Passionate hill walker Debbie North can no longer enjoy the landscapes she loves, following a spinal injury. Now she has taken on a new challenge to make the Dales more accessible to disabled people. This is her story…

Due to a spinal injury, five years ago, I have very poor mobility, and spend quite a lot of time in the wheelchair. After twenty-six years in education, I had to retire. I was able to continue as headteacher in a motorised wheelchair, but unfortunately after two years of whizzing around, the pain and the tiredness started to take its toll and, after serious talks with my family and medical professionals, I resigned from my post on grounds of ill health.

Before my illness, I was a very keen hill walker, and spent most weekends and holidays out on the hills and peaks of the Yorkshire Dales. My dad always said that I should have been born in a field, as I love the outdoor life.

My husband and I have walked the Coast to Coast twice (we had to do it again as the first time we did it the camera was broken!) and have completed several  other long-distance walks.

We have also completed the Three Peaks challenge in the Dales, which is a fabulous experience for any walker.

In fact we got married in Settle in our walking boots!

Now I have to sit at the bottom of the peaks and take in the magnificent scenery of the Yorkshire Dales from the car window.

It saddens me to see other walkers putting on their boots and, together with rucksack, map and compass, head out for a day on the hills.

Now I have a new challenge.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park and the National Trust have agreed that if I raise the money, an all-terrain wheelchair will be purchased and homed at Malham Tarn.

This means that people with poor mobility will be able to borrow the motorised chair for the day and go out on the hills with family and friends.
It will give disabled people a new-found opportunity to get to places that they thought was out of their reach.

The all-terrain wheelchair – called a tramper – is an off-road mobility buggy and is built to take its user across country. It will go over rough terrain, through water and even deep snow.  tramper and trailer cost £7,000.

With the support of the National Trust and Yorkshire Dales National Park, I have just started fundraising in earnest, with lots of fundraising ideas and enthusiasm to raise the money.
For example, a jazz band, The Black Cat Pack, have volunteered their help, so I will organise an event around this.

I feel very humble that lots of people are showing support via Twitter and Facebook, and I will be getting back to them shortly for their help, too.
I am looking at different fundings and grants that I may be able to access.

Although it’s very early days in my fundraising campaign, I would love to have raised the money by the summer – I like to set myself a challenge!
You can donate to this cause through http://www.justgiving.com/accessthedales or by texting 70070 and message dale49.

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