“Small changes can make an enormous difference to improving access for all. It is important to remember that any barrier – however well intentioned – will be a barrier to someone.” – David Shaftoe, Open Country

We’ve been delighted to present two Yorkshire organisations with one of our esteemed Good Access Scheme awards, highlighting their commitment to fostering accessible and welcoming natural spaces for everyone.

We presented Wentworth Woodhouse Country House near Rotherham, and the former Harrogate Borough Council, with awards to acknowledge their work in increasing accessibility in their gardens and grounds.

Wentworth Woodhouse, whilst undergoing a massive renovation project, is working to be more inclusive to visitors and Open Country particularly noted a range of measures including wheelchair-accessible portaloos, a quiet room for people with cognitive disorders, sensory areas, and inclusive features in playgrounds.

Harrogate Borough Council (now North Yorkshire County Council) also received a discretionary award for its exceptional work in improving accessibility around Stonefall Park, in Harrogate.

The removal of seven ‘A’  barriers that previously hindered the disabled community from freely accessing pathways highlights the Council’s dedication to creating a more inclusive environment.

As a Yorkshire charity dedicated to championing countryside accessibility for individuals with disabilities  we felt this was a landmark move in removing so many of these troublesome barriers.

Previous awardees of the Good Access Scheme (GAS), include Yorkshire Water, Otley Town Council, RSPB Fairburn Ings, Rodley Nature Reserve and Sustrans.

Our Advisory Groups, composed of disabled members and volunteers with lived experiences of access challenges, have played a crucial role in selecting recipients for the GAS award.

Rebecca Downton, Community Engagement & Inclusion Officer at Wentworth Woodhouse, said: We believe everyone should be able to experience and enjoy Wentworth Woodhouse, regardless of any access requirements.

“As you may imagine, this is a tall order for a Grade I listed building, but we are doing our best to create an inclusive and accessible site through our regeneration works… which, most recently, saw the installation of a new Changing Places facility in the Gardens. “We’re delighted our efforts have been recognised with a Good Access Guide Award and will certainly be continuing in our efforts to make Wentworth Woodhouse accessible to all.”

Chief Officer at Open Country, David Shaftoe said:  “We congratulate Wentworth Woodhouse and Harrogate Borough Council and thank them for their hard work in making important steps for improving access and enjoyment of the great outdoors for people with a disability.

“Small changes can make an enormous difference to improving access for all. It is important to remember that any barrier – however well intentioned – will be a barrier to someone.

“We would love to invite other Yorkshire organisations to put themselves forward for 2024’s awards, and we also welcome nominations for deserving projects from individuals and other organisations in our communities.

“Each nomination will help create awareness, engagement and, hopefully, provide some inspiration to others to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for everyone in Yorkshire.”

Last year, Open Country hosted its inaugural Good Access Scheme winners conference, attended by representatives from previously award recipients. The event proved so successful, there are now plans to make it an annual event, with the next taking place in November, hosted by this year’s winners, Wentworth Woodhouse

With over 30 years of knowledge and experience, Open Country is pleased to give expert advice and support to organisations looking to improve accessibility to open spaces, through its Countryside Advice Service. This resource provides training, access audits and extensive advice covering rights of way and more.

If you would like to make a nomination for a 2024 GAS awards please E: community@opencountry.org.uk. 

Open Country also creates and provides a series of ‘Breakfree’ Trails sharing inspiration and information on great accessible places to walk and cycle. Packs cover the Harrogate District, Leeds, Wakefield, Wharfedale and York.

These packs have been developed with wheelchair users in mind, but they also appeal to families with young children and pushchairs, cyclists, anyone who might struggle with exercise and older people with limited mobility. The trails have clear, colour maps for each location. To get your pack, please phone Open Country on 01423 507227 and we will gladly post them to you for free, or you can download them here



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