Women In The Hills, c. 1800 to Present

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of English Lit, Lang & Linguistics


The Women In The Hills (WITH) Network will bring together scholars, creative practitioners and stakeholders, across a range of disciplines and sectors, concerned with the contexts that shape women's land use from c. 1800 to the present day. This inter-disciplinary, cross-sector collaboration will generate an unprecedentedly holistic, nuanced exploration of factors that define, hinder and promote women's engagements with land.

When hymn-writer Frances Havergal wrote in 1871 about a recent mountaineering adventure that she 'did not know till the summer before last what a combination of keen enjoyment and benefit to health...was to be found in a pedestrian tour by unprotected females,' she identified (a) that women constitute a distinct community of land users, whose values, beliefs, experiences and representations, about land use frequently differ from a male-biased norm, and (b) that recognition of such diversity in experiences of land use promotes positive outcomes in health and wellbeing.

WITH's explorations will focus on women's walking, running and climbing in UK uplands, from the flourishing of outdoor leisure in c. 1800 to the present. WITH's discussion of historical and contemporary barriers and incentives to women's participation will be structured around three focal categories: (a) female bodies, (b) women's social circumstances, (c) women as makers and recipients of decisions about land management. Within this exploration, arts and humanities research will (a) historicise factors that hinder or promote women's participation, (b) explore literary and visual artefacts as evidence of women's participation, (c) analyse those artefacts' aesthetics as evidence for how women constitute a distinct community of creative landscape practitioners, (d) assess the impact of historical representations on contemporary women's land use, and (e) disseminate women's representations of land use to challenge the historical marginalisation of women's voices in this genre.

WITH will facilitate conversations between scholars in women's writing; environmental history; digital humanities; landscape aesthetics; history of tourism, clothing and equipment; sports science and medicine; feminism; and computer sciences. Conversations will include creative practitioners in landscape representation; archivists and curators; and stakeholders across heritage, conservation, sanitation, environmentalism, engineering, physiotherapy, tourism and outdoor industries, clothing and kit design. WITH has four project partners: conservation charity John Muir Trust, women's trail-running company Girls on Hills, pelvic health campaigners Pelvic Roar, and University of Manchester's English Department (Dr Joanna Taylor, scholar of literary geography and digital humanities). Collaborators include the Outdoor Industries Association, EVB Sport, and National Trust.

After a public launch at the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts' Nature-Writing Festival (c. 200 people), the network will include three one-day workshops (c. 40 people), each themed around one of the network's three focal categories. A residential field weekend for underprivileged women (c. 10 people) will include practical, informative and creative sessions influenced by workshop discussions. A two-day conference (c. 120 people) will report on key findings from the workshops and weekend, and build on these via presentations from invited speakers and participants from an open call.

The network's explorations will be disseminated via a journal special issue; Wordsworth Trust exhibition; website, blog and social media; and policy document identifying barriers and recommending deliverable improvements, whose impact will be measured during interventions implemented by Girls on Hills, and the National Trust. Through these approaches, WITH will develop an inter-disciplinary, cross-sector methodology applicable to future research on diversity among land-users' experiences and representations.

Planned Impact

The Women in the Hills (WITH) network will engage members of non-HEI groups and the public in discussions about how women constitute a community of land users with distinct needs, values, interpretations and representations regarding landscape. As the Pathways to Impact document describes, WITH's strategy focuses on achieving impacts on six identified key groups (detailed below), to whom women's recreational upland use is directly relevant. WITH will do so by encouraging stakeholders, collaborators and participants to develop new insights and practices, especially when those practices confront how women's experiences of land use are shaped by the three focal categories of (a) female bodies, (b) women's social circumstances, and (c) decision-making about landscape. Our overarching intention is to increase the quality and quantity of women's participation in upland recreation, and to target specific groups of women for detailed engagement and measurement.

WITH's advisory group has been selected with the intention that decisions made by the group, and the various networks afforded, will be used to deliver wide-ranging impact. Members of the advisory group include:
- Emma Brockwell, co-director of Pelvic Roar pelvic health campaigning group, which has extensive networks and expertise in women's health and medicine;
- Keri Wallace, co-director of Girls on Hills trail-running company, with networks and expertise in sports science, kit design, and tourism;
- Kevin Lelland, Head of Development and Communications at John Muir Trust, with networks in conservation, environmentalism, tourism and leisure;
- Zakiya McKenzie, Forestry Commission writer-in-residence, with contacts in arts administration (Bristol Festival of Ideas) and media (she presents on Bristol's Ujima radio), and expertise in environmentalism, ecology and West Indian nature-writing;
- Harvey Wilkinson, curator at National Trust Lake District, with networks across heritage, conservation, tourism and museum sectors.
Key speakers at the network's meetings will be invited, and a proportion of participants will be located through an open call to bring new cross-sector participants into the network, providing further channels through which WITH can achieve impact on research and policy. This open call will be disseminated via the extensive networks of project partners and collaborators, and land-use policy-makers will be targeted via Mary-Ann Stephenson, Women's Budget Group director.

WITH aims to impact on the following six key groups, to whom women's distinct experiences and representations of recreational use of UK upland territories has extensive and direct relevance:
(1) conservation, tourism, environmentalism, sport and leisure groups seeking to improve diversity of access to land, and to improve female participation;
(2) those responsible for designing and managing material and social structures through which women's land use is mediated (including clothing and medical aid designers; authors of public health policy; and charities instigating therapeutic access to rural landscapes for disadvantaged women);
(3) female land-users themselves, whose specific needs and requirements are often not being met during walking, running and climbing activities in UK uplands, and whose representations of their experiences of land-use have historically been marginalised;
(4) organisers of nature- and landscape-writing prizes and festivals, seeking to increase public familiarity with women's representations of their land use, and readers and attendees engaging with such works;
(5) curators, archivists and the public audience of exhibitions, seeking to disseminate and consume knowledge about women's historical and contemporary recreational use of UK uplands;
(6) data analysts and policy writers concerned with the 'gender data gap', lack of sex-disaggregated data representing the differences between men and women's experiences, needs and requirements.


10 25 50
Description The research network is still in its early stages, due to the first year of networking meetings being postponed due to Covid. The AHRC has agreed to a year's no-cost extension, taking the network's end date to December 2022. During the network's first year, the leadership team has established a website and social media accounts, and released a press release, in order to identify and establish communication with potential collaborators (as stated in the award objectives). The network aims to identify historical and contemporary constraints and catalysts for women's participation in outdoor leisure in UK uplands, and the press release led to researchers in the field making contact with our network, to contribute qualitative and quantitative data about women's participation in UK rock-climbing and outdoor leisure festivals, which we will be able to synthesise into our report at a later date. One of the key findings from this research is that women's participation is negatively affected by childcare constraints, but has been enhanced by the provision of family climbing sessions at rock-climbing festivals. The network's leaders are also undertaking their own research into this area, and key findings have been that women's participation in outdoor leisure is constrained by experiences of street harassment, by poor design of the built environment (including closure of public toilets and poor lighting), and that women's participation in sport and leisure first undergoes a significant decrease during adolescence. We have found that women's participation has been enhanced by design decisions that provide spaces in parks for open-ended activities (ie. providing grassy spaces that might be used in a multiplicity of ways, including sitting; instead of spaces designed specifically for one activity, such as basketball), and by creating an environment of low tolerance for street harassment (Nottingham police force have been trialling prosecutions for street harassment based on application of hate crime legislation towards misogyny).

Due to Covid, we have had to take a creative approach to achieving the network's stated objectives via alternative means to the primarily face-to-face meetings we had initially envisaged. In order to identify constraints and catalysts on women's outdoor leisure that have already been identified in published research studies, we are now collaborating with the Sports Industry Research Group at Sheffield Hallam on the production of a literature review in this field. This will provide us with an overview of the narrative findings of pre-existent studies, on which we can build via online network meetings in 2021 and 2022.

We are also working with the Wordsworth Trust, to produce an exhibition on women's historical participation in upland leisure, with a focus on Dorothy Wordsworth. This will run from autumn 2021, for a year.
Exploitation Route A principal objective of the funding is to produce a report that identifies constraints and catalysts for women's historical and contemporary participation in outdoor leisure, which will be distributed across the leisure industry and voluntary sectors, in order to design events and spaces with the aim of enhancing the quality and quantity of women's participation.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The network aims to identify historical and contemporary constraints and catalysts for women's participation in outdoor leisure in UK uplands, which is a subject with significant impact on public, private and voluntary sectors. During the network's first year, the leadership team has established a website and social media accounts, and released a press release , in order to identify and establish communication with potential collaborators (as stated in the award objectives). The website is gaining 20,000 hits per month, and our Twitter account has 2000 followers. The press release led to articles in Grough (https://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2020/02/05/women-in-the-hills-network-launched-to-boost-female-mountain-activities) , UK Climbing (https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/2020/02/womens_network_aims_to_improve_female_access_to_the_outdoors-72194) and UK Hill-Walking (https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/features/a_celebration_of_women_in_the_hills-12652), and to our project partner Keri Wallace (at Girls on Hills) talking about the research network on BBC Scotland. These articles and our press release were also shared by the Outdoor Industries Asssociation, which is the trade body for over 200 manufacturers, retailers and organisations that provide products and services for the outdoor leisure market in the UK, including retailers Blacks and Cotswold Outdoor; kit designers Garmin and Inov-8; and associations including the Ramblers Association. Early interest in the network has shown that there is significant appetite in the outdoor leisure industry to tackle the factors that constrain women's access to outdoor leisure, and the press attention for the network has led to collaborators getting in touch with us to share their qualitative and quantitative data in this area. The network is spending 2021 collaborating with the Sports Industry Research Group at Sheffield Hallam University in producing a literature review that identifies findings from published studies about the constraints and catalysts for women's participation in outdoor leisure. In late 2021 and 2022, we will build on this literature review by adding qualitative and quantitative data from participants in network meetings, with a focus on catalysts for enhancing women's experience of participation. We will synthesise these findings into a report, which will be disseminated across the industry, and we will monitor the ongoing impact of those findings on industry and voluntary sector practices. We are also producing an exhibition to take place at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, to provide a narrative about women's historical participation in outdoor leisure, with a focus on Dorothy Wordsworth. We are working with the Education and Development team at the Wordsworth Trust to produce an impact questionnaire to be distributed to exhibition attendees, to collect data about how the exhibition's content changed their perceptions of the constraints and catalysts for women's historical participation in upland leisure.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Description Wordsworth Trust exhibition for Dorothy Wordsworth 250 
Organisation Wordsworth Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The network is collaborating with the Wordsworth Trust in a year-long exhibition (from September 2021 to September 2022), to include a significant element incorporating information about the constraints and catalysts on women's historical participation in outdoor leisure. The network's leadership team member Dr Joanna Taylor is working closely with the Wordsworth Trust in the production of this exhibition.
Collaborator Contribution The network's leadership team member Dr Joanna Taylor is working closely with the Wordsworth Trust in the production of this exhibition, which will open in September 2021.
Impact The outcome will be an exhibition running from September 2021 to September 2022.
Start Year 2021
Description Joanna Taylor's presentation of research and network's activities via podcasts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Joanna Taylor spoke about the network's activities in podcasts:
Bonnets at Dawn - November 2020: https://soundcloud.com/bonnetsatdawn/s45-e4-dorothy-wordsworths-journals-with-dr-jo-taylor
LOLMyPraxis - 17 February 2021: https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/lol-my-praxis/ep9-bonnet-vision-cosplaying-N_SQincUXFb/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021