A DISABLED ramblers’ group which operates across Dartmoor National Park is reaching out to both fellow disabled and able-bodied ramblers to join their public sessions in a push to expand their numbers.

The Wheeled Access Group (or WAGs), which is run in association with Moorland Guides Dartmoor, was born out of the Dartmoor Walking Festival in 2017, and has been breaking barriers in how those with disabilities access the national park ever since.

Dawn Williamson, a longstanding member and guide from Moorland Guides said: ‘At the festival in 2017, people were approaching Moorland Guides saying there were no groups for accessibility nor a range of different accessible walks across the moors. Understandably however, these can’t be arranged without good knowledge of the area and route beforehand.’

‘The walking festival takes place annually at the end of August and attracts people from all over the UK; It lasts for nine days and there are accessible walks on six of those.’

The Dartmoor Walking Festival, which is also run by Moorland Guides, will take place this year from August 26 to September 3. Now entering their sixth year, the group is putting the word out to other wheelchair users that they are here and you are welcome to join them.

Dawn added: ‘The group’s public walks are open to anyone and we run throughout the year, finding walks all over Dartmoor. Members of the Moorland Guides like myself will go out walking with land managers to make routes more accessible. For example, our communications have allowed styles to be replaced with gates and areas affected by erosion to be flattened — all to be wheelchair friendly. Our contact with access managers for the national park and dartmoor rangers has allowed for new paths at Burrator Reservoir’s Arboretum to have better disabled access and create new paths and crossing in places like Haytor and Merryvale.

‘We really want new people to come out on our walks with us. We know the routes we take are of a suitable standard. Our members have different scooters and disabilities which affects the terrain they can access.

‘Our public walks take place once every two months, our next walks will be March 28 and May 23. Joining these sessions allows us to get to know new people, their scooter and assess its competency for the routes.’

Jackie Ball joined the group when she moved to Horrabridge in 2020. Jackie said: ‘I wanted to get out onto and enjoy the moors. We’re literally a group of friends — it’s all free, there’s a great social aspect and it’s a safe way to get out into the countryside. We cover all of Dartmoor and we’re always looking at new routes and are open to suggestions.’

If you’d like to attend one of the next sessions, contact Dawn at [email protected]