A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the category “Out and About”

Not Puffin Hunting

We could see the Farne Islands from where we were staying in Northumberland. Islands and boats are a winning combination in my book so there was no way we wouldn’t be paying them a visit. Actually, the secret reason for the trip north was to get on to the islands – and to look for puffins.

So we hopped aboard one of the many boats offering such a trip from Seahouses harbour. Puffins were advertised as arriving from the end of March, which was a whole week previously, so obviously there would be no problem …

Seahouses harbour

Seahouses harbour

As the boat approached the islands, it was amazing to see how the number and variety of birds increased – and also the noise! There were birds everywhere – flying overhead, flying past the boat or sitting on tiny ledges of rock. There were eider ducks, shags and kittiwakes, and, around one of the outlying islands, fulmars. But no puffins.

However, there were seals! So many seals! They were basking lazily on the rocks, totally unfazed by the boat coming close and the many pairs of eyes staring at them. They just stared back, not very interested. They came in many shades, from rust coloured to black, from grey to speckled. And they were all so very chilled.

seals

seals

After a tour of the islands, we landed on Inner Farne for an hour’s explore. We tried not to think about puffins. I’d already heard a distinct lack to the word ‘puffin’ and there had been no sign of any flying about so far. Sightings were going to be unlikely.

more seals!

more seals!

This experience of Inner Farne was very different from our previous visit when we had been pecked within seconds of arrival by fierce little arctic terns guarding their nests which they’d carefully placed right by the side of the footpaths. At least this time we had arrived before them and could look around without cowering!

It was clear that this was puffin city as the whole island was pocked with burrows – puffin homes. It was just that they hadn’t moved back in yet. Although this was disappointing, I did console myself with remembering that we had been before and seen them at their height. This time we could enjoy the other birds.

nesting shags

nesting shags

The stars of the show were the shags which were nesting on rocky ledges all around the island. We could get very close to them and were able to clearly see the tufted crests on their heads.

rocky living!

rocky living!

After a wander round the whole (very small!) island we sat by the shore enjoying the sunshine and waiting for our boat to take us back home. The odd shag flew by with its beak full of nest material.

All in all, it was a very good day not puffin hunting!

waiting for our boat

waiting for our boat

As to accessibility – I had to climb down a number of steps to the boat but that would vary with the tide. The boatmen were very helpful in providing stable arms to get me aboard. On the island, if you can walk a little way uphill at the start (or have sturdy pushers!) it is wheelchair accessible as there is just one circular footpath around the island which is covered by duckboards. It wasn’t even very bumpy! There are also trips which don’t include landing on an island.

Happy adventuring!

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Castles by the Sea

We’ve just got back from a few days exploring in Northumberland. It’s been a few days spent outside all day in fresh sunshine, and enjoying fabulous views. We stopped at the Angel of the North on the way up: a beautiful piece of art and engineering.

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

Then it was onward and upward to the very north or England, a land of wide empty fields to the west and miles of long sandy beaches to the east. One day was spent on castle walks. In the morning, on Holy Island, we spotted Lindesfarne Castle from the monastery ruins. It was at the far end of the island but we decided that we could manage the walk there.

distant Lindisfarne Castle

distant Lindisfarne Castle

I had good pushing assistance from Pete and our teenage son (who coped very well with a break away with both parents and no sister for moral support!). It was about a mile from the car park, and the terrain was not very wheelchair-friendly approaching the castle itself – so we simply went round the side and admired it from the outside. There were many, many spots to sit and enjoy the sea views and, although many people were doing exactly that, there was still plenty of space and it still felt wild and empty.

view from Holy Island

view from Holy Island

Later, we headed a little south to Craster with its picturesque harbour. From here we took a footpath to Dunstanburgh Castle, a truly impressive ruin that stood against the skyline about a mile away, tempting us towards it.

Craster harbour

Craster harbour

The path was largely flat and more of a walk (or wheel) over short grass than along a footpath. However, after a time the route started to slope gently up towards the castle, and not always so gently. Also, sometimes the path became very stony and I had to get out of the wheelchair in order to negotiate those sections.

Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

My fantastic pushers did a marvellous job, and indeed our son was the most game for pushing me over the last and steepest section so that we could get to the castle itself. It is a huge castle, even as a ruin, spanning right across the ridge, and becomes even more imposing the closer you get.

getting nearer

getting nearer

The wide expanse of grassy hillside with no sign of any road ever having cut across it looked absolutely made for horses to gallop across and up to the castle. You could practically hear their hooves thundering past! Once inside, I sat on a wall watching out to sea happily, whilst the other two had a good wander around, including climbing a (non-ruined!) tower.

below the castle walls

below the castle walls

It was a great walk, though I can’t really call it wheelchair-accessible. A strong mobility scooter would probably be fine. Someone who can get out of a chair to help with tricky bits would be ok, but you also need strong companions to push so … on the edge of accessibility. But if you can do it, do! It is well worth the effort.

view from Dunstanburgh Castle

view from Dunstanburgh Castle

A Christmas Walk

A Christmas visit to relatives gave me the chance to get out into the Lake District.

My trip to Elterwater brought a new and interesting complication for my brother: how do you manage both your sister in a wheelchair and your two small children, one of whom is still more interested in doing her own thing than following instructions?

river walk, Elterwater

river walk, Elterwater

Admirably, as it turned out! The hairiest part of the outing was the 100 yards or so downhill, from where we had parked the car in the village to the start of the path. My brother’s hands were fully occupied with not letting the wheelchair (and me!) run away, whilst his eldest daughter, taking her responsibility as Big Girl very seriously, clung tightly hold of her little sister as they both ran at full pelt towards the footpath. I heard my brother give a huge sigh of relief once all parties were safely the other side of the gate that marked the start of the path!

easy footpath

easy footpath

Our route meandered beside the stream which led to the lake itself – although our expedition did not get that far (due to small legs!). It was very flat and smooth, with a compact surface of fine stone – interspersed with sections of most attractive but, as usual, more bumpy, slate paving. The path was popular with all ages, as well as, most importantly, cyclists – I made a mental note to return with the tandem!

paved path

paved path

It was a beautiful crisp day and plenty of people were also enjoying the chance to get out after a few rather damp days. We were all greeting each other with cheery ‘hellos’.

Langdale Pikes

Langdale Pikes

The scenery created pictures in every direction, all lit differently by the winter sun. Behind us, the Langdale Pikes were in full view whilst, as the sun shone behind the trees, it highlighted their dark trunks. Elsewhere, a field of frost became illuminated when light finally reached it.

looking towards the frosty field

looking towards the frosty field

Not that there was much time to enjoy the views – there were small people to chase! They paddled, pushed the chair, played Pooh Sticks … and mainly did a lot of running!

across Coniston Water

across Coniston Water

There was even time to head off to Coniston for lunch at the Bluebird cafe and watch the magical light over the lake. Some of the party also managed some more paddling (and only got their feet a little wet!).

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

A Winter Wander

It was a bright and frosty winter’s day but there was no-one about to enjoy it with. I was itching to get out and make the most of it – you never know how long such weather will last.

peering at sheep

peering at sheep

There was nothing for it – I would have to go it alone! I dug out my battered walking boots, scooped up my walking poles and headed cautiously out.

I was extremely glad I was wearing my woolly scarf, cosy gloves and thick coat – it truly was a clear, and therefore very cold, day! There’s a little path out on to fields near to our house which is within my reach if I take things carefully.

the frosty path

the frosty path

Even though the sun had been melting the ice all morning, there was still a white sprinkling on the path. I made full use of my poles for balance, and stomped my boots on the grass at the path edge rather than the suspiciously shiny stones up the middle – it was good fun, spiking the grass and manoeuvring myself up the side of the field.

my trusty walking poles

my trusty walking poles

However, the best bit was the sight of the sheep munching contentedly in the field. They were all bashful, I’m afraid, and shied away from any close-up camera shots!

Bizarre though it sounds, I also really enjoyed feeling my hands freeze when I took them out of my gloves to take photos – I definitely knew I was outside!

simply sheep!

simply sheep!

Changing Scenes

We’ve just returned from our annual ex-student walking weekend, this time in Kettlewell in North Yorkshire. I’ll admit it, I just socialised!

I did get out to Hawes for the day with a friend who ‘sacrificed’ going for a walk herself to come with me. (No sacrifice really, I think she’ll admit – but thank you, ‘I don’t do hills’ Julia!)

sheltering sheep, Kettlewell

sheltering sheep, Kettlewell

The only fresh air I experienced on the weekend was being wheeled from one cafe to another and from the hostel to the pub, which suited me just fine! Especially when I saw how cold and windswept everyone looked as they gradually returned from various walks that seemed to have involved being clamped under low cloud for much of the afternoon.

We did experience our own wild weather in Hawes when we ventured out of our first cafe after a couple of hours’ catch-up on news. It coincided with the heavens opening and us getting very wet in the space of a couple of hundred yards. After taking emergency shelter in a shop we decided it was lunchtime and we really ought to find another cafe … and that was how our day passed really – in a most acceptable fashion!

fields above Kettlewell

fields above Kettlewell

The journey to and from Hawes took us past gently sloping fields, fast-flowing streams, and trees only just beginning to turn, and there were still several yellow bikes hanging from trees and pubs to remind us of the fantastic summer weekend of Le Tour. We even stopped to watch as bursts of water were blown up a waterfall by the strength of the wind.

We were staying in the YHA hostel in Kettlewell, the venue for several of our reunions. However, it’s likely to be our last one there as the hostel is up for sale – such a shame. I remember once, a few years ago, arriving back from a walk to be greeted by a pungent smell of pumpkins, and a roomful of happy children with one very happy dad, all making splendid Hallowe’en lanterns which became our table decorations for the evening.

Kettlewell youth hostel

Kettlewell youth hostel

There’s been a slightly different feel to this year’s gathering – caused by a lack of youngsters. After years of babies, who grew into toddlers, then primary age children and, most recently, tall teenagers, suddenly they’ve almost all disappeared – they are either (officially, at least!) adults now or are busy doing their own thing at weekends. It was almost like old times (but with more creaking limbs and less energy!). Although it felt quite strange at first, by the end of the weekend I was managing to cope quite well with the lack of responsibility!

A Skye Adventure

I have been walking amongst the Black Cuillins of the Isle of Skye! I never expected to be doing something so adventurous amidst those awesome mountains again.

Black Cuillins from Sligachan, Skye

Black Cuillins from Sligachan, Skye

Pete and I haven’t been on Skye for way too long but, fortunately, our Silver Wedding anniversary gave us the necessary nudge to get us back, retracing part of our honeymoon. We made numerous visits pre-children when we climbed several Red Cuillins, as well as one mean Black one (after a previous aborted attempt due to Scottish weather on our honeymoon).

We have also explored the island by car, heading down most of its roads in our quest to see as much as possible. However, on this visit we discovered that there was a particular road, with a very tempting boat trip at its end, that we hadn’t previously been down.

Cuillins from Elgol

Cuillins from Elgol

This was the road to Elgol, and the boat was the Bella Jane. The road took you round the south west part of the island to give a view of the Cuillins that was hidden from the main route up the island. Even better, the Bella Jane took you close to the hidden Loch Coruisk, only accessible through the mountains by foot or by boat.

We drove for three quarters of an hour along a single track road, past hamlets and single houses dotted amongst the long rough grass, and on round the wide empty shore of Loch Slapin, with a glimpse of the small isles beyond. Finally, a severe drop down to the sea brought us to the hamlet of Elgol, with its handful of houses, three huts for boat trips, and, most amazingly, a village school! Right on the water’s edge – it must be the best placed school in the country!

darkening atmosphere

darkening atmosphere

The tiny harbour faced the Cuillins across Loch Scavaig. Although they were still a little distant, they managed to look rather less than welcoming. You knew that to climb them would be a challenge, only to be undertaken by an experienced walker (indeed, an experienced climber for several).

Our boat brought us ever closer to the rocks that formed the lower slopes of the mountains. As we drew nearer, the rocks loomed larger, darker and more forbidding. It felt colder, more serious.

basking grey seals

basking grey seals

The mood was lightened by the sight of seals basking on several little rocky islands. Then we turned into a beautiful dark green lagoon, with Cuillin rocks rising out of it. The boat moored below a flat rock and we climbed a steep metal ladder (with a handle at only one side – I clung on with both hands!).

Now my adventure really began! The walk from the mooring to Loch Coruisk usually took about 10 minutes. It took me about three times as long, with several stops.

steps up from the lagoon

steps up from the lagoon

The effort was completely worth it. I was walking amongst the Black Cuillins! The path was muddy, grassy and stony. It was uneven and there were puddles. I was properly on the lower Cuillin slopes! Some of the route was even over the distinctive, grippy gabbro rock that made up those mountains.

views whilst walking

views whilst walking

 

the footpath

the footpath

It was an exhilarating walk and at journey’s end I was able to sit above Loch Coruisk, enjoying the brooding, empty beauty of the scenery. Others may climb the jagged peaks; I have conquered the walk to the hidden loch.

wilderness of Loch Coruisk

wilderness of Loch Coruisk

I have to confess that the midges did find us but even they didn’t manage to spoil the moment!

Red Cuillin on road to Sligachan

Red Cuillin on road to Sligachan

It was a memorable trip, and one of the highlights of our long overdue return to the west coast of Scotland. Oh, those magnificent mountains! They nearly had me weeping!

 

Le Tour Bunting

Cragg Vale bunting

Cragg Vale bunting

Cragg Vale, in addition to being the longest continuous incline in England, has now just beaten the world record for displaying the longest string of bunting! It is 12,115 metres or 39,750 feet long and is made with 52,939 flags. Phew! Another Tour expedition was definitely required!

hanging bike

hanging bike

It was well worth the effort. The whole road, leading up from the village of Mytholmroyd, right up Cragg Vale’s steep ascent, and on up on to the open moors beyond, was bedecked, not only with home-made bunting, but also with yellow bikes, stuffed cyclists and a field with a cyclist imprinted into the grass.

field with cyclist

field with cyclist

We slowly made our way up the five-and-a-half miles of winding road, avoiding the cyclists toiling around us (cyclists are multiplying by the day!), marvelling that the bunting was still with us, all the way! As we climbed, I wondered how the bunting could reach the exposed summit. There were no handy telegraph poles up there!

more bunting

more bunting

We found out soon enough: they were simply attached to the fence posts at the edge of the moors. Somehow they looked just right, with the cotton grass waving behind them. A unique sight!

wild bunting

wild bunting

It was a beautiful evening and the sun was just beginning to lower over the empty moors, softening the beautifully desolate landscape.

lone cyclist

lone cyclist

We watched the steady trickle of cyclists coming up the road, knowing, but not quite able to believe, that this was nothing like what would be happening here and for miles around, all too soon!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Tour of Le Tour

I couldn’t resist – I just had to see how other parts of Yorkshire were preparing for Le Tour de France! (Not a sentence I expected to write a year ago!) So we hopped in the car for a drive round as much of the area as we could reasonably manage in one day. It was a bit of a zig-zag, following our own route, and crossing freely over from Day One to Day Two sections. (How wonderful that there is so much beautiful scenery to detain the riders for two days!)

Tour de France bunting

Tour de France bunting

In Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which is a little off the route, the cafe owner was unsure how he would be affected – would no-one visit that weekend because they were worried about road closures, or would there be a mad scrum for bacon butties?

polka dots in Hawes

polka dots in Hawes

In Hawes, which nestles near the foot of Buttertubs Pass (or Côte de Buttertubs as the official route describes it!), has festooned itself in bunting to welcome Le Tour. In recognition of the fact that Côte de Buttertubs is one of the categorised climbs on the route, and therefore counts towards the King of the Mountains jersey, the village has gone polka dot mad! Shops have been painted white with red spots, all the bunting is spotty and flower pots are themed red and white. It is very cheery and welcoming.

polka dot bunting

polka dot bunting

not everyone went for polka dots!

not everyone went for polka dots!

We then headed up the Buttertubs Pass ourselves – by car! There were a few brave cyclists tackling the climb, but even at the lower part of the steep ascent they were struggling, and some had to give in to pushing. It made you realise just how crazy fit the Tour riders are.

Due to a late start on our own tour, it was fairly late in the day when we arrived at the summit, and we had the place to ourselves. It was beautiful and wild, just us and a few sheep. I felt very lucky to be able to savour the views and the solitude. It was very difficult to imagine just how different the scene would be in a week’s time!

Côte de Buttertubs

Côte de Buttertubs

We munched a picnic tea (until beaten back by ferocious midges!) by the Buttertubs themselves, which are scarily deep limestone holes just metres from the road, and contemplated just how easy it would be for a rider to crash over a barrier and into one of those deep, deep holes. In fact, I have seen a programme about how the local mountain rescue team has been practising a rescue from one of those potholes (more concerned about a spectator than a cyclist, I think … but, still!)

admiring the Buttertubs

at the Buttertubs

We then wended our way backwards along the Tour route, past fields and farms and villages, with beautiful empty fells rising gloriously on either side of the limestone walls. And all along the route, our journey was punctuated by dots of yellow. Yellow bikes were perched on roofs, and yellow bunting fluttered from gates and windows.

Driving along the route, knowing that elite cyclists would be hurtling down these roads in a week’s time, made you look at them with different eyes. You really noticed how narrow some of the route is, and how twisty, and how steep are some of the hills – both up and down – and just how close are the unforgiving-looking stone walls!

Our favourite village was Bainbridge, where pale yellow bunting hung along every roof, and little t-shirts grew from one bush and mini knitted jumpers decorated one house. I didn’t get a picture as you couldn’t really capture the loveliness of the whole scene in one shot (and we were tired – it had been a long day!).

We made a final stop at Skipton, which was worth it for the church. All the grounds were full of yellow bunting and a giant t-shirt decorated the tower!

Skipton church tower

Skipton church tower

I am now full of Tour de France spirit. Allez, allez!

Le Tour is Coming to Yorkshire!

Yes, the Tour de France … in Yorkshire! The Grand Depart takes place here on 5th and 6th July. It’s a crazy idea … but fab!

book shop, Hebden Bridge

book shop, Hebden Bridge

There have been subtle signs over recent months that something is happening, such as the increasing number of cyclists to be seen climbing the steep hills round here (and, slightly disconcertingly, more of them have been wearing lycra: this is not necessary!).

As Le Tour draws near, towns are being decorated in yellow or covered in polka dots, and yellow bikes are appearing in shop windows. In Hebden Bridge, the decorations are fun and varied.

organic vegetable shop

organic vegetable shop

People have been discussing where they will be watching the peloton and, more importantly, how they will get to the point where they can watch … and what time they need to get there. (Frustratingly, this will require more thought for me with having mobility issues, but we are hoping to arrange something vaguely complicated involving the tandem … I will report back after the event!)

hairdressers

hairdressers

I was very excited recently to see Chris Froome and other members of Team Sky whizz past through Hebden Bridge as they test rode the route. Well, I think it was them – I saw four skinny blokes flash by in light blue lycra! A glimpse of what it will be like on race day I fear, though without the amazing atmosphere I’m expecting.

library

library

Earlier in the year our two local television news presenters from Look North, Harry and Amy, rode the entire route over a week on a tandem to raise money for Sport Relief. I went along to cheer them – how could I not support fellow tandem riders?! I saw them battle their way to the top of Cragg Vale (at 5.5 miles, the longest continuous gradient in England, as anyone round here will tell you!). It was an early taste of the rising excitement that the event is generating.

florists

florists

At my work next week there are various bike-related activities, including a time trial up Cragg Vale … I think I’ll be cheering people along rather than participating in that! I might be able to take part in the Wear it Yellow day. That is, if I can find something yellow to wear!

jewellers

jewellers

I’m going to see what else I can find connected to the Tour between now and next weekend. I’ve got to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime event on my doorstep. I know the riders will go past in a flash, but it’s the buzz around it that is just as exciting!

shoe shop

shoe shop

The Distance Travelled

I think the tandem has entered my soul! It’s certainly done something to my mind, as was brought home to me very clearly this weekend.

You may recall that the aim of the tandem was to get Pete and me back into the countryside together, something which it is accomplishing better than we could possibly have hoped! The two of us actually met in our student walking club, and a group of us continue to meet annually for a sociable get-together.

We have just got back from one such weekend, in the Peak District. The emphasis is split pretty equally between walking and catching up with each other, with plenty of talk of walking exploits, as well as chatting about our ever growing, and growing numbers of, children, who come along too.

River Wye at Bakewell

River Wye at Bakewell

This weekend, instead of subconsciously avoiding thinking about the family trips or outrageous adventures the others were able to do, I was able to relax, knowing that I was back out there too, spending days outdoors again. Just having that thought in my mind made all the difference. I felt fully part of things again, and could even add the odd tale myself.

Whilst there, it so happened that various members of our family were unable to undertake one of the hilly walks on offer, so we ended up on our own individual walk. It actually looked strangely similar to a family trip out – but, obviously, it wasn’t, if one of the teenagers asks!

classic Bakewell tart

classic Bakewell tart

Our ramble consisted of a meander round Bakewell in search of a tart (sorry, couldn’t resist – there were many such feeble quips on the day!) We found a cafe which offered a classic Bakewell tart, with or without ice cream, as well as the option of the iced variety. Needless to say, we tried them all! I can report that they were delicious, and bore no resemblance to the shop-bought variety.

iced Bakewell with ice cream

iced Bakewell with ice cream

Sufficiently full to bursting, we then headed on to Matlock Bath and had a lovely walk (ok, mine was of the four-wheeled variety) along the river Derwent to the town, in beautifully mild weather. The town made no allowance for being about as far from the sea as is possible in England: it was going to be a seaside resort, no matter what! It consisted of one long street, facing the river (not the sea!), with fish and chip shops all the way along, interspersed with cafes and the odd amusement arcade. There were even illumination lights strung up across the river, ready for dark. We sat outside a chippie, enthusiastically sharing a bag of chips and breathing in the relaxed, autumnal atmosphere.

Matlock Bath-not-by-the-sea

Matlock Bath-not-by-the-sea

It was a lovely weekend, which cleared my head in more ways than one.

Target Practice

You may remember that I attended a Paralympic Sportsfest event a few months ago (Being Inspired) where I tried out lots of sports (with varying degrees of success but much fun – especially on the horse!) and particularly enjoyed the archery. Afterwards, I was put in touch with a local club (http://www.whiterosearchers.co.uk/) and signed up for a course near to where I live. It was due to begin, distantly, in the autumn. Well, it must be autumn (even though the leaves are very much still green and on the trees) as last weekend, the course began!IMG_0920

There were 20-odd of us, ranging from about aged eight to, hmmm, reasonably mature. We were placed into groups of four or five, and each group had its own instructor. We were shown how to string a bow (not sure I’ll remember for next week though!), did a few (very!) gentle arm-stretching exercises, received some safety advice and then we were away!

I was really chuffed with my first shots and, in fact, did pretty decently generally until I started to tire, when the arrows seemed suddenly to mysteriously ping away to the outer rings of the target! There was a general feeling amongst us beginners that we were getting worse rather than better as time went on – there were a few tired arms by the end.archery092013

I was able to shoot from a stool that was kindly provided, and I sat down safely out of range in between my goes. After a while though I could feel my brain starting to shut down, plus I didn’t really want to end ignominiously with no arrows in the target area at all(!), so I sat out the last few rounds and watched. It was great to have a much better excuse than everyone else for my deteriorating form!

However, I shall be back next week, fully rested and ready to start afresh … apparently it feels like that with what we’ll be learning. Bring it on! (I think!)

Being Inspired

Calamity struck a few days before I was due to attend the Sports Fest event in Sheffield: Pete woke to find that his knee was extremely painful and he could barely walk. Clearly, this was not great for him; it also had a knock-on effect for me. I couldn’t drive there myself and then take part in any activities – I’d only have the energy for one or the other.

We made a right pair, hobbling about the house. In fact, I was suddenly the more mobile parent!

There then followed many frantic phone calls to all my friends to sell the idea of an unusual day out at a couple of days’ notice. Most were happy to come in principle but unsurprisingly already had things arranged. Fortunately, just when I had all but given up hope, Steph picked up my text and came to the rescue!sp2

We had a great day out! Once there, I headed straight for the archery area. I’d always fancied having a go at archery and now I had the chance. My instructor was very helpful in showing me exactly how to hold the bow and adjust my aim. I initially used a very light child’s practice bow, then moved on to a heavier one whilst sitting down, which I actually found easier. I am pleased to report that most of the arrows found the target! Afterwards, another volunteer took my details and will be forwarding me information about archery clubs near me – so watch this space!

I also tried rifle shooting. I know that sounds like an ominous couple of activities but there is no hidden agenda! I just thought they would suit someone less mobile and with decent eyesight, honest! Anyway, I discovered that my arm was too short to hold the rifle appropriately and shoot. (Probably much to the relief of everyone who knows me!)

One thing I tried, having had absolutely no thought of doing so beforehand, was horse riding! There was a rather impressively real-looking mechanical horse to ride. There was no queue; I was feeling adventurous, or mad, so I jumped on. Well, more guided on by some very lovely and knowledegeable volunteers. Before I knew it I was cantering rather sp3too fast and gripping horse and reins tightly. Rather too tightly it turned out: it goes faster the tighter you grip. So, totally counter-intuitively, I had to relax my legs and arms, and sit back in the saddle. It worked … well, that and the fact that the lovely lady pressed some buttons so that she could control entirely what speed we went. It was really good fun and apparently they use such a device initially with novices, which seems like a great idea. They reassured me that they always use very placid horses with beginners … I’ve got leaflets for that too!

We did a spot of chatting with a celebrity as well. Hannah Cockroft, double Paralympic gold medal-winning sprint wheelchair racer (and local Halifax hero!), was at the athletics stand, happily handing out her medals to everyone to hold and having her photo taken. (Yes, obviously, we got photos too!) There were lots of youngsters around her and she was cheery and encouraging to them all as they tried out the racing chairs or simply wanted to be photographed with her.sp5

There were several Paralympic athletes helping out at the different sports stands, easily distinguished by their Team GB tracksuits and distinctive red trainers. Three of them also gave a short talk about their experience at the Paralympics, how they had got into sports initially and what sport meant to them. That was when I discovered that one of the women who had been talking to me at the horseriding stand was actually Sophie Wells who had won team gold in dressage as well as two silver medals! Also speaking were Will Bayley, the very enthusiastic table tennis player who won a silver and bronze, and powerlifter, Ali Jawed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also had the chance to try rowing, using a machine that kept my legs in place so all the effort was in my arms. I noticed that someone was punching my details into a laptop and before I knew it I was in a race with the two chaps either side of me! My personal coach encouraged me to speeds I didn’t know I could achieve … but I still lost! I think I’ll stick to two-man canoes, where my input isn’t essential!

Finally, I tried hand cycling. It’s deceptive: you think it looks very gentle as you’re practically lying down but then you have to put all your effort into your arms to move. Apparently they are very aerodynamic and you can go pretty fast for the effort put in. (Though cheating on the back of a tandem still wins for me!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was lovely to see so many people there, particularly youngsters whom, you never know, we might see in Rio in 2016! But it also gave you a chance to try something new. It’s funny, I’ve never been what you’d call sporty and before having MS I would never have gone to a day dedicated to trying out different sports but now, with MS, here I was! See where getting on a tandem has taken me!

Also, Steph was mulling something over all the way back and when I got home I received an email from her: she’d just bought a bike! The spirit of Being Inspired continues to spread!

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