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  • Writer's pictureDave Harvey

Equality of access to outdoor spaces: it's not just about providing more activities

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Proud to share the Needs, Challenges and Opportunities report prepared by our very own Dave Harvey on behalf of The Outdoor Partnership Cumbria. The report provides a review and analysis of research conducted to date, with recommendations and strategic actions for TOPC to meet goals.

Key Challenges

The research unearthed the following societal barriers, which programmes aiming to increase participation should consider:

• Attitudes to physical activity and historical/cultural non participation in outdoor activity

• A non-outdoor mindset

• Limited public transport

• Poverty and disposable income

• Lack of awareness of opportunities

• Lack of joined up approach to delivery

• Limited existing sector capacity to deliver increased provision

Key opportunities

The following key opportunities were unearthed through the research:

• Developing resources at venues

• Signposting to venues, activities, clubs and events

• Working with existing networks to develop participation progressions that help participants become ‘autonomous in the outdoors’

• Develop pathways to leadership and employment

• Assisting with training for teachers to support access to the outdoors for learning and development

• Developing clubs that allow progression from initial experiences

• Develop an ecosystem of provision with TOPC at the centre, signposting and enabling joined-up provision across the borough.

• Developing a communication strategy that supports using the outdoors for health, wellbeing and nature connection to be promoted by all stakeholders.

TOPC Research report_ final
Download PDF • 548KB


The Outdoor Partnership Cumbria (TOPC) is a new (2019) lottery-funded venture located in Copeland on the west coast of Cumbria. The Outdoor Partnership’s (OP) original rationale was based on research showing low levels of local population engagement in the outdoor sector in North Wales. School provision, community engagement and local employment were all entwined in what was referred to as a ‘cultural vicious circle’1.

The OP mission, ‘to improve opportunities for more people in Wales to achieve their potential through outdoor activities’1, has provided a framework over the last 15 years that aims to bring about a cultural shift in how local people perceive and engage with the outdoors. 80 clubs have been established in that period with over 6000 people regularly participating.

With the success of the OP in Wales, Lottery funding was sought to roll the programme out across other areas of the UK. The Cumbrian district of Copeland was identified as an area with similar socio-economic needs in terms of engagement and a high quality natural environment nearby.

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