Slaithwaite to Ripponden by trike


Lucy Keyworth describes the importance of mapping accessibility and how turning back can be part of the journey

After pledging to walk a local Slow Ways route, I packed my bag, checked over my mountain trike and set off on the 10km walk from Slaithwaite to Ripponden. 

As I have a disability, I use an off-road wheelchair called a mountain trike to navigate the rough terrain. When following or planning a route I have to take in a few extra considerations; maps for example, don’t indicate if a route has a barrier such as a stile, or the camber and width of a path. When exploring new routes things don’t always go to plan and might take a bit longer than expected.

A photo of me in my mountain trike, surrounded by rolling hills

The start of the route to Rippendon involved walking along a quiet road past Slaithwaite Station and up into the Colne Valley. We joined a footpath that ran parallel to the road leading through several fields; the grass was long and wet, and the ground underfoot was uneven making it a challenge to push through. 

After spending an hour tackling the tricky fields, the electric assist motor on my mountain trike decided to die! I found myself stuck in a farmer’s field as I couldn’t continue upwards without a working motor but was already 2km away from our starting point and had been walking for over an hour. Thankfully, I was able to call for backup and a new working mountain trike was brought to me so I could continue the journey. 

Having successfully overcome this obstacle, we followed the route suggested for another 3km until we reached our next challenge… a stile.

The stile that sent us off course

My mountain trike is brilliant as it allows me to access spaces my normal wheelchair would struggle with. The trike however is big and heavy and, unfortunately, can’t levitate over objects just yet. When we reached the stile, we had no choice but to find an alternative route. Assuming this would be straightforward, we headed back on ourselves and followed the main road until we could rejoin the route via a footpath. 

A 5km detour later and we were still not on the planned path as we couldn’t find a safe point of entry for mountain trike. After calculating that we should have been in Ripponden at this point as we had walked over 10km and been outside for 4 hours, we made the decision to head back to base. 

We might have only gotten halfway to Ripponden, our intended destination, but if you look at it from another perspective we managed to complete a 15km walk around the beautiful Colne Valley. Things don’t always go to plan outdoors. You might not end up doing what you originally intended because of physical barriers, broken equipment, or bad weather — but the new route can be just as enjoyable. 

Lucy Keyworth

Lucy Keyworth is founder of Leeds Paraclimbing Club. She is also the delivery officer at Experience Community, whose offices are right next to this Slow Way at Slaithwaite (incidentally pronounced ‘Slawit’!).

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