Boots and Beards
Unique group helping Glasgow’s Asian community discover freedom, friendship and mental wellbeing in the Scottish mountains.
Kash Butt , 43 and his cousins Naveed Bakhsh, 44, and Zain Sehgal, 35, founded Boots and Beards five years ago after Kash fell severely ill. As part of his recovery, he decided to take up hiking to get fit. Family and friends were inspired by his Facebook pictures to join him, and he soon realised the walks could have a wider impact.
Kash, a pharmacy manager, said: “Nature doesn’t recognise colour; it is there for everyone. Also, there’s a lot of stigma about mental health in our community. It doesn’t get talked about, especially among males. It’s their bravado. They are the family head and have to be the strong one – sometimes that can be too much.”
Zain added: “When we started the group, men were opening up. They were with people their age and could share any issues they had with people they were comfortable talking to.”
Boots and Beards is open to all ages, faiths and genders, with pensioners and families with toddlers walking together. Groups are now mixed, but there is also a women only group called Bonnie Boots.”
Nafeesa Umar, 36, recently joined one of their walks: “It’s really difficult for Asian women to escape the mundanity of their lives sometimes,” she said. “I love all the different conversations we have. That feeling that we are all in it together.”
Boots and Beards is now a registered charity, and has branched out into badminton, spin classes and boot camps. They also organise Duke of Edinburgh expeditions.
Zain was recently invited by Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Park to join their board so they could better reflect the diversity of Scotland. The group regularly use the National Park as a destination for the trips they organise and recently celebrated their 100th walk with an event at Balmaha.