One of the participants at the Grimwith event. Photo: Yorkshire Dales NPA

One of the participants at the Grimwith event. Photo: Yorkshire Dales NPA

A group of people with disabilities has given the thumbs up to a national park’s event which gave some of them their first taste of enjoying the great outdoors under their own steam.

More than 50 people gathered at Grimwith Reservoir in the Yorkshire Dales to try out all-terrain wheelchairs on a 7km (4-mile) walk around the area.

The path around the reservoir, near Grassington, has been improved to make it wheelchair friendly, with a new surface and the removal of barriers such as stiles and narrow gates. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority organised the walk.

It said, for some participants, it was the first time they had tried to travel over rough ground – and they were amazed at what they could do.

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.

The authority said 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.

Park staff are looking at similar ideas for events for next year that would meet people’s needs.

The path around the reservoir has been improved to make it wheelchair- and trike-friendly. Photo: Yorkshire Dales NPA

The path around the reservoir has been improved to make it wheelchair- and trike-friendly. Photo: Yorkshire Dales NPA

Nick Cotton, the authority’s member champion for recreation management, said: “Some of the objectives of the Government’s eight-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 Yorkshire Water’s largest 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.

Grimwith Sailing Club opened up its facilities for the event on the day.

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