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WOMEN IN THE OUTDOORS


Mind the gap


The past, present and future of Women in the British Hills T


W Loving the outdoors at the Women's Trad Festival.


54 | CLIMB. WALK. JOIN.


he new research network launched in February this year will investigate potential barriers to women’s access in upland recreation in the British hills. But, somewhat surprisingly, it’s not all about what is happening in the hills right now.


Dr Keri Wallace co-founder of Girls on Hills investigates. “Historically, women’s narratives about experiences in the hills have been largely ignored,” says Keri Andrews of Edge Hill University, just one of the academics that has joined the new research project Women in the Hills (WITH). “Society’s understanding of hills and mountains as sources of inspiration dates from the Romantic Era, but the people who author and feature in the stories about upland landscapes are almost all men (90% of key nature writing anthologies are male-dominated). But women have always been walking, climbing and mountaineering, and have written extensively about their experiences – however, much went unpublished for a very long time. By addressing this imbalance, we hope that WITH will be able to help contemporary women feel more like they belong in the hills!” Academics from the University of Newcastle,


University of Manchester and Edge Hill University will be brought together with practitioners and stakeholders to characterise the factors that have shaped women’s experiences from the early 1800s, through to the present day. The network will consider changes that have taken place over many generations, and the ways in which women’s history influences our culture and attitudes today. The two-year initiative, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will be working to produce a series of guidelines aimed at improving women’s access to hill-walking, rock-climbing and trail running. Interestingly, however, the scope of WITH also includes women’s creative responses – poetry, prose, non-fiction, nature writing and music, amongst others – to upland landscapes. The WITH network was launched just weeks after the


women’s Pinnacle Club (founded in 1921) was awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to create a multimedia archive and mark its centenary in 2021. The Pinnacle Club’s history charts a journey of female emancipation and independence embodied in journals, photographs, films, letters and the memories of its members, some now in their 80s and 90s.


PHOTO: CHARLIE LOW


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