A once muddy and uneven path at a popular beauty spot has been transformed, thanks to a pioneering programme funded by Gatwick Airport to help make the National Park accessible for all.
The Disabled Ramblers were all smiles as they tried out the new and refurbished path around Swanbourne Lake, near Arundel.
The makeover involved resurfacing rough tracks and means the beauty spot can now be accessed by people with limited mobility, wheelchair users, families with pushchairs and less agile walkers.
It comes after Gatwick Airport donated a £60,000 grant towards the National Park’s “Miles Without Stiles” initiative, which is working to create a number of new accessible routes by removing stiles, replacing gates and resurfacing rough tracks.
After using the new path, Val Rawlings, from the Disabled Ramblers, said: “It was a real treat for us to be able to see the sparkling water through the trees and we’re very grateful to all for the work that has been done.
“We had a really super day and will definitely be going back. Gatwick Airport also helped fund a Miles Without Stiles route from Ditchling Beacon that’s also now open for disabled users as well, so special thanks to them. It’s two new routes for people with limited mobility and it really does mean a lot to us to be able to enjoy these special places in the National Park.”
Melanie Wrightson, Gatwick Airport Community Engagement Manager, said “Gatwick is delighted that Swanbourne lake will now be accessible to all people. It is another milestone in the initiative ‘Miles Without Stiles’ and stems from our belief that no one should be excluded from enjoying the beauty of South Downs National Park.”
Allison Thorpe, who leads on access and recreation for the South Downs National Park Authority, added: “The idea to improve the footpath along the western bank of Swanbourne Lake stems from a meeting between the landowner Norfolk Estate, the local SDNPA Ranger and Arundel Wetland Centre. To a large extent many of issues with the path arose because of the site’s popularity and the sheer number of visitors it receives.
“The National Park is here for everyone to enjoy and it’s great that even more people will now be able to experience the physical and mental benefits of getting closer to nature.”
Over the next two years, Gatwick Airport’s sponsorship will allow more routes to be made accessible for all and ensure everyone can enjoy the beauty of the South Downs. For more information on the Miles Without Stiles initiative, visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/enjoy/walking/miles-without-stiles/