York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England, but what if ice and dark stop you from enjoying them? Not to mention if you are a wheelchair user. MATT CLARK meets a man with the answer.

WE'VE all walked the Bar Walls, but have you ever stopped to think that you're missing the best view of all; the walls themselves, because you are perched on top of them. The thought hadn't occurred to Simon Mattam either. Author of the 2013 Walking Guide to York's City Walls, he was more interested in the spectacular vistas enjoyed from aloft.

Then he was suddenly made wheelchair dependent by a mystery lung disease.

"Literally it has given me another perspective," says Mr Mattam. "Coming up the path from the Ouse in Museum Gardens you get a very fine view of the multangular tower from being low down, which is quite interesting.

"You also find yourself looking at things people don't see when they are walking because they are at waist height. Things like mason's marks."

Which got him thinking. How about producing a city walls trail but this time at ground level.

Something similar had been mooted a while back at Friends of York Walls, of which Mr Mattam is a member, due to the many emails they received asking for suggestions on how people with disabilities could access the walls.

"My condition is supposed to be deteriorating, so I wanted to do something rapidly and decided to adapt a city walls trail map that I had created in spring," he says.

York Press:

Mr Mattam's original wall trail....

"It's a relatively little talked about trail beginning and ending in Exhibition Square and shown by small brass waymarkers set into the pavement. I imagine when it was created there would have been some official guides, but I've never seen anything definitive about it."

Mr Mattam's maps are essentially the same, but the revised version has an explanation of signs set into the paving on the wall walk.

York Press:

..... and the amended version.

"There were two things really. It needed a suggested route for someone who couldn't get onto the walls and in the spaces where I deleted notes of things people wouldn't be seeing, I tell how the route works."

But they cram in more than just directions. Advising wheelchair users to enter the city for Monk Bar, because of the raised crossing, Mr Mattam goes on to tell us York's only medieval bar back has no arrow slits. Such things were a Victorian confection and in any case the guards had no need of them, for one thing because the gate faced into the city, for another because they wanted some decent light. Then there are cross references to Mr Mattam's walking guide, advice on accessible open spaces and car parks. Not to mention toilets along the route.

York Press:

Simon and Ann Mattam enter Goodramgate through Monks Bar. Picture: Matt Clark.

So having spent this long researching his map, there must be a few favourite spots.

"I'd have to say Museum Gardens," he says. "They are almost completely wheelchair friendly, which now gives me another reason for liking them. Then there is a very fine view of the Walls from Robin Hood's Tower on Lord Mayor's Walk and at Jewbury."

This guide is such a great idea you wonder why nobody thought of it before.

"There was a plan 10 years ago to create an accessible route around the walls, but it was very ambitious," says Mr Mattam. "I think it included a cycle track and footpath, a circular park almost, but only places like Lord Mayor's Walk lent itself to the idea and I don't think any elements were carried out."

An idea was mooted for a lift near Victoria Bar, but Mr Mattam says that remains a vague ambition. Now, thanks to his map, everyone can enjoy the country's finest city walls.

"If you only think of them as going up onto the walkway the simple answer is people in wheelchairs can't do that," he says. "But this is about enjoying the walls rather than just the views from them.

"I'm just slightly ashamed that I only got around to making this when I myself needed a wheelchair."

Simon Mattam's City Walls From The Ground is available free of charge to those with a disability that prevents them going up on the Walls from VisitYork and Shopmobility, York. It is also freely available to view or download on the Friends of York Walls website: yorkwalls.org.uk Mr Mattam's Walking Guide to York's City Walls is available from VisitYork, YorkExplore and the Gatehouse Cafe at Walmgate Bar at £6. A developed version from an early draft is also freely available to view or download on the Friends of York Walls website. It is updated on the group's Facebook page facebook.com/walkyorkwalls The original map-guide City Walls Trail, first printed this Spring is currently only available from Friends of York Walls, cost 50p, at events such as the free public open-days at Fishergate Postern Tower. The next one will be held on October 29