GETTING out into Britain’s wild, open spaces is an invigorating experience, writes Helen Mead.

It is a pleasure to visit the countryside, watch wildlife and breath in fresh air. But for large sections of society many areas are out of bounds.

For people with disabilities access to the countryside is often severely restricted. Wheelchair users in particular, find they are restricted to those places where special access routes have been created.

Now, at sites across Yorkshire including Ogden Water near Denholme, people with disabilities can discover more areas of natural beauty and explore further afield.

As the second largest landowner in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Water is striving to enhance access around some of its scenic reservoirs so more wheelchair users can visit these popular upland beauty spots.

According to the firm’s research, most visitors to its 70,000 acres of land are currently white, middle class and between 35 and 55 years old. In a bid to attract more disabled people, the company is improving pathways and disabled facilties at its most popular reservoir destinations.

“We have 115 scenic reservoirs dotted around the region and all these are popular with dog walkers, picnic-goers, runners, angler and cyclists, but we now want to make some of them more inviting to, disabled people as a go-to destination,” says Geoff Lomas, recreation manager at Yorkshire Water.

“This may mean improving paths around reservoirs by making them flatter, wider and addressing any surface issues so wheelchair users’ needs are met.”

Yorkshire Water has teamed up with Experience Community, a not-for-profit community interest company who help disabled people access the countryside.

The company has introduced the Mountain Trike, a special all-terrain wheelchair which enables disabled people to explore places they would otherwise struggle to reach.

Since the initiative - which has also improved access for conventional wheelchair users - was launched pathways have been improved at Grimwith in the Yorkshire Dales near Skipton, working in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and Swinsty in the Washburn Valley north of Otley, with work due to be carried out at its neighbouring reservoir Fewston.

Improvements have also been made at Damflask in South Yorkshire and Langsett on the edge of the Peak District. The work has already resulted in more disabled group trike rambles.

Ogden Reservoir near Halifax and Scammonden near Huddersfield are also wheelchair-friendly.

Gregg said: “This is about inclusion - making activities that are normal for most people accessible to disabled people.

“At Grimwith 700 metres of footpath was narrow and very muddy with a one foot-wide footbridge. Now it is so different, it is incredible.”

Experience Community hold Mountain Trike taster sessions at Oakwell Hall in Birstall, which can be booked. They are also making films of activities that can be enjoyed at Yorkshire Water’s sites, showing the reservoir pathways.

Yorkshire Water spokesman Tom Underwood said: “Disabled people want to know that if they are going to visit our sites they can do so with confidence.”

*Visit, call 07958 591 841 or email for further information.