Access For All
2nd October 2019 by Emma Mathias
Access to the outdoors is your right. Don't let anything get in your way.
The great outdoors are for everyone, regardless of your age, fitness, mobility level or experience.
And getting outside is your opportunity to take a step back from the pressures of everyday life and reconnect with nature. So don’t let anything get in your way.
There’s overwhelming evidence that spending time outdoors is good for both our mental and physical health. Getting fresh air and moving around is no doubt good for you, but many people underestimate the benefits of taking time out of our busy lives, clearing our minds and focusing on enjoying our surroundings. It gives us time to reset before going back to reality.
So let’s take a look at some of the barriers to getting outside and how you can get around them to make your adventures a reality.
Everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors, regardless of their ability. However, if you have limited mobility then you may encounter more obstacles than most when it comes to making outdoor trips a reality.
Depending on your particular abilities, the problems you could face vary greatly. You may be able to walk reasonable distances on flat ground but still encounter issues such as steps or stiles. Such things could present a challenge to overcome or prevent you from enjoying your outing at all.
Whilst you are entitled to take a wheelchair anywhere that is open to walkers, this may not always be a practical option. Uneven surfaces, steps and steep or narrow terrain can all be major obstacles. But this does not mean there are no options out there. Nowadays there are many resources that can assist you in knowing how to access and enjoy the outdoors.
Ultimately, you need to decide if a route is within your ability by doing you research but these resources can be an invaluable tool:
- Disabled Ramblers – The Disabled Ramblers are a group that organise countryside visits using all-terrain scooters.
- Access for all – The National Parks website has a dedicated page relating to accessibility within the parks. It lists walk options that are suitable for those with mobility needs as well as providing information on mobility vehicle service hire.
- Miles Without Stiles - Many of the national parks have a ‘Miles without Stiles’ page. This lists routes within the park that are suitable for people with limited mobility. Each walk is graded either For All, For Many or For Some and explains the ability necessary to complete the walk. Each route lists the distance and directions as well as a map of the walk.
- Ramblers Routes – Search this site for Easy Access and Easy routes.
- Group Walk Finder - for Easy Access and Easy led walks.
This can be a big one. Maybe you haven’t done much physical activity in a while and don’t have much confidence in your ability. Or you’ve had an injury that’s prevented you from getting outside. Or maybe life just got in the way and by the time you realised how much you missed taking that precious time out for yourself, it just seemed too late?
In this modern world of constant comparison, it’s easy to feel like you don’t ‘belong’ in the outdoor space. That maybe because you’re not as fast or strong or young or fit as others, that you are somehow less worthy.
Well, you have every right to be in the outdoors and the best part is that there is no competition. You’re free to walk at the pace you want and as far as you like, without judgement.
So when the only person holding you back is you, what do you do?
- Do the activity you intend to do – The best way to get in shape for a particular activity is by doing it. It’s that simple. So if you want to be a hill walker then get outside and start walking. If you want to cycle, then get on a bike. That way, you’ll be training the muscles you actually need to succeed.
- Start small – You don’t have to climb the first mountain you come across. Start with small goals and work your way up as you gain more confidence and fitness. The more time you spend on your feet, the more your body will adapt and get used to it. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do more than is comfortable. Instead, aim to gradually increase your activity over a number of months.
- Keep it fun – Encourage some friends to come along on the adventures with you. It makes it more enjoyable and allows you to share both the good and bad times.
- Be realistic – Don’t give yourself unachievable goals. Instead, break down a bigger goal into smaller ones. By achieving these smaller ones you move towards the bigger goal whilst keeping motivated and learning about your own abilities.
- Take breaks – Don’t overdo it. Allow yourself to take breathers, enjoy the views. It’s supposed to be enjoyable so let yourself be happy.
The great thing about children is their incredible imagination. They have the ability to make even the most mundane things into a wild adventure. Whilst it’s not always easy keeping them entertained, the outdoors can be their never-ending playground if you’re prepared. You may not be able to climb mountains with them just yet but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an adventure.
The first thing to consider is walking ability. If they’re still in a pushchair and will sit happily then you’ll need to decide on an accessible route without small kissing gates and stiles. If they’re willing to be carried in a baby carrier backpack then you’re focus may be how far you’re willing to carry them for!
If they’re at an age where they don’t like to sit still but aren’t the most confident walkers yet then distance, and options to stop will be your main priority.
Then you’ll need to consider entertainment options. A big open walk is unlikely to capture the minds of little ones. But a woodland walk with leaves to crunch, twigs to collect and insects to inspect can completely open their minds.
There are so many options nowadays to entertain children, whether it be a woodland treasure hunt, an outdoor play area or searching through rock pools. Just remember that new textures, sensations and sights will keep them endlessly entertained.
And finally, you’ll need to make sure you bring the essentials – snacks and water, some warm layers, wellies or boots if they’ll be running around and something warm and dry for the car journey home.
On a warm sunny day, the outdoors can seem like the perfect place. However, when the fog comes in or the weather turns foul, you can quickly find out how vulnerable you are to the elements. That’s when experience comes into its own. But how do you get this experience?
There are a number of ways to learn the skills necessary to enjoy the outdoors in all weathers and terrains.
- Start small – you can gain experience by going out and doing it for yourself. Just start with something small and manageable and work your way to harder routes as you learn more skills. Reading outdoor books and watching you tube videos can also be a great resource. Just remember to always operate within your level of experience and ensure someone knows where you are going and when you’re expected back.
- Use friends – If you know some outdoorsy people then use them! Ask them to take you along and teach you some of the basics to build up your knowledge and confidence before branching out on your own.
- Join a group – There are numerous different outdoor groups for every activity and every age group. Joining a group gives you the opportunity to meet like minded people and learn new skills in a safe environment with the support of others.
- Attend a course – If you want to learn some more technical skills, such as the art of navigation or winter walking then a course can be a great option. Although you normally have to pay, you get expert tuition to get you skilled up in a very short space of time.
Short on time
There’s no doubt that everyone leads very busy lives nowadays. But that doesn’t have to stop you from getting outside. Sometimes you just need to adjust your expectations and prioritise those things that make you feel good. So if you’re struggling with time, why not try a micro adventure?
A micro adventure is a small manageable adventure that you build around your life. Whether that be going out your way to watch the sunset or rising early for a sunrise bike ride. Or maybe spending the night under the stars not far from home or even in your own garden. You can build adventure into your life.