MOORS Valley Country Park and Forest near Ringwood is benefitting from a share in a half-million pound National Lottery-funded scheme to improve access for visitors with mobility and sensory impairments.

The Heritage Ability scheme, established by Living Options Devon, was awarded £527,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, to build a greater understanding of the barriers experienced by disabled and deaf people when visiting heritage sites in the south west. Moors Valley is one of 18 heritage sites to benefit from the funding.

Moors Valley has already made great strides in improving accessibility and achieved a Gold award for Access & Inclusivity in the 2016 Dorset Tourism Awards.

Led by a team of disabled and deaf volunteers and advisors, the Heritage Ability project includes improving access for people with physical disabilities, establishing British Sign Language as part of each sites’ interpretation and making adaptations to improve experiences for those with autism. By developing tailored ways of working for each site, and providing training for heritage site staff, the project aims to make long-term changes to the accessibility of heritage across the South West.

Katie Davies, the Accessibility Champion at Moors Valley, said, “We are really excited to be part of this project. Working with specialist advisers will help us to focus on where we can improve and ensure that we have the right skills and facilities in place to make the countryside as accessible as possible to everyone.

“With this in mind, we want to hear from representatives of local organisations, and individuals with particular access needs, and first-hand knowledge of Moors Valley, who can help us to identify where we can make best use of this great opportunity.”

Diana Crump, CEO at Living Options said: “We would like to thank members of the public whose support for the Heritage Lottery Fund has made it possible for us to bring this project to life. Here at Living Options Devon, we believe that disabled people and those from the Deaf community should have the same life chances as everyone else – this includes being able to access beauty spots and enjoy the scenery, learn about their local wildlife and the history of old and interesting buildings through accessible information. We can’t wait to work with our amazing partner sites to help disabled people enjoy and marvel at their beauty and history.”