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Country Living launches ‘Access for All’

Country Living has today launched its Access for All campaign, championing the right of everyone to enjoy Britain’s green spaces.

Country Living launches ‘Access for All’
Campaign ambassadors (clockwise, from top left): Mark Lane, Bethany Handley, Chloé Fuller and Amar Latif.

This follows findings of a survey by the brand, which investigates barriers faced by disabled people when they’re out in the countryside.

Country Living spoke to more than 1,000 people with a physical disability or who care for someone with a mobility impairment. 80% of respondents described the countryside as their “green dopamine”, yet nearly 70% said they struggled to easily access green spaces.

Physical barriers

In the survey, 68% of respondents said they have problems accessing the countryside due to mobility issues; 93% disclosed they need to make extensive preparations before going out; and 71% said they research a route meticulously first. 52% said they rely on a map for accessible routes, with Google Maps being the most popular.

When asked which terrain caused the greatest difficulty, hills and mountains were the biggest hurdle [63%], followed by woodland [45%]. Stiles were the number one obstacle [70%], along with steps [69%] and cattle grids [48%]. Gates and bridges also caused difficulties.

Respondents said planning pitstops was essential. 92% looked for a pub, café or other rest stop, while 87% researched facilities in advance. 46% cited a lack of disabled toilets as a problem.

The benefits of the countryside

Despite the restrictions, 80% of respondents said they visited the countryside for their mental wellbeing. Just under a third [32%] said that their favourite pastime was birdwatching and 72% said they simply enjoyed being in nature.

Support to drive change

Just over a third [38%] said they struggled to find useful information from leading countryside organisations. The National Trust was named as the most helpful [43%], followed by council-run local parks [17%] and the RHS [16%].

To mark the launch of the Access for All campaign, Country Living has created an interactive map highlighting some of the UK’s best accessible countryside walks as recommended by disabled people. An accompanying guide will also be printed in the July issue of Country Living, on sale 30 May.

Louise Pearce, editor-in-chief of Country Living, says: “Of the 140,000 miles of footpath in England and Wales, only a few hundred are accessible to all. Country Living’s mission is to become the go-to destination for the disabled community, to give more people more opportunities for enjoy the countryside. In the next few months, we will roll out useful and compelling content across our platforms, including a guide to accessible beaches, gardens and parks – plus interviews with 2024’s top Paralympians. Together, we’ll campaign for more information, better facilities (such as benches on routes or wheelchairs for hire), a greater awareness of the issues experienced by people with mobility impairments and a national forum where those affected can share their knowledge.”

The Access for All campaign is supported by the following high-profile ambassadors:

Mark Lane, TV gardening presenter, author and gardening expert on BBC One’s Morning Live, says: “A physical impairment shouldn’t stop anyone enjoying the countryside. Since my accident, the word ‘no’ has fallen out of my vocabulary. But I can’t pretend it’s easy. I plan every journey in detail, looking for accessible routes. No one wants to spoil the countryside. We just want to open it up so we can all appreciate it. Even small changes can make a big difference.”

Bethany Handley, poet, writer and disability activist, says: “When I became disabled and a full-time wheelchair-user, it wasn’t the ability to walk that I grieved, it was being able to access outdoor spaces. And without those outdoor spaces, I would lose the greatest source of happiness and strength in my life. Or so I thought. It’s not my body that disables me in the outdoors but the barriers to access, many of which can be removed.”

Amar Latif, President of the Ramblers, TV presenter and blind explorer, says: “People think that if you’re blind, why would you want to go out into the countryside? What’s the point? But we love to use all our senses to make the countryside come alive. My blindness has helped me see the world.”

Chloé Fuller, TV pet expert and pet nutritionist, and wheelchair-user, says: “The cost of a wheelchair to access fields, beaches or forests can be in excess of £15,000 and yet that ability to access the countryside – with my beloved accessibility dogs – is vital to my wellbeing.”

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