As we got up to the radio alarm with the weather forecast suggesting a heat wave for the next few weeks, and indeed the sun was shining through the windows, we thought ‘ Park walk’ 🙂 It is not that pleasant sitting in a wheelchair when it’s windy or raining, but when the sun shines, it can be quite a treat.
This event had been planned several days ago so that no sudden changes would prevent it from being a day to look forward to and we had looked at the long range weather to select the best day. You may have read about our pictorial calendar which schedules activities in some detail to keep our son’s mind terrors at bay. We go through the usual preparations of checking the grab bag, harness and lead for Miss Bronte our dog and load up the wheelchair into the car and we set off, all full of anticipation.
Arriving at the parks car park, I’m conscious that getting out of the car is probably close to the half hour that it takes us to get in. I keep everyone in the car while I pull out and set up the wheelchair, select our hat’s for the walk (woolly for when it’s windy and cold, baseball for sunny with cloud and the full brimmed for all round protection in a sunny and cloudless sky) today, we (our son) had his baseball cap. Helping him from the car to the wheelchair I make sure brakes are on, chair belt is adjusted and secure and then I get Miss Bronte into her extending lead and link her to the wheelchair too. She is very good at walking to heel, but I need to give her a little extra lead as walking to ‘wheel’ is a new concept to her and I have to mind those doggy toes don’t go under the wheels as she crosses in excitement from left to right and back again, sniffing out all the doggy messages left on their very own doggy social media – it seems like every tree, post or grass verge has some message there!
Locking the car, we are ready for actually getting into the park. A short walk from the car park to the controlled crossing via an access ramp our local authority is very good in providing and our son presses the traffic control button to summon ‘the green man’ – when he appears we can safely cross.
I always remember we spent some time in Blackpool a few years ago and as we always do, we stopped at the crossing and told our son “wait for the green man” This lady alongside us was clearly fascinated by what she overheard and as we repeated the “wait for the green man” she told us that at initially she thought there was going to be someone turn up in fancy dress of some sort and went on to say that she had never thought of the crossing in such a way. We began chatting and it made us realise just how much detail we do actually think about and explain as we guide our son through life’s everyday aspects that perhaps many of us just take so much for granted and no longer think about.
Thanks to the ‘Green Man’ getting us safely across the road we eventually arrive in the park and the tree-lined trails and pathways open up in front of us.
This particular park (Queens Park, in Heywood Rochdale) has been a favourite of ours for many years. It is always well maintained and boasts the usual swings and open fields as well as bowling, but also a boating lake – sadly without the boats now – skateboarding park and lovely landscaping. For us, the pathways make it. Tarmac surface with only gradual gradients, which make it ideal to walk around with a wheelchair.
Covering the usual circuit – our son likes the routine, we stop a while at the bowling green where the groundsmen are preparing the surface for the coming season. Empty today, but soon it will be full of crown green bowlers.
There is a cafe within this park, those who know us well will know we always plan a wheel walk around a cafe or a picnic. Recently closed in preparation for new management, I’m delighted to say, it has now reopened and trading well and we take the opportunity to indulge in a short coffee break and a toasted sandwich. The added benefit of it being dog-friendly too, but today, we stay outside in the sunlight and watch the world go by for a short while.
Drinks finished and our toasties are eaten, we dispose of our rubbish and head back to the car park for the return home. It can take almost as long to prepare to come out and pack up again as we spend actually outside walking, but that is all part and parcel of the event. The important thing is that we made it out with an enthusiastic start and completed the walk with ongoing interest.
All in all, a successful day with a smile just breaking out. A Social Story now being developed as a memory jogger and discussion point to aid a positive return at some point soon.