Hints & Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Accessible Day Out

If you’ve caught our adventures on Barrow in the Lake District on More 4’s The Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes then you may just have come to one of the following the conclusions:

  1. We’re insane.
  2. We were dropped on our heads as babies.
  3. That looks like fun and I want to do it.

Funny as it may seem, we’re neither insane nor were we dropped on our heads as babies. Jonathan supports Newcastle United and that’s about as far as suspicious brain activity goes.

The climb up Barrow for us was both immense fun and challenging. Maybe more challenging than we were expecting it to be, but the thing is, we’re prepared for this type of trek both during the day and before it.

We don’t head out into the hills in search of trouble. We’re prepared for it like any hillwalker should be although we may put one or two extra precautions in there as well. Here’s our top tips for staying safe in the hills when you’re on an adventurous and challenging accessible day out.

The rules of walking, being able to use a map and compass and wearing appropriate clothing are something that we’ll take as read for the purpose of this article. If you want to read more then simply click on the links and read the more-than-sound advice of our TOG Partner and superhero Jonathan Smith of Where2Walk.

Click to zoom …

Here are our extra hints and tips for a safe and enjoyable accessible day out:

  1. Research the route. Now this is a very subjective area in the sense of ‘how much research is good research?’ Our first port of call is always the relevant OS map. First we zero in on bridleways and other tracks that in theory will be accessible for the TerrainHopper. We look at the contour lines for steepness and camber and then make a judgement call on whether it will be too dangerous. If we’re happy at this point we may do a search on the internet and look for photographs on the internet of the route. As an example, there’s a bridleway climbs Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District. This, initially, sounded exciting. Yes, the climb would be steep but we thought we’d do a little more research. On finding a photograph of someone’s mountain bike on this particular bridleway Jonathan simply declared, “I think not.” The photograph revealed just how narrow the bridleway is with a steep, precipitous drop to one side. We called time on that trek there and then.
  2. Teamwork. There’s no negotiation to be had here regardless of how bloody-minded you are. Teamwork is absolutely vital when you’re out on a challenging accessible trek. In our case, the team consists of myself, Andy and Jonathan as the team on the hill. If we’re doing a linear route then we have a back-up driver who will have times and places for picking us up. Our back-up driver is also aware of the emergency procedures should we fail to turn up, but fingers crossed, that’s never happened.
  3. If in doubt, leave it out. Regardless of the amount of preparation work you do before hitting the hills, the chances are you will always come across something unexpected. More often than not, it’s the weather. We abandoned an attempt on Skiddaw one day because the wind was howling ferociously and the rain battered down. As it was, we went Back o’Skiddaw and even that provided us with some very wet weather. You may also come across a rock in the way, or a track that’s narrower than you were expecting with a drop to the side. Remember, if in doubt, leave it out. Don’t let people coerce you into doing something you’re not 100% fine with. Making great decisions and turning away from potential trouble rather than rushing headlong into it is the way to go.
  4. Start small, dream big. That’s what we did. We travelled coast to coast. Okay, that’s not starting small. But it was dreaming big. Just make sure you’re used to what your all-terrain wheelchair is capable of. We’d done that part of the process before we left St Bees. Honest.

That’s really all there is to an awesome day out in the countryside. The balance of our four tips will be different for every individual. Off camera for our trek up Barrow, there were a lot of conversations took place along the health and safety lines and that really has to be your bottom line. But if you’re well-prepared, there is no reason why you won’t have some absolutely awesome accessible days out in the wilds!