Accessibility at nature reserves matters, be it for wheelchair-using wildlife enthusiasts; parents trying to introduce their small children to the wonders of nature; or just to make life easier for us all as we age as walking, can, become more of an issue. Let’s face it none of us know what is around the corner and when we might find access limitations.
This is why Birding For All exists.
Our aims are to convince nature reserves, wardens, or CEOs of wildlife charities, to consider the benefits of making footpaths as accessible as possible; if you need to block a path, consider an accessible kissing gate over a stile – if you have ever tried to lift a pushchair over a stile, you’d understand why. If a cattle grid is needed, install one that a wheelchair can cross with ease, and if a gate is the only option make sure it’s easy to open from a wheelchair. Think about putting in more rest points and at shorter distances, and consider ramp access to hides. After all, better access to nature is good for us all, not just people with physical limitations.
Hey we at Birding For All even created a best practice guide that can be downloaded as a PDF to help here!
I’m sure Mark won’t mind me mentioning that he is one of the patrons of Birding For All, and as such each year pops along to see us at our Birdfair stand, often giving us one of his great books for our raffle, or posing for a photo. This year, when asking what he could do to help, we explained all about our current goals: to have as many nature reserves around the country as possible assessed for access (we want our website to be a useful resource for anyone that may have any number issues to find a nature reserve near them to visit). He kindly offered us this opportunity to spread the word with a guest spot on this fabulous blog.
So what do we want?
The idea is to have local people assess their nearest nature reserves (or ones they visit often) for accessibility. Letting us know details about the types of path; rough distances between hides and seating; what the access to the hides is like; what parking there is for disabled vehicles or better yet if there is vehicular access to hides; what blockages there are on the paths (gates, styles, cattle grids etc.); basically are things good or bad where accessibility is looked at.
This is where we need you, the wildlife loving public. As a small charity staffed only by a few volunteers, we can’t hope to get round to every nature reserve (as much as we would love to), so we are trying to enlist as many people as possible to get out there for us and take a look.
We’ve devised an access form on our website that can help, we know it can seem daunting, but please read through it as it will show you the things to look out for and make a note of. We are happy to have anything that can help us to get as many reserves assessed as possible. If you can use your smart phone to take pictures inside and outside hides, of benches and paths, viewing ramps etc. it will help us and BFA website users and it means you don’t have to worry with measurements and long descriptions!
Knowing what is out there, and promoting it to our members or users, helps us to see how effective our campaigning has been, it also lets us know the areas that we need to exert extra pressure, and will let those reserves doing well know that we appreciate it.
Thank you for reading this and thank you to anyone who can help.
Ashley Beolens (Social media, Newsletter editor & trustee at Birding For All)