Wheelchair accessibility is a difficult one to grade, particularly when off-road capable chairs come into the equation. On difficult terrain, the properties of the individual off-road chair will have a far greater influence on what is possible; all chairs are almost certainly not alike, and the capabilities of chairs on the market will improve with passing time.
The level of assistance that the individual feels is acceptable will also influence what they consider as do-able. In the absence of better information, for the purposes of this guide we have made the assumption that users of off-road wheel chairs enjoy the same legal status (in terms of Rights of Way) as pedestrians, and as such can make use of public footpaths and Right to Roam land. As such these routes should not be inferred as suitable or legal mountain bike routes.
All Ability Trails:
These are wide paths with a good surface and modest gradients. All ability trails are suitable for non - specialised wheelchairs.
Off-Road Wheelchair RoutesPaths with a rough uneven surface and steep gradients both up and down. The successful completion of the trail may require the help of a non-disabled companion to negotiate specific sections. These trails generally offer nothing in the way of specialised facilities other than the fact that they should not contain stiles or locked gates. The individual trail notes, combined with an understanding of the capabilities of the chair to be used should hopefully guide the user as to whether they wish to attempt a particular trail. Please note that the ultimate responsibility for personal safety rests with the user; we cannot anticipate individual abilities, or the capabilities of the equipment being used, and can accept no responsibility for what happens if you choose to follow one of the routes (except if you think it was great, in which case we will take all the credit we can!
To try and get a feel for what is possible, we were very fortunately able to tap into the experiences of Arthog Outdoor Education Centre, who use a Fieldmaster chair in their activity provision. We are not seeking to promote this particular brand as better than others (though our impression is that the centre is very happy with it). It is simply that because we could draw on real experiences and put the chair through its paces, we have used it as a benchmark for what is possible in an off-road chair.
The following observations are based on the chair model we tested:
Good Points: A multi-hour battery range. 4-wheel drive. A seat that can be tilted backwards for going down hill. An appetite for steep gradients, up or down.
Challenges: Because of how the drive system works, the steering behaved oddly when a wheel lost traction. Steep up-hills can be a problem where traction is poor. A low ground clearance means that although the chair has the power to drive up steps, the chair can ground out on the step edge. Many of these challenges in performance may be overcome with the assistance of a non-disabled companion.
If human powered journeying is more your thing, then a hand-powered off-road chair such as the mountain trike might be a good way to go. We have had a play in one of these on a car-park, and it was a whole heap of fun to use, but unfortunately we did not get to try it on any more rigorous terrain.
New Precipice Walk (800m round trip)
The all-ability section of this classic is short, but the views are unrivalled. More...
Coed y Brenin
There are four easy access all-ability trails in the Forest Park. At the visitor centre, which is fully accessible, there is an all-ability play area and all-ability trail (the Afon Eden Trail) leading to the riverside picnic site. All-ability trails can also be found at Tyn y Groes (King’s Guard Trail), and Glasdir (Forest Garden). These are all marked on the Coed y Brenin Walks map
Dôl Idris (1.2 km)
An accessible wheelchair route at the foot of Cadair Idris. More...
Traeth Benar Boardwalk (200m)
A beach boardwalk set within the Morfa Dyffryn site of special scientific interest. More...
Dôl-goch (800m round trip)
Accessible trail to the first of the beautiful Dôl-goch falls. More...
Coed y Garth (10km)
An off road trail on the south shores of the Mawddach estuary. Mainly very straightforward if a little overgrown, but a couple of tricky sections may limit access. Download Free Routecard.
Cregennen & Ffordd Ddu (8km)
A higher, more exposed off road route with a real sense of a mountain environment. Download Free Routecard.