North Downs Way National Trails Event at Perry Court Farm

A young man in a wheelchair is in the foreground of the image. The background is trees, fields and foliage. This is part of the North Downs Way National Trail.

Outdoor Activities tags

6th June 2024

by Gini Mitchell, Founder of Wild With Wheels and North Downs Way National Trail Ambassador

Welcome to my first guest post on the Kent Downs National Landscape blog. I’m Gini Mitchell, founder of Wild With Wheels and a North Downs Way National Trail Ambassador.

Since becoming reliant on a Mobility Scooter, I have spent the past few years advocating for providing safe spaces and environments which are inclusive and accessible for all.

About Wild With Wheels.

This is where Wild With Wheels comes in. We offer free, accessible, guided nature experiences in Kent, for adults and children with disabilities and impairments.

Our guided nature walks are currently based at the Kent Heritage Coast and Coastal Paths. We also explore other suitable accessible routes within the Kent Downs National Landscape and the North Downs Way for those with challenging mobility or sensory needs.

About Putting Down Routes

Wild With Wheels is working with the team at Kent Downs National Landscape and North Downs Way National Trail, along with partners Black Girls Hike, on the Putting Down Routes project. The aim? To position the North Downs Way National Trail as a safe, inclusive and accessible destination where all are welcome.

During the project term we’ve been tasked with putting on a wide range of walks and events along the North Downs Way National Trail. One of which was held recently at Perry Court Farm, which sits along the trail.

A young girl in a wheelchair holds up a North Downs Way National Trail map. A younger girl stands next to her.

Our Event at Perry Court Farm

The group was made up of AAC users and their families from Kent & Medway Communication & Assistive Technology Service (KM CAT). There was a wide range of people with physical and neurodiverse disabilities on the walk, in addition to many wheeled devices equipped with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC devices are tablets or laptops that helps someone with a speech or language impairment to communicate.

The group explored this section of the North Downs Way National Trail and had an opportunity to locate where they were on their copies of the trail map. One participant with reduced eyesight was able to feel where the location sticker was and follow his finger along the route, with some locations he had visited before pointed out to him.

Nature connection and wildlife was at the heart of this experience. The donkeys, pigs, geese and feral farm cats all put on a show to the large audience, which brought many smiles. Furthermore ladybirds and other insects were spotted. Birdsong was used as a tool for identifying the birds in the area.

A young boy holds up a piece of paper. It is decorated with blue, orange and pink prints of leaves and flowers.

The group stopped to admire the beautiful views over the landscape to Wye, whilst interacting with their surroundings on this nature based sensory experience. Sight, sound, smell and touch were all used to connect to the wildflowers, trees and wildlife which live in the Kent Downs National Landscape. Nature crafts was one of the highlights of the day. With cards and drawings made from foraged leaves and flowers. Leaves were inspected closely with magnifying glasses and then we learnt which leaves were edible and could be used to make herbal teas.

Most of all, it was a lovely opportunity for these families to get together outdoors. All the while the AAC users were encouraged to connect with nature. As well as communicating through their devices to meet new friends and take part in a quiz about the farm.

A huge credit to the staff at Perry Court Farm who were very welcoming, had a newly installed disabled facilities on site and gave us exclusive access to the picnic area. The refreshments, groceries and plants from the farm shop were an added bonus. Perfect for those looking to take part in a spot of retail therapy to end the day.

It was a special and memorable morning for all. We look forward to future events around this section of the North Downs Way National Trail.

Putting Down Routes is a collaborative project between the Kent Downs National Landscape and the North Downs Way National Trail, working with partners Black Girls Hike and Wild With Wheels. Putting Downs Routes is funded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Defra’s Farming in Protected Landscapes.

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