ALL-terrain mobility scooters are to be made freely available at two Natural England sites in South Lakeland to help more people enjoy the great outdoors.

It is part of a "More to Explore" project being run by the Morecambe Bay Partnership which aims to open up the countryside to people of all abilities.

The first all-ability countryside access project was launched at Roudsea Woods and Mosses National Nature Reserve, near Haverthwaite, on Sunday (Jan 7). The programme of routes and mobility scooters was officially opened by Lord Blencathra, former Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean, who is now deputy chair of Natural England. A second tramper hire point in Grange-over-Sands will launch later in the year

One in ten of Cumbria’s population lack the strength or mobility to walk far. Through its “More to Explore” project, Morecambe Bay Partnership is helping families and carers to enjoy being outdoors together.

“More to Explore” offers seven routes around Morecambe Bay which are suitable for a wide range of users including prams and wheelchairs. Route guides can be downloaded from the website which also serves as the inquiry point for tramper hire. Trampers, which are rugged, electric powered, all-terrain mobility scooters, will be hired out on a give-what-you-can basis.

Lord Blencathra, a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer, and champion for disabled access to the countryside, said: “This is a great example of partnership working to ensure that our countryside can rightfully be enjoyed by everyone.

"Improved access will help to connect more people with their natural environment, giving them a chance to enjoy our countryside, its open space and fascinating wildlife – all key aspects of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.”

Susannah Bleakley, chief executive at Morecambe Bay Partnership, said: “There’s plenty of evidence that being outdoors gives us a boost, improving our social lives as well as physical and mental health. "Imagine a mother who can’t walk far because of health problems; a couple, who chose to live here because they loved the outdoors and yet, after a stroke or illness, are unable to take the rambles they once loved; or a grandfather recovering from ill-health and not able to join in with picnics, or days out with grandchildren on coastal walks.

"For all of these people, and for their families and friends, the opportunities to enjoy nature and the benefits of a coastal or country walk are rather limited."

“We are very keen to expand this in future. There are thousands of people in South Lakeland and around the Bay who cannot easily explore the countryside and enjoy the uplifting views and landscape of Morecambe Bay. We'd be delighted to hear from anyone who can support this work with a gift or by volunteering their time." Contact”