Community Champions Parichere Holdway and Mohammed Dhalech. Photo: VictorDeJesus/Mosaic

Community Champions Parichere Holdway and Mohammed Dhalech. Photo: Victor DeJesus/Mosaic

Leaders from ethnic minorities throughout England gathered in the Lake District at the weekend to celebrate their efforts promoting national parks to their communities.

The ‘community champions’ met at Windermere for a series of events to help them further their work and as a reward for their efforts.

The champions sampled Lake District activities, including mountain biking and a navigation workshop. They also visited a farm, took a forest management walk and learnt about wild food.

The weekend was organised by the Campaign for National Parks, which runs the three-year Mosaic project which aims to increase involvement of ethnic minorities in the nation’s national parks. Despite making up about 10 per cent of the population, it is estimated only about one per cent of national park visitors come from minority ethnic groups.

Champion David Robinson from Manchester, who is promoting national parks through interviews on ethnic radio stations and by disseminating leaflets, said many ethnic minorities face real barriers including a lack of relevant marketing information about what national parks offer and a feeling that it is not ‘for us’.

He said: “I became a Champion to help break down these barriers, and make sure my community has a chance to enjoy these spectacular British landscapes.”

Shamshad Iqbal from Newcastle has organised several group trips, including taking 48 members of her community to a bonfire night celebration.

She said: “Mosaic provided me with the support, skills and confidence to go out and independently organise visits for my community. Before, I was not aware what was on offer and how to access national parks.”

Funding for the scheme is administered by Natural England from the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme.

The champions stayed at Windermere youth hostel.

Kathy Moore, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said: “The national parks were created sixty years ago for the benefit of the public. Only about one per cent of visitors to national parks are from ethnic minority communities, although over 10 per cent of the population is from an ethnic minority background.

“It is very important that a cross-section of the British population develops a passion for national parks and cares about their future protection.”

Lake District national park team leader Lucy McQuillan added: “Our champions are giving us a unique insight and expertise on ethnic minority communities.

“Mosaic works alongside many projects aimed at reaching new audiences, such as young people and people with disabilities. Barriers are being broken down to give everyone an equal opportunity to access our most spectacular landscapes.”

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