Friday, 11th January 2019
I’m sure you’ve noticed that things have been a little quieter on this blog for a few weeks. The main reason for this is that I fell and dislocated my shoulder on Christmas Eve so I’ve been in a lot of pain every time I’ve tried to type or wheel around in my wheelchair. Thank you to everyone for their kind comments, emails and messages surrounding my injury – I really appreciate your time and thoughts! I’m now doing a lot better and have finally had a full day today without wearing my sling today so hopefully I will be back on the weekly blog alerts for you all from now on!
Richard and I took our dog, Milo, for a walk around the small market town of Bakewell. This beautiful historic town is in the Peak District and is actually where I attended secondary school prior to my illness/disability. Far too often I read the word ‘historic’ as a place that is inaccessible and often has bumpy street styles such as cobblestones which I find really hard with my painful spinal nerve damage. Therefore, it’s so refreshing to find a beautiful historic location that has actually focused on disability accessibility.
Firstly, my main concern when visiting a new place is the parking. I can’t drive due to the nature of my disability, but I do hold a Blue Badge which makes things far easier when visiting a new place. Bakewell does have public car parks throughout the area, but parking charges still apply for Blue Badge holders. You do get an extra hour for free alongside any time you have purchased for parking if you park in a disabled parking space with your badge clearly displayed. Personally, I prefer Richard to park in one of the many roadside parking bays that state ‘one-hour parking’ as this gives a Blue Badge holder unlimited free parking time. Although this is a free method of parking, it is important to check all signs carefully and check the online Blue Badge handbook for a clear explanation of parking rules.
This method also can bring other challenges; road parking bays are not disabled adapted so there isn’t a wide marked area around your parking space to allow a wheelchair user to wheel close to their car doorway. Usually there is plenty of space to the sides of the car as you park parallel to the road but sometimes the issue arises where your car is parked in a space that means a ramp can’t be used out of your car boot to unload your wheelchair. Personally, I’ve never had too much of a problem with this as we have a sticker on our back window asking for access room for my wheelchair. Plus, the chair I regularly use, the WHILL model C, doesn’t actually require Richard to use a ramp to unload it from the car. It comes apart in three easy sections and is really lightweight due to the fact that the battery is lithium based. This means it is not only lighter but is approved for use if you travel on a plane and also charges so much quicker than my previous powered chair!
Once you’ve parked up, you’ll find that Bakewell is an absolutely beautiful little town. There are many options for a wheelchair user; we enjoyed a stroll along the smooth tarmac path alongside the river but you can also venture into the town centre. Some of the shops occupy rather small spaces due to the stone-built, historic buildings that they are in so just be aware of that if you are exploring the heart of the town. However, there are plenty of shops to explore without stepped access if you look around enough; some you can even take your canine companion in if you’ve brought them along for a walk!
Bakewell is of course famous for its Bakewell tarts. Historians have agreed that our modern day Bakewell tart originated from the Bakewell pudding sold at the local Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell. The landlady allegedly left instructions for her cook to produce an almond based pastry, these got confused and the Bakewell pudding was born. This was basically the cherry Bakewell tart we know and love today but without the icing and often eaten warm.
If sweet treats aren’t your thing, Bakewell is also locally famous for its fish and chips! The riverside shops have at least one step to enter, but don’t be deterred by these as you can find many other fish and chip shops within Bakewell town centre. On a hot summer’s day, you see many families enjoying fish and chips beside the river or having a picnic in the park. If you have children or younger family members then there is a large playground and many opportunities to feed the ducks in the River Wye.
If you are exploring the Bakewell river area then there is a lovely bridge that is not to be missed! Lovers and couples traditionally visit this bridge and place a “love lock” on the bars across the bridge inscribed with both names. This is supposed to bring happiness and a prosperous relationship. I always find it fun to look at all the name combinations on these locks and the terrain is very smooth in this area. Although, thankfully, my WHILL Model C does have a three inch clearance if we approach a cobbled area or a curb that is slightly higher than the norm. This powered chair has really given me the freedom to explore more areas, particularly historic places where the terrain might stop conventional powered chairs from moving forward!
We had such a lovely stroll around all these places that our dog, Milo, was exhausted! We had a very funny (if not slightly embarrassing moment) in a large bookshop in Bakewell centre where Milo just kept lying down and refusing to walk. Every time Richard stood Milo up, he lay back down on the warm carpet of the shop. In the end, Richard lifted Milo so I could wheel back to the car with him on my lap. I think this definitely shows how easy the WHILL Model C is to handle; I managed to steer the wheelchair whilst having one shoulder out of action due to my dislocation recover and also hold onto the dog! I love that the control panel on the Model C is fairly large and shaped like a curved computer mouse. This means that users with dexterity problems or less manoeuvrability in their hands could still grab this and steer rather than the small stick steering pad that conventional powered chairs use. Slightly off track but I just wanted to show how pleased I am with my new chair!
Obviously, a key concern when you are a disabled visitor to the area is the use of toilets. There is a large public toilet block inside one of the car park areas and this is signed with a wheelchair icon next to arrows pointing in the direction of the toilets so you can always find them when exploring the town centre!
These do not use a RADAR key and aren’t free to use. You must insert 20p into the machine in order to enter. This made things a little complicated for a wheelchair user as you have a limited amount of time to insert the coin, wheel to the door and pull it open. Luckily, I had Richard with me to insert the coin while I manoeuvred into the toilet.
Once inside, the toilet was spacious and clean. There were all of the necessary handrails to support transfers on and off of the toilet and the red emergency pull cord reached the floor. However, I did notice that the waste and sanitary bin was a long way from the toilet which would seriously inconvenience female wheelchair users or those with toilet needs that required the use of a bin.
However, I was very pleased that I could wheel around easily in the large space. My WHILL Model C is compact and manoeuvres easily with its front omni-wheels so can turn easily, but a larger powered chair would be fine within this space also.
Obviously, I can’t go onto the cobbled areas of Bakewell centre without passing out from my spinal nerve damage pain but other wheelchair users may be able to access this easily. Despite the historic nature of this town, there is still a multitude of different things that a wheelchair user can do when visiting. Why not attach a love-lock to the famous bridge, sample an original Bakewell pudding, take a stroll alongside the river or even just check out the shops that you can access? There are even market days where you can explore local goods as well as regular food festivals and farmers’ markets if you like local, tasty produce!
As always, I am more than happy to answer any disability/wheelchair access questions you might have about Bakewell if I can. Just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through Instagram @disabledtravelwithgeorgina.
A version of this article was originally posted on Disabled Travel with Georgina.
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