Accessible Tarka Trail Highlights

Last Bridge To Bideford
CC by Andrew (Last Bridge To Bideford)

The Tarka Trail is a beautiful walking and cycling route spanning North and West Devon, as well as Torridge. The trail is one of the most extensive dedicated walking and cycling paths in the country and has an array of highlights along the route. This blog will explore some of those attractions that are wheelchair-accessible, and will hopefully encourage you to visit some of them for yourself.

Most people think of the Tarka Trail as only consisting of the 30-mile stretch between Braunton and Meeth. However, the full Tarka Trail is actually a figure of eight around Devon, reaching from Bideford to Exmoor, and from Exmoor to the tip of Dartmoor. In total, the trail is over 160 miles in length, with many attractions along the way. This blog will include the extended 160-mile trail’s attractions.

The Trail

Obviously, the main attraction on the Tarka Trail is the trail itself. With the 30-mile path from Braunton to Meeth being accessible to wheelchairs, there’s plenty for those to see along this stunning stretch. See some of the beautiful sights along the route, like the vast Taw-Torridge Estuary along with its over 20,000 occasional migratory waders, or Beam Estate – the birthplace of Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter. The Tarka Trail has some fantastic sights accessible to wheelchairs, so next time you’re nearby, take a look! We promise you won’t regret it.

Instow Signal Box & Bideford Railway Centre

This little part of British railway history is situated on the Bideford part of the Tarka Trail. These places offer a peek into the past for people who are interested in railways and their history. Sadly, no trains have run between Bideford and Barnstaple station since 1982 – if you don’t count the time in 2011 where model trains completed the route. Either way, this attraction is a fantastic slice of British rail history that’s mostly wheelchair accessible and is definitely worth a look.

Queen’s Theatre

Nearby to the Tarka Trail in Barnstaple, the first-rate Queen’s Theatre is situated. Come here to watch some fantastic performers, eat some good food, and generally have a good time. The theatre has accessible seats and provides free tickets for carers. If the theatre is something that interests you, this is the place to go.

Arlington Court

Situated within the north loop of the extended Tarka Trail, Arlington Court is an early 19th-century manor house with a beautiful garden and some brilliant architecture. There are plenty of exciting things to see at the house, most of which are accessible with manual wheelchairs or small mobility scooters. The National Trust owns the house, and parking is very reasonable. Most of the garden is accessible – but some of the paths are formed of gravel, so you may need a more robust scooter if you want to explore the whole garden. If you’re interested in being able to traverse more rough paths like this, consider buying or hiring one of our all-terrain mobility scooters.

Exmoor Zoo

Exmoor Zoo is a brilliant attraction near the north-eastern part of the Tarka Trail. There’s a fantastic range of flora and fauna available for you to see here, including the only pair of black leopards on display in the UK. The zoo is very accessible for wheelchair users, with the majority of the paths made from concrete, and the rest being scree. Exmoor Zoo is a wonderful day out for the entire family – something that everyone will enjoy from nine to ninety! If you’re looking for a fun, cheap, and educational day out, then this is the place to go!

Meerkats at the zoo

High Streets

If shopping is your thing, then the high streets of towns like Barnstaple and Bideford are for you. Situated closeby to the Tarka Trail, these places have everything from fashion retailers to unique antique shops. The locations are mostly wheelchair accessible, and parking is usually quite wheelchair friendly.

We hope that we’ve inspired you to visit the Tarka Trail. Thanks for reading this blog, and, whilst you’re here, why don’t you check out our previous blog for more attractions around North Devon.

Will you be driving an autonomous car?

It may be that self-driving cars are not as futuristic than we had once believed, with the testing of autonomous cars already happening in the US and approval for trials in the UK. Apart from those who like to have the latest technology, autonomous cars will have substantial benefits for people who cannot drive themselves. With all terrain mobility scooters helping disabled people visit places that were once difficult to travel to, the introduction of autonomous cars will be another step forward in allowing disabled people more independence.

Disabled woman drives autonomous car.

The past couple of decades has seen the positive effects that technology can have on the lives of disabled people. Autonomous cars are set to be the next big technological advance for disabled individuals, with many studies showing that disabled people can feel isolated, at times, due to a lack of effective transport services. This new technology could assist and help to drastically improve any individuals experiencing a level of exclusion. Schemes and policies have gone a fair way to help provide a sense of independence, although the level of independence provided by the arrival of autonomous cars will make a substantial difference to the lives of many elderly and disabled individuals.

However, it is yet to be proven whether people will opt to use these new cars. Only on the acceptance of these autonomous cars being cleared as safe to use will we see them being a viable option. This is obviously an exciting and life-changing prospect for many. However, there will need to be more plans needed before we see the cars on the road.

There are obviously many questions surrounding this new technology, including the need for a ‘driver’ in case of a problem. International laws indicate that a driver must be present at all times to control the vehicle. If a disabled individual, who is not able to drive themselves, would want to use an autonomous car they would still need a passenger who would be able to control the vehicle in case of an emergency. Under this current law, the autonomous car seems somewhat pointless.

Solutions to this issue could be developing a system that is monitored from a central location, and that can over-ride the controls of a car if necessary. This would solve the issue in regards for a driver always needing to be in control of the car, but may pose even more problems in terms of infrastructure, technological capabilities of manufacturers and privacy of users.

It may be a little while off until we see everyone using autonomous cars on the road.

Image credit:  DimiTVP available under Creative Commons.

Disability employment still a huge issue according to new report

There are many difficulties faced for people that need high quality mobility scooters. As well as navigation around places that are not fully equipped for wheelchair users, employment is still a huge issue for disabled individuals.

In light of the stark realities highlighted in the ‘Realising Aspirations for All’ report, by the national disability charity Sense, the government will now work closely with the charity on the upcoming Green Paper into work and health. The report showed the employment inequalities face by many disabled jobseekers across the UK.

The Minister for Welfare Reform has praised the new report by Sense, stating that the government echo their hopes for all disabled people, with health conditions, to reach their full potential and achieve occupational aspirations.

The report found that young deafblind individuals are the most marginalised group in society, with a very small percentage (4%) of people aged 18-25 year-old with dual sensory impairments in employment.

For the broader spectrum of disabled individuals, 46% are currently not in employment; this means that the rate of employment is 30% lower than their non-disabled peers. The scenario is significantly worse for individuals who have multiple disabilities with research indicating that individuals who have five or more impairments are 61% less likely to be in employment in comparison to non-disabled peers.

When in employment disabled people face even more prejudice, with lower paid jobs and difficulties in career progression, with few holding a senior managerial role.

Disability employment rates still low, including senior managerial roles

In the last election, the government made a pledge to diminish the barriers that disabled people face when searching for work, with a commitment to halving the disability employment gap to get a million more disabled individuals into work by 2020.

The report by Sense highlighted advice for the government in terms of employment policies to help the current issue.

The Head of Public Policy at Sense, Kate Finch has responded to the government’s support: “We’re pleased that the government has welcome our ‘Realising Aspirations for All’ report by making a commitment to work with us to ensure that all disabled people are able to fulfil their potential… Negative employer attitudes, inaccessible recruitment and ineffective work support programmes are part of a number of barriers that are preventing disabled people from securing employment…We look forward to working closely with the government on their important Green Paper and supporting them to ensure we level the playing field for disabled jobseekers and help them to realise their aspirations.”