Tuesday 31 May 2016

Yorkshire Water Opens Up Disabled Access!

Around two million people visit Yorkshire Water’s land, such as reservoirs, ancient woodland, and moorland, every year. These locations have become increasingly popular since they first opened up to the public after privatisation of the water sector in 1989. According to their research, most visitors to their 70,000 acres of land are currently white, middle class and aged 35-55+. However, they are now looking to attract more groups of people from younger visitors, to visitors from different ethnic minorities and disabled visitors by improving pathways and disabled facilities at their most popular reservoir destinations.

To encourage more disabled visitors, they’ve teamed up with Experience Community, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) who help disabled people access the British countryside. This has already resulted in more disabled group rambles around Yorkshire Water reservoirs, such as Langsett in South Yorkshire and Swinsty in the Washburn Valley, on specially designed mountain trikes and mountain bikes.

We live in a country which prides itself on natural beauty spots, we're lucky to be able to view such places taking in breathtaking views, capturing beautiful scenic photo's and living the memories over and over with the visits in our heads. As an auntie to two children who have difficulties with their sight, which may get worse as they're older, it's important for my family that such places we visit our disabled friendly. Yorkshire Water is the county's second biggest landowner, and its scenic reservoirs are becoming more and more popular with people who want to enjoy the countryside's renowned beauty spots - like myself and my family.

Geoff Lomas, Recreation Manager at Yorkshire Water said: “We have 115 scenic reservoirs dotted around the region and these are all popular with dog walkers, picnic-goers, runners, anglers and cyclists, but we now want to make some of them more inviting to disabled people as a go to destination. “This may mean improving paths around reservoirs by making them flatter, wider and addressing any surface issues so wheelchair users accessibility needs are met.”

Since this inclusive access initiative was launched last year, pathways have already been improved at Grimwith reservoir in the Yorkshire Dales, in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, as well as at Damflask and Langsett reservoirs in the Peak District. Plans are also in place to improve pathways around Fewston reservoir near Harrogate, which is seen as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of our land.

Geoff added: “In the past, Yorkshire Water’s land used to be off limits to the public but since privatisation in 1989 we have had an ever increasing number of visitors to our land. Many of our reservoirs are now recreational hotspots and we want to make them as inclusive as possible by providing information and access that is both informative and enticing to disabled people. Our partnership with Experience Community will help achieve this.”

They say Rome wasn't built in a day, so we can't expect these 115 scenic reservoirs to become disabled friendly overnight, what is encouraging to read and see is the plans that are in place and the action that has already been taken. It's unfair for people with disability needs to miss out, and whilst I know not everything is possible, it's great to see Yorkshire Water take significant information on board to help and change the way disabled visitors enjoy their visits, along with working with appropriate charities to ensure the changes are made accordingly.

Craig Grimes, Managing Director of Experience Community, said: “Gaining access to the countryside for disabled people has been an uphill battle, but co-operation from landowners such as Yorkshire Water really makes a difference. Through working with Yorkshire Water we’ve been able to identify various reservoirs where small changes to infrastructure such as widening a gate or better access has been provided. There are now new longer routes with varying levels of difficulty that we can use with our rambling and hand cycling groups.

Experience Community have done a number of short videos for their visitors on some of Yorkshire Water's reservoirs, just one of these can be viewed above, this video focuses entirely on the Swinsty Reservoir, but more can be found on the Experience Community website. To find other leisure destinations or to find out more visit Yorkshire Water.

Do you have any disabled friendly tips on visiting Yorkshire Water's reservoirs and lands? I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts below!

Jada x


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