Creating a countryside that is accessible for all

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By Bob Clare 
www.lancashirewalks.com

Five years ago I was approached by Crowood Press to update their guide book ‘100 Walks in Lancashire’. When I told Kathleen Page, the then volunteers co-ordinator at Brothers of Charity Services, Lisieux Hall which supports people with learning disabilities her response was, “Good! You can make sure there are walks in the book that are suitable for people with disabilities.” I have to confess that up to that point I hadn’t given this aspect very much thought but as I started my researches I soon discovered that people in Lancashire had - namely its Countryside Service.

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Working with partners such as the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, District Councils and local business the Countryside Service had developed a number of ‘tramper trails” suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs and less agile walkers who find stiles difficult, and of course ‘trampers’, purpose built all-terrain motorised scooters. Such was the vision of the service that a number of these were purchased and sited at numerous locations in the county to be made available for those visitors who needed them to access the nearby countryside. Furthermore Lancashire County Council Countryside Rangers would help facilitate special events for the Disabled Ramblers so that its members could follow trails at group meets. Here was a vision giving access to Lancashire’s beautiful and diverse landscapes to those who in the past have been ignored or overlooked. 
The outcome of my researches was I included a number of tramper trails in the update of ‘100 Walks in Lancashire’ taking a degree of pride in reflected glory that Lancashire was at the forefront of such an enlightened and humane initiative. 


As I write this the Countryside Service is undergoing far reaching change. Along with museums and libraries it has been subject to reduced funding. At one point it might seem that it would be lost altogether until it was realised that with so many assets - over 90 in total - that county oversight would have to be retained. The assets include ‘flagship’ sites such as Beacon Fell Country Park, Wycoller Country Park, Spring Wood picnic site near Whalley and Marles Wood in the Ribble Valley. Perhaps less well known are sites created through reclamation and tree planting schemes. Amongst these are Rowley near Burnley, Woodnook Vale in Accrington and Preston Junction, South Ribble (featured on this page last week). 


From now on the Countryside Service will focus on the management of these sites shedding activities such as training and education courses and facilitating tramper meetings that were previously organised by its rangers. Under the new arrangement there will be no rangers at all as staffing has been reduced to two officers and part time administrative/clerical support. The aspiration is that many of the sites will be maintained with the help of community involvement and voluntary effort. It is a high expectation but quite a number already benefit from the support of ‘Friends’ groups that help with litter and report instances of fly-tipping. By building on these networks and developing new local groups it is hoped that Lancashire’s beautiful and diverse countryside will continue to be a place of enjoyment and recreation for all its residents. 
By way of marking the re-focusing of the Countryside Services I describe the Caton Moor tramper trail below.

DIRECTIONS

1. Nearby on the picnic area there is a detailed information board explaining the windfarm and its contribution to energy supply. Also there is a brightly coloured directional marker. From the car park it is necessary to drop back 50 yards on the fell road to reach the track leading into the windfarm. The track is composed of high quality compacted aggregate for most of the route apart from a short section of compressed earth. The way leads past a white memorial stone erected in memory of Anne Redferne who was executed at Lancaster in 1612 as one of the so called Pendle Witches. This is part of a number of identical monuments erected around the district to mark the 400th anniversary of the Witch Trials held in Lancaster. The track reaches a gate - the only one on route. After this it continues gently rising to the highest part of the route.

2. As the track swings right by turbine number 8 ‘Whinchat’ there are fine views across to Morecambe Bay and the Lake District beyond. The track then swings right again in front of turbine number 7 ‘Fox’ and begins a slight climb over a spur before joining the outward route.

WALK FACTS

Start: Caton Moor Wind Farm, SD 570643 LA2 9PR

Distance: 1½ miles/2.9k

Time: 1 hour

Summary: Disabled Ramblers Category 1

Map: OS OL 41 The Forest of Bowland.

- Walk and tramper trail devised by Lancashire County Council’s Countryside Service.