A DISABLED grandfather is calling for better access on canal towpaths after he was forced to abandon a day out.
Terry Chadwick, 61, was looking forward to enjoying some new-found freedom after trading his car for a mobility scooter last year.
The father-of-two suffers from the serious lung condition emphysema, which leaves him breathless after walking only short distances.
Terry – who is registered disabled – has spent the last three years relying on his wife, Linda, to take him on outings in his wheelchair.
So, he couldn’t wait to explore the countryside alone using his battery-operated scooter when the weather turned warmer.
Terry, of Banks Avenue, Golcar, said: “The furthest I had been was Milnsbridge and I was itching to try going further because the scooter does 15 miles when it is fully charged. I used to walk by the canal years ago so that’s what I intended doing.
“I’m annoyed that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do after all the money they have spent doing up the canal.
“I can’t believe they have not made the footpaths suitable for the disabled or people with pushchairs.”
Terry – who has to be attached to an oxygen cylinder 24 hours a day – travelled by road from Golcar to Slaithwaite, via Wellhouse and Crimble.
He arrived in Slaithwaite and enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine at a cafe before making his way up the towpath towards Marsden.
But yards into his route, he was forced to turn back when he was greeted by a A-gate designed to stop motorcyclists using the towpaths.
He said: “I only got 200 yards and there was a fence across the towpath, with a gate set in a pen.
“There was no way I could get my scooter in, even though I tried. Two ladies tried to help me but there was just no way.
“I was very disappointed about it and had to turn back.”
He then travelled to Linthwaite via Manchester Road and again tried to gain access to the canal close to Titanic Mills.
“That proved difficult too,” he said. “The track was disgraceful – there were potholes everywhere and the path was too steep in places.
“I daren’t risk it so had to turn back round again.”
British Waterways – responsible for canal towpaths – said it was trying to make areas more accessible for disabled people in the future. In the meantime, a special key was available for disabled people to buy which would enable them to open and close the gates.
A spokesman said: “The gates on the towpath on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal were installed to prevent motorcyclists travelling down the towpath which was obviously a major danger, not only to themselves, but to other users of the towpath.
“We continue to look at appropriate methods of managing areas like these in order to control this problem and ensure that the risk to members of the public is minimised.
“The recent flooding to numerous areas within the Yorkshire area has also meant that some areas of the towpath surface have been washed away leaving some surface damage.
“We have to prioritise our work programme within our financial constraints, but we will continue to work hard with the local authorities to improve these access issues.
“We have a long-term aim of improving access to towpaths and provide a waterway network that is safe and secure and, by doing so, actively encourage as many people as possible to come and visit the waterways.
“As a gesture of goodwill we are happy to send Mr Chadwick a handcuff key, which are available from local marinas and boat suppliers, which will enable him to gain access through the gates and enjoy the terrific waterways of Huddersfield.”