for 60 years

It turns out that reports of the death of this blog were somewhat exaggerated. I’ve missed having a place to post odd bits of news and pieces of writing, especially about the allotment. What’s really brought me back, though, is a new project that I started on my sixtieth birthday in July.

Given that it was such a landmark birthday, I was hoping to have a big party, preferably a ceilidh. And I wanted to use it to raise money for the Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM), which works to improve access to the countryside and environmental activities for people from BAMER (black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee) communities.

However, a ceilidh with lots of sweaty, breathless dancing was clearly never going to happen in a pandemic, and so I decided to raise money by walking instead.

On my GoFundMe page, I wrote this about why I chose to support SEM:

sadacca women

Women from the Sheffield & District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA) on a guided walk organised by SEM. Credit: SEM

I’m planning to walk 60 miles for the Sheffield Environmental Movement. Here’s why!

My brother, Simon, was just seven when he died in a road accident. For a long time after that, life for my family was very difficult.

Two things made a difference. One was walking in the Lake District, and the other was birdwatching. I will never forget the thrill of seeing one of only two marsh harriers that were living in England at that time. Or the exhilarating joy of striding out along a mountain ridge, huge sky arching above me, fells and lakes spreading out on all sides, literally as far as I could see.

I think nature saved us. My father in particular, who suffered from severe depression, was transformed when climbing a mountain or sitting in a hide, binoculars pressed to his eyes as he scanned the landscape for birds.

But what if we hadn’t been able to get out into the countryside? What if people had told us we didn’t ‘belong’ on those mountain ridges. What if those bird hides that we experienced as so still and peaceful had instead been places where we felt uncomfortable, unwelcome, judged?

That’s the reality of life for many people from BAMER (black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee) communities in Britain. The discrimination isn’t always overt but it is pervasive. For example, companies manufacturing outdoor equipment primarily target a white, middle-class audience. In terms of employment, the environmental sector is the second least diverse of all, second only to horticulture.

It’s not surprising that people from BAMER groups visit the natural environment sixty per cent less than the rest of the adult English population. This has knock-on effects for health, social inclusion and educational attainment.

The Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM) is an amazing organisation that does all kinds of things to make it easier for BAMER people to get involved in environmental activities. These include guided walks, outdoor education for children and young people, and academic research on access to the countryside. A core activity is the monthly Walk4Health group, which has been running since 2004 and inspired the acclaimed play Black Men Walking .

This year I will celebrate my sixtieth birthday, and over the next few months, I want to raise £600 for SEM by walking sixty miles, one for every year of my life. It’s also coming up to fifty years since my brother died, and I feel sure that he too would have been passionate about people having equal access to the countryside.

When we were children, the only thing we worried about when we went on walks was whether it would rain or not. That should be true for everyone.

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The response when I launched the campaign was so fantastic that I was able to double my original target of £600. I’m now hoping to raise £1,200 before my next birthday!

 

cheered

Well I meant to have a little rest after all the Advent blogging, but not to be away for quite as long as this. I went down with a virus just after handing in a particularly demanding assignment – there are many things about student life that are actually easier when you are older, but staying up late to write essays is not one of them.

Still, there were some consolations about languishing in my sick bed and one of them was fellow mature student Jacqueline bestowing the ‘one lovely blog’ award on me. It was a wonderful surprise and cheered me up completely. Thank you so much, Jacqueline.

Although the award did not stipulate this, I would imagine I am supposed to pass it on. The problem is that nearly all the blogs I read are written by people who have been around for years and have thousands of followers and probably hundreds of awards too. So instead of directly passing it on, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite posts from the many I have read in the last couple of weeks.

Even if you don’t like knitting, you should take a look at this amazing design from Kate. I think it is something like a work of art. And in many ways it is typical of Kate’s blog, too – done to an extremely high standard but full of fun at the same time.

I have been visiting the Lake District since I was seven years old and many of my very happiest memories involve tramping the fells either alone or with people I love. So I was quite envious when I read that Felix was heading that way to record some sheep and develop a wool-related art project. Of course sheep are an essential part of the Cumbrian landscape; even so, when I listened to her first recording, of a Rough Fell ram, I was amazed that tears immediately sprang into my eyes. It seems that for me the sound of sheep has a direct link to some pretty deep emotions. Her sheep pictures are fabulous, too.

Moving some way away from sheep, this review of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American deals brilliantly with issues of colonialism, culture and mission.

Official ‘eco nomad’ Nick recently returned from Romania where he witnessed at first hand a fast-vanishing way of life on some remote hillside farms. His thoughts and pictures are fascinating.

Finally, here is a beautiful post from the ever-wise Soulemama on the importance of living life at the pace of your children (when they are small, that is – I definitely don’t plan to live life at the same speed as my teenagers do).

 

 

eighteen

Spotted in a Little Chef on the A14 (we were on the road for some seasonal visiting).

What exactly does this sign mean? If I have the right to have exactly what I want when I want it, could I please have a lightly boiled egg with toast soldiers followed by apple crumble cooked just the way my mum does it? I didn’t dare ask but I’m fairly sure that it wouldn’t be available, despite the fact that I am apparently ‘the almighty ruler’.  I could, however, have an extra large bacon double cheeseburger with 963 calories in it. Or nine chicken nuggets made from ‘traceable’ chicken – this presumably means that it might be possible for someone somewhere to tell me which battery farm had supplied this particular branch of Burger King.

Well done, Burger King: when all that is available is absolute rubbish, the lie that we have the right to whatever we want is exposed in its utter absurdity.

Picture by Julian Dobson