Born and bred in South Leeds, I grew up spending my holidays and spare time exploring Yorkshire. You could find me on an annual summer holiday to Scarborough or spending a few days walking in the Yorkshire Dales or North York Moors. Once, with the 4th Gildersome Scout Group, I even hiked from Kettlewell, up Great Whernside to Hag Dyke in snow drifts, carrying all of my bedding and kit for the weekend. Walking was in my veins, but what happens when all that changes?
Back in the mid-1990s, I was pursuing my passion for the outdoors and conservation by studying a degree in geography and environmental science. My plan was firstly to study otters for a few months as a volunteer in the Czech Republic. Next, I would continue onto a Masters in National Park Management at Aberystwyth University. Unfortunately, my plans didn’t come to fruition: an accident left me paralysed from the chest down and a wheelchair user. I couldn’t continue on my chosen career path, with access to conservation opportunities now closed off to me.
14 years later and after living, working and travelling throughout Europe and Central America, I returned to Yorkshire. With a wealth of experience of working in the inclusive travel industry, I wanted a new challenge. I decided I wanted to help other people like me enjoy the great outdoors. More than just thinking of a one-off adventure, I envisaged something you could do on a weekly or monthly basis.
And so, I established Experience Community with the aim of building a community of disabled people who, along with their families and friends, wanted to share the experience of being in the great outdoors. It’s now almost 10 years since Experience Community was established and I’m proud that we’ve been asked to partner up with #Walkshire to share our knowledge of some of the best walks in Yorkshire for people with disabilities.
Many of my favourite places to roam are in the Yorkshire Dales. Above all, Nidderdale, Scar House and Grimwith Reservoirs come springing to mind. The Colne Valley, in the South Pennines just west of Huddersfield where I live, is always close to my heart. It’s amazing what you can find right there on your doorstep.
In the spring, I like to get out to woodlands to spot the bluebells and smell the wild garlic. In summer, I explore the more hilly and remote trails and in autumn I head to fungi hotspots as their colour and form fascinate me. When winter arrives, I prefer managed sites like Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and RSPB reserves and reservoirs that are more wheelchair-friendly. There’s plenty of overwintering birdlife to see: the Aire Valley is particularly great at this time of year.
If you have a disability and would like to share your favourite walk with me, please do get in touch via email on [email protected] or through our social media networks.