The Disabilities Wilderness Initiative was launched two years ago in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland which aims to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and develop a meaningful connection to the beautiful natural landscapes Scotland has to offer.
This project is the brainchild of Julie McElroy who has Cerebral Palsy, which has resulted in walking difficulties, speech and hearing impairment along with manual dexterity problems. Julie was inspired to initiate this project to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space as part of her John Muir Conserver Award two years ago.
The Disabilities Wilderness Initiative this year partnered up with the John Muir Trust to give participants the opportunity to complete the introductory level of the John Muir Award.
Fourteen participants from Mar Lodge and Ben Lomond projects achieved their Discovery Award.
Julie said: ” This year has seen an overwhelming interest as we challenged the participants to work towards their John Muir Award. This year has been a great success and laid the foundation for the Disabilities Wilderness Initiative to grow and progress.
One of the participants from the Disabilities Wilderness Initiative, Janette Thursby Scott who is visually impaired said “The Wilderness Experience this year was superb. We met old friends and made new ones. I was bowled over by the enthusiasm and the encouragement from the Rangers and guides. I loved learning about foraging and tasting things along the footpaths in the forest. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist to conserve the landscape for the future.”
Emily Sanderson, Community Outreach Coordinator for The National Trust for Scotland who worked with Julie to deliver two projects says “I thought the Disabilities Wilderness Initiative was a great success. We were able to offer a diverse programme of activities for each week, which challenged the participants to increase their engagement with the outdoors and with each other. Activities such as climbing the mountain behind Mar Lodge; foraging for food; carrying out necessary conservation work on Trust properties; learning about National Parks and John Muir’s legacy all goes a long way to increasing peoples’ awareness of nature and inspiring them to take action to protect it. Working and living together for a week brought people from diverse backgrounds with a range of capabilities closer together and encouraged a wonderful sense of Team work and peer support.This all goes to prove the value in residential work of this nature”.
BBC Weather Forecaster and Presenter Judith Ralston presented the participants from the Disabilities Wilderness Initiative with their certificate at the National Trust for Scotland’s property, David Livingston Centre, near Blantyre.
Judith said: “I was delighted to be asked to present the John Muir Awards. It is indeed a great honor. The participants excelled and achieved so much in spite of their difficulties they faced and face in everyday life. The best thing for me was to see what cammeraderie had developed between them all. It’s wonderful that the opportunity came about and hopefully they will do it again in the future”.
The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places. It encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. It is the educational initiative of the John Muir Trust.
Kim McIntosh, John Muir Award Scotland Inclusion Manager, also congratulated the participants on their achievements, says “The John Muir Award is open to people of all backgrounds. It is great to see such a diverse group of people come together to enjoy spending time outdoors and do something positive to look after the natural environment. Congratulations to all the participants on the Disabilities Wilderness initiative for achieving their Discovery Award.”
1. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to funds its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy. The Trust cares for a range of sites on Arran, including Brodick Castle and Country Park and Goatfell.
1. The John Muir Trust encourages people to experience wild places and to ‘put something
back’ through the John Muir Award. Since 1997 more than 190,000 awards has been achieved. For more information go to http://www.johnmuiraward.org.