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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Paralympics star opens new Watchtree reserve cycling trail

Paralympic cycling star Karen Drake cut the ribbon to open up a new world of opportunities for Cumbrian cyclists.

Watchtree trail photo
Karen Drake on the trail

She opened new facilities at Watchtree Nature Reserve, near Great Orton, which is the home of the Watchtree Wheelers Cycling Centre.

She unveiled a newly-surface cycling trail and development area, funded with £130,000 of grant money.

Karen, 43, is paralysed from the chest down and took a silver medal at the 2012 Paralympic women’s time trials.

The athlete was delighted with what she saw.

She said: “I am really impressed with how many people there are here and I think a great job has been done.”

The track is more than 9ft wide at its narrowest points, making it suitable for all kind of adapted bikes used by disabled cyclists.

It has also been covered in a very smooth Tarmac, which Karen thought was excellent for everyone using it.

She was also impressed that the park has a selection of adapted bicycles for disabled people to hire, pointing out that to buy even a basic model could cost more than £2,000.

“For me it was never a problem because I always knew I wanted to cycle but for someone who’s just starting out and not really sure that is quite an investment.”

Hundreds of people turned out for an open day at reserve yesterday, many of them with physical or mental disabilities.

Some were members of charity Carlisle Mencap which helps people with learning difficulties.

Team leader Rebecca Bainbridge, 22, who lives in Belle Vue, Carlisle, said: “We came to support the reserve and have a go on the bikes.

“It just gives us a chance to get out in the fresh air,” she added.

“We can’t use the public roads because it would be too dangerous so it is nice that we can do it here.”

Brothers Arthur and Harry Cartwright-Smith from Denton Holme, Carlisle, who are both able-bodied, had a go around the track on an adapted bike, which had two seats but only one set of pedals.

Harry, seven, said: “It was great.”

Arthur, 10, added: “This bike is actually quite hard to control with two of us on it.”

Steven Bowditch, the Mayor of Carlisle, was at the event with his wife Christine.

His son Andrew has a learning disability and learned how to cycle through lessons at the reserve.

He said: “We are proud of this place for what it achieves.”

Frank Mowbray, the chairman at Watchtree, said: “We have a lot to be thankful for.”

Money for the project came from Sport England, Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, The People’s Millions and The Garfield Weston Foundation.

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