The official opening of an accessible low ropes course in Little Deer Wood, Mirfield, West Yorkshire took place in August
This facility is the only rope course accessible to both able bodied and disabled young people in the whole of the North of England and is one of only two in the country. It was funded primarily from a major grant of £20,000 from the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, together with donations from Huddersfield-based Cummins Turbo Technologies and the Yorkshire Regional Spinal Injury Centre’s Stepping Stones Appeal, based at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, who will use it to treat patients whose spines were injured in accidents or warzones.
The opening ceremony was performed by Major Stan Hardy, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, who was accompanied by Worshipful Brother Anthony Llewellyn, Assistant Provincial Grand Master from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, and Anya Philip, HR Director of Cummins Turbo Technologies.
The course is strung beneath trees with a series of linked challenges. It is designed to be environmentally friendly and should last for many years. The ropes, wires and other elements that make up the obstacles are no more than 50cm from the ground but team members must remain off the ground as they negotiate the course. There are also moving platforms which youngsters confined to wheelchairs must negotiate.
Courses like these are becoming more popular in the UK, but, there are only two which are totally accessible for able-bodied and disabled people. This type of course aims to encourage communication and co-operation as well as to help individuals build up confidence and develop balance and co-ordination.
Little Deer Wood is situated in woodland at Shepley Bridge in Mirfield and is one of the locations locally where young people train for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which is the world’s leading achievement award for young people. Over 6,000 young people in Kirklees are currently taking part in the scheme.
Denise Bedford MBE, manager of the Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: 'Around 40 young people with disabilities, who are currently staying at the centre for the Wild Activities Challenging Kirklees Young people (WACKY) programme, had the first go on the course. They absolutely loved it. Everybody had a smile on their face.
'It is often really difficult to ensure that people with disabilities can join in and benefit from a whole range of activities, most of which require specially-adapted equipment. We can only achieve this with donations such as the ones we have received and from the excellent support we get from volunteers.'
'The course has been three years in the making,' said Steve Dunn, Chair of Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Trust. 'Having raised the necessary funds it was difficult finding an organisation that would build it to fit in with its natural surroundings in the woodland. Eventually the course was designed and constructed by Gloucestershire-based Motiva Adventure Construction and is tailor-made to the site. It will be a superb addition to the other facilities at Little Deer Wood which include canoeing, archery, climbing, orienteering, bushcraft and many more which are already accessible to both able bodied and disabled young people.'
David Archer, secretary of Howley Lodge No. 5012 in Batley, who sponsored the bid to the PGM’s Fund, and Trustee of the Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Trust, said: 'When you see how our charitable donations are used to provide facilities like these for young people, especially those with special needs, it makes you feel proud to be a Freemason. It is really emotional seeing able-bodied and disabled children working together to navigate the course, and the Trust is extremely grateful to the PGM’s Fund for making it all possible.'
Keeping Kirklees course accessible
The Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Trust, which supports around 5,000 young people each year in pursuit of awards, has received a £20,000 grant from West Yorkshire masons. The grant was sponsored by Howley Lodge, No. 5012, which meets at Batley, and will be used to build a low-rope challenge course with a wheelchair-accessible path to allow access to the course and facilities at the Little Deer Wood site in Mirfield.