I could say I had not experienced much adventure in my life before my spinal cord injury. A chance to go to Keswick on a Multi Activity course, organized by Back Up was offered. I needed some convincing to go, but glad I did!
Heading to the North.
Keswick was the furthest I had ever been from home on my own. Apart from eight months rehab at the National Spinal Injuries Centre Stoke Mandeville. It was a long drive to the Lake District. A lift was arranged by the charity, with a fellow paraplegic called Chris. This was also a first for me! Two permanent wheelchair users, driving around in a silver, 3 door VW Golf, packed with our stowed wheelchairs, and luggage cramped in the back.
Reaching the beautiful Lake District, after journeying up the M6, on three motorways was a story of itself, but we arrived at the Centre right on time for introductions.
And in a Wheelchair!
On this course I experienced a range of activities I have never thought possible whilst living with a spinal cord injury. I climbed Latrigg pretty much independently. It felt like climbing a mountain, but it is a small fell at the base of Skiddaw. From the top it has amazing panoramic views of one of the largest bodies of water in the Lakes, Bassenthwaite lake, and the town of Keswick. I also managed to paraglide later on during the course from this fell. We also canoed across the lake, spent a night camping and did some climbing activities.
The Advantage of Wheelchair Skills.
The wheelchair skills I had developed by trial and error, prior to this Keswick course, really helped me get around confidently. The centre is situated at Little Crosthwaite. With Skidaw rising up behind the flint brick accommodation. The car park was smooth, but with a steep incline to the pool and sauna room. Adjusting pushing technique enabled this climb to be easier in order to experience the heat of the steam room and pool. Using back wheel balance to descend Latrigg was hard! The path was just a riddle of stones, rocks, clumps of grass and some shale. The muscles in my lower arms and hands ached by the time I made it to the bottom.
Being able to independently get across the campsite, on the edge of the lake, felt good. Making sure I didn’t tip too far back, when I lifted my front casters to keep them out of the rough, unkept, grass beneath me, filled me with extra joy and confidence.
Home and Away.
After returning from this course, an opportunity to Ski in Colorado was on offer. Taking up this opportunity, the trip was arranged and I was off! This was my first ever flight and my first ever crossing the Atlantic. The size of the Boeing was staggering. It still astounds me that these things can lift off and stay elevated!
I like the Warm.
Returning to the UK, ten days later, with a new passion for adventure and excitement, but deciding skiing wasn’t for me! With all that cold, wet snow, yet beautiful countryside with astonishing views, I still wanted to find another source of enjoyment. Maybe an activity in a warmer environment? I knew there was a wheelchair basketball club in Aylesbury. I looked into it and before I knew, I was at a training session, sitting in a borrowed chair. During my 12 years of playing it, I’ve become fortunate enough to make a lot of friends and see the country. Albeit through the window of my car, on the way to finding the sports centre.
27 years after my injury and being able to put all the nervousness a side or at least at the back of my mind, I can honestly say, I have the confidence to go anywhere, do pretty much anything and live a Happy life. Some still might think it is pretty hard in these times, but the skills I have developed and trained other wheelchair users with, are letting me be as free as I aspire to be.
Wheelchair Training may be able to continue after Boris, our PM, makes his announcement later on regarding the road map out of lockdown. Watch this space.