Natural England
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Making the countryside more accessible for everyone

The first project to map National Nature Reserve access available online. Natural England media release on behalf of Natural England and Direct Enquiries Limited

For the first time, some of England’s most beautiful countryside will be more accessible for people with disabilities thanks to a new online facility launched today (1 December 2008) which maps out the location and terrain of six of England's National Nature Reserves (NNRs).

Using photographs, maps and detailed descriptions, this new online service provides information that everyone will find useful. It will be especially helpful for people with disabilities and their carers, parents with pushchairs to better plan and prepare for a trip to a National Nature Reserve.

Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England, said: “Everyone should have access to the health benefits and enjoyment that the outdoors provides. This project will help people to plan their days out to some of our most important areas for wildlife in the knowledge that they are easy to get to and easy to get around. Making our countryside easily accessible is essential, not just for health and wellbeing, but to help forge a connection between people and the natural environment.”

Six NNRs have been assessed.

Ainsdale Sand Dunes (Merseyside)
Aston Rowant (Oxfordshire)
Castle Eden Dene (County Durham)
Shapwick Heath (Somerset)
Stiperstones (Shropshire)
Thursley Heath (Surrey)

The new facility can be accessed at by clicking on the 'Attractions & Countryside' icon, or on the Disabled Access page at

Direct Enquiries Ltd’s assessors walked the six NNRs collating data and mapping each point of accessibility using GPS technology and cameras. The online guides are easy to navigate, offer points of interest and highlight where more information is available on site - such as including Braille signage and voice information boxes which can be found along the route of the Stiperstones NNR. The guides include details of distances, steps, seating and any boardwalks along the routes.

Grant Kennedy, Chief Executive of Direct Enquiries Ltd said: “It is the first time an organisation has chosen to provide people with information about accessible countryside. People should not be put off visiting the rural areas on the assumption that it will be inaccessible. In fact, Natural England is working with its Reserve Managers on simple and very effective maintenance schedules to ensure maximum accessibility across the entire estate.” Direct Enquiries Ltd is the online arm of the Nationwide Access Register.

Notes to editors:

Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. It conserves and enhances the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings.

Screen grabs of the accessibility web pages are available on request or available from Direct Enquiries Ltd’s web site by clicking on the Attractions and Countryside icon on its homepage.

The link on Natural England’s web site is found on the ‘Disabled Access’ page at

Explaining the online data:

    Each NNR has its own web page consisting of five tabs on the top tool bar:
    • Access summary: an overview of car park/drop off, trails and walks information for each NNR;
    • Access in detail: photos, written descriptions and distances provided for: gates, roadside parking to show wheelchair/pushchair access, steps, seating, any boardwalks along the routes;
    • General information: location and access (how to get there/away); paths and people, nature walks, weather and wildlife, landmarks;
    • Trail details: a ‘view route’ option which is a step-by-step guide to each route using photos; a trail map using satellite images of the route;
    • Reserve maps: a standard map of the NNR with all routes marked in different colours.
    • There are also easy-to-understand symbols on the web pages for each NNR:
      Assistance dogs welcome / Assisted wheelchair access / Non-assisted wheelchair access / Facilities for the mobility impaired / Customer toilet facilities / Accessible toilets / Customer parking facilities / Parent with pushchair access.

5. For more information about Direct Enquiries Ltd (the online arm of the Nationwide Access Register) or for details of how to contact local access groups in the six regions, please contact Emma Lattimer on 01344 360 101 or

6. Natural England has over 2,000 volunteers engaged in the running of its National Nature Reserves.

7. The UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on Wednesday 3 December.

8. The Secretary of State Reports will be published on Monday 1 December, one of which will be Defra’s report on Disability Equality.

For further information from Natural England’s press office, please contact:

Michelle Hawkins
Press Officer
Tel: 0300 060 1109

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