We speak to new BMC hill-walking officer Carey Davies about what the organisation does for walkers and why you should consider joining.
I’m sitting in a sun-lit Didsbury pub with a very affable Carey Davies and his beard, which seems oddly appropriate. Until recently Carey was the assistant editor of TGO Magazine, but now he has a new life, now he is the first ever Hill Walking Development Officer of the BMC.
His two-week-old job is to provide advice and information to new hill-walkers and, I quote, ‘to the many members for whom hill walking is their main activity’. It’s the ‘main’ bit I’m not sure about though, chatting to Carey and Tina Gardner, the BMC’s PR officer, I get the impression that ‘one of their main activities’ might be more accurate.
It’s based on a stat from a recent membership survey which shows that when asked to name their three main outdoor acitivites, 62% of BMC members listed hill-walking. But then over 70% are also climbers...
Lots Of Potential Recruits?
So the way I read it is that currently, most of the hill-walking members the BMC has are actually climbers who also walk. And that’s, oddly, I think, a good thing, because it suggests that lots of walkers, who aren’t climbers don’t join the BMC and are potential new members as a result.
The BMC guys are oddly resistant to this idea, I think because it suggests that the BMC does nothing for walkers already and that, genuinely is simply not true.
What It Does For Us Already
The organisation’s closely involved with all sorts of access campaigns with the organisation’s Access and Conservation Trust supporting numerous crag and footpath restoration, including projects which don’t directly impact on climbers, the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Fix The Fells has recently applied for BMC funding as well.
It is, says Carey, more focussed on mountain upland access than the Ramblers, who it often works alongside politically. Like that organisation it helps to represent the outdoors in Parliament through lobbying and the Parliamentary Mountaineering Group and it’s also been instrumental in raising funding for the forthcoming Britain on Foot pro-walking campaign. It does similar work at a local level too.
What else? It produces a free leaflet aimed at new hill walkers, called ‘New Hill Walkers’ and promotes general mountain safety initiatives with lectures, publications and a series of excellent DVDs.
Last but not least, there are perfectly good and entirely venal reasons to join the BMC. All 75,000 of its members get a discount on BMC products ordered through the website and including the excellent mountain map collection, they get discounts at many outdoors shops and a whopping 15% off at Cotswold Outdoor and there’s also Summit, a quarterly colour magazine that carries a mix of factual and inspirational articles that wouldn’t be out of place in a commercial publication.
You also get access to the BMC’s excellent insurance services which include outdoors-friendly travel cover and life insurance for folk who get out and do stuff in the hills.
And finally, a 50% off for a first year direct debit membership means that you can sign up for around 15 quid, which could, with discounted purchases, pay for itself and more.
All About Climbing?
All of which is great and true, but there’s a lingering suspicion that ultimately the BMC is first and foremost represents the interests of climbers. Summit, for example, tends towards climbing and mountaineering content, though to be fair, the current issue has excellent articles about via ferrata and rescue insurance in Nepal.
Then there’s the relative lack of local BMC volunteer hillwalking reps, there are just three in the North East, Yorkshire and the Midlands, though all areas have access reps and there’s nothing to stop you getting involved and volunteering your services at a local area meeting.
Carey himself went along to a local Peak area gathering recently and felt that while the bulk of the people there were climbers, there was certainly interest in and sympathy for walkers.
And all that’s true too. The BMC, I think, currently does have a strong climbing bias and heritage, but what’s massively encouraging is that the organisation has taken the step of appointing a hill-walking officer with a brief to move things on, shake things up and increase the BMC’s attraction for hill-walkers.
'You Should Look At Joining Us'
‘All walkers,’ says Carey, ‘should be part of the BMC - or The Rambers - but obviously, I’d prefer them to join the BMC ... if your interest is primarily in the mountain environment, you should look at us.’
The good news is that over the next few years, that should be a lot easier. Carey has plans to make the organisation more accessible to hill walkers. Some of his plans, he says mysteriously, ‘are secret’, but you can expect to see the BMC playing a more open role in access issues impacting on walkers.
You’ll find Carey contributing a walking slant to Summit and the BMC web site and, since our visit, he’s started a BMC walkers’ twitter account as well. He’ll be listening too and getting feedback from walkers about what they’d like to see the BMC doing on their behalf.
‘Perceptions,’ he says, ‘are an obstacle, people do see the BMC as being just for climbers, but then there’s never been a hill walking officer with the role of promoting walking and part of my job is to get over that perception’.
‘There’s lots we can do with what already exists, but plenty more to be done. But it’s not just down to me. The bottom line is that if walkers want a more representative BMC then they can get involved at a local level and make the walking agenda more relevant.’
All of which makes massive sense to us, so much so that we’ve offered Carey a regular blog-spot on OutdoorsMagic so he can keep us up to date with the latest BMC hill-walking news.
So The Big Question... Should you join the BMC?
The answer, I think, is yes. Put all the economic discount arguments to one side and you’re talking about supporting an organisation that already does some excellent work for the outdoors in general and access and safety in particular.
Yes, it is perceived as primarily a climbing organisation, but the one overriding impression I got from everyone I met at the teeming BMC HQ in a converted church, is that people’s hearts, from the lowliest hill-walking officer up to BMC President Dave Turnbull, are in the right place. And that place is mostly up a hill or mountain.
There’s a genuine love and passion for the outdoors and the guys there aren’t just climbers, they’re walkers, runners, cyclists, paddler and more. And if we want the BMC to more obviously represent hill walkers at a national and local level, then joining and getting properly involved is the way to do it.
Hopefully Carey’s appointment is just a start and we’ll be hearing an awful lot more from him about walking and the BMC.
You can find more BMC information at www.thebmc.co.uk.