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How accessible have your wintery walks and wheels been?

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,472 Disability Gamechanger
edited January 5 in Coffee lounge

The Festival of Winter walks, held in December, gave us opportunity to reflect on the barriers disabled people face when navigating the great outdoors.

What's the deal with accessible walks?

Getting outside in the fresh air has arguably never been more important this winter, as we continue to spend most of our time inside due to covid.  From bracing park wheels to moseying around our local reservoir, the ability to be able to navigate outside spaces easily is one that can often be taken for granted.  But this isn’t a privilege shared by all.  Why?  Because stiles, wheelchair non-friendly routes and inadequate parking, amongst many other factors, can make the outdoor a pursuit just for some - namely those with agile non-disabled bodies.  

Learning more about accessibility in outside spaces

We spoke to Debbie North who works in Diversity and Inclusion for The Outdoor Guide (TOG) about what her job entails, and how she overcomes barriers to accessibility in country walks as a wheelchair user herself.  

Debbie told us:
I travel all around the UK with the TOG team, filming many of my walks which then sit on The Outdoor Guide website, along with an accurate description of the walk. The films that we make are a valuable resource for disabled people who can watch them from the comfort of their own home and make an informed decision as to the suitability of their own wheelchair for the walk. 

 Debbie smiling sat in her wheelchair with green hills and countryside in the background
 

I use a variety of wheelchairs myself, from my manual wheelchair to my all-terrain electric powered 4x4 TerrainHopper and I’ve been surprised by the number of emails I’ve received from people who are not wheelchair-users. They have chosen my walking routes because they either have children in buggies or because their dog cannot climb over stiles. My husband claims he’s in this category too. One gentleman said to me that he never really understood why I was ‘banging on about accessibility’ until he had to have a hip replacement and could no longer climb over the stiles. 

I am passionate about creating a countryside for all and it’s through my work with TOG that I am able to reach out to the people who can make the decisions and changes. I’m an active campaigner in the field of accessibility, particularly in the countryside. Slowly but surely, we are making a difference. We are making the inaccessible accessible for everyone.

About her personal favourite walks, Debbie said:
I have made the most of lockdown by exploring walks near my home in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. My favourite walks would have to be ones that take me into the mountains. Currently I am working my way through the top 30 peaks in the Yorkshire Dales – The Dales 30. Some are possible, some are not.  We look for routes which follow bridle paths, which by their very nature should be stile free. I love the Eden Valley as the scenery is stunning.  More of my walks can be found on The Outdoor Guide. I have pledged to wheel 1,000 miles in 2021.  I hope other people with disabilities will pledge it too!

We wish Debbie all the best for her challenge and thank her for kindly talking to our community.

To learn more about accessible routes around the UK, visit The Outdoor Guide’s access webpage and prepare to be inspired for when lockdown comes to a much-needed end.

Over to you:

• Have you been on any wintery walks over the festive period?  If so, were they easy to get around?
• What obstacles do you tend to face when visiting green spaces?  What could be improved?
• And lastly, do you have any wintery pics you want to share to brighten up this cold Tuesday?  Drop them below!
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Replies

  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,780 Disability Gamechanger
    My dad isn't able to walk long distances these days, mainly due to having two hip replacements. We went on two short walks over Christmas, both of which were pretty accessible. They were both totally flat, and had places to sit down at regular intervals just in case. We also always go somewhere that has toilets nearby, just in case! 
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  • woodbinewoodbine Member Posts: 2,303 Disability Gamechanger
    edited January 5
    I had to walk down to the village today to the chemist, it's ok going down but we live at the top of a hill so it's hard work coming back, luckily one of the neighbours made me a brew half way up the hill and we sat outside (social distance) and I got a breather .
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,472 Disability Gamechanger
    @woodbine Sounds like that cuppa came in handy!

    One thing I struggle with is a lack of public toilets.  Don't get me wrong, I don't expect there to be a portaloo at the top of Mount Snowdon  :D but there is a dearth of public toilets full stop, which is only magnified in many rural settings.  It makes it a struggle if you are caught short and have bowel/urinary urgency.  
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  • leeCalleeCal Member Posts: 2,711 Disability Gamechanger
    I agree about public loo shortages @Cher_Scope definitely not enough.

    Ive had one walk around a woods with two others and it was refreshing, muddy but nice to be out for the first time in around two weeks or so. 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    Where i live there are lots of walks i want to go go and have a look at the little hare where I live but I will need to wait for someone to go with me 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    edited January 8
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    This is little hare but I have just noticed after I posted the photo there is a name at the bottom help  what do I do 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,472 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @lisathomas50

    Thank you so much for that cute photo!  I've reposted the image with the name cropped off the bottom  :)
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  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    @Cher_Scope there is a badger and an owl swel my aim is to try this walk  where I live we have lots of walks I just need to sort myself out I am missing out 
  • eleanorhippyeleanorhippy Member Posts: 16 Connected
    You mentioned inadequate parking  but many of us have no car and rely of public transport. Near me is a huge nature reserve set up by the council with parking spaces. However the nearest bus stop is too far away to explore it . My battery would be down just to get to the edge.

    I think we should do a campaign to get taxi vouchers to take us to places where we can be in woods or wild beaches. 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,472 Disability Gamechanger
    @eleanorhippy Thank you for that, it's an extremely valid point and one that I'm definitely guilty of overlooking.  Outdoor spaces shouldn't be exclusionary on the basis of not having private transport, and your idea of taxi vouchers is absolutely fab.  What do other people think?  
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  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    Years ago in England they tried it I remember this because I was in a wheel chair at the time snd was having lots of hospital appointments  they only ran it for two years as it cost to much 

    About two years an application was put in to bring it back but they said it didn't have the funding to do buss passes aswel as taxi tokens 

    Its worth trying again though I thought the tokens were good 
  • GarzaGarza Member Posts: 88 Pioneering
    I am a wheelchair user and like to get out into the countryside as much as possible, one of the biggest barriers I face is the quality of the paths available if there are any at all, both in the type of material it is made from (lots are loose gravel which isnt great for a wheelchair user) or the width 

    I think another barrier more widely speaking is the expensive nature of something that would be able to cope with multiple terrains and also the extra space needed to keep and transport such an item 

    I have not heard of TOG before this so will certainly taking a look for some new ideas 
  • Linda_T1964Linda_T1964 Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I would love to get out into the country side, but I agree with Garza about the quality of the paths.  I have an electric wheelchair which is akin to a pair of sandals not suitable for rough ground or bad weather. I cannot afford (a sturdy pair of walking boots) an all terrain chair.  
  • eleanorhippyeleanorhippy Member Posts: 16 Connected
    I agree Linda. I found a footpath in Clase but it was far too muddy for my electric wheelchair. They never talk about us when new cycle paths are doing. 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    I agree with you all there are some lovely walks where I live and the paths are quite muddy  although there are slot of walks here in the countryside here thst have good paths 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    The photos are an example of one of the paths this is only for people and wheel chair users it goes along way and there are some lovely views 

    @eleanorhippy you could write to your local council or email or phone to explain that you would like to go to the nature reserve and explain why its difficult for you to get there sone councils are very good and very helpful  one example where my mum lives there is a lovely big garden center my mum loves it but she could only go if someone took her in the car 

    I emailed mums local council and got in touch with the local councilor and mp explaining the situation  it was looked at and discussed and they changed one of the bus routes so that it stopped outside of the garden center and its been proved to be one of the most popular bus routes thst they put extra busses on 
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 1,802 Pioneering
    The photos are in neath we have alot of walks with accessible paths if you can get to them they have a nice park in your city one with a nice lake they have a few nice parks and accessible paths along the sea fronts there is a wheel chair accessible walk in black pill 

    If you go online and type in accessible wheel chair paths in the Welsh country side it will come up 

    Margam Park is nice  and the gnoll in neath  and there is a nice place in singleton 

    Thats just a few places that I know personally 
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