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New Forest, New Frontiers: Accessible Tourism in the National Park

The countryside can initially seem a daunting place to explore if you’re disabled or have mobility issues. But the New Forest National Park is more accessible than you may think.  Transport and Tourism Officer Shona Marsh explains more.

In early July (when the sun was still shining) I spent a couple of days with Martyn Sibley filming a video called Access All Areas for VisitBritain TV. This is part of a series to promote destinations across Great Britain to disabled visitors. The New Forest has a wealth of opportunities for visitors with disabilities so we thought this would be a great way to showcase them, and to show how accessible a rural destination can be.

Martyn, our presenter, has a wealth of travel experience, having visited countries such as Japan and Australia and done things such as flying a plane, scuba diving and completing a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats - so we had a lot to live up to! Martyn has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is a wheelchair user, a pretty snazzy wheelchair at that though. As you’ll see it coped with a lot during his New Forest trip. 

Martyn Sibley climbing a tree at Avon Tyrrell activity centre

We also spent some time discussing perceptions of accessible tourism and the barriers, particularly in rural locations. Martyn even admitted that he had been a bit sceptical about the accessibility of the New Forest because of the word ‘forest’. There are some physical barriers which would stop a wheelchair being able to fully access areas, such as stiles, narrow tracks and unsuitable surface material. But actually some barriers can often be psychological. I hope that the video will go some way to show people that the New Forest National Park is a great place for people with disabilities to visit as we have creative solutions to physical barriers. You just need to be able to overcome the mental one.

It was also great to see how the film crew worked to put the film together. From first takes, retakes, recording voiceovers, coping with intense sunshine, doing interviews, filming afloat, filming in a tree, ingenious GoPro placement and being creative with our modes of transport, the team were really easy to work with and very creative! 

Filming inclusive cycling in the Access All Areas video

So check out the video below for some inspiration for your visit to the New Forest and you’ll see the New Forest Centre, the New Forest Tour, Avon Tyrrell activity centre, Cyclexperience and Lymington Sailability all in action! You’ll also see some great shots on the some of the 100 miles of off-road gravel tracks in the Forest.

A big thank you to Martyn and his lovely fiancée Kasia who were great company and so easy to work with, particularly with our very hectic schedule and with the heat of mid-July. For Martyn’s account of his visit to the New Forest, check out his article.

For more information on accessibility in the New Forest, head to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/accessible and hopefully we’ll see you soon.

This entry was posted by Communications on Friday 07/11/2014

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