Get involved: Black Girls Hike London
Black Girls Hike is a safe walking community for black women to enjoy the outdoors in and around cities. We chat to Oge Ejizu, the London Regional Leader for Black Girls Hike.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Black Girls Hike started and how you got involved with the London branch?
Black Girls Hike was started in 2019 by Rhiane Fatinikun as a response to the lack of representation of black women in the outdoors – and specifically hiking. Black Girls Hike was set up to give black women the opportunity to explore the outdoors with other women they can relate to. The response since setting up the group has been inspiring! We set up the London branch as there were calls to have hikes in and around London but since Rhiane lives near Manchester this wasn’t feasible.
I started following Black Girls Hike on Instagram because I too found that I would rarely see anyone that looks like me on my hikes. I wanted to be a part of a walking/hiking community that encourages black women to explore the outdoors more.
When did you start hiking and how has your passion grown since then?
I didn’t really grow up exploring or even having an interest in the outdoors, but 2 years ago one of my best friends would force me out on walks and at first I was a bit apprehensive but then the more I did it, the more I saw the positive impact it had on me holistically. It wasn’t until I went to Dartmoor with my friend that my passion for hiking was solidified. Hiking has allowed me to challenge myself and get outside of my comfort zone, to not be so timid with life and to put myself out there even if I’m scared.
It is widely known that getting out in nature to participate in physical activity has both physical and mental benefits, in what ways does hiking and walking improve your life?
Living in London can sometimes feel claustrophobic, the busyness and pressures of life can feel like I don’t have space or time to sort through my own thoughts. Hiking and being outdoors allows me to let that all go, to be still and focus on what really matters. The outdoors is so big and limitless that it puts everything into perspective for me, when I’m hiking, I feel like I have a moment to breathe.
What are your favourite walking routes in or around London?
That’s hard to choose! During lockdown I’ve had to explore what’s on my doorstep, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some beautiful routes along the Thames Path and Green Chain Walk. On both of these trails you get views of the City and woodlands! At the moment, I would have to say Oxleas Woods is at the top of my list.
Have you come across any walking routes or nature spots in London that you believe could do with some rejuvenation or special protection to preserve their natural beauty?
I think Abbey Wood and the paths around it could do with some extra love and care. I recently went for a short walk in the area and the litter and lack of maintenance made me feel so disheartened. Abbey Wood boasts so much potential and I would want people to experience it in all of its beauty.
Do you participate in any other outdoor activities in London, any recommendations?
I don’t at the moment, but I really want to try paddle boarding, rowing and climbing which I also hope to do with Black Girls Hike.
What’s next on the agenda for Black Girls Hike London? What routes have already been and what’s next on the list?
We had our first (socially distanced) hike on 1st August at Epping Forest and the response was phenomenal, beyond my expectations! We will be doing monthly walks with the next one in September hiking the Green Chain Walk (Woolwich – Abbey Wood). Every third month will be a walk exploring somewhere outside of London, so in October we will be heading to the Seven Sisters Cliffs.
Black women with little or no hiking experience are welcome, how can people find out some more information and get involved?
Whether it’s your first or 100th time, we welcome all levels on our walks! People can find out more about us via Facebook (bghmcr), Instagram (@bgh_uk) and Twitter (@UkBgh). For email enquiries, you can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org