Photo Trails 12Several of Exmoor’s best loved areas have become easier to access with the introduction of a new online service that allows visitors to ‘virtually’ walk the route before they visit.

Phototrails are an initiative of the Fieldfare Trust, whose Alison Rae said: “Phototrails use GPS technology to create an online version of the walking route. The visitor can virtually stroll along the route by scrolling through a photographic version and the virtual walk will show them where there are gates and where the path gradient increases and decreases.

“The Phototrail also gives information on the surface condition of the path and all this information allows the visitor to decide if the route is one that they can comfortably manage. This information is especially useful for people who may find steeper routes or barriers such as stiles a challenge. Of course, the Phototrails also show the potential visitor how beautiful Exmoor National Park is and this can only encourage them to visit.”

The Exmoor Phototrails are the result of the collaboration between Exmoor National Park and Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership and a team of enthusiastic volunteers . Ben Totterdell of Exmoor National Park Authority said: “Creating opportunities for people of all abilities and backgrounds to enjoy exploring Exmoor is a priority for us so we are pleased to see Phototrails being created for Exmoor. This new initiative will help people to make informed choices when planning their visit.”

The trails were surveyed by a team of eight volunteers, who walked and photographed each route and then uploaded the pictures, descriptions and GPS co-ordinates onto the Phototrails website. David Rolls, the Moorland Education and Outreach Officer for the Heart of Exmoor Scheme praised the volunteers saying: “Thanks to the hard work of this superb team of volunteer surveyors, we have gone from having no Phototrails on Exmoor to 15 trails in just a few months. Without them and the support of our funders, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Exmoor Sustainable Development Fund and CareMoor none of this would have been possible. It has been a brilliant team effort.”

Wheelchair user Gordon Guest, who has used the Phototrails said: “Many people who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter think that they cannot get into the countryside. However Phototrails demonstrate that there are many routes, some easy, some more challenging that can be undertaken by disabled users in wheelchairs or scooters.

“This helps open up the countryside making it much more accessible and showing that there are many walks that are possible which disabled persons may not have realised before looking at Phototrails. As a wheelchair user it has been a fantastic opportunity to get out and explore walks on Exmoor and to know that you are helping other disabled persons to get out and enjoy the countryside.”

Phototrails can be accessed via: http://www.phototrails.org/  or Exmoor specific Phototrails  http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/visiting/accessible-exmoor/phototrails-map