MEMBERS of Accessthedales will be donning their rucksacks and heading to the hills on Sunday for the start of their new long-distance trek designed especially for all-terrain wheelchair users.

Debbie North, founder of Accessthedales, and husband, Andy, were keen hill walkers before ill health meant Debbie had to start using a wheelchair. Since then the pair have been promoting accessibility in the countryside by pioneering new routes that are suitable for all-terrain wheelchair users.

“We have some wonderful countryside in the UK but it can be very difficult for people living with disabilities to enjoy it in its full glory," said Debbie, who has previously raised money for a cross-country buggy at Malham Tarn. "Through Accessthedales we are aiming to open up new routes and increase accessibility for all.”

Their latest long-distance trek – Coast To Coast To Coast – is a newly devised 81-mile route that will take seven days to complete. It starts on the shores of Semerwater and passes through North Craven en route to the finish point on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite in Cumbria.

A number of people will join the group for parts of the trek, including Jonathan Smith from Where2walk, who will accompany the group through the Howgills, and Rachel Briggs, accessibility officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, who will complete the section through the Yorkshire Dales from Ribblehead to Sedbergh.

And Judith Richards, managing director of Yorkshire Trike Tours, will complete the whole route.

She said: "Debs is an inspiration and accessibility to our stunning countryside for all is a joint passion."

Debbie’s sister-in-law, Suzanne North, who has co-ordinated fundraising, is another walker planning to join the trek.

The group is raising money for the Calvert Trust Kielder. Accessthedales raised £5,300 last year towards the cost of buying a TerrainHopper for the trust, and this year it is hoping to raise the rest of the money needed to secure the purchase.

TerrainHopper has agreed to sponsor the trek. “It is great to be able to support accessthedales in their campaign to promote accessibility in the countryside,” said managing director, Debbie Danztie.

Bradford-based disability charity, Bradnet, is also putting its weight behind the challenge with £500 of sponsorship and specially designed hoodies for the party. Bradnet staff members Scott Williams and Sarah Meredith will join the team for the first day of the trip.

Bradnet’s Sarah Meredith said: “We’re delighted to be supporting such a noble cause. Debbie is helping to open up the countryside for all, regardless of ability, and we are right behind her endeavours."

The trek also has the support of TV's Julia Bradbury, with Debbie acting as a wheel-friendly guru for the presenter's The Outdoor Guide. “Debbie’s story touched our hearts and we are thrilled to support her campaign,” said Julia.

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