Widening the Welcome

Widening the Welcome

Forging partnerships to create a more accessible and inclusive Chilterns

Last week we were delighted to organise an event at Missenden Abbey focussing specifically on how to make visiting the Chilterns more accessible and inclusive. Over 55 people from a cross section of organisations attended including those from the countryside and conservation sector such as the National Trust and BBOWT, visitor attractions such as the Roald Dahl Museum and Chilterns Open Air Museum, as well as farms, community groups and hospitality businesses. Together we shared learning and experiences, listened to presentations on a variety of access-based themes and were inspired by some of the fantastic work already taking place.

For example, the Chilterns is lucky enough to be home to The Centre for Outdoor Accessibility Training (COAT), based at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve near Stokenchurch. This is the country’s first ever specialist Access Centre, enabling countryside practitioners who manage nature reserves, parks and countryside sites to test out a wide range of accessible gates and mobility equipment. Training courses will be offered at the Centre, to improve practitioner understanding on improving accessibility for those with mobility issues.

Centre for Outdoor Accessibility Training (COAT)

Video courtesy of Natural England.

Pub chain, Moogies, spoke about work they have done in their pubs throughout the Chilterns – starting with an Accessibility Survey that resulted in them installing a wet room in one of their pubs, conducting staff training and making adaptations such as handrails and tables at suitable heights.

Ross Calladine, Visit England’s Disability and Access Ambassador for Tourism, gave an inspiring presentation. He stated that 1 in 4 people have a disability in England and highlighted that as well as being a legal obligation, businesses are missing out on huge opportunities if they are not adapting to make their services accessible. He said “This is not a nice thing to do. It is a MUST thing to do”.

Chilterns ANOB

Accessibility improvements at one of Moogies pubs

Diversity and Public Health Professor at the University of Bedfordshire, Gurch Randhawa presented some key results from “Access to greenspaces – co-creating spaces for helping diverse communities to use green spaces and the countryside”. This is a groundbreaking piece of research that we commissioned, funded by the National Lottery. It looks at how to help people from minority backgrounds and deprived communities in Luton and Dunstable use their local greenspaces and the countryside. Gurch emphasised that “England will be the most diverse country in the world by 2050”. We hope that this piece of research, the biggest survey of its kind in the country, will lead the way in terms of informing how we can better connect diverse communities with nature. We look forward to sharing the research when it has been officially published.

Chilterns ANOB

Accessibility improvements at College Lake

Home to around 1,000 wildlife species, College Lake is a wonderful place to spot water birds, butterflies (and wasp spiders, as we discovered!) Now more people will be able to experience its beauty, thanks to two new tramper mobility vehicles (which can be borrowed by anyone visiting the reserve), 200 m2 of resurfaced path and the installation of several new, mobility scooter and buggy-friendly gates.  The improvements have been made thanks to DEFRA’s Access for All funding to make our protected landscapes and wider countryside more accessible for people of all ages, abilities and needs.

Neil Harris, the National Trust’s Countryside Manager for Hughenden, West Wycombe and the Central Chilterns, gave a valuable insight into the National Trust’s approach to Accessibility and Inclusivity both nationally and locally in the Chilterns. Their “Everyone Welcome” goal is that by 2030 they will better reflect the changing communities they serve. This includes more diverse staff and volunteers, visitors and supporters, and more accessible places.

One of the key takeaways from the day was that everyone in the room is committed to doing more. A key part of that is for closer partnership working, to share ideas and expertise, and to ensure that countryside sites and tourist destinations are working together to provide a seamless experience for visitors. For example, making sure that people visiting a nature reserve with additional mobility access are also able to visit an accessible pub, restaurant, museum nearby or to stay in accessible accommodation.

One of the ways we can begin to do this is to improve accessibility information that is readily available online. One of our close partners – Visit Buckinghamshire, is already doing a fantastic job of this through their Accessibility Hub, which brings together a huge amount of information on attractions, countryside activities, days out and restaurants for people with accessibility impairments. This includes information for those with visual and hearing impairments or who are neurodiverse as well as limited mobility.

The Chilterns Conservation Board will be following up with further events to bring partners together, share information, support accessibility initiatives and promote Access grants.

Related news

Grazing livestock in the Chilterns

With spring comes longer days, warmer weather and livestock grazing on lush spring grass.

Chilterns New Shoots: applications now open!

Applications are now open for the 2024/25 cohort of Chilterns New Shoots – a wildlife and conservation programme for 14-18 year-olds.

Bluebells: the sign of spring in the Chilterns

Bluebells flower in abundance in ancient woodland in early spring and are found throughout the Chilterns.

Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

Accessible Chilterns

Everyone should be able to have access to and benefit from the wonders of the Chilterns countryside. Find your accessible Chilterns here.
Chilterns ANOB

Bookable experiences

We have carefully chosen our most immersive and memorable Chilterns Countryside Experiences to share with you here. Choose from Active Countryside, Chilterns Food & Drink, Countryside Learning and Chilterns Sightseeing. All are bookable online.
Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

Featured walks

A selection of some of the best walks in the Chilterns, from short easy strolls to all day walks, and all through beautiful scenery. The best way to shake off the cobwebs, enjoy tranquil surroundings and burn a few calories!
Chilterns ANOB

Plan your trip to the Chilterns!

Search the interactive map: select from a list of categories to bring up icons showing the location and information of walks, bike rides, places to visit, tasty local products and plenty more across the Chilterns area
Chilterns ANOB