A new charity which enables people with mobility issues to explore the countryside is building on its success with plans to take the scheme nationwide.
Access the Dales aims to secure funding which would allow it to extend the services it offers in the Yorkshire Dales to other parts of the UK.
The charity currently runs four hubs from which people can borrow all-terrain mobility vehicles free-of-charge to enjoy the fells and dales of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Debbie North, who launched the charity earlier this year, said it was vital that as many people as possible were able to enjoy the landscape by improving accessibility.
She said: “The response to the hubs has been simply fantastic, from people saying it has allowed them to enjoy the countryside for the first time in years to families who are now able to enjoy the landscape together.
“We have had several requests to open hubs outside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park but we need the resources and infrastructure in place to make that happen. Our vision is to improve accessibility to the countryside across the UK and we’re appealing to people to help us achieve our mission.”
Access the Dales launched in April at the home of its patron Amanda Owen, who is known to millions of TV viewers as the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Amanda’s home at Ravenseat in Swaledale was the site of the first Access the Dales hub, with further hubs now located at Nateby, Tebay and Mallam. Two more hubs are due to open at Newbiggin and Settle.
The charity is supported by H&H Insurance Brokers which has covered the cost of insuring the all-terrain vehicles, assisted the charity with risk assessments, and designed and supplied unique registration plates for the vehicles. Access the Dales has also received donations of all-terrain vehicles and wheelchairs from TerrainHopper and TGA Mobility, as well as a handcycle from the John Sinnon Trust.
Debbie, who has been a wheelchair user for more than a decade, has campaigned for improved accessibility to the countryside for several years. She is chair of the Access for All campaign group and is a Government Disability and Access Ambassador.
She said: “We’ve had amazing support so far for Access the Dales but there’s so much more we can do.
“We want to make the inaccessible accessible and break down the barriers that prevent people with limited mobility from enjoying the countryside in as many areas as possible.”
Access the Dales was established in memory of Debbie’s husband Andy, who died in June 2021. The couple shared a love of the countryside, especially around their home in the Yorkshire Dales, and campaigned together for better accessibility to the outdoors.
Chris Clement, Commercial Director at H&H Insurance Brokers, which operates across the North of England, the Scottish Borders and Wales, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Access the Dales as part of our commitment to giving back to the community.
“What the charity has achieved in such a short time is remarkable. It is already making a huge difference to people’s lives and it would be fantastic to see its success replicated across the country.”