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Why the Great Outdoors Should be Accessible to All

Ife and friend perched on cliff edge

THIS unique group is on a mission to encourage more people from Global Majority groups to take up hiking and climbing. 

And Liverpool Hope University students are being encouraged to get involved - and to perhaps experience the joys of the great outdoors for the first time. 

Wanderers of Colour is an initiative founded by Ife Akinroyeje, someone who discovered the thrills of rock climbing when she was 19 years old and studying at university. 

Ife Akinroyeje next to waterfall

It’s a sport that’s taken her into some of the UK’s most picturesque places, not just to ascend cliffs but to walk in the wild, too. 

Yet Ife, a high school careers officer from Lewisham, south east London, is all too aware that Black women, like herself, are often a rarity on Britain’s hills and fells. 

And she wants that to change. 

Ife, 26, is a keen traveller and Wanderers of Colour was initially set up as a safe space for people from diverse communities to come together and share their experiences and tips when it comes to taking trips around the world. 

But in 2019, the group blossomed to encourage more young people to experience the rugged landscapes on their own doorstep. 

wanderers of colour at a climbing wall

Ife - who is working closely with Stephanie Trujillo, Vice President for Welfare & Community in the Hope Students’ Union to arrange an upcoming trip to the nearby Peak District - explains: “What I found with some of the online groups dedicated to travel was that lots of people simply didn’t understand some of the challenges faced by people of colour when it came to them planning a trip abroad. 

“And so Wanderers of Colour was set up so that people could ask questions, talk about their own experiences, and perhaps also rant about some of the obstacles they encountered. 

“It got to the point where people in the group were saying, ‘This is a travel group - so we should organise a trip!’ A weekend away to the Peak District followed, organised by Mosaic Outdoors, an organisation that connects people of colour with the outdoors.

“For a lot of people who came with us it was the first time they’d ever been hiking, and the first time they’d ever done rock climbing. We had amazing discussions about why this was their first time experiencing such activities, or why they’d perhaps done it once before but never done it again. 

wanderers of colour in wales

“And we began to ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to get more people like us enjoying these spaces?’ 

“What stood out for me was the joy of it all, particularly on the group hike. We had so much fun and we realised what Wanderers of Colour really could and should be. It’s not just about making the outdoors more diverse and inclusive, it’s also about finding what actions we can take to empower people to hike, climb, and travel both in the UK and beyond.” 

While the global pandemic curtailed some of Ife and the members’ initial plans, Wanderers of Colour - which is predominantly a Facebook group - now has thousands of members from across the world.  

And for Ife and the team, there are some very real barriers that need to be broken down. 

She adds: “Wanderers of Colour is a non-judgemental place for people to share their experiences, good and bad, and we’re here to support each other. 

“And at our events we hear awful stories where people have gone for a hike, or they’ve been at the climbing wall, for example, and they’ve heard overtly racist comments being directed at them. One member talked about how they had experienced racism at a national park, and how it was something that had really put them off from ever going back in the future. 

“Sometimes it’s also what’s unsaid, where you can simply feel alienated and under-represented because you don’t see anyone else who looks like you. People have told me that before Wanderers of Colour, they’d never seen another person of colour at the climbing wall.”

wanderers of colour climbing wall 2

Amid the terrible stories, there are also extremely uplifting tales. 

Ife reveals: “The majority of people from Wanderers of Colour who engage with climbing and hiking have never climbed before, but they all say the same thing - ‘Wow, this is amazing!’. 

“It’s incredible to be able to introduce people to these activities and to see them ultimately becoming fully-fledged members, taking on more responsibility to encourage others into the group, too. 

“Being part of Wanderers of Colour has also introduced me to amazing new places in the UK.”

Details of a collaborative hike with Wanderers of Colour and Liverpool Hope University Students’ Union are set to be announced in the coming weeks. 

** Ife also wants to thank the Wanderers Committee, particularly Charm, Leah, Ralph, and Jeana, who without their support on this journey, Wanderers of Colour would not be where it is today. 

** For more information about Wanderers of Colour check out their Facebook pages, or you can find them on Instagram @wanderersofcolour.

 


Published on 29/04/2022