LUCY Muir has lived on a farm all her life - but has only recently been able to get around it.

For Lucy, a PhD student at Leeds University, has used a wheelchair since she was two.

It was when her family was looking at diversifying into holiday cottages that they decided they must cater for both able bodied and disabled people.

Now the farm in the North York Moors National Park has begun laying a network of wheelchair-friendly footpaths so the disabled can enjoy the farm and beautiful countryside to the full.

The Muir family have farmed beef and sheep at Fowl Green Farm, Commondale, for more than 100 years but, three years ago, the deepening recession in hill farming made it necessary for them to find extra income; the foot and mouth crisis later re-inforced that need.

"It occurred to us that if our daughter, who lives on a farm, has never had the opportunity to explore a farm, there are bound to be thousands of other disabled people in a similar situation," said Mrs Sue Muir, Lucy's mother.

"We felt there was an opportunity to provide both a service to disabled people and to do something which could help our farm business continue."

With the help of the North York Moors National Park, the Muirs first applied to the then MAFF Countryside Stewardship Scheme to get the walls on the farm back into a good condition and to create areas of woodland and hay meadow.

The national park also approved their plan to convert three derelict stone buildings into cottages, which hase been beautifully done.

"We built them around what we knew Lucy needed," said Mrs Muir, "but they are carefully designed so they are perfectly suitable for the able bodied and the disabled."

Lucy, who was disabled through juvenile arthritis, was quick to stress there were no hoists or similar large equipment in the cottages.

"It is not a nursing home or anything like that, it is for people who want to go on holiday in the countryside, whether they are able bodied or disabled," she said.

"I had never been able to go round the farmyard or anywhere else on the farm, but now it is really great."

About two miles of wheelchair friendly routes have so far been laid, taking visitors out into the fields to enjoy some wonderful views towards Castleton.

The national park's farm and rural community scheme and barrier-free access project helped with its creation. It used European and sports lottery funding and North Yorkshire County Council cycle route funding.

The route goes to a millennium wood where Mr Sandy Muir and his wife planted 550 oak trees and further paths are being laid to take visitors to picnic spots and viewing sites.

"Much of the work around the farm has been done by local or family labour," said Mrs Muir, who also has three sons, Angus, Dougal and Bob.

Trevor King, the national park's disabled access officer, said the new route formed part of a whole network of disabled access routes being created within the park.

"This is a particularly pleasing project because it directly benefits both a local business and the local community as well as disabled visitors generally," he said.

And Fraser Hugill, farm and rural community scheme project officer, said Fowl Green Farm was an example of how the national park and other agencies could work together to help family farms overcome ever-decreasing returns from agriculture while generating environmental improvements and removing barriers to enjoyment of the national park by everyone.

"We hope to inspire similar initiatives where appropriate in other parts of the national park, linked to our wider network of barrier removal," he said.

Fowl Green Farm has produced its own brochures and a web site at for anyone interested in viewing the accommodation available