Wheelchair users on a rough path at Langsett Reservoir

Inclusive Walking with Experience Community – Langsett Reservoir

Before his diagnosis with MS in 1995, Bill worked for the Army School of Mechanical Transport as a HGV driving instructor. After retiring in April 1996, he kept active by sailing with the MS Society. He took part in offshore sailing for three years, sailing round the south coast of England and the Western Isles of Scotland. He also competed in both the North Sea Trophy Race and the Fastnet competition as part of a mixed ability team. 

As well as sailing, Bill and his wife Fiona continued to enjoy hill walking, enjoying a big holiday to Andorra in 2005. However, bit by bit, walking holidays became more difficult due to Bill’s deteriorating mobility.

Bill said, “we first saw Experience Community (EC) and the Mountain Trikes on BBC Countryfile and then I tried out a Mountain Trike on an MS Military weekend for ex-military personnel where it was being demonstrated. We contacted EC and arranged to have a go on one of their trikes at a taster day at Oakwell Hall, Birstall, and several months later I managed to buy my own.”

Bill and Experience Community MD, Craig Grimes, at Oakwell Hall in 2015

Bill and Fiona live in Driffield and like to visit local sites such as Bempton Cliffs, Tophill Low, managed by Yorkshire Water, and Sledmere House and Gardens. They walk regularly with Driffield Striders and enjoy visiting local villages in better weather. Bill enjoys Hull Art Gallery which he visits independently or with friends – he can navigate the wide spaces in the gallery on his Mountain Trike. 

One of their favourite places they have discovered whilst rambling with Experience Community is Langsett Reservoir, managed by Yorkshire Water. Bill told us, “we like this site because there is a variety of scenery and terrain. There are lots of ups and downs, trees, open ground and water, the feeling of being at one with nature and lots of muddy bits!”

Bill on an Experience Community Ramble at Langsett Reservoir

While it’s a bit of a drive to get to Langsett Reservoir from Driffield, they both think it’s worth it. They told us, “Yorkshire Water have done some work on the footpaths so we can now do a longer route. The quality of the footpaths is great and most of it is accessible. It can get very boggy in places when it rains but that makes it interesting!”

The Mountain Trike that Bill uses, has, he says, given him some independence. However, more importantly, “it has given both of us back some of the life we’d lost. If I was still walking, we’d be out all the time and the Mountain Trike has given us some outdoor life back.”

Langsett Reservoir is just off the A616, near Penistone, with several disabled blue badge spaces in Langsett Barn car park. Please be aware that the car park tends to fill up quickly most days. There are disabled toilets available at this car park but there are no on-site café facilities. There is, however, the Bank View Café just across the A616, which also has a disabled toilet and great cake!

The main path at Langsett Reservoir is a good quality compacted surface.

For more information on Langsett Reservoir and other Yorkshire Water countryside sites, go to www.yorkshirewater.com/things-to-do/reservoirs and click on Langsett Reservoir.  

Please visit our website at www.experiencecommunity.co.uk for other walk ideas. If you have a disability and would like to share your favourite walk with us, please do get in touch through our social media networks or email us at info@experiencecommunity.co.uk

A wheelchair user with his dog at St Aidan's

Inclusive Walking with Experience Community – St Aidan’s

We first met Pete at Oakwell Hall Country Park in Kirklees, there to try out some of our adaptive equipment. He was looking for new activities to do after a mountain bike accident in 2014. This had left him in a coma, with a life-changing spinal cord injury. The accident meant he had to begin to use a wheelchair and try new things: he was no longer able to enjoy his main hobby of scuba diving and underwater videography because both his lungs had been perforated in the accident.

RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Reserve in southeast Leeds was somewhere Pete discovered after his accident. He was invited to visit the reserve by friends because the paths are quite suitable for wheelchairs, except for a climb from the wetland area back up to the car park and visitors centre. The site was once an open cast coal mine, flooded in 1988 after the riverbank collapsed to form a lake.

One of the many bird at St Aidan's
A cormorant at St Aidan’s – Photo by Pete Lau.

Pete now visits two or three times a week. It’s the wildlife, particularly the birds, that attracts him the most – he got interested in birds after his accident. He told us his fondness for St Aidan’s was because “it’s such a big site, it absorbs people and once you hit the trails you can find an empty spot. There are several trails around the site and the best track to take is to the lagoon where there are several lakes, all with accessible paths to them.”

A Great Crested Grebe at St Aidan's.
Great Crested Grebe – Photo by Pete Lau.

“Two of the lakes have reeds and there are lots of birds living and nesting amongst them. The lagoon area is also great for waders and geese.”

Pete explains that “it’s a special site because 25% of the UK population of black necked grebes, a rare bird, live on the site. You also get bitterns, which, 10-15 years ago, were not found in Yorkshire. There are some stunning and quite rare birds.”

Recently, a Slavonian grebe was spotted. These birds, according to Pete, tend to live further north. “There are only 12 or 15 sighted in the UK each year.”

A Slovonian Grebe visiting St Aidan's.
A Slavonian Grebe visiting St Aidan’s – Photo by Pete Lau.

St Aidan’s has four signposted trails, with the Trans Pennine Trail and the Leeds Country Way also passing through. Pete told us that “the tracks are all good quality and wide, with room for runners, horse riders and dog walkers. There is plenty of space for everyone, particularly at the moment as we’re having to keep our distance. There are also certain sections where you don’t see anyone, which is great as you see a lot more wildlife!” 

Pete uses an electric wheelchair attachment to get around the site. “I usually do between 3.5 to 5 miles on each visit. The electric attachment allows me to go further than if I was manually pushing. As a result, I can walk my dog Merlin 3-5 miles an hour, something very difficult in a manual chair. I can also carry heavy photography equipment in a rucksack at the front, easily accessible if I see something interesting.”

He also told us that while he can access the site independently, he sometimes goes with his wife Debbie or meets up with friends to walk the dogs. “The benefit of being outdoors for my wellbeing is fantastic, keeping me sane. You never know what you’re going to see. Sometimes you don’t see much depending on the weather but I’ve seen common cranes, short-eared owls, red kites, buzzards, and deer.”

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Pete has spent a lot of time at St Aidan’s and other nature reserves. He has also set up his own blog, Accessible Nature.

RSPB St Aidan’s is located between Castleford and Leeds. There are several disabled parking bays, which are free to blue badge holders, a small café and disabled toilets.  

A group of Mountain Trike users at St Aidens.
An Experience Community Mountain Trike Ramble at RSPB St Aidan’s.

You can visit Experience Community for other walk ideas and short films about access and facilities at a variety of locations throughout Yorkshire.

If you have a disability and would like to share your favourite walk with us, please do get in touch through our social media networks. You can also email us at info@experiencecommunity.co.uk

Inclusive Walking with Experience Community – Newmillerdam

Marie first joined Experience Community’s activities in 2014. She started out on our wheelchair walks at Dewsbury Country Park and along the Huddersfield Broad Canal. Soon after, she became a regular participant, then a volunteer and is now a Trustee of the organisation.

Even before she got involved with us, she’d started getting back into the outdoors after a life-changing event. A spinal cord injury in 2012 meant that she began to use a wheelchair. She had always loved the outdoors, enjoying camping and walking, and wanted to get back out into nature. Whilst still in the first three month rehabilitation period at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, one of Marie’s friends picked her up and pushed her around one of her favourite local places: Newmillerdam Country Park in Wakefield.   

Newmillerdam Country Park, Wakefield

Since then, every time she has returned to Newmillerdam, she has managed to get further and further into the country park. 

She told us that, “at Newmillerdam, there is a lake with a fairly flat path, just a few slopes – nothing too huge – which takes about an hour to get around. After starting off using a wheelchair, I then tried using a Freewheel (wheelchair front attachment) which helped me roll over the bark pathways but it’s only since I got a Mountain Trike (all-terrain wheelchair) that I was able to get off the lakeside path and further into the woodland. The Mountain Trike is the best piece of equipment to tackle the woodland as there are some sections both around the lake and in the woods that can get boggy in wintry weather. The Mountain Trike stops me getting really muddy!” 

Marie using her Mountain Trike on the boardwalk at Newmillerdam.

Marie likes a challenge, and the variety of paths that the woodland offers. “It’s nice to go around the lake for an hour or so, but if you want a longer walk, it’s good to get in the woods. The woodland terrain is up and down, and there are a couple of places where you can access the woods. There is one main car park and a second smaller car park at one of the entrances to the lakeside and while I can easily access some of the woodland paths, there are some steps and sections that are too steep.”

Marie getting off-road in her Moutain Trike in the woods.

Newmillerdam is beautiful throughout the seasons. Spring is a great time to visit because of the bluebells carpeting the woodland floor, though Marie’s favourite season is autumn because of all the colours of the changing trees. 

Alfie would also like to add that, “it’s a cracking place to look for sticks…”

Within the country park, there is the Lakeside Café and toilets. You’ll also find The Fox & Hounds nearby, a partly dog-friendly pub which has an access ramp. Marie says it’s a great place to end a walk around the Country Park.

Please visit our website at www.experiencecommunity.co.uk for other walk ideas. If you have a disability and would like to share your favourite walk with us, please do get in touch through our social media networks or email us on info@experiencecommunity.co.uk.

Alfie and Marie on their way home after finding the best stick in the woods!.