In this blog post, we introduce you to Godfrey Francis, a Peak District Mosaic trustee, a volunteer ranger, and a walk leader.
Some of the best memories can be made in the great outdoors.
At the ages of 10 and 12, a young Godfrey would spend his Friday evenings in the hot summer months with a group called the Boys Brigade. As a group they all went out walking to Stanage Edge and Burbage Rocks – both areas famous for climbing in the Peak District.
“Those are my earliest memories of being happy outdoors and they have stayed with me ever since,” Godfrey shares, “now I take my grandchildren to the same places and beyond.”
Whilst out in the Peak District, Godfrey met a woman called Yvonne Witter, who is the current Chair of Peak District Mosaic.
Little did he know that this was the start of his journey to joining the organisation and gaining a new colleague.
“At that time, I hadn’t seen a lot of other people who looked like me or came from other ethnic minority backgrounds walking in the Peak District,” the adventurer recalls, “So Yvonne and I struck up a conversation about what we were both doing out in Fairholmes.”
Similar to Godfrey, Yvonne is also from a Black British Jamaican background. She explained to him that she was doing her usual walk and invited a friend to join her.
“I was out there doing a recce for a walk that I planned to lead for work colleagues,” Godfrey tells us.
Since he was working as Team Manager for Sheffield City Council during that time, he volunteered to lead monthly walks in the Peak District as part of the Council’s Wellbeing Initiative.
As it was around three o’clock in the afternoon when the two hikers met, Godfrey advised Yvonne that if she walked around Howden and Derwent reservoir it would be dark by the time they got back.
“I had done the walk before and the route was around nine miles long which meant it took up to four or five hours to complete,” the seasoned walker explained.
After this encounter and a few weeks passed, Yvonne invited Godfrey to join the Peak District Mosaic Champions program in 2017.
For him, this was the first time he met an official ranger. One that was experienced, passionate, and patient. Each quality was what Godfrey hoped to have in himself if he ever become a ranger too.
Not long after finishing the programme in 2018 and becoming a Community Champion, the regular hiker decided to start training as a volunteer Peak District ranger.
Inspired by the ranger who trained him, he decided to go for the role: “I was already a member of different walking groups, taking it in turns with other walk leaders to lead walks in different Peak District locations, so I was comfortable and excited to become a ranger.”
For anyone who knows Godfrey, going out into the peak district either by himself or with others is not just a hobby he likes to do but it’s part of his lifestyle and mission.
“Being from an ethnic minority you often come across discrimination either directly or indirectly,” he tells us, “During my walks out in the Peak District, I used to encounter people who would tell me the chicken shop is at the top of the hill and instantly I would reply with: “ I don’t like chicken I am a vegetarian!“
He continues: “Did their comments put me off…not a chance!”
The great outdoors always leaves Godfrey feeling inspired and ready to share the picturesque places he visits with others.
Joining Peak District Mosaic as a trustee in 2021, gave him another opportunity to give back to the local community.
“I get to be part of people’s introduction to the Peak District, support them as they go along and maybe even see them become rangers themselves one day.”
Since Godfrey started exploring the National Parks, he can see how diversity has increased but he believes there is still more to be done.
The mission isn’t over.
“For us to see continual progress,” the trustee declares, “I think we need to inspire and encourage children from ethnic minority backgrounds to visit the Peak District with funded trips and having more accessible public transport for them to come along.”
In each of his roles at Peak District Mosaic, Godfrey is determined to see diversity in the National Parks.
Just as he fell in love with all the Peak District’s wonders and beauty, he wants to see more and more people falling in love with it too.
It’s home. A place where everyone is welcome to unwind, enjoy and feel at peace.
Our team is full of people with a hunger for positive change in the great outdoors. Find out more about our trustees here.
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If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our last blog: How to stay safe when hiking.