Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I blame my mum...

Me & mum on a Welsh mountain circa 1977
I blame my mum for a lot of things - my mile wide stubborn streak, my incessant need to know how and why things work and my extreme lack of patience.  I can also blame her for my sense of adventure - she used to take us surfing in the pouring rain (the rain wasn't a pre-requisite but neither was it ever to be seen as a deterrent), she dragged us up countless Welsh mountains and onto pretty much every roller coaster in Blackpool and beyond.  (You can't blame her for my writing though, for that the finger points firmly at my maternal granddad and my godawful sense of humour comes from my dad.)

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, these days she's not great on her legs and really struggles to get around which is frustrating for 2 main reasons.  Firstly because when she comes to visit us there's not a lot of stuff around here that she's able to do and secondly because her sense of adventure is still firmly in tact and she's frustrated that she can't get to see waterfalls or big sweeping views from the felltops.

In the past I've glibly blogged about the challenges of finding stuff to do when she visits when what I could perhaps have been doing was shouting a bit more about how providers of services dictate what should and should not be accessible to those with mobility issues.  This all became wholly apparent to me yesterday when we were invited to the pre-launch day of a new all terrain wheelchair known as the Terrain Hopper GTR.

The invite came from Debbie North who was a keen hiker and hill walker before she became a wheelchair user.  Debbie now dedicates her time to promoting true accessibility for all by way of the Terrain Hopper.  After spotting the vehicle by chance on an edition of Look North in 2014, Debbie quickly made contact with the inventors Sam and Deborah Dantzie, put the vehicle through its paces and promptly vowed to complete the  Coast to Coast route from St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay during 2015 (Honestly, if you click on no other links in this blog, click on that one)

The launch event was held at the beautiful Irton House Farm in the shadow of Skiddaw with breathtaking views along Bassenthwaite Lake - all of the accommodation is immaculate and wheelchair friendly.  (Plus after the event they pointed us to the The Craggs cafe in Bothel for fab food at really reasonable prices and plenty of wheelchair access.)

Mum kept insisting that she was nervous about the whole thing, but that didn't stop her immediately getting into one and taking off around a nearby field laid out as an obstacle course.  For someone who has never even driven a car she was soon whizzing around over mock bridges, zig-zagging through slalom poles and even taking flight over a giant see-saw.

All those years spent watching Dukes of Hazard finally pays off!

The vehicles are intuitive to use, robust, well balanced, tremendous fun and, for those whose bodies can't keep up with their adventurous spirits, absolutely life changing.  Most people who read this blog enjoy tearing up and down the fells but what if, god forbid, all that suddenly ended tomorrow due to illness or injury, what then?  Until the Terrain Hopper came along it would have been tough luck.

Made for mud.
"What about Trampers?" I hear you cry?  Well they're OK for what they're intended for - gentle woodlands and parks - but there's no chance of getting one up a fell.  As I type this a group of Terrain Hoppers is on their way to the top of Skiddaw again - they really do open up the fells for everyone.  What's frustrating is that the National Trust, Forestry Commission etc. think that Trampers are enough and won't consider investing in Terrain Hoppers to hire out to those who want something rather more adventurous.

Like mother, like daughter

Think of it like shoes - you have shoes you go to work in, shoes for gentle toddles and shoes for proper big hikes.  Mobility Scooters are your "shoes" for work and shopping, Trampers are your "shoes" for gentle outdoor toddles and Terrain Hoppers are your "shoes" for going up the fells in.  One isn't necessarily better than the other, they are all perfect for their environment.  Wouldn't it be great if all the "shoes" were available to those who wanted them rather than having an organisation tell us that the only "shoes" we can have access to don't suit what we want to do with them?

Terrain Hoopers aren't expensive executive toys, they are a fantastic opportunity to open up the fells to everyone with an adventurous spirit and a true life changer for those who need them.  Of course my biggest challenge now is keeping mum away from the Coast to Coast route...

Last seen heading for Robin Hood's Bay...

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