Dartmoor National Park has undergone a £60,000 infrastructure improvement scheme to make it more accessible to users of wheelchairs, pushchairs, and mobility scooters. The BBC reports that the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) have installed new gates and upgraded paths as part of a three-year programme to widen access.
Tim Russell, recreation and access projects officer, said: “The National Park’s upland moors, sheltered wooded valleys, varied flora and fauna, geology and archaeology, enclosed farmland and unrivalled opportunities for exploration are just a few reasons why people love Dartmoor.”
He added: “Working together with others, we’re doing brilliant work to help people from all backgrounds and abilities enjoy this wonderland landscape.”
“The funding builds on this work to make Dartmoor a much more inclusive place so everyone can appreciate its special qualities. It also shows we’re delivering on the ambitions of our Partnership Plan and commitments in the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.”
So far, £63,000 has been spent from the three-year funding programme by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).The Access for All funds have been used to expand the ‘Miles without Stiles’ project that was already underway across Dartmoor.
Stiles have been replaced with new easy-to-use gates and new surfacing material has been laid on pathways to provide access for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Improved waymarking has also been introduced to make the Miles Without Stiles routes easier to navigate.
Overall, £14.5m of Access for All funding has been released to improve protected landscapes across the country, including National Parks, national trails and forests. The programme was developed in response to the Landscape Review, which identified a demand to widen access and inclusivity in natural landscapes.
The programme is also linked to the Environmental Improvement Plan, which aims to encourage more people to spend time outdoors and among nature.
The Peak District National Park Authority has also used the funds to make improvements, including 35 miles of multi-use trails on former railway lines. It has also introduced facilities for less mobile users to hire adapted cycles and other mobility equipment.
Andrew McCloy, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “Many National Parks, not least the Peak District, are already on the doorstep of millions of people, helping to support the government’s ambition that no-one should live more than 15 minutes from green space.”
He added: “National Parks play a pivotal role supporting people, places, climate and nature. We have a proud history of creating and maintaining accessible walking routes, developing pioneering initiatives such as Miles without Stiles and introducing inclusive cycles.”
“Working in partnership with others to ensure access for all, we can help to ensure a consistent visitor experience and facilitate wider engagement with the outdoors. This additional funding will help towards developing and securing similar initiatives.”
Spending time outdoors and among natural landscapes can improve mood, increase self esteem, and lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also increases levels of physical activity and can reduce feelings of social isolation.
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