Find out more about the team behind Access The Dales.
Debbie lives on a sheep farm on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. She trained as a teacher in Leeds, a career path that she followed for 30 years before spinal degeneration forced her into ill-health retirement.
Debbie love of fell walking blossomed when she met Andy, a keen hillwalker himself. But in 2008, she was diagnosed with spinal degeneration and was no longer able to walk the hills she loves so much. Andy refused to go exploring without his walking partner because it didn’t feel right.
After a spell of feeling sorry for themselves, Debbie and Andy teamed up with TerrainHopper, makers of a 4x4 all-terrain wheelchair, so they could get out into the countryside again.
With their hiking boots on and TerrainHopper charged and ready to go, they went on a mission to discover accessible walks in the Yorkshire Dales.
Debbie is a freelance consultant, writer and motivational speaker – an expert in accessibility in the Countryside – making the inaccessible accessible.
In Memory of Andy
Andy had a passion for the Yorkshire Dales and if he wasn't at home, he would be found up on the fells. Andy was an inspirational Deputy Head of a primary school in West Yorkshire for many years and made a difference to the lives of so many children.
Life changed significantly when Debs was diagnosed with spinal degeneration and since she became a wheelchair user Andy and Debs have become ambassador for accessibility to the outdoors.
Following a short illness, Andy sadly passed away on 29th June 2021.
Andy’s last wish was that we raise the money to purchase an all-terrain wheelchair specifically for children which will be located in an idyllic spot in the Yorkshire Dales, where families will be able to borrow it and will be able to share beautiful moments and enjoy the landscape that brought Andy so much happiness.
Over £16,000 has been raised so far and we have been able to purchase the first TerrainHopper… the start of Access The Dales.
Mel is a headteacher of Gomersal Primary School in Kirklees. She has a love of the walking and is passionate about getting children outdoors. Mel, Debs and Andy were often found out of the fells together and were known locally as the ‘Laid Back Trio’
Deaf musician and Community Arts Specialist Amy-Rose Atkinson set-up Access The Arts in 2016 with the aim of improving access and inclusivity within the creative arts. Her love of walking grew through the time she spent in the Dales with Debs and Andy and her husband Adam.
Jonathan Smith is an expert local walking guide, mountain leader and author. Jonathan leads navigation course in the Yorkshire Dales and despite being a football fan of Newcastle was a close friend and walking buddy of Andy.
"I am absolutely thrilled to be asked to be patron of Access the Dales.
All the family loved Andy and we cannot think of a better way to celebrate his life than by supporting Access the Dales – the charity set up in memory of a man who loved and walked the Yorkshire Dales.
I am passionate about getting children outside, whatever their ability. We are really excited that the first hub will be based at Ravenseat. The children’s TerrainHopper will be available for families to borrow so that they can get up onto the fells and experience the countryside like our own children.
Each of our kids has had a go on the Hopper and they were thrilled to drive it around the fells. It’s going to have a big impact on so many lives and help enhance visitor experience to the Yorkshire Dales. "