Recently we went on a wheel walk at the coast. It had been many years since we were there to walk it, and wanted to visit to get advance information of writing the walk up in notes and publishing another suitable ‘wheel walk’.
Because of our sons requirements, anything longer than half an hours journey to get to our starting point, the first thing we look for are the public conveniences. Particularly disabled access ones for the wheelchair accessibility.
Our planned walk was to cover around 10 kilometres and as we were walking along the promenade, it was going to be linear, with a 5km outbound walk, returning the same way.
The first challenge we encountered was parking the car. We arrived at our destination at around 10:00am, but already all the key car parks had been filled. Including all the easy access/disabled positions – typically only 6 spaces in 300 and so we had to drive on to find a spot on the road.
Spending a little time setting up the wheelchair for our son and getting him into it, then dressing our dog with harness and lead, hooking up our sons grab bag, we get the signal that the ‘toilet’ is needed.
Not normally a problem as in a location like the seaside, public and accessible conveniences are normally frequent and well positioned to service the level of tourists visiting. We had not travelled that far from the centre of the town, but after walking for around 4km, we had not found any! We asked a number of people if they could direct us, and had answers as wide ranging from the ‘no idea’ to ‘you’ll be lucky, not here’ which did not help us.
Eventually we came across a sign which ironically listed the public conveniences – only one! and that was on the end of one of the piers, another 1.5km from where we were. Some joker has used thick marker pen and over the ‘Public Toilet’ sign has scrawled “NONE” – they were not joking!
We decided to carry on and find where the indicated toilets were, though our son, and by this time also ourselves, were getting increasingly uncomfortable and the joy of walking, became a rush through crowds to find our destination … and hope they were there, and open.
Our dog on the other hand was quite happy trotting along, relieving herself every now and again to mark her new found territory and leave her calling card. Pooh bags and grass verges, if only we could all be serviced so easily 🙂
We considered calling in to a café or pub and use their facilities, but a combination of ‘No Dogs’ and poor accessibility of a chair greeted us, it was not an option to consider further.
Eventually we arrived at the Pier and not even looking to see if dogs were allowed or not, we boldly turned into the entrance and wow! packed, noise, screaming, no access was greeting us. As our son suffers with Autism, he was immediately impacted by sensory overload – The lyrics to the Tommy movie, Pinball came to mind relating to no distractions, and at that moment I wished! – We had to fight our way through people who either didn’t see, or didn’t care about our need to get through with a wheel chair and soon my ‘excuse me’ gave way to shouting ‘coming through’
By this time our son was getting into a distraught state and meltdown was only minutes away and we found what we were looking for … toilets! it was like seeing an oasis and we charged for them. I have to say, they were clean and well maintained and the relief was, by this time, wonderful. Not just because we could relieve ourselves, but also in the cubicle, it was quiet. Silent in comparison to outside and no flashing lights. Using this time to apply our interventions, we readied ourselves to return to the madness of outside and plot the quickest route back off the Pier to the quieter, though still busy promenade.
Any further thoughts of sensibly making notes for a documented wheel walk were dropped and we just headed back to the car, picnic and head for home.
Clearly a return visit to this seaside town needs to be carefully considered where ‘conveniences’ will be required and parking would need to be more central, so they can be accessed before the event starts. We took a number of pictures along the route and it may well be worth me writing it up as it could be fun, if managed differently and I will offer notes of caution and consideration from what we experienced.
And the important thing is, we did have an experience and when we revisit our pictures and we recall the mad dash we ended up doing, just to ‘spend a penny’ our son is in fits of laughter as we add a slight exaggeration to make the point and keep his memories good.