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Maxwell Ayamba

Cultural and Museum Studies, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Experience and Use of the Peak District National Park by People of Black African Ancestry: Comparing Two English Cities

My thesis explores the geographic studies of the spatiality of the Peak District National Park in relation to access and use by people of Black African ancestry in the diaspora. Drawing on the the cultural landscape of the Peak Park and, political ecological paradigms I will through ethnography/field notes, examine the ‘lived experience’ of participants. The methodology involves active oral interviews/observations during walks to explore narratives of research participants which involves use of social epistemology. This will enable me gather data on ‘how and why’ specific cultural narratives about nature are produced. The thesis considers ethno-racial differentiations in park access, different ways of use and how multiple axes of difference historically configure use. Participants of mixed gender and ages will be recruited through a screening process covering a range of characteristics and advertised in fliers delivered to churches, community centres and Black charities. Archival trips to access information on Government policies delivered through stakeholders (Peak Park Authority, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Open Spaces Society, National Trust etc.) and both Sheffield and Derby Local authorities will form the analytical framework of the reseaerch. I am interested in how people of Black African ancestry differing experiences and perspectives of spaces such as National Parks reflect social justice issues of equality and diversity considerations which underpins much of my research work. The objective of the thesis is therefore to investigate the centrality of people of Black African ancestry use of the Peak Park as a ‘social space’ and to understand the dynamics of Afri-centric cultures and the natural environment around them. The research will help unravel the cultural resources, personal narratives and ‘epiphany moments’ that shape people’s motivations for contact with nature. What can we learn from nature connectedness through life transitions courses, specifically where this is charatertised by migration, geography, mental/physical health trajectories, and intergenerational responsibilities. How values of nature motivate more intentional contact with nature, and in what ways is this negotiated and enacted in relation to others (e.g. family, peers or health professionals). This research builds on the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (2018) and in the Julian Glover Review (2019). This has neccessitated scholarly research and, both political/popular discourses promoting National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) as ‘social spaces’ for use and access by everyone irrespective of race, class, or economic status. As a Black academic, I am undertaking this research to expand on the conversations around race and the environment, to broadly highlight the ‘lived experience’ and perceptions of people of Black African ancestry in the diaspora in UK. This is against the backdrop of the recent conception of Black studies advocating for a ‘postpositivist’ realism in the socially constructed nature of racial and ethnic identity in relation to the environment.  

Research Area

  • Cultural and Museum Studies


  • Ayamba, M.A. (2018). "Black Men Walking", Landscape Journal - The Journal of the Landscape Institute, Darkhorse Publishing, UK
  • Ayamba, M.A., *Lakeman-Fraser, P., Gosling, L., Moffat, A.J., West, S.E., Fradera, R., Davies, L., Van der Wal, R. (2016). "To have your citizen science cake and eat it? Delivering research and outreach through Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)", Published in the BioMed Central Ecology Journal (SUPPL1): 16 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-016-0065-0 (Peer Reviewed)
  • Ayamba, M.A., & Rotherham, I.D. (2014). Exploring the cultural severance of English Black & Ethnic Minorities from nature In: Rotherham, I.D., Agnoletti, M., Handley, C. (eds.) The End of Tradition? Wildtrack Publishing, UK
  • Ayamba, M.A., et al; (2013) "OPAL Community Environment Report - Exploring Nature Together" In: Davies, L., Gosling, L., Bachariou, C., Eastwood, J., Fradera, R., Manomaiudom, N., & Robins, S. (2013) Published by Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London 


  • "Contested Landscapes: Race and Space - Peak District National Park, England" at the 3rd annual conference of the South African Society for Critical Theory (SASCT) hosted by the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa from 22nd - 23rd 2019
  • "Contested Landscapes: Race and Countryside Spaces - Black Men Walking" at the JustLandscape? Diversity, Ethnicity, Representation" a day's Interdisciplinary International Conference, supported by the Landscape Institute's Diversity & Inclusion Group, University of East London, Stratford, October 28th 2019
  • Presentation on "People of Black African ancestry experience and use of the Peak District National Park - Comparative study of two English cities at the Economy + Society Summer School for first year Phd Students, funded by the Department of Sociology, University of Cork in Ireland from May 13th - 17th 2019
  • Presentation on "Black Men Walking: a Hilly Hike - Lived Experience of the British Countryside Environment" a one-day Midlands4 Cities/Arts & Humanities Research Council symposium organised on "Anticipating Black Futures", at the Birmingham City University, May 30th 2019
  • "Lessons from engaging 1st year Initial Teacher Trainees (ITT) Students in co-creating a curriculum that embed equality and diversity (Pre and Post Entry to the ITT Programme) - University of KwaZulu- Natal's 9th Annual Teaching & Learning in Higher Education International Conference, Durban, South Africa 21st - 23rd September 2015 

Public Engagement & Impact

  • October 1st 2020 at 6pm I featured in an ITV Calendar news documentary on Black people and access to British countryside spaces, as part of a documentary to mark Black History Month  
  • May 21st 2019 I presented at a workshop "On how and why diverse communities use or might want to use outdoor spaces and how underpresented groups occupy these spaces on their own terms", for staff of the National Trust co-ordniated by the School of Museums and Gallaries, University of Leicester
  • June 24th 2019 I did a presentation on "Environmental Racism" in a panel dicussion as part of the University of Nottinham's Environment Conference, organised by the Department of Geography at the School of Law and Social Sciences
  • 11th September 2020 I participated in a Zoom meeting with DEFRA on engaging minority groups in the environmental agenda and how DEFRA will like to make this to happen
  • June/July 2020 I participated in a series of Zoom meetings with Kent Downs Trust on Enhancing Access Opportunities a Tests and Trials workshop supported by DEFRA on what the barriers are to accessing greenspaces/countryside, who the barriers apply, how to overcome them and who does this and how does this happen
  • September 10th 2020 I participated in a National Outdoors for All Working Group (NOfAWG) workshop, where presentations were made by Natural England on Social Prescribing, Wildife Trust on Nature Revovery pilot work, Learning Outside the Classroom Consortium, and Campaign for the Protection of Rural England
  • September 8th 2020 I participated in a webnar hosted by the University College of London on Health & Environment organised by the Environment Agency with presentations from Sir James Bevan CEO, on how the Agency is protecting the environment and creating better places
  • August 5th 2020 I did a presentation for Heritage Fund staff on "Exploring wellbeing and heritage using current research to understand the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BME communities and individuals
  • July 31st 2020 I delivered an online webnar on "Racial inequalities in greenspace provision, management and access", to Park and Greenspace Managers hosted by the Future Parks Accelerator (FPA), a strategic partnership body between the National Trust and National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • August 29th 2020 I published an article titled, "Maxwell Ayamba: My England", featured in the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England's annual magazine 


Other Research Interests

My other research interests transcernds the trajectories of race, ecology and environmental Justice in the UK and the geneology of people of Black African ancestry and the ntural environment in the UK from Roman times to enslavement, colonialism and post-colonialism