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Accessible path opens up a new route for visitors at Ilam Park

A view of Ilam Park with Ilam Hall in the background and footpaths leading around grass and trees
Accessible paths at Ilam Park | © National Trust

The first phase of an accessible path that will eventually create a 1km circular route has been completed, enabling visitors with a range of accessibility requirements to enjoy more of the picturesque landscape of Ilam Park.

Improving access at Ilam Park

The new path is part of a wider project to improve access throughout the parkland. The improved route provides a smoother, more level and wider pathway, opening it up for those with reduced mobility and for visitors using wheelchairs or pushchairs. It provides a route to areas which have previously been difficult to reach for some visitors.

The path runs through the parkland that surrounds Ilam Hall; an 1820’s country house which is now run as a youth hostel. The route begins and ends at the historic Stable Yard, which is in the care of the National Trust and houses a tearoom, second-hand bookshop, and toilets. It takes in riverside and woodland landscapes and historic buildings including St Bertram’s Bridge and Holy Cross Church. Benches have also been placed at various points to provide spots to rest, making the route suitable for individuals, groups, and different generations.

The project builds on the work already completed to improve accessibility at the on-site car park and visitor facilities, which includes a Changing Place facility. It aims to better connect parts of the park and remove some of the barriers people with a range of accessibility needs might face.

Someone pushing another person in a wheelchair along a path
New accessible paths in use at Ilam Park | © National Trust

The benefits of the new route

Craig Best, General Manager for the National Trust in the Peak District said: ‘”One in 5 people in the UK have access needs so we want to make sure that the places we care for are as accessible and inclusive as they can be. It is important that all our visitors have a good experience and can enjoy nature, beauty, and history in places like Ilam Park.

”Being in the outdoors can improve wellbeing and mental health and this project is one of the ways we're delivering on our wider aim to extend access to the landscape and heritage. This new route will offer benefits for many visitors. I’m pleased to see so many visitors across several generations using the new paths together already.”

Funding the project

The project links up existing walking trails and will eventually create an accessible 1km circular route, starting and ending at the Stable Yard, within the 62-acre park in the south of the Peak District. It was funded by the National Trust and Defra’s Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) programme delivered through the Peak District National Park Authority, which provides funding for farmers and land managers, like the National Trust, to deliver projects for climate, nature and people, including to enable access.

Thanks to further funding from National Trust and the FiPL programme, the second phase of this project will start in Autumn this year.

Working with the community to design the changes

The project has also been supported by Experience Community, a peer-led not-for-profit organisation that helps physically disabled people access the outdoors. The group has worked closely with the National Trust to identify path and facility improvements that will help more people access the area.

Accessible UK also worked with the Trust to audit Ilam Park. They identified potential changes for improving accessibility and opening up the beautiful attraction for everyone. Some of their recommendations included the installation of a Changing Places facility, which is now in situ, an accessible café, and new accessible paths to allow families to enjoy a relaxing day together.

Gillian Scotford, Director at Accessible UK explained how it felt to return to Ilam Park with her family to see the changes recently. She said:

"Ilam Park has always been a special place for our family for years. It is stunningly beautiful – in fact it’s breathtaking. Having children with severe disabilities and with older family members with accessibility needs, when we got the invitation to carry out an access audit for this magical place it was quite an honour to be part of shaping it for the future. Arriving back today to see a changing places facility in place and being able to push my mum in her wheelchair right down to that river on a smooth step free pathway is an absolute delight. With the improvements made and those planned it will secure the future of this place for everybody. I’m looking forward to coming back to see the next phase of the changes later this year.”