Posted: 10.06.21 at 14:22 by Hannah Corfield
A Mid Devon woman has completed a 400 mile ‘Ramble Against Racism’ through every parish of Mid and East Devon.
Tsara Smith, who lives in a small village in Mid Devon, was prompted to undertake the walk after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and noticing that there was little activity in rural areas.
On her walk, she carried a large yellow flag with ‘Stand up to Racism’ written on it and put up posters containing ideas for how people can improve their understanding of racism and how they can become actively ‘anti-racist’.
She has also raised over £1.1k for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust through the walk.
“I wanted to do something to show that racism is an issue that affects every area, not just people in cities,” said Tsara. “I actually believe the issue can be worse in the countryside, with little visible diversity and people not coming into contact with different people and cultures very often.
“I wanted to start a conversation about how we can each improve our understanding of the issue and truly think about how we can tackle racism wherever it exists.”
Tsara’s posters call on anyone reading them to think about what they can do, giving examples such as educating themselves through various resources, speaking to friends and family, championing inclusion in their workplace or talking to their children’s school about the curriculum.
“Everyone will have a unique skill or circle of influence that they can use to bring about positive change,” she said. “Through lots of people playing their part I believe we can make a real difference.”
She says the response to her rambles has been largely positive, with many people showing support along the way, through conversations, beeps and waves from passing cars, and donations she has received. But she also said there are other, less positive, responses too.
“It seems some people don’t want to be reminded that racism is an issue, or don’t believe it is a problem in Devon, and there are also those who do hold racist views.
"I have ignored the comments, tutting and swearing that has come my way on occasion – it only shows me that there is still work to be done and makes me more determined to keep highlighting the topic.
“Most people actually tend to completely ignore me or give me a quick nod and go on their way. I don’t mind this, but I do hope my presence and the posters I leave behind have promoted some discussions,” she added.
Tsara walked through Honiton as a part of the East Devon leg in October last year. Her 17.5 mile route started in Combe Raleigh and took her through Awliscombe, Buckerell, Feniton, Alfington, Gittisham and across Honiton, before finishing back in Combe Raleigh.
“It was an absolutely stunning walk,” she said. “I am so lucky to be able to get out and explore these areas which I might not have otherwise.
"It was a perfect autumn day for walking and I distinctly remember being struck by the beauty of the woods, the flowering cyclamen and some mushrooms I saw growing on a branch.
“As well as these small details, I had a couple of good conversations with residents, including one with a lady near Gittisham who had mentioned how her and her daughter had been raising money for charity during lockdown.
“We talked about the challenges of living in a rural area, namely lack of transport and lack of affordable housing, but also how when you are a part of these communities they really look after each other – especially in hard times.
“The walk through Honiton itself was fairly quiet, it’s often the case in the busier areas that people are less likely to stop and chat, but I don’t mind – just seeing the flag might spark a conversation I never know about, at least that is my hope.”
Tsara was meant to finish her 400-mile journey in November last year, but the lockdown delayed her completion. Having started walking Mid Devon in July 2020, and setting off across East Devon in September, Tsara finally completed her journey this May Bank Holiday.
“It’s taken much longer to complete the ramble than I would have liked,” said Tsara, “But, I have gotten to see every piece of this beautiful part of our county, in all conditions.
"I have worn through countless pairs of socks, puffed my way up hundreds of hills and fallen over in the mud a few times.
“I’ve been almost run over on busy roads, been chased by farm dogs and cows, accidentally interrupted a cricket match and have gotten lost a few times along the way as well.”
Tsara doesn’t plan to stop there, she is now planning her route through every parish of North Devon, another 320 miles. This time she will be raising money for Black2Nature, a charity set up to increase access to natural spaces for children from inner city and minority ethnic communities.
She will be fitting the walks around her full-time job and expects to complete the route in September.
You can donate to Tsara’s Mid Devon and East Devon.
Or follow Tsara’s updates on Twitter @MidDevonWalker.