Following on from our project ‘Wheels in the Woods’ that was supported by the Woodland Trust Experience Community (EC) CIC were asked to deliver a workshop to help raise awareness of issues around access to the countryside for disabled people. We held it at the Canal & River Trust centre at Standedge in Marsden, West Yorkshire.
It was great to see people from a variety of different backgrounds on the day of the workshop. The morning started with a presentation by EC director Craig Grimes who talked about issues of access in a broader sense, how challenging it is to get from one place to another on public transport and particularly how difficult it is to get close to the countryside and nature from a wheelchair.
He talked about the work that EC does to improve access across countryside sites in Yorkshire, about the partnership work with Yorkshire Water who have made small changes on several of their sites such as widening gates, removing fencing, and also larger infrastructure projects such as installing ramps to avoid steps. All these changes have enabled improved routes for disabled people around their reservoirs.
Craig also talked about how EC is working with other stakeholders such as the Woodland Trust, National Trust, RSPB to look at access on their sites and how similar changes to those on Yorkshire Water can be implemented.
The afternoon session involved a visit to Tunnel End Woodland just along the canal from the centre.
EC has a licence to manage a small woodland from Kirklees Council for which we received the Community Woodland funding, and the Wheels in the Woods project aimed to make slight improvements in the woodland by upgrading the main pathway and carrying out small scale conservation work with disabled people.
We thought it would be good to spend some time on the day of the workshop in the woods for people to see the recent work that had been done.
In the woodland (in the pouring rain!) we looked at the small improvements that had been made to the area over the last few years. These included:
• Installation of RADAR key gate at the main access point
• Installation of benches along the main pathway
• Bird and Bat boxes on trees
• Bulb planting in the woods and the garden area
• Upgrade of main pathway through the woods
When we got back to the centre, and dried off, the visit to the woods prompted many questions from the workshop attendees. Evaluation of the day was very positive with many people saying they would go back to their sites and look at them from a different perspective with an aim to make them more inclusive.