This year, in the pause between lockdowns we have been out walking with Fotonow CIC and Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support. With funding from Comic Relief and MOVE Beyond project, lead by International Sports and Cultural Association (ISCA) , a group of asylum seekers (from countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait and Ethiopia) have been learning photography skills whilst discovering the Coast Path on their doorstep around Plymouth.
Following all of the safety guidance and with walks risk assessed, our visits included Mount Edgecombe, Plymouth Hoe, Jennycliff and Cawsands. Each place we visited was selected because it is within easy reach on foot or by ferry, making it possible for the participants to walk the route again by themselves in the future.
Each walk has had its own highlights, including; finding the last blackberries of the season, and discovering the best sweet chestnuts before the squirrels got them, meeting friendly dogs, and enjoying the expanse of open spaces and woodland glades. When visiting Mount Edgecumbe, we found plants from all around the world such as sequoia from North America, rhododendron from the Himalayas and cork oak from warmer areas of Europe. Here, the Lebanese participants proudly spotted their national emblem, the cedar tree.
On our last walk, we took a longer route and after getting the ferry to Cawsands, we then walked back along the Coast Path to catch the ferry from Cremyll back to Plymouth. The group weren’t put off by the longer distance, as one participant later commented that, “You don’t get tired when you are talking as you are walking!”
The focus of this project is to explore the concept of ‘Home’ with participants’ photos being collated by Fotonow CIC which can be viewed here with the hope of using in a display at a later date. These asylum seekers are far from their original home, and in the process of waiting to find out if they can remain in this country. They cannot work within this time and so these walks have, as one participant commented has ‘given purpose to getting out of my flat’. Learning photography skills is another great benefit with some commenting on how well their skills have been developing over the weeks.
We know as an Association the benefits that walking the Coast Path can bring, but we are also acutely aware that these benefits are only taken up by certain groups in society, and that there are lots of people that don’t know about the Coast Path, don’t know that it is for everyone to enjoy, and don’t know how to go about using it. Coronavirus has also highlighted the health inequalities that exist in this country, and the importance of people being able to access natural environments close to their homes. We believe that it is vitally important to reach these under-represented audiences and to make the amazing resource that is the South West Coast Path as easy to access for everyone as possible. This project demonstrates one step in our journey to achieving this. The good news is that current restrictions aren’t stopping this project, and Fotonow are facilitating the group meeting online, and challenging them to explore local green and blue spaces, and keep up their photography skills. We look forward to getting back out on the Coast Path with this group soon.