If you’ve been following me on Facebook you’ll have seen the photos I posted of myself kitted out from head to toe in safety gear. You might have been wondering what on earth I was doing, but as promised I’m now going to share what I got up to while at Calvert Trust Kielder.
Calvert Trust offers fantastic self-catering holidays, respite care as well as accessible activities. While I was there staying in the beautiful Bradbury lodge for a long weekend with my family, my sister and I decided to try out some outdoor activities. What can I say, we’re the daredevils of the family.
Before heading outside to start the activities we were all given helmets (even spectators), which had to be worn at all times while outside for safety. I was then strapped into a harness/sling that kept me in a seated position while my sister got set up with a standard harness. Off we went to enjoy the accessible activities on offer by Calvert Trust Kielder.
First up was the King Swing. And as the name suggests it’s the ruler of all swings, the King, the most superior of them all.
The adrenaline began to build as they hoisted me up to the halfway point. The instructors decided to ease me in gently before going all the way to the top. There was no backing out now. With only one way down they began to count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…BLAST OFF! The force took my breath away as I swung through the air, back and forth, back and forth. It felt amazing!
I tried not to shut my eyes as they hoisted me to the very top for my second go. This time I was hanging 32 feet in the air and I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous. It was really high. Even though I was wearing a neck support I was still concerned that it would flip backwards (and potentially snap) with the force and motion of the swing (100kph). Oh, the joys of having poor neck control. The neck support was snug around my neck and tied (see the yellow rope above) to the bar in front of me so my neck wasn’t going anywhere, but try telling my brain that.
Sat at the top, my legs dangling in the air, my eyes focussed straight ahead, nervously waiting for the instructor to pull the rope which would release the swing. The sudden jolt caused my head to slightly fall back (still supported), my body to drop forward and my useless legs to uncontrollably flop around. Human ragdoll springs to mind! But it was so much fun, if not a little terrifying. It was a great feeling to be swinging through the air amongst the trees and experience that adrenaline rush.
Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s just me zipping through the forest!
Next up was the Zipwire and being much smoother and less jolting than the King Swing, I knew I had nothing to worry about. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride. But first I had to get to the top of the climbing tower. In order to reach the top of the tower I had to transfer from my power wheelchair into one of the centres own manual wheelchairs. Again due to my poor neck control I had to have a back and neck support placed between my back and the sling I had fitted on me. The support was great as it came up past the back of my head, providing plenty of support.
Sitting in the manual wheelchair I was connected to lots of safety ropes and clips (similar to climbing gear). With one instructor at the top, one standing behind so I wouldn’t tip, and my Sister pulling the ropes, they gently hoisted me up to the top of the tower. Similar to the sling I used on the King Swing, this one allowed me to remain in a seated position, which was very comfortable and felt secure.
Once at the top, the instructors made sure I wasn’t going to roll over the edge and quickly began connecting me to the Zipwire. Whilst doing that my power wheelchair was taken to the finishing point where it sat waiting for me to arrive.
3, 2, 1….and I was off. Zipping across the Cranecleugh Burn without a care in the world. Even though it only took around 10 seconds to zip across, it was great and a lot of fun. I would now love to do another zipwire, possibility one that is higher and longer. While it provides an adrenaline rush, it’s also quite calming, which I really enjoyed.
Abseiling was the next accessible activity I wanted to try so after I finished the zipwire I got transferred back into the manual wheelchair.
All hands were on deck again as they hoisted me and the wheelchair up to the top of the abseil tower.
With everything connected and me safely secured, I began my wheelchair abseil. One of the instructors stood behind me so I wouldn’t tip back, but I was in control of my descent by holding the rope and bit by bit releasing it to lower me down.
Muscular dystrophy doesn’t just affect my legs it also affects my arms. My arms are incredibly weak and so is my grip, which made holding the rope very different for me to do. Every 5 seconds I’d lose my grip and the rope would fall out my hand. The instructor then had to lift my hand and place the rope back in it. The icy weather didn’t help so my hands were frozen solid. The instructors, Dave and Danielle were both great with me. They were patient and never made me feel rushed or hopeless. Encouraging me the whole time to keep going.
Due to the issues I had with holding onto the rope for any length of time, it didn’t actually feel like I was moving. However I was moving, but slower than a snail. When I finally made it to the bottom I was relieved. The slowness and lack of action made the abseil my least favourite activity. In saying that, I think a lot of people would love the abseil with or without a wheelchair.
I’ve never been in a swimming pool for over 20 years, so when I found out there was an indoor hydrotherapy pool at Calvert Trust Kielder I was determined to take a dip. It would also be my first time in a pool with my nephew, so it made it extra special.
A pool hoist is available to help you get in and out, which is fantastic, but what makes it even better is that your time in the pool is completely private. All you have to do is book the time you want to use the pool and it’s yours for the hour. Absolutely no one else. Who doesn’t love a swimming pool all to themselves?
I was planning on using the pool hoist, but once we entered the pool area we noticed there was a high ledge all the way around the pool. My knight in shining armour sat me on the ledge, swung my legs around and then my sister helped him lower me into the water. It worked out perfect. I then held on for dear life while they pulled me across to the safety of the steps. This is where I sat until I got my balance and bearings.
Armed with various floating devices and again the help of my very own knight in shining armour I was able to enjoy swimming once again. I even managed to kick my legs a little bit while doing some lengths. My nephew was also on hand to help…he’s so caring and loves helping his Auntie Emma. We all had a great time relaxing in the heated pool and it felt amazing to be able to move my arms and legs without much difficulty.
There are large stalls and a bed to help make changing easier if required. I also spotted a portable hoist in the hallway, which could be used for transfers.
Snoozelum Sensory Room
After our hydrotherapy session, we headed to the sensory room so my nephew could have some fun before going back to the lodge.
The room is great for stimulating different senses with lights, colours and sounds. There was lots to play and interact with, making it a huge hit for my nephew. It was lovely to watch him explore everything in the room as it was his first time experiencing anything like this.
With a vision of ‘Disability…No Limits’ there is truly something for everyone to try regardless of ability at Calvert Trust. It’s clear to see that their mission is to support people with disabilities to reach their potential through adventure and activities while adapting to individual needs. The Calvert Trust staff and activity instructors were all friendly, helpful and understanding. They also ensured I was comfortable and safe at all times, which all contributed to an enjoyable experience. I highly recommend you give these activities a try and please let me know if you’ve tried something similar.
Other than the activities we tried there is also sailing, high and low ropes course, laser clay shooting, canoeing and kayaking, velcro Olympics, gold buggies, orienteering and geocaching, and archery. You can also choose from activity days (£60 full day and £30 half day), activity drop-in days (£10 per person) and activity holidays (£171) which also includes meals.
You can watch my experience trying the accessible activities at Calvert Trust Kielder here.