Thursday, January 4

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Remember how some weeks ago I mentioned we were taking my son to the Kielder Forest Winter Wonderland and I was a bit sceptical about the access? Well don't you just hate it when you turn out to be right? In fact I would have given anything to be really wrong about it, but sadly it wasn't that well put together from an accessible viewpoint.
We arrived in good time to find parking very odd. It took 3 attempts and 3 times I got out the car before I was told to park in the right spot. There was no one around to ask and my husband spent ages trying to find someone to speak to. The morning started with a trip to the elves workshop which in itself was a great experience and a wonderful piece of theatre. The venue was so so. It was held in some sort of out building with a high threshold to flip over and a narrow door. Now my chair isn't wide by any standards although I have a largish camber, making my wheels wider at the base, but I was just able to squeak through the door with not so much as a fingers room left between me and the door post. Anyone larger wouldn't have been able to get in.
After the Elves it was time to go and see Santa. The main group of the party split off for the woodland walk while we went off on the accessible route. Half of this was on the road and the other half in the woods. I'm not moaning about this because its hard to make woodland walks accessible without major work, so I had to struggle and push hard and then flip along until we got to Santas Hideaway. Unfortunately this is where it all went horribly wrong. For a start you had to walk down a wet gravelled slope to get to see him. Although not steep I just looked at it and my heart flipped down into my stomach and I thought 'Oh No'. Second disaster is that in order to get into Santa's hideaway you had to go up a couple of steps and through quite a narrow door. I just though 'No I cant do this.' Although several male members of the party offered to pull me up I declined for several reasons.

1. Its a question of safety. They are not trained in wheelchair lifting and I don't want to be dropped.

2. There should have been a ramp at the entrance. It was such an easy thing to do its unforgivable they didn't have one.

3. I'm pregnant and really didn't want any risks taken.

4. Dignity and embarrassment. I should not be embarrassed or made to feel undignified as a group of strangers try to hoist me up.

5. Its pretty embarrassing for my husband too....

....and so on and so on. You get my drift anyway. So I put on my best cheerful face and said 'don't worry I'll sit here while you go its fine really I dont mind' I didn't want to make a fuss because everyone was here to see Santa with their children and the magic would have gone. I'm not insensitive to stuff like that. So they all went in and I sat outside on my own in the cold for 20 minutes staring at a robin in a tree. All this time my eyes prickled and I did my very best not to cry. And I didn't. I smiled and smiled and smiled when my son came out because I'm the most cheerful Mummy in the world, all the time realising Id just missed one of those magical moments in childhood,
So the rest of the day was OK, although time and time again access wasn't great. I'm pretty angry and will be writing to Northumberland Water this week to ask for a refund. What I'm most cross about is the fact I stated at the time of booking I was a wheelchair user and the fact that most of the difficulties, especially Santas Hideway could have so simply been made good at very little cost.

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