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Everyone has the right to access the countryside and The Yorkshire Dales National Park work tirelessly to ensure that there are good routes and tracks for people in wheelchairs. With this mind, I work closely with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Local Access Forum, which advises the YDNPA on public rights of way and open air recreation.
Part of my role is to go out as a volunteer with Rachel Briggs (Access Officer for the YDNP) to audit routes for accessibility.
Many of these routes are packaged as ‘Miles without Stiles’ – barrier free tracks, ideal for wheelchair users. There are currently 17 ‘Miles without Stiles’ walks within the YDNP with more to come on line in the near future. This is why I was so excited to be asked to go a try out one of the finished sections of the new ‘Swale Trail’ that when finished will be a totally accessible.The Swale Trail, when complete, will be a 12 mile (20km) track in Swaledale, between the picturesque villages of Reeth and Keld. 75% of the track will be traffic free, which is absolutely fabbo.
Though there are sections already laid, the official opening of the track is planned for Easter 2018.
I completed the section from Gunnerside towards Low Lane covering a distance of about 6 miles in total.
Andy and I followed this exact route when we were Coast to Coasting in 2015. Back then there was terrible river bank and tree root erosion making what should have been an accessible path practically inaccessible. But this has totally changed thanks to the Swale Trail project.
Despite the poor weather, it was a pleasure to be outdoors in a stunningly beautiful location. The track was perfect for the WHILL and, even though it is relatively new, the track looks in keeping with the natural environment, with plant and wildlife thriving along its path. I will be definitely going back to Swaledale and doing more on this track.
The track surface is made from compounded aggregate. The WHILL travelled over the track easily and is the ideal chair to use for this route. As the controls on the chair are all encased and sealed, it did not matter that we got absolutely soaked to the skin! Thank goodness for waterproofs!
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