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Adventure is out there: Martin's accessible outdoor spaces

It’s well documented that being outdoors is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. But making the most of nature isn’t always straightforward if you’re a wheelchair user. Self-confessed outdoor adventurer, Martin Hywood was diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy in 1996 and loves exploring the great outdoors. Here, he shares some of his favourite outdoor spaces across the UK – all fully accessible.

Thanks to my wheelchair accessible vehicle, I can travel far and wide, and since realising how good the great outdoors is for my mental health and physical health, that’s exactly what I do. Whether in a forest, by the coast or beside a Loch, I love exploring the UK with my family, trying to find and recommend places that are accessible and inclusive for all. Adventure is out there, and I believe we should all be making the most of our outdoor spaces. Here is my current list of favourites, from the South of England to the Scottish Highlands and everywhere in between.

Eden Project, Bodelva, Cornwall

So much more than just a botanical garden! Explore the rainforest biome and outdoor gardens or visit one of the permanent installations or temporary exhibitions. As a major cultural venue, the Eden Project has hosted the likes of Elton John, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, Oasis, and Queens of the Stone Age to name but a few. And they’ve won multiple awards for their accessibility and inclusivity.

www.edenproject.com/ 

Worthing, West Sussex

Located at the foot of the South Downs, Worthing is one of the biggest seaside towns on the South Coast. It has a huge, wide-open promenade, a Lido to entertain the kids, and a fantastic fully accessible pier. As well as the seafront, there’s art, culture, shopping, and lots of foodie hotspots. You can also head west away from the town to Littlehampton, which boasts the longest bench in Britain!

timeforworthing.uk/

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London

One of the most biodiverse places on earth, with over 50,000 living plants, and the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse. Kew was an early leader in the development of seed banking and now collects a diverse range of seeds as part of the Millennium Seed Bank – the most diverse wild plant species resource in the world. The gardens are mostly flat so it’s easy to visit with a wheelchair.

www.kew.org/kew-gardens 

Blickling Estate, Aylsham, Norfolk

Made up of a Jacobean mansion, formal gardens and over 4,600 acres of woodland, parkland and farmland, Blickling Estate is considerably modern and accessible considering its age – the present red-brick mansion was built in the early 17th century. There’s an accessible multi-use trail through parkland, which everyone – wheelchair users included – can enjoy, whatever the weather.

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate 

Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

First enclosed as a deer park around 800 years ago, Bradgate Park is a huge 830-acre space with a wild and rugged landscape. There are hills but the lower part of the park is easily accessible, with wheelchair access the size of a small country lane!  There is also the opportunity to hire a ‘Tramper’ – an off-road, all terrain mobility scooter.

www.bradgatepark.org/ 

Delamere Forest, Cheshire

A great park already but one to watch for the future as it’s currently being redeveloped. They’re clearly prioritising accessibility as the first thing they did during phase one of the redevelopment was build a new Visitor Centre with a Changing Places facility. During 2024 and 2025 there are plans to improve existing trails and create new ones, improve signage across the forest and install children’s play equipment.

www.forestryengland.uk/delamere-forest

Clumber Park, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Dreamy forestry surroundings with more than 3,800 acres of parkland, gardens, and woodland to explore, and an 83-acre serpentine lake. The accessible pathways and hard standing parking make the park inclusive for all, and there’s the opportunity to hire accessible chairs and an off-road ‘Tramper’.

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park 

Dales Countryside Museum, North Yorkshire

Located right in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this museum has wide aisles, lifts, ramps, a low-level information counter, and Changing Places facilities. There are accessible paths through Wensleydale (yes, the cheese is from here) and the Cotter Force path – one of the National Park’s most accessible waterfalls with a specially graded path suitable for wheelchairs.

https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/places-to-go/welcome-to-hawes/hawes-walks-and-things-to-do/ 

www.dalescountrysidemuseum.org.uk/

Lake Windermere, Rayrigg Meadow, Lake District

At 10.5 miles long, Windermere in the Lake District is England’s largest lake. Admittedly this is essentially a car park, but it’s as close to Lake Windermere as you will get without being in or on the water itself! A convenient stop off the A592 brings you tranquillity by the water, a time to reflect on everything, in more ways than one.

https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/things-to-do/walking/mileswithoutstiles 

Kirroughtree Visitor Centre, Galloway, Scotland

This is like a theme park for adventurers, whether you’re on foot, bike, horseback, or a wheelchair user, with trails and fun for all ages and abilities. New fresh and very modern, with all-abilities trails, clear signage and accessible facilities – this is how things should be for all, everywhere!

forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/forest-parks/galloway-forest-park/kirroughtree-visitor-centre 

Glencoe Lochan, Highlands, Scotland

Probably Scotland’s most famous and scenic Highland glen. This is one of two locations in my top 12 without Changing Places facilities, but there are easy-access facilities, all-ability trails, and free parking for blue badge holders. We arrived in the pouring rain, but I didn’t even notice it so the breathtaking vista as you follow the wheelchair route obviously had an impact! There’s an unwritten rule of tranquillity here; everyone you bump into is silent as if they’re in awe of what they’re seeing, but it’s what you should come to expect in Glencoe.

forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/glencoe-lochan

The Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highlands, Scotland

No Changing Places toilet here either. However, it’s very accessible for manual and power wheelchairs, and really needs to be seen. Arguably the most famous viaduct in the world, as it’s featured in the Harry Potter films, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is located about 16 miles west of Fort William and surrounded by the most majestic scenery you are ever likely to see in the whole of the UK.

www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/glenfinnan-p236571 

Visit our Forest Bathing Garden

We’ll be at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 21–25 May 2024. Visit and explore our accessible Forest Bathing Garden, designed by Ula Maria and funded by Project Giving Back.

After the show, the garden will be relocated to the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Oxford. It will be a calm place to reflect and connect with nature for people with muscular dystrophy as well as clinicians and researchers, and with access to the general public too.

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