19 January 2001

Riverside path wheelchair friendly…thanks to Phillip

THERE arent many footpaths in the Yorkshire Dales which are wheelchair friendly. But thanks to farmers son, Phillip Stockdale, the one running by the river in the picturesque village of Burnsall is now open to everyone.

Phillip, who has been confined to a wheelchair for over 30 years with cerebral palsy, knows the frustrations of being unable to share in the freedom enjoyed by his able-bodied friends. When they played beside the River Wharfe he couldnt follow because there were too many obstacles.

The river flows through the centre of the village and is overlooked by Phillips cottage. Getting down there in his wheelchair was one thing he had always itched to do.

His parents, John and Jane Stockdale, of Oat Croft Farm, Burnsall, have always encouraged him to have a go at things and he can be pretty determined. A project he took on for an Uplands Management course he was doing at a local college provided the perfect opportunity.

Its object was to convince the Yorkshire Dales National Park, through photographs showing obstacles like rocks, tree roots and mud, to upgrade the riverside path. Family and friends got their cameras out and the images, along with Phillips report, duly impressed the authorities.

The path is part of the 90-plus miles Dales Way and it was decided to make a 1km stretch, starting beside the Red Lion at Burnsall, accessible to all. It cost £45,000.

Parts of the way are believed to be 1000-years-old and to acknowledge this an "interpretation" board showing its travellers down the centuries now stands besides the path. The travellers are based on likenesses of Burnsall villagers, including Phillip.

When the path was officially opened Phillip did the honours by cutting the ribbon. Now thanks to him other wheelchair users as well as the elderly and parents with prams can share the beauty of this unspoiled corner of Yorkshire.

Tom Montgomery

A Dales tale…Phillip Stockdale with his helper, Samantha Tottle.