A Yorkshire charity has launched a free resource to encourage people of all abilities to walk and cycle around Leeds’ green spaces.
Open Country, which has bases in Harrogate and Wakefield, has produced new ‘Breakfree’ packs to inspire and inform people of the many accessible routes across the Leeds city region. Although the pack has been launched with disabled people in mind, they are also perfect for families with young children and pushchairs, anyone who might struggle with exercise and older people with mobility problems.
The two packs are split into Leeds South & East and Leeds North & West and feature 24 short trails around parks, nature reserves and reservoirs across the district. Sites include popular spots in rural settings such as RSPB St Aidan’s as well as more urban green spaces such as Middleton Park and Thwaites Mill and the River Aire.
The individual route cards give a detailed trail description of the terrain, gates or barriers, the gradient, and features of interest including play areas, wildlife watching opportunities and information boards. The route cards also include the public transport options and list if there is a cafe and WC facilities and whether these are accessible to all.
The Breakfree packs have been created with the support of CityConnect, a project led by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which enables more people to travel by bike and on foot around the county.
The pack is free to download from the Open Country website at www.opencountry.org.uk/breakfree and groups and individuals with disabilities can get hold of a free printed version of the Breakfree pack by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The packs will also be free to pick up from many of the outdoor sites featured and will be shared with disability groups across the Leeds city region.
Research by Leeds Beckett University for Get Set Leeds found that 21% of adults were doing less than 30 minutes of activity per week which classes them as ‘inactive’. This is even less in the disabled community. Barriers to participation in physical activity include a lack of local information, access to transport and fears over the accessibility of places.
David Shaftoe is Open Country’s Chief Officer and comments:
“The new Breakfree packs aim to break down some of the barriers to participation in the outdoors and are a real celebration of some of the green spaces in our urban environment. Residents of the city are lucky enough to have over 800 kilometres of Public Rights of Way and permissive paths available to walkers and cyclists, as well as 62 community parks and several nature reserves – so many opportunities for outdoor adventures!
Our Breakfree packs feature the most accessible of these places, detailing everything you need to know to make an experience in the outdoors more enjoyable and demonstrate just how easy it is to access some great places on our doorstep.”
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said:
“I pledged to make our region more inclusive, and enabling people with disabilities and mobility issues to access to our parks and nature reserves is an essential part of this. Green spaces are often a focal point for the community, providing welcoming places for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy walking and spending time. Through support to valuable organisations like Open Country, we can help make these spaces accessible to everyone and West Yorkshire a great place to live, for everyone.”
Cllr Manisha Kaushik, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee Lead Member for Active Travel, said:
“I am pleased that Open Country’s Breakfree packs are now ready for people across our region to use. I know they will be an invaluable resource for people, families and groups who find accessing green spaces more challenging.
“Initiatives like the community grants scheme, delivered through our flagship CityConnect programme, mean we can provide support to grass roots organisations like Open Country to deliver the projects which make a real difference in the communities they work in. I look forward to seeing more and more Breakfree packs in the future as we work together to encourage more people to cycle and walk as part of their everyday lives.”
Open Country has been championing countryside access for all for over 30 years and runs weekly activities including tandeming, countryside walks and wheelchair friendly outings to enable people with a disability to enjoy a day in the outdoors. The charity also provides information, training and advice to landowners, councils and outdoor organisations looking to improve disabled access as well as producing Countryside Directories for areas across the north of England to help people discover accessible places to visit, clubs to join and things to do.
The charity believes passionately that the countryside should be accessible to all and champions the use of green spaces to improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing. This new resource is the latest in a series of Breakfree packs produced by the charity with others featuring trails around Wakefield, Harrogate, Nidderdale and Wharfedale.
For more information about Open Country’s work visit www.opencountry.org.uk
This post is based on a press release issued on behalf of Open Country
Photo: Open Country Chief Officer David Shaftoe (right) launch the Leeds Breakfree packs with members of Open Country