The body that looks after the interests of climbers, mountaineers and hillwalkers has announced it aims to do more to represent the hillwalking part of its membership. Previously, the British Mountaineering Council has been criticised for being overly focused on climbing, but in 2013 it appointed its first hillwalking officer, outdoors journalist Carey Davies, to develop this aspect of their work.
It has also appointed seven new ‘ambassadors’, but has only one focused exclusively on hillwalking – Chris Townsend. The BMC has acknowledged they need to redress the balance. At the Kendal Mountain Festival, chief exec Dave Turnbull announced the Council’s next moves:
“We’re analysing where the shortfalls are; where we need to do more…it’s a really important group of members for us. It’s one of the few areas where we get serious criticism for not doing enough, and we’re genuinely keen to do it’’.
In a survey of 2000 members last year, while 70 per cent were climbers to some degree, over 60 per cent described hillwalking as their primary activity as opposed to only 26 per cent climbing. While the BMC’s work on access and conservation scored highly and unified most members, 70 per cent were dissatisfied with the approach taken to hillwalking.
Davies, whose post is funded by Sport England, has written an ambitious strategy paper, which highlights the Council’s historical bias towards climbing at an institutional level – from local area committees and clubs, to funding, spending and communications agendas. He has produced detailed plans to widen the remit via press and media, and appointing more hillwalking ambassadors.
Turnbull commented: “We need help from the media; we need members who are keen to get involved with that and ultimately, I’m sure, the organisation will put its money where its mouth is and invest in work for hillwalkers.”
Progress is being made on communications already, but Davies also suggests structural changes at a regional level that may take longer to implement, including widening the focus of regional development officers to include walking as well as climbing, and an access officer devoted to hillwalking.
One solution may lie in partnerships with other walking-focused organisations, such as the Ramblers and National Trust.
Following an open forum in the Peak District in late November, the BMC hopes to roll out its hillwalking strategy during 2015.