IMPROVEMENTS to access the outdoors for the disabled at Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs, in the Washburn Valley north of Ilkley and Otley, is being helped by a partnership between Yorkshire Water and Experience Community.

Experience Community is a not-for-profit community interest company (CIC) that provides activities, films and information about walks and other leisure activities for disabled people and the wider community.

The organisation recently led a group of people around Swinsty reservoir, providing some of the attendees with use of Experience Community’s fleet of specialist off-road wheelchairs to allow them access to the popular outdoor attraction on well maintained and accessible tracks suitable for wheelchairs as well as buggies and pushchairs.

Visitor Mel Harrison who took part in the event at Swinsty, said: “I recently took part in a ramble around Swinsty. It is so important to be able to get out into the countryside, have good parking facilities, and accessible routes - so that everyone can benefit from being outdoors, enjoying beautiful scenery and all that nature offers, while getting valuable exercise at the same time.”

Phil Tennyson, countryside and recreation advisor at Yorkshire Water, said: “We know how important nature is for mental health and this partnership has been vital in expanding access to our sites to those who may not have thought it was an option for them.

“Our partnership with Experience Community has been running for over five years and continues to offer support for people with disabilities to experience the fantastic recreation sites we have around the region.

Rik Legge from Experience Community added: “A great many people enjoy being in the countryside; as well as being an excellent place to exercise, green spaces are known to help maintain our mental health and wellbeing.

“However, for disabled people, getting into these spaces can be incredibly difficult. Issues such as suitable parking, physical barriers such as gates and stiles, and rough terrain can all contribute to this difficulty.”

“For this reason, the partnership between Yorkshire Water and Experience Community is invaluable. By working closely, we have managed to increase opportunities for access at several sites, which has included physical improvements to facilities and paths, information videos and development of the Phototrails app to provide route details and guidance, and frequent events for disabled people at these sites.”