Nature is our neighbourhood
We hit the hills with Common Ground, the newest hiking collective on the scene as part of our latest Trail editorial. A collective built on breaking the barriers and stereotypes of the outdoors, Common Ground has gone from five to a thousand members almost overnight.
The shared ethos between Berghaus and the collective makes the group the perfect partner to champion the message of creating an open and welcoming community, bringing people to nature through hiking, one step at a time.
"You don’t need to pay an entry fee. You don’t need any expensive kit. You can just go. Meet your friends or even make new ones."
Founded under the initiative of bringing people together in a shared love of the outdoors, Common Ground is a collective of hiking enthusiasts of all levels, that has gone from strength to strength since its initial conception in 2022. From five friends looking to break the monotony of working life to a discord channel boasting over a thousand fellow hiking enthusiasts, founder Joel Moore reflects on the formation of the collective.
“It all started on Instagram. Posting walking content and seeking out other groups that did a similar thing. The idea was to form a collective of people that wanted to get outdoors. The six of us met up for the first time in January 2022, posted some pictures and away we went.”
Unsurprisingly, one of the initial factors of Common Ground’s success came as a consequence of the hangover of lockdown. A period where access to green spaces and the great outdoors were kept to a bare minimum; a time in which member Leah De La Hunty remembers un-fondly before finding Common Ground.
“I spent the whole of the pandemic in my cold, damp university house completely alone without any human contact for months. I came out of lockdown appreciating my freedom and valuing the beauty of everything outside. It's fantastic that something that came about online has connected individuals and affected many lives, including mine. Social media has a lot of unfavourable stereotypes, but this space was truly designed to use social media to disconnect from it and go outside, which I adore.”When speaking to members
of the collective, the differing motivators vary, yet, the positive effect
hiking and the outdoors has on mental well-being is shared throughout,
something Marc Hamilton heroes.
"It feels so obvious, but looking after your mental health is the be-all and end-all. The opportunity to switch off. At work, I’m glued to a computer screen, which couldn’t be further from my experiences with Common Ground. Bringing my dog along and watching him have the time of his life, it feels like going back to my roots.”
“From day one we’ve not discriminated when it comes to both people’s backgrounds or general hiking experience. The outdoors is such a great leveller, you can chat with people regardless of their background, as you both have this shared love of the surroundings. That’s one of the reasons our group is evolving because groups are making it more accessible.”
This open-armed approach is something echoed by Amber McKenzie, a Common Ground member who was apprehensive about taking the plunge at first.
“I have found a community of like-minded people who want to be outside. I was nervous when I went to my first Common Ground meet-up. I was worried I would be the slowest person there, not wearing the right gear and I wouldn't get on with anyone. But, from the very moment I turned up, I fitted straight in. I've made some great friends through it, people I speak to every day.”
Yet, it’s more than just a social scene. Common Ground has opened doors for creativity within the collective. Exposing a new environment for photographers, videographers and more, to a new world of opportunity, something Joel has discovered first-hand.
“Hobbies like photography and the outdoors fit together perfectly. I love being outside and I love taking photographs so for me, it just works perfectly really. Also, it’s a great learning environment, the light is always changing, and you are in different terrain. But, even if you’re shooting in the same location over and over again, it’s always going to be slightly different. So it’s a great place to learn a craft.”
As Common Ground’s membership continues to grow, Leah reflects on the progress the collective has made, and what the future might hold for the group.