I suppose you could argue I took the great outdoors for granted way back when. After all, it was a fairly straight-forward process for us to get in the car, drive to the Yorkshire Dales and tramp to the top of a peak.
Since my spinal issues became a factor in 2007, I’ve appreciated the great outdoors far more. And with it, I’ve also savoured some brilliant moments.
Here’s just 12 of them:
Back in 2013, I got my first real taste of the outdoors when I was contacted by Jonathan Smith of Where2Walk. He met Andy and myself in Malham and we made our first attempt at taking an accessible trek up to Gordale Scar which came third on the list of Britain’s Favourite Walks. It was enlightening and raised more questions about accessibility in the countryside than it answered. But do you know what? It felt great to be out in a place I thought I’d never see again.
Moral To The Tale: Never give up. Ever.
It seems that if you take a hefty gouge out of the ground and call it a pot, people will want to go and peer into it. I’m no different. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the place when it had a waterfall after Storm Desmond and by all accounts the approach to it might have been a little gooey. I got to see it on a glorious summer’s day when we trekked up there with a band of pals. It was brilliant.
Moral To The Tale: Some things are quite simply well worth waiting for.
Not the television programme. A real actual rainbow. We were trying out the Whill as we headed towards the deliciously named Lamps Moss on a velvety bridleway. We got caught out by the weather and velvety rapidly became squidgy so we decided to return to the car on wheel rather than have to swim. It was then a rainbow made an appearance and arced over us in the sky. I’d call it one of those moments you read about but never expect to see. It was one of those moments that reminded me why I love being outdoors.
Moral To The Tale: You can go chasing rainbows.
Fishing On Skye
Now angling’s not my game, but when we were taking in the Isle of Skye at the Staffin end of the island, it became apparent that I was simply going to have to have a go. With the help of my trusty TerrainHopper I was able to not only get onto the beach – you’d be surprised how much of a challenge sand can be for wheelchair users – but also able to dip my wheels and practise casting the line into the water. I have no idea what would have happened if I’d actually caught something. Well, I do. I’d have probably screamed, dropped the rod and headed for The Quiraing.
Moral to The Tale: If you get a chance to go fishing, take it.
In The Spirit Of Wainwright
Of course I’m going to shamelessly plug our book. Why? Well, in so many ways, our coast to coast crossing seemed to symbolise not only the light at the end of the tunnel, but the actual moment we came out of the tunnel. I say ‘we’ because people often forget about family and friends who carry the burden of your own health issues. Yes, this was definitely a ‘we’ moment and one that I’d happily do over and over again. It’s got me thinking. Grabs pen and scribbles ‘Point A’ on piece of paper. Now, where shall ‘we’ begin…?
Moral To The Tale: Dreams. Live ‘em.
I don’t just go hurling myself up and down mountains, you know! What do you think I am? Mad!!! Part of the work I’ve been involved with was a trip through Germany and down to Bavaria to look at accessible treks there. It was an absolutely brilliant trip which started with an overnight ferry crossing and was filled with so many highlights it’d be hard to know where to begin. Which is why I’m simply going to mention Wendelstein, a high mountain – 1838m high in fact. I couldn’t get to the summit but courtesy of a cable car I was able to get to a viewing gallery which still offered awe-inspiring views.
Moral To The Tale: Visit Bavaria.
Jonathan at Where2Walk absolutely raves about Blencathra as do many, many others, some of who can be seen waxing lyrical in ‘A Year In The Life Of Blencathra’ by filmmaker Terry Abrahams. Or Saddleback. In fact, he raved so much he persuaded us that a trip up in the TerrainHopper was entirely feasible. Well, with the promise of a grand day out in the Lake District, amazing views and a Wainwright summit to tick off as accessible, we girded our loins like they’d never be girded before and hit the 868m high peak with the cheesiest grins ever. Currently, we’re not publishing the route because, in the manner which we’ve grown accustomed, we ended up taking a descent which bagged us another Wainwright but was also pretty hairy. So you can forget us telling you route. Just know there is an accessible way to the top.
Moral To The Tale: Keep checking us out for accessible Wainwrights.
We made a crossing from Sedbergh at the foot of the Howgills, hit the summit of Winder then onto The Calf before descending down into Bowderdale Head which isn’t pronounced how it’s spelt. Armed with the TerrainHopper and a goodly collection of friends, we headed into a vertical sea with slots in it as the late great Terry Pratchett once wrote. Or something exceedingly close to that. It was a challenging day and numerous problems were thrown at us but we overcame each and every one of them with grit, humour and a little sorcery; possibly divine intervention. At number 8 on the list, it’s actually one of those days that you often speak about first.
Moral To The Tale: Keep your sense of humour even you’re soaking wet and in a cloud with no end to the trip seemingly possible.
Eden Valley and the Yorkshire Dales National Park
We moved from the Lincolnshire Wolds last year and now live on a sheep farm in Cumbria. There have been some distinct advantages of this. One is that, whilst not actually living in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, we are only a five minute trek from it. Literally go to the end of the farm track and cross the road and you’re there. We’re also lucky enough to be well-placed for stunning views up the Eden Valley towards the Northern Pennines which houses gems such as High Cup Nick. And if that wasn’t enough, it only takes us thirty minutes to be in Kendal and the Lake District.
Moral To The Tale: It’s not grim up North.
In one of those moments of madness, we took on Skiddaw when the cloud was down low. It’s always down low it seems. The rain fell. The wind howled. But we stuck to our guns and reached the trig point, a full 931m above sea level. I have to be honest and say the views would have been the bonus to the trek. But just being outside in the elements and sitting atop a mountain in the Lake District was simply sublime.
Moral To The Tale: Views from Lake District mountains are not guaranteed.
The Beast From The East
The snow fell on the Tuesday night and so on Wednesday we simply had to take the opportunity to be out there and to make the first tracks. It was cold but the views were brilliant and the TerrainHopper performed majestically in difficult conditions. There are just times when you have to awaken the big kid inside you and get out there.
Moral To The Tale: Snow – go play in it.
Dalesman ‘Countryside Hero’ 2018
Earlier this month I was given ‘Countryside Hero’ award for the work I do re accessibility for all in Yorkshire. This award was presented by The Dalesman at a wonderful event held at Broughton Hall, Skipton. It is such an honour to receive such recognition that ‘access for all’ is important and that, together with the National Parks, the AONB’s and The Outdoor Guide, we continue to make the inaccessible accessible.