Authored by Sarah Bell
Some of the recent interviews I’ve conducted as part of Sensing Nature have highlighted the importance of both taking time to experience nature in its various forms, and also to experience the sense of moving through nature at speed - be it whilst running, cycling, kayaking, water skiing or even gliding.
One of the initiatives that has been mentioned is Parkrun; a free 5km run held in local parks and outdoor settings around the UK. In 2016, Sport England launched an 18-month pilot scheme to support more people with sight impairment to take part in Parkrun.
Through the pilot project, a series of taster days, community engagement events and volunteer days were held around the country. Parkrun is also supporting a volunteer network of guide runners to be matched with blind or partially sighted runners, with the aim of encouraging both a safe and sociable running environment.
In addition to this project, there are a range of resources online that aim to support blind and partially sighted runners, perhaps the most notable being the Guide Running UK website; a site set up by two runners, Simon Wheatcroft and Bradden Johnson, to enable both experienced and aspiring sight impaired runners to connect with experienced and aspiring guides alike. They have developed an online database of sight impaired, blind and guide runners (registration available here), alongside guide running advice and notes, which complements other resources available via the RNIB and British Blind Sport.
To help inform the findings from Sensing Nature, it would be great to understand more about the logistics and likely costs of setting up such a resource, and the potential for expanding it to encompass more varied activities. For example, could a resource be developed that would enable people to look up others in their local area who are trained (or willing to be trained) in supporting blind and partially sighted people to get out into nature in other ways, such as walking, kayaking or tandem cycling?
Such a scheme might help people living with sight impairments to join in with existing activities in their area, rather than being fully reliant on the provision of specifically-designated “sight impaired” group activities.
It would be great to hear from anyone who is aware of a resource like this, either via the Sensing Nature contact page or by emailing me at Sarah.Bell@exeter.ac.uk.