The beauty and splendour of the Yorkshire Dales is intended to be open to everyone,
But those with limited mobility, particularly those who use wheelchairs, may sometimes believe that this doesn’t always apply to them. There are, of course, natural restrictions that make certain parts of the terrain less accessible, but there are many parts of the countryside that are easily accessible to everyone.
And the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority recently organised an event to prove that. The authority’s Nick Oldham reportshas written this report on the event...
What a fantastic day out!
That was the reaction from a group of people with disabilities after they had the chance to go off ‘under their own steam’ around Grimwith Reservoir near Grassington.
More than 50 people met at the Grimwith Sailing Club HQ to try out different all-terrain wheelchairs on sections of a 7km circular walk round the reservoir. The group included individuals who either use a wheelchair or would need to use one to go on a walk with friends or family, adults with visual impairments and some adults with learning disabilities.
For some it was the first time they had tried to travel over rough ground – and they were amazed at what they could do.
The open day was organised by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and aimed to introduce people with disabilities to the idea of tackling more rugged landscapes.
And it was such a success that all the organisations involved want to run another – and the people who took part are keen to come back to go on more walks in the National Park.
Now YDNPA staff are looking at similar ideas for events for next year that would meet people’s needs.
Nick Cotton, the Authority’s Member Champion for Recreation Management, said: “Some of the objectives of the Government’s 8-point Plan for England’s National Parks are to realise the potential for outdoor recreation in national parks and to encourage more diverse visitors to them.
“People who have a physical disability or long-term health condition that limits their mobility are less likely than any other group of people to get out into the countryside, despite the clear benefits to their physical and mental health.
“The Authority works towards increasing physical access through its ‘Miles without Stiles’ programme that improves the surface of rights of way and removes physical barriers such as stiles and narrow gates with land managers’ agreement.
“And it has been working with organisations such as Huddersfield-based not-for-profit Community Interest Company Experience Community and with Access the Dales to explore what could
be done to help people with physical disabilities access the National Park.
“The aim of the Grimwith open day was to help more people to use the improved footpath network by showing them where they can go if they already have the all-terrain wheelchairs
or trikes or by giving them the chance to try one out if they haven’t.”
The footpath around the reservoir was recently opened up, with stiles and kissing gates being removed and the footpath surface being improved so that all-terrain wheelchairs can
complete the full circuit. The work was carried out by the National Park Authority in partnership with Yorkshire Water, who funded the project, with additional funding from the British Mountaineering Council’s Access and Conservation Trust.
Organisations that brought people along and/or supplied equipment on the day included Access the Dales and Terrain Hopper, Experience Community, the National Trust, Lancashire County Council, Yorkshire Trike Tours, and Open Country.
Grimwith Sailing Club very generously provided access to their facilities for the day.