I put pen to paper (actually fingertips to keyboard) as an outlet to vent my pent up frustrations of not being able to get out for a walk in the hills and dales of my beloved Yorkshire. The reason… I was now in a wheelchair.
Though I had a fairly robust powerchair – affectionately named ‘The Beast’ – it really struggled on gravel of more than 5cm deep. Any uneven ground would trip the motors and I would have to wait a few minutes for the wheelchair system would reset itself.
Though Andy and I still tried to get outdoors, I became weepy when I would watch other people don their hiking boots and sling their rucksacks onto their backs and head off for a day in the hills.
That first blog of ‘accessthedales’ created a lot of attention. I received many emails and messages from other wheelchair users who wanted to get out into the countryside, but didn’t know where to start looking or who lacked the confidence to go and explore new areas.
These messages were the kick up the backside that I needed. I vowed then that I would do all that I could do to flag up wheelchair walks.
I became a member of the mid Lincolnshire Local Access Forum ( at that time we were living in Louth) and a member of the Yorkshire Dales Access For All Forum.
We raised the funds for an all terrain wheelchair for the Yorkshire Dales National park, which is housed with the National trust at Malham Tarn.
I spoke with the National Parks about accessible trails and the need for more challenging and exciting walks with wheelchairs.
I began researching all terrain wheelchairs and discovered the huge range of chairs that are available on the market.
In 2015 Andy and I completed a Coast to Coast Journey from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay using a 4×4 all terrain wheelchair called a TerrainHopper.
Our adventure captured a lot of media attention. I was doing live radio interview every few days with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, telling stories of our C2C crossing. There was a double page spread in the Trail magazine. We were filmed for ITV Borders, did interviews for Rohantime, Lincolnshire Life, and Dalesman to name a few. We had our first book published ‘In the Spirit of wainwright’
In 2016 I was asked by Gina Bradbury Fox – MD of The Outdoor Guide if I would like to work with them in developing a whole new section of TOG that would be dedicated to wheel friendly walks. And so AccessTOG was born.
By 2017 Andy and I have relocated back up north and now live on a sheep farm in Nateby, Cumbria. It’s an ideal setting for us in terms of developing accessibility for all as boundaries for The Yorkshire Dales National Park is across the farm track, we are 25 minutes from the Lake District National Park, we are 15 minutes into the North Pennines AONB and 45 minutes from the North York Moors.
I am now a volunteer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park and a member of their Local Access Forum. I do regular key note speaking to various audience around the UK. I have travelled to Germany to explore their Barrier Free country.
We have been out filming for C5 ‘ What home Means to us’ and for C4 lakes and dales programme that will be aired later in the year.
This week I was honoured to receive “Countryside Hero” award by the Dalesman. Andy and I had the most wonderful afternoon at Broughton Hall, near Skipton with other guests of Dalesman Magazine. I feel very humble to receive this award. I do what I do, because I love doing it, whether it be in the mountains in the Terrainhopper or at lower levels in the TGA WHILL.
Spreading the word about all the good work that is being done around Yorkshire and the UK in terms of making a ‘Countryside for All’ gives me great pleasure and I love hearing from different people and different groups who have their own adventures in wheelchairs and are happy to share them with AccessTOG.
We are always happy to receive your blogs about your wheelchair adventures at AccessTOG. Please send them in via our community blog page on The Outdoor Guide or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading,
Read Debbie’s original blog article here …