Tuesday, 23 June 2015

X8 Freedom: Derbyshire

I've just got back from a week near Derbyshire with my Mum.

My off-road 'Extreme X' chair arrived on Thursday evening (11th June) - and I left for the peak district on the Friday - looking forward to my first proper holiday in years, and the second time I've been in 'proper countryside' since becoming disabled 10 years ago (the first time being when I test drove the X8 at whittenham clumps).

Excited was a bit of an understatement. Especially as we got closer and were driving through the rolling hills.

Rather than boring you with my entire schedule, here are some of my X8 highlights from the trip (which, combined with tea, books, scrabble, jigsaws and more tea made for a really lovely week):

1. Being out in the rain on a hike. (Note: as an electrical appliance, the X8 can drown. So I covered the controller with a clear plastic bag, and made sure the rest of the chair dried out overnight = happy chair and happy Hannah.)

Might sound silly, but when you've spent a lot of time cooped up there is something very beautiful about being out in the rain. Plus I got to enjoy the very special feeling of knowing that waterlogged patches of mud that even walkers hate holds no fear for this off-road gem of a chair.

2. This. Very steep track, obviously too narrow for a wheelchair (at least it was before I squashed the nettles!) and covered in large stones which had fallen from the wall.

Which I successfully got up then reversed back down cos there was a style at the top and nowhere to turn round. I knew this before I drove up, but sometimes 'because I can' is a very powerful and highly enjoyable reason to do something! We quickly learned that 'stiles happen' and made sure we enjoyed the journey so when we encountered a stile, it didn't ruin anything, just made us change direction.

3. Long walks along footpaths/cycle tracks, discovering hidden gems and beautful places.


These photos are from the Churnet Valley cycle track between oakamoor and Alton - a disused railway track. Although a standard chair might have struggled with some of the muddier patches of it, much of it is probably power-chair accessible. To manage the railway track on a manual would need super-strength arms, but might be doable.  The X8 made it easy (and comfortable). 

4. Cattlegrids hold no fear! - not even broken ones, bent and decrepit ones.

5. Effortlessly going to "inaccessible" places. No proper path, just cattle tracks. Yes, it was steep and uneven. Going down I used the 'tilt in space' option on my chair which means the wheels were angled down, but I stayed sitting comfortably rather than falling out. - it was an utterly stunning experience. To feel so secure and so empowered in such a remote and utterly 'inaccessible' landscape was....indescribable.

My favourite moment? Waving from the crest of a hill. Surrounded by grassy slopes and bushes, and not a proper path in sight. A tiny silhouette against the sky, where no wheelchair has ever been before*.

*based on information from the locals. And it being totally NOT wheelchair accessible for anything but the best of the best.

(It should be noted that I don't weigh much, and can also lean to help with traction on the front wheels and balance on the more extreme uneven slopes and to get over boulders - so take the time to find out the chairs limits for you and be aware that they may well be different to mine.)