This is an archived press release
Tuesday 5 July 2005
5 July 2005
Another world – urban leaders hit the Peaks
"It's like stepping out of Britain into another world" – the words of one youth leader who swapped city streets for the Peak District on a training weekend to encourage more black and ethnic groups to enjoy the countryside.
Ruhel Ahmed was one of 13 community leaders from London, Leicester, Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Middlesborough, who experienced walking, cycling, conservation volunteering, youth work and local traditions in an action-filled two-day visit to the Peak District National Park.
Ruhel heads the Ashton Allstars youth group in Tameside, where, he said: "Many youngsters have never even been outside of Manchester. This weekend has opened my eyes to the possibilities for bringing them out here, motivating them and empowering them.
"I didn't know before about the range of facilities on offer, like cycling, hiking, climbing, and about the incredible support from the rangers, who are really friendly and understanding to people from all sorts of backgrounds and ages.
"We're so used to city life with all the cars and noise and hustle – the Peak District is so peaceful, you can forget about stress and come back refreshed."
The training weekend in the Hope Valley was organised by the Mosaic Partnership, comprising four national parks – the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Brecon Beacons, and the Youth Hostels Association – set up to reach out to people from diverse backgrounds in their neighbouring cities.
The aim is for these leaders to go back to their communities and help break down barriers by showing how easy it is to reach the hills and re-charge with healthy activities in beautiful areas.
The Peak District National Park Authority's Head of Access and Recreation Sean Prendergast said: "We've been doing outreach work for 50 years, this is nothing new, it's just that we're updating it for a modern setting. All we want is to give people the information to make a decision on whether or not they want to come to the National Park. They may not want to come, and that's fine, as long as it's an informed choice."
Hasmukh Mistry came from the Hindu Shree Prajapati Association in Birmingham, with his wife, Hansa, and daughter Seema, 15. "My wife had never been to the Peak District before," said Hasmukh, a credit manager. "She found it beautiful, so peaceful, and my daughter really enjoyed the activities. It's not that urban people don't want to come to the countryside, it's that they’re not aware of the facilities on offer – for instance, they may not know that there are prayer rooms, at the YHA and other centres."
A minibus of 16 people from his association visited Castleton on Sunday, he said: "The beauty of it is, it's only two hours from Birmingham, and you can be out walking on the hills."
The leaders also met the multi-ethnic Ardic youth club from Wolverhampton, which has been bringing urban youngsters on activity weekends for some time. Its members are so enthusiastic they intend to set up a National Park visitor centre in their locality of Handsworth.
The £1m Mosaic Partnership, managed by the Council for National Parks, will run for the next three years.
Project manager Stuart McLeod was very pleased with the results of the weekend: "This was the first organised visit to a National Park since the new Mosaic Partnership project began, and to be honest, I think it surpassed everyone's expectations," he said.
"The group included people from many faiths and cultures, and we all got along tremendously well. The rangers were fantastic and you could tell how much the participants appreciated their help and friendliness throughout the visit.
"The idea was to introduce people to the wide range of outdoor and cultural pursuits available to them in a National Park, as well as the accommodation provided by the Youth Hostels Association. We certainly succeeded in this and it was a great pleasure to hear people thinking through the logistics of bringing their own community group to the National Park. The Peak District National Park Authority has set the standard for our group leader visits and I look forward to the other Parks following suit."