Changing the Landscape: New film highlights benefits of improved access to Yorkshire Dales for those with disabilities

Access the Dales, a charity started by a respected disability ambassador and campaigner from the Yorkshire Dales, has released a short film featuring powerful commentary from service users on how the charity has changed their lives, in the hope that more people will benefit from their campaign to make sure nobody is left without the opportunity to access activities in the Yorkshire Dales.

Debbie looks out across the Yorkshire Dales from the top of a hill with joy.

Regular access to green spaces has been linked with a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, and what better place to enjoy those benefits than the Yorkshire Dales? But, for people with limited mobility, opportunities to explore this beautiful area are often harder to find.

Debbie North, who had enjoyed rambling in the Yorkshire Dales her whole life, discovered this for herself after being diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition. Debbie sourced an all-terrain wheelchair that allowed her to get back out exploring, along with her husband, Andy.

Sadly, Andy later passed away after a short battle with cancer, but it had been his wish to raise money for an all-terrain wheelchair for children, having discovered that other people were still struggling to access the equipment they needed, particularly children.

Not only did Debbie raise the funds for a children’s all-terrain wheelchair, but she has gone on to build a network providing a whole fleet of all-terrain wheelchairs, free to borrow from ten hubs across the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland.

Speaking in the film, service user, David described passionately the difference the charity made to him:

“I used to be able to walk the fell, and then 25 years ago I had a heart attack and have been more and more limited in what I can do. I was introduced to the terrain hopper, I’ve done some marvellous rambles, been out on the fells for six hours instead of driving around them. It has made a tremendous difference. If it wasn’t for Access the Dales I would be limited to following roads, rarely able to get above things and look down, look along a big valley, across a lake to the mountains on the far side.”

Dave – Access the Dales service-user

The film was produced by Big Picture Charity Films – a charity that specialises in helping other charities to tell powerful stories. It was funded by the Matthew Good Foundation’s Amplify Charity Films programme, which offers funding and support for small non-profits who are making a high impact in their communities, but require help with funding or expertise in order to invest in communications campaigns. 

Debbie, who was recently awarded a Points of Light award from the Prime Minister for her work describes how rewarding it is to be able to help:

“It is about creating a countryside for everyone. It’s not just the person with the disabilities, it’s their family and their friends. Seeing people enjoying the Dales puts a big smile on my face. I’ve witnessed tears of joy, and I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing people enjoying themselves so much, as they do when they can access the wheelchairs to get out into the Dales.”

Debbie North – Founder, Access the Dales 


Whilst Access the Dales has managed to change the landscape for people with disabilities across the Yorkshire Dales, the rest of the UK also suffers from the same lack of accessibility. Debbie continues to grow the charity whilst campaigning for a range of support for disabled people and their families in her role for the Cabinet Office as Disability and Access Ambassador for the Countryside. 

All-terrain wheelchairs can be reserved for use on the charity’s website, where there is also a wealth of information and route guides to help everyone enjoy the Yorkshire Dales.

If you think you could help the charity in their mission to make the inaccessible accessible you can also contact them at

April 2023

Access the Dales is a newly formed charity providing free wheelchairs to help more people access walks across the Dales. Founded by a teacher from Leeds and her husband – a couple who simply wanted to keep doing what they loved after Debbie became a wheelchair user – they soon realised that there was lots of work to be done to help a wider range of people, and particularly children, access the countryside all over the UK.