‘Cairngorms – A National Park for All’
The Cairngorms National Park is Britain’s largest National Park. It contains some of the best wildlife habitats in the UK including ancient pine forests, arctic mountain tops, lochs, rivers and moorlands. Home to a quarter of UK threatened species, it is rich in landscapes, habitats and heritage.
With such unique qualities the National Park is a fantastic learning resource that inspires people to find out more about its natural and cultural heritage. The landscape begs to be explored and encourages people to get outside and become more active and healthy.
The Cairngorms National Park is used and enjoyed by 1.5m visitors each year, as well as the 18,000 people who live and work here. However, we know that there are several groups of people who are under-represented in engaging with the National Park, these include the younger generation, those with disabilities, people on low incomes and also ethnic minorities.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) is committed to developing a Park for All, part of that work includes identifying the reasons why these groups are not visiting the National Park, then working in partnership with others to encourage and support such groups.
The barriers that prevent people from getting out into the National Park are varied. For some it is simply a lack of awareness and information whilst others don’t feel that they have the confidence or skills to go outdoors. There are also practical issues like access and cost of transport or equipment. The CNPA is actively involved in several initiatives, through its inclusion and equalities work, that address these barriers and support such groups.
Through our Active Cairngorms campaign the CNPA runs a Walking to Health programme which involves walking groups in over 30 communities across the National Park. These volunteer led walks are a way to engage those who are less active to become more active in the outdoors. Isolation can be a problem in some of the more rural communities and these walks offer a great way to increase social contact and wellbeing. The Park Authority is working with Medical practices across the Park in a new initiative to encourage GPs to refer patients onto their local health walk, and then to offer them monitoring to see how the walks improve their health and wellbeing.
Information is key to supporting visits to the National Park, and is particularly important for groups who have additional or special requirements. The CNPA has produced several publications from resource and education packs to paths
and easy access leaflets. The ‘Getting Into National Parks and National Nature Reserves Resource Pack’ 1 contains lots of information and advice for teachers and group leaders to help with planning a visit to Scotland’s National Parks and National Nature Reserves. It includes resources on the practicalities like transport and funding, packaging the experience, building commitment and managing risk. It also features information sheets and case studies on 8 accessible places to visit in the Parks and NNRs.
Training to build confidence and skills in leading groups in the outdoors is another crucial area which CNPA supports to increase diversity and participation in the National Park. In partnership with other agencies, the Community Leadership Project works with trainees from multicultural groups to develop their awareness and competence in visiting the National Park as well as being ambassadors for it in their own communities.
Transport is another key barrier to groups visiting and getting around the National Park, not just in terms of the availability of good coordinated public transport, but also the cost of private transport. To address this, the CNPA provides a travel grant2 to schools and voluntary groups who experience disadvantage. Grants of up to £200 or 75% of transport costs are available to enable the groups to visit the National Park and learn more about it.
Building links with schools and through the curriculum is a great way to engage young people with the National Park and what makes it special. The CNPA has several educational programmes that raise awareness of the National Park and provide opportunities to discover, explore and conserve it, such as the John Muir Award and Junior Ranger project.
This has been a snapshot of what the CNPA is doing to address the issues these under represented groups face, our goal is to really make the Cairngorms National Park a Park for All. However, with all these initiatives it is crucial to develop good relationships with the user groups, because then you can bounce off ideas and take on the advice and expertise of those who have experienced it first hand. To this end the CNPA supports an advisory forum called ‘Inclusive Cairngorms’ who represent various equality and inclusion organisations and interests and help to promote a Park for All. The forum is a great resource to the CNPA in helping to make our projects and policies more inclusive and accessible to all.
For more information on CNPA’s inclusion work, please contact:
Anna Fleming, Education and Inclusion Officer, CNPA