David Henderson Howat, National Access Forum Convener, tells us about some of the inspiring projects on the ground, how young people greatly benefit from outdoor access, as well as how their ideas generated at the recent meeting will be taken forward.
I’ve just returned from the annual joint meeting of the National Access Forum and the Local Access Forums at Battleby. While last year’s meeting took place on a lovely early spring day in mid-March, this meeting (also in mid-March) took place on a wild winter’s day, with some participants having to battle with blizzards on Drumochter Pass. The day’s theme – in this Year of Young People 2018 – was about how to engage young people to promote responsible access.
During the morning we heard from our speakers about fantastic work throughout Scotland, including Paths for All’s important Path Skillz projects; the imaginative approach taken by the Duke of Edinburgh to help their 20,000 participants understand the Scottish Outdoor Access Code; SNH’s creative ReRoute partnership with Young Scot; and the great story of the Junior Rangers programme in the Cairngorms, drawing on experience from elsewhere in Europe. Messages included the need to work with young people through “co-design” of projects, and the importance of using the right language – e.g. “nature” instead of “biodiversity”.
After lunch, the “quick-fire” presentations highlighted several brilliant examples of excellent work involving young people of all ages, ranging from the twenty-something Edinburgh Young Walkers who also enjoy the social benefits of outdoor access, to the girls from the Perthshire Pony Club who joined us (after school was over) to show us the film they had made about responsible horse riding. We also heard how very young children benefit from Forest Kindergarten, which looks set to become increasingly widespread as demand for nursery places continues to grow. Meanwhile the Coupar Angus Cycle Hub caters for all ages, running a wide range of events and activities to inform and excite people about cycling. And, in Dundee, the Family Fresh Air Club helps families – including ethnic minorities – enjoy the outdoors within reach of their own homes: a great example of something that would definitely be worth replicating elsewhere.
Looking ahead, the challenges we face include finding effective ways to scale-up successful initiatives, so that they can bring even more widespread benefits, and involving young people more closely in the development of new ways to communicate messages about the benefits of outdoor access. At the same time, we need to try to make the key principles of the Access Code more understandable and accessible to young people: this will be high on the agenda of the National Access Forum when it next meets in May and indeed our work going forward.
Find out more about your access rights in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.