“It’s a very steep hill.” Mary is very fit and yet finds the climb to Cleve Spa hard going, especially as it comes after the half mile walk from our house.
One of my old carers used to find it fun, or perhaps her daily workout, to run up this hill. I’d never really appreciated how steep it was. For some reason it never struck me as hard going. I certainly never get out of breath going up it. Then one day Mary stopped at the top of the hill, rotated my wheelchair to face the way we had come and showed me the rooftops of the garage at the bottom of the hill. It seemed an awful long way down. Perhaps it was steep after all. Still it’s easy going down.
My wheelchair has a brilliant function, designed so that I can recover from a collapse whilst in it. But also, to enable a change of pressure in use and to help with steep slopes. It can recline and tilt. I have used this on steep hills. In Dawlish and in Sidmouth.
In Dawlish we were staying at the RCH Bridge house convalescent hotel in winter, it’s cheaper. The route between Mary’s dad’s house and the hotel goes via a park. In winter the park is muddy and full of leaves. Not wanting to take leaves and mud into Mary’s dad’s flat we chose to avoid the park. The problem was that the most direct route took us up by the hospital within the car park. If you know Dawlish, you will know that is a very steep, if short hill. I had two options, either go up backwards, tilted back, or put the wheelchair in a full forward tilt and take all recline off it. Making the footplates almost touch the ground. I chose that option, as I like seeing where I am going. The Quickie Salsa M2 is a very stable and well-balanced wheelchair, so I knew it would cope. Even so it felt scary the first time I went up the hill. Each little bump felt like it would tip the chair backwards. I was glad to reach the top. I am convinced there was no actual danger, only perceived, as the slope was within tolerance for the chair in the tilt I had set up. But that doesn’t take away how it feels.
The time in Sidmouth was a day trip by minibus from the RCH. The accessible minibus took us first to a donkey sanctuary just outside Sidmouth. By the way that is a very accessible place for wheelchairs, plus if you like donkeys you are totally sorted. The café is also very large and accessible with nice food, if a little pricey. But as entry to the sanctuary is free, I guess they make their money in the café. Then we were driven down into Sidmouth. The driver dropped us at Connaught gardens just above Sidmouth itself. The gardens are an odd mix of accessible and non accessible. You suddenly come across steps and must double back even though all the route has been smooth and easy up to the steps. The café there is not accessible.
We decided to try out the cliff path from the gardens to the sea front. But we weren’t sure if it was accessible. A word of warning; do not try to access it from the top in a push wheelchair unless you are strong and have suitable brakes. The path down is extremely steep! With a power wheelchair I would not attempt it unless you have one like mine that reclines. I reclined mine backwards quite a way and headed down. There were a few points where I wished I hadn’t started, but the thought of trying to go up kept me going. I would only attempt going up, backwards and tilted. Definitely not to be tried in ice or even heavy rain. Once we reached the bottom the rest of the path was accessible, but I could see that stones from the beach, or any debris could easily block the route. I would probably recommend a wheelchair user access the path from the seafront and head along from there, rather than from the gardens. Sidmouth seafront itself is a lovely long promenade to wheel along. If only Sidmouth was accessible by train, rather than just by car or coach.
Another, less major hill I have climbed in my wheelchair a few times is on Dawlish seafront. Under the viaduct as you turn right towards Coryton Cove you must climb a short incline onto the sea wall that runs alongside the railway by the sea. It’s an exciting trip and not possible, or rather not safe at high tide in stormy weather. The waves sweep over the sea wall an onto the railway line.
Passing under the viaduct and towards the sea wall is usually simple and clear. But in winter often pebbles have been swept over the path. Mary therefore keeps a stylish pink spade hanging on the back of my wheelchair. I see it as my manly pink spade, and I don’t feel at all embarrassed to have a pink spade. Not in the least embarrassed. When we were traveling to Dawlish, this pink spade, got caught on the internal train door, pinged off and landed at a passengers feet. I debated pretending it wasn’t mine, but Mary quickly claimed it back.
One morning we were heading to Coryton Cove and the night before the sea had decided to block our path. Mary gamely used the pink, yes pink spade to clear a path for my wheelchair. We reached the incline, I like to think of it as a hill, or mountain. Somehow it makes the whole journey more heroic. But if you know Dawlish, don’t let on that the incline is only a few feet. I struggled up the massive hill onto the sea wall to be greeted by more pebbles. We were also greeted by a helpful man warning us of the dangers of the sea wall. It is dangerous if you are unaware not to try it at high tide and that there are bumps and potholes to avoid.
Coming the other way were a big gang of workmen. They were all men, so I’m not being sexist. They were welding spades and brooms so Mary asked if they would clear a small path for us. I was just glad to see the back of the pink spade. Although it did get hung on the back of my wheelchair again in full view of passers by. The workmen were brilliant, they cleared a large pathway for me right the way through. So, we enjoyed our trip to Coryton Cove.
If it wasn’t for my brilliant wheelchair these trips would not be possible. I really can climb every mountain, OK, well slight incline then.
See my other blogs for other details of my wheelchair (My amazing wheelchair). I also blog more about our past (Biography of Mike and Mary) my journey and things we have learnt on the way. As well as helpful aids I have discovered (Not so public convenience.)
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