Mountains aren't just for visitors

August 9, 2019

Cumbria to get share of £3 million grant to help residents make the most of areas of natural beauty on their doorsteps

A project designed to open local people’s eyes to the areas of natural beauty around them and the employment, health and leisure opportunities they present, is to be rolled-out across the UK thanks to a £3 million National Lottery grant with Cumbria being chosen as the recipient for England’s share.

The sum has been awarded to The Outdoor Partnership - a Snowdonia-based project – that has successfully encouraged local people over the last 14 years in North Wales to get healthier and to find work by enjoying the landscape.

The Outdoor Partnership, have found that local people were not benefitting from the opportunities the mountains in Wales offered. In fact, research by Bangor University found that many local people said the “Mountains were for visitors”, something that The Outdoor Partnership has set out to address.  This situation can be translated to Cumbria also.

Bruce Lawson, Senior Manager (Development) for Active Cumbria welcomes the new grant saying:

“It is fantastic news that Cumbria has been selected as one of just three areas for this first investment. Many would view Cumbria as a great place to live, work and play, which it is, however under the surface there are stark inequalities across the region.  Along the coast in particular, many local people are not getting the physical health and mental wellbeing benefits of accessing the wonderful landscape that this county has to offer. This is a fantastic opportunity to help our local communities to enjoy the outdoor spaces and natural environment.”

The project in North West Wales has helped communities to set up clubs for different outdoor pursuits, including kayaking and climbing. It has encouraged local families to get involved and provided equipment and training. The opportunities provided, including the chance to gain coaching qualifications, has led to many in the community finding work in the outdoor activities industry.

Between 2006 and March 2019, The Outdoor Partnership has reached over 120,000 people, and invested £700,000 to train over 4,500 volunteers from local communities. The organisation’s active volunteer leaders are currently worth £1.6million to the local economy each year and it has supported over 500 local unemployed people to progress to sustained employment, at a social return on investment of £7.5million.

Now, thanks to the grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activities in the UK, the project based on the successful North Wales model, will expand across the UK and into Cumbria.

Tracey Evans, Chief Executive at The Outdoor Partnership, explained: “We realised that our situation had a lot in common with other areas of the UK where an outstanding landscape was prized by visitors, but where local people have not engaged. The success we have had in North Wales has been achieved by breaking down some of the barriers stopping the local community participating – because the mountains aren’t just for visitors!

“When we started in October 2005 there were only 15 community-based clubs in North West Wales and now there are over 100 - the Partnership has set up 82 over the years.  We wanted to create clear pathways so that if someone was interested in a particular activity they could move from beginner to instructor, if they wanted to stop at a particular level on that path then they would for example have access to it for recreation within their community. We are so excited about working with local organisations in each of the new areas to help them develop their own models.”

Joe Ferns, Director of UK Funding at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players The Outdoor Partnership, which has already seen great success in Wales, will roll its model out across the other nations. By helping more people achieve their potential through outdoor activities and breaking the cultural cycle where local natural resources are seen as something only for tourists, this project will help communities across the UK thrive.”

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds and supported over 12,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.

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