Path planned to make Aysgarth Falls accessible to wheelchair users

Aysgarth Falls.

A path is to be made through Freeholders’ Wood to Aysgarth Falls that can be used by wheelchair users.

The access improvements will be funded by a Removing Barriers grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The pot of money will be used this year to design a path through the wood that will enable wheelchair users to access the lower falls for the first time.

Work has already been completed by rangers to create a path through hay meadows in Malham that is accessible to all.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s access and recreation officer Rachel Briggs has worked closely with campaigner Debbie North, who runs the Access the Dales charity, for a decade on accessibility improvements.

Rachel said: “The route in Malham is easily followed from the Malham National Park Visitor Centre, so people can feel reassured there is somewhere to park and somewhere to go to the toilet.

“It’s a flat, well surfaced route which takes you to a place where you can sit and listen to running water, which from visitor surveys we know people enjoy.

“We’re auditing for new access routes regularly.Some of the routes we promote as Miles Without Stiles are short routes that you could do in a manual wheelchair, places such as Cotter Foss in Upper Wensleydale. Other routes require an all terrain wheelchair, such as Sulber Nick in Ribblesdale, where you can get up close to the limestone pavement and go high for the views.  And there’s something in between for everybody.

“Things are improving all the time. Two changing places toilets will open soon in the National Park, one in Hawes, one in Grassington.  That represents a leap forward in terms of access for some people with disabilities; at the moment the nearest changing places toilets are in Skipton and Northallerton.”

Debbie North began campaigning for better access soon after she began using a wheelchair in 2010.

She said: “Being a wheelchair user for the first time, it was difficult.  There was a lack of information and no signposting as to where you could go.   I just think over the last 12 years or so the changes have been incredible. Within the National Park, there are so many more places that you can borrow the all-terrain chairs and the information is a lot better as well.

“We’ve had three different families contact us saying they’ve booked a week’s holiday in the Yorkshire Dales because they know there’s something accessible to do every single day.

“We’ve got a hub up at Tebay where you can now go up onto the Howgills, which is so off the beaten track; there’s a hub at Nateby near Kirkby Stephen, where you can get up to the tops and the views are just stunning over Wild Boar fell. And then you’ve got the wheelchair that is at Clapham nature trail where again there’s a gorgeous walk through the woodlands along by the lake.

“There’s Ingleborough Cave, the only accessible cave system in England, where you can go in a manual wheelchair and experience being underground – and that is a joy.

“The next hubs are going to be at Aysgarth Falls and in Leyburn and Bedale. At Leyburn there will be a different type of wheelchair – a fold up mobility scooter – that can fold up into a back of a boot and people can go off to explore Aysgarth Falls or up to the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes which is all accessible.

“In meetings I can see people falling asleep when it’s my turn to say something about access. But one of the chaps said recently that he’d never really understood what I was banging on about, but he did now because he’d had a hip operation and couldn’t climb a stile anymore.  So it’s wonderful that ‘Access For All’ is reaching so many people.

“The Yorkshire Dales National Park is certainly improving as a place for people with disabilities.

“There is a strong team of people pushing the message that it is a countryside for all; that the Yorkshire Dales National Park is for everyone.”

1 Comment

  1. This is amazing I have lived all over that area and enjoyed the endless sights north Yorkshire has still haven’t seen everything, being a chair user now for the last 3 years I never thought it would be possible to get back out there.

Comments are closed.