An ethnically diverse hill walking group is helping people from all backgrounds get outside and enjoy the benefits the natural environment can offer.
Through support from sportscotland’s Direct Club Investment (DCI) a National Lottery-funded club development fund, as well as training support from Glenmore Lodge, sportscotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, Glasgow-based Boots & Beards is making sure under-represented groups get access to the outdoors.
About Boots & Beards
Boots & Beards was formed in 2016 for like-minded people in and around ethnically diverse communities of Glasgow, to better their lives and that of future generations.
The group began predominantly for male members of the community to come together, explore the hills and improve their physical and mental health. Due to its continued growth the group now provide activities to cater for women, children, and families, with weekly boot camps and badminton sessions on offer alongside scheduled hikes across the country.
Boot & Beards are also the first BME organisation in Scotland to be a licensed partner of the highly respected Duke of Edinburgh awards.
Nav Bakhsh, co-founder of Boots & Beards said: “Having been born and bred in Scotland, I had never ventured out of the city (Glasgow) to see what beauty lies on our doorstep. Since making that first step, I wanted to give others the same experience through various health related activities.
"Living in a fast-changing digital world, our kids are coming inundated with technology and cutting their connection to the natural world. We are trying to stop this as it's the natural world that will only make them stronger both mentally and physically.
“Initially we had no plans to become a hillwalking group or anything as remote to what we are doing now, however the outdoors can be a great way to focus on your health, to de-stress and tackle mental health issues which have prevalent within our communities.”
Catering for all
After securing over £24,000 from DCI, Boots & Beards have brought on a part-time project coordinator to help make the hills more accessible and inclusive, particularly among inactive under-represented groups.
The aim is to broaden the appeal to everyone and attract those who have yet to venture out and experience the natural landscape first hand.
"We want to make sure that everyone and anyone no matter your race, religion or ability feels comfortable in accessing and venturing out onto the hills.
"Our forefathers came to this country around 70 years ago, and yet they and generations after have never explored the real Scotland.
"We are looking to breakdown barriers and show that Scotland and the outdoors is for everyone. As nature comes in many colours, it truly doesn't recognise or alienates any race or religions. Our job at Boots & Beards is to change the narrative and bring more colour to the hills."
With a growing concern for safety and confidence among people heading out onto the hills, Boots & Beards will also receive support from Glenmore Lodge, who will provide safety and navigation training for members or volunteers looking to further their knowledge, allowing them to be more competent in the outdoors.
Boots & Beards will also be looking to continue growing Bonnie Boots, their female only activities. With the origins of the group aimed at men, and as the organisation continued to grow, more and more women enquired about getting involved, which has allowed the organisation to target new audiences.
Women and families are now able to attend Boots & Beards organised walks, however for those not comfortable or confident enough, Bonnie Boots still offers a safe and friendly space for women to participate together.
Since the group’s inception in 2016, Boots & Beards has continued to grow with over 100 members taking part in regular activity.
On Sunday 29 August they will be celebrating their 100th organised walk - a huge milestone for the organisation - at a location where it all began.
The all-day event will include a walk-up Conic Hill, Loch Lomond as well as mountain rescue and water safety awareness training, kids’ activities such as a scavenger hunt, storytelling and den building, and a facility to allow participants the opportunity for prayer.
Nav commented: "Boots & Beards has grown organically with a few volunteers who believed in our moto - a healthy community is a positive community.
"5 years on and with over 2,500 participants, a legacy has been created."
Spaces are still available on a first come first served basis for anyone wishing to join in the day’s activities. Full details can be found on the Boots & Beards website.