Find out how the Paratreker is making an impact in the Yorkshire Dales

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The Paratreker Trail, all-terrain wheelchair can now be borrowed from a Yorkshire charity hub, creating opportunities for children with disabilities to experience the thrill of summiting a hill or navigating rough terrain.

The Paratreker is based at Ravenseat Farm, home of The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, and patron of Access the Dales, the charity behind the initiative. The hub, which opened earlier this month during a week-long festival to promote access to the Dales, is aimed specifically at children with mobility issues. It is one of five similar centres run by the charity in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Debbie North, the driving force behind Access the Dales, was delighted when over 200 people attended the festival, giving children the chance to try out the Paratreker and spend time with their families on the hills. She said: “It was amazing just to see people get that wonder moment when they experience the 360-degree views and say, ‘I’ve done it, I’m here.’”

Debbie speaks from first-hand experience. The blogger, motivational speaker and keen hillwalker, became a wheelchair user when she was diagnosed with spinal degeneration in 2011. With the support of her late husband Andy and their combined determination she continued to explore the outdoors in an all-terrain wheelchair and began to promote and facilitate access for all to the Yorkshire countryside she is so passionate about. On one of her first wheelchair adventures, Debbie recalled the exhilaration she experienced getting to the top of Gordale Scar. “I cried – tears of joy – that I had done it and that’s what I want Access the Dales to be able to do.”

When Andy sadly passed away after a short illness in 2021, Debbie resolved to continue the work they had started, gaining charity status for Access the Dales. A total of 14 all-terrain wheelchairs, including the Paratreker, are now available for loan across the five hubs.

The Paratreker purchase was made possible with the assistance of a grant from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, helping to make outdoor experiences a reality for children in the Upper Swaledale location.  Perfect for country paths, tracks and trails, the non-motorised wheelchair is easy to navigate with little effort and extremely comfortable for the user, enabling families to have lots of fun together in the outdoors.

Debbie explained that as some individuals are unable to operate a motorised scooter, the Paratreker is an important addition to the diverse wheelchair fleet. “One size doesn’t fit all,” she says, “It [the Paratreker] is very sturdy and can be pushed easily by one or two people and it also has straps on the front for someone to pull. It means people who have no manual dexterity whatsoever can still enjoy the experience on the fells.”

While the Ravenseat hub is focused on providing access to the outdoors for children with limited mobility, other Access the Dales locations aim to meet the needs of a wider audience and have a variety of wheelchair styles for loan to suit the terrain of the surrounding area and user requirements.

Gordon McGregor, Paratreker managing director, said: “The work Debbie and Access the Dales are doing is ground-breaking.

“By introducing different types of all-terrain wheelchairs to the hubs, access to the outdoors is made possible for a wide range of people with disabilities.

“We are delighted that the Paratreker is part of the range.

“Judging by the attendance and reactions at the festival, I think the project will be a huge success.”

Debbie said: “We would love to have more Paratrekers.

“Seeing the joy on some of the kids faces that have been out and about has been marvellous.”

“I have been contacted by a kids hospice to get children out onto the fells which would be absolutely amazing and that’s when the Paratreker comes into its own.”

In the spirit of access for all, the charity does not want money to be an obstacle, so there is no charge to borrow a wheelchair from any of the five charity hubs. However, donations can be made through the website, with all proceeds going towards the running costs of the charity.

The Paratreker at Ravenseat hub can be booked be visiting the Access the Dales website.