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43) Bolton On Swale, YWT Nature Reserve, Catterick

The site is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

This is a small site that is less than 1 mile in total distance. You could travel along the dirt road along the farmers fields to tour the locality but these lanes are very uneven due to many potholes - also heavy agricultural equipment moves up and down this lane and they won't expect to see a low (ish!) person in a wheelchair or on a mobility scooter.

The car park is fairly level but mostly unmade - pick your spot to park carefully so not to get blocked in by another car parking up, there are no specific disabled parking bays identified. 

Facilities on site:
None. Free of charge to visit.
Dogs not allowed unless accredited guide or assistance dogs -wearing service jackets.

Nearby is a cafe with toilets , called The Lakeside Country Park.

`I would not recommend travelling from the cafe (Lakeside) to the nature reserve car park as it is quite a distance. Instead drive the the actual reserve carpark. Following the postcode proved a bit hit and miss for me, but if you use what3words then search for    pictures.bibs.bicker

The approach lane is very bouncy in a car or van- so if you have a person in a wheelchair secured in your vehicle this will be a rough ride to the car park.

The route:.
The route takes you out the car parking area - across the lane and into the nature reserve via a "swing each way " gate. This has a bridleway type latch on a long bar. I travel and visit on my own and so was not able to access the gate on my own - I was lucky that a passing walker was able to operate the gate for me. As I use a wheelchair with a powered front wheel I was unable to actually reach the latch mechanism - also due to how the earth is banked on the left  of the gate I could not manoeuvre my front wheel to allow me to pull alongside to reach the fastenings or latch.
Once inside the gate the path is wide enough for any wheelchair / mobility scooter to travel. There is a slight down hill to the first hide. You get a good view of the lake from a few sections of the path.

This first hide gives a lovely view of the lake- you get a great view of the barn owl box, Osprey platform, island and Sand Martin roost  that have been installed.
A very small step and ample width door so access to the hide is not a problem. A great place to take pictures - however as I was on my own I was not able to operate the heavy "swing up and latch" viewing window in the viewing area. I am fairly strong but could not manage it - That said there is ample room for a wheelchair user to view. Sadly I was not able to use my camera due to the presence of the window.

Back out the hide and turn right down the slightly up and down path. Soon you get to the open hide.

This has two fixed wooden benches with viewing points all along its frontage. Sadly I was not able to get to see anything as the viewing points each side of where the benches are too high for all but the tallest wheelchair user. I could view the lake but only if I pushed up on my wheelchair arms and elevated myself.  So again not able to take any pictures of the wildlife.

Head back up the path and keep an eye for bird feeding stations in the trees. The path is one wheelchair width so if people want to pass they will have to invade your space to do so.

On the outgoing journey I was able to put my front wheel slightly left of the gate and operate it ok.

What will you see?
Lots of fowl and geese on the lake and surrounding fields. Smaller birds in the trees and on the feeders. Lots of insects and wildflowers along the path. Fingers crossed that Ospreys take up the nesting platform or Barn owls make use of the box.
If  your  on your own and like myself are not able to stand at all then perhaps give this reserve a miss - if you travel with someone then the gate will not be an issue. A companion would also be able to open the viewing window in the closed hide for you.

limited viewing from the open hide due to the "suitable for more able" wildlife watchers only.


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