Well, we have done it!
We have launched Access the Dales and have just finished our first ever accessible Yorkshire Dales festival. Our festival began with the launch of the charity at Ravenseat where over 50 VIP guests, including our ambassadors Rachel Morris MBE and Peter Lau, were welcomed to the farm by our patron Amanda Owen.
Adam, Debbie and Andy’s son, gave a wonderful speech, which was both inspiring and emotional and Amanda cut the ribbon to declare that the charity was up and running with the first hub at Ravenseat. It was a tremendous sight to see all of our new wheelchairs lined up in a row.
We now have 14 different all terrain wheelchairs for people to borrow throughout the Yorkshire Dales.
After the speeches we all enjoyed a walk on the fells with the wheelchairs.
For so many of our disabled guests, it was the first time that they, and their families, have been able to access the countryside. It was a pleasure to see their smiles and share their tears of joy as they breathed in the 360-degree views of Swalesdale.
After our hike, Amanda and Clive welcomed us back to the farm with a bowl of hearty soup, which was much appreciated by everyone, as it was pretty cold up on the fells.
We are delighted that Jack and Theo have agreed to be our youngest ambassadors for our charity.
The celebrations continued into the evening with a Ceilidh Dance at The Engine Shed in Kirkby Stephen. A huge thank you to The Great Northern Ceilidh Band who donated their time and music to our fund-raising event. Everyone who came had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed the supper that was provided by The Bull Inn in Nateby
On Sunday we held our Inclusion and Diversity Day in Kirkby Stephen and enjoyed forest school activities, led by Lily from Kindling Play and Training. There certainly was no shortage of marshmellows for toasting on the day!
On Monday we were joined by TerrainHopper for a ramble at Gordale Scar. BBC news also came along to interview Debs and film our walk in the stunning location in Malhamdale.
Tuesday was all about Boccia and we were delighted to be supported by the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company who laid on a minibus for guests arriving at Kirby Stephen Railway Station which took us down into the town to join Anne Craddock and the ladies from Kirkby Stephen and Warton WI for an afternoon of Boccia; a game that has been made popular since its inclusion into the Paralympic games in 1984.
Access the Dales is delighted that gold medal winner David Smith has also agreed to be an ambassador for the charity.
The Westmorland Landscape Partnership led a great ramble on Wednesday around the stunning limestone countryside of the Westmorland Dales. We were joined by several wheelchair users, including some members of the Disabled Ramblers. In the afternoon we joined Anyone Can for canoeing. Unfortunately due to the high winds we could not canoe on Semer Water and had to drive over to Fell Foot in the Lake District to sail on Windermere. That didn't spoil the fun though! We have a great time and even managed to hoist a sail.
On Thursday Ann Sandell from Walkers are Welcome led a very wintry walk on Tailbridge Hill. We were battered by the wind and the hail but again that didn’t dampen the spirits, especially as we were treated to coffee and cake in the Bull Inn Nateby afterwards.
By Friday the weather had improved, and we were able to enjoy a stile free ramble around Malham Tarn in the sunshine.
It was great to see so many different types of all terrain wheelchairs on the walk. Thanks to Jonathan from where2walk for leading the walk.
Saturday was the finale to our festival, and we had a lovely ramble around the Old Gang Mines in Swaledale. The wind was bitterly cold, but everyone agreed that the battle against the elements was well worth the effort.
Over 200 people have joined us for the festival this week.
We have been blown away with the support that we have received from so many people and by the TV coverage that the charity has received.
All week, BBC Breakfast has been showing the short film and interviews about Access the Dales.
And so we have launched. Our first hub at Ravenseat is now up and running with the other hubs coming online shortly.
Behind any adventure like this one there are so many people to thank for helping to make the launch and the festival so successful.
Firstly, to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Sustainable Development Fund for supporting the festival. Without their help, the event would not have been possible.
To Nicola and David from the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership for helping to organise the Inclusion and Diversity Day and the ramble around Orton.
Thank you to Mobiloo for providing the changing place facility at both Ravenseat and at the event on Sunday.
To Gordon from Paratreker for his help in getting the manual all terrain wheelchair for the Ravenseat Hub. Thank you too to the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust for their donation towards this wheelchair
To Sam and Debbie from TerrainHopper for their donation of the Overlander 4Z.
To Anne Craddock and the ladies of the WI for organising the Boccia afternoon.
To Amanda and Clive for welcoming us all to Ravenseat.
To Chris Clement from H&H insurance for sorting out the insurance for all the wheelchairs. Not only have this company provided the insurance and liability for the vehicles, they have also created bespoke number plates for each one. We decide that each chair would be named after a river in the Yorkshire Dales- all except one... the TerrainHopper MIni which we have named ‘Batley Boy’, in memory of Andy. You can read more here.
To Rachel and Peter, our ambassadors, for making the long journey to attend the launch.
To the Kirkby Stephen Town Council for their donation towards the events that took place in Kirkby Stephen.
Thank you to Jo Loake from Weightmans Law Firm for helping us set up the charity.
Thank you to the four Occupational Therapy students from Hallamshire University, who are on a 9-week placement with Access the Dales to help set up the hubs. Holly, Emma, Rob and Alice have been working hard behind the scenes to make this week happen.
Our website is continually evolving so please keep visiting the site for updates about the hubs and about the accessible Yorkshire Dales. We are not charging for the loan of any of the vehicles, but we have set up a donation page if you would like to donate to Access the Dales.
And if you haven't noticed... our colour is orange!
From the ATD team x