Monday, 14 July 2014

Post Challenge Update

It's been a busy few weeks for Anna and I since the end of the challenge. We've moved into a new accessible house and with it life has become easier. So, in addition to catching up with work I've had some time to put to accessibility matters.

I've now undertaken audits on three of the RSBP Reserves. Saltholme in Cleveland, Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire and Burton Meer Wetlands on the Dee estuary. Lots of recommendations for improvements but a wheelchair could still have a good day out at Saltholme and on the Dee. A big kissing gate issue to resolve at Fairburn but that's exactly what we raised the money for. Once the kissing gates are replaced this will be incredibly accessible site.

I was also asked to visit Lane End Farm Trust at Abney in the Peak District. This is an amazing farm for children in wheelchairs and other disadvantaged youngsters. I was proud to be able to advise on wheelchair access to a proposed new wildlife hide. Good luck to Vivienne and team on the fund raising. I also met the incredible lady from accessible Derbyshire and I am hopping to work with her to design and promote accessible routes on the NT/RSPB Eastern Moors.

This week I am meeting a company called Community Experience who had been awarded a grant to make a film about accessibility issues in the countryside. We are planning to use UU/RSPB Dovestone as the venue for the film and in doing so will be seeking to both enhance the accessibility experience on site and promote and encourage people to visit.

Once again a huge thank you to everyone for your support.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The challenge summary and post review

Well, its the day after the completion of the Roy's Coast to Coast Challenge.  The "team" still woke up early and then realised that "reality had already bitten" and instead of enjoying the English countryside, for some, it was back to work.

However the day still had elements evolving around the challenge. Repairing and cleaning everything that had broken during the 215 miles - Iain's bike, the punctured wheelchair tyre, broken arm rest and the back window of the support vehicle (which some one kindly smashed for us on the second day of the challenge).  More uplifting was watching the fantastic film produced by Phil for BBC Look North on the iplayer - great to see some of our camera shy friends (you know who you are!) on screen!

However, the most important job today was for Anna and Roy to say a huge thank you to a lot of very special people.

So, our hats off to the......

 - 108 people who gave up their time to walk with us

 - the other 17 people who came along to wave us off or meet us at the end of the day

 - the 29 "machines" that helped to make the journey inclusive (2 wheelchairs, 2 trampers, 2 trikes, 17 bikes, 1 electric bike, 4 scooters and a buggy!)

 - the 16 dogs that provided hours of amusement:)

Your friendship, support, energy, humour and kindness made the journey an incredibly humbling and emotional experience for the two of us.  It was an experience which will leave a deep impression on our lives.  We can't thank you enough.

We never liked singling out individuals but there are 5 people we have to mention.

To our brilliant driver/mechanic/map reader and emergency services - Dad we simply couldn't have done it without you.  It was magical to spend this time with you.

To Mum - we know you wanted to be there, but believe us, you walked every step of the journey with us and this was for you!

To Kelly Sapsford and Tanya Earnshaw (and of course Pebbles) - the journey would have been so much harder without you - you were the "team" and we enjoyed every minute of your company.

To Chris Christou - who taught me how to drive the FourX, but more importantly, has helped me come to terms with being in a wheelchair.

Finally, our immense thanks to everyone who has donated funds to this special cause.

Incredibly, as we write this the total is over £22,000!

Roy's job now is to complete the audits of the RSPB Nature Reserves, produce a report for the TPT Executive Committee on how accessibility on the trail can be improved and then ensure that ALL the money raised is spent on implementing the changes identified on RSPB Reserves over the next year.

It is my pledge that the Coast to Coast Challenge will immeasurably improve accessibility - be it for wheelchairs, families or those with other mobility issues - and that RSPB Nature Reserves in Northern England will be exemplars of accessibility in the countryside.

It's been a blast!!!!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Day 10 - Hull to Hornsea

We did it. WE DID IT!!!

The last day of the challenge is completed. It is hard to believe that so many miles and so many days have passed. It feels like we left Southport just yesterday:)

The turnout for the last day of the challenge was amazing:
Pam Exley
Pat Swales
Keith and Clare Clarkson (Clare on an electric bicycle)
Helen Williams
Bob Withnall (on a bicycle - friend of TPT rangers)
Mike Woodmansey (a TPT ranger)
Janet Fairclough and Iain Robson
Nathan Pickering
Chris Christou (in FourX who after completing day 1 wanted to be with us at the end)
Tanya Earnshaw as usual with Pebbles

On route joined us:
Ken Abbott and Gill Davids with their dog Charlie
Alan Lee (who we were delighted to see for the third time)

At the end point we were met by:
The Mayor of Hornsea
Jean and Angus Robinson, who found out about us from the local paper

The day started with Phil filming more material for the evening news today to build on last night's teaser. Right at the start we hit the first and only obstacle of the day for which the headrest had to come off and the back of the seat had to come down. Yet again FourX amazed everybody with its versatility. I am not sure how many other wheelchairs would have tackled this obstacle to get through.

With the forecast for rain and thunder the weather surprised us with beautiful sunshine and knowing the mileage was much less today we stopped frequently and relaxed a lot. 

During one of the stops we were spoiled by Clare, who had brought home made chocolate brownies... They tasted absolutely delicious and Anna must have had three pieces!!! (who ate all the pies??? - must be the Teletubby).

The walk was going really fast and we covered the miles very quickly. About 3 miles from Hornsea Gill and Ken and their dog Charlie appeared unexpectedly when we thought they were on their way to Cyprus.

A very busy Bank Vole, oblivious to our existence, was seen and photographed on the way.

We arrived at Hornsea just after 14.30 and were greeted by the Mayor of Hornsea; Jean and Angus who made a generous donation; and Phil tirelessly filming more material for BBC Hull. There was a mixture of emotions from ecstasy to sadness and Roy, Anna and Tanya even shed a few tears.After 10 days our adventure was finished and we will miss the excitement of the Trail and its beauty; the daily support from family and friends; the unknown; and the kindness of people we met on the way. When interviewed by Phil Roy was absolutely lost for words....a sight rare to witness.

We celebrated the end of the challenge with fish and chips (the rain eventually caught up with us and we had to shelter under the bus stop) and got into serious plans into the future. New challenges were discussed and we all got a bit excited again.

Although I don't think Tanya's shoes will be joining us....

In all the excitement we completely forgot about our facilities bike which was left on the seafront for ages. Fortunately it was rescued by Alan who found it and brought it back to be reunited with Iain in the next few days.

During the Challenge we were asked by many people what is going to happen to this blog after the Challenge is completed. We have decided to keep this blog live. Check tomorrow for our summary of the Challenge and a few other reflections. Also we will keep you up to date with the progress of the project and the access work Roy will be doing on the RSPB reserves. The posts won't be daily but to save you the hassle of checking for new posts you can "Follow by email" any new info. Just submit your email address via the button on the right had side under the bird list.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Day 9 - Faxfleet to Hull

After the usual breakfast, loading up the van and warding off the rain day 9 saw us at the start point at 9.30 where we were met by the following people:
Mark Cleaver
Richard Barnard
Tanya Earnshaw with her dog Pebbles
Lindsey and Mike Pilsworth 
Mick Turton and Gary Dayes who came to see us off
Phil and Joe from BBC Hull who came to film us for the evening news

On route we were joined by:
Angela Needham

We had two options for the route today. A TPT cyclist option which was mostly on roads or a walkers alternative which was mostly along the Humber shore. It was an easy decision for the walkers route to get the vote.

The first half hour was spent on making sure that the BBC crew had appropriate material recorded. This involved interviews with Roy, Tanya and Mike; strapping a camera to the FourX for the rest of the journey; agreeing the next rendezvous spot; and finally filming us setting off for the day.

Very quickly we came across our first obstacle where there was some building work ongoing for the eel crossing. This was to ensure this declining species can cross the dams and other obstacles that are put in their way by the human development. Amazingly enough when the workers saw our little troupe approaching they re-prioritised what they were doing and within minutes made the path passable.


The route along the Humber shore meant a lot of birding for some of us. Good numbers of Avosets and a large colony of Barnacle Geese were seen on Whitten Sands.

We also came across some different obstacles these however swiftly moved out of our way without the need of special attention.

The good news was a Radar gate which, using our Radar key, opened quick and wide.

There was however one part of the route where Roy and the wheelchair had to be packed into the van as the rest of us went into the muddy shores of the Humber. Before we parted the usual mid-day battery change was performed in a record time of 2.5 minutes (this amazing timing was partly due to help from Mike).


Shortly after Roy rejoined us at North Ferriby we could see the Humber Bridge in the distance as a marker for our journey. Half an hour from the bridge we were joined by Angela who was a volunteer for monthly BTO surveys in this area.

We had a relaxing and well deserved break right under the Humber Bridge to recharge the batteries and check on our blisters, before making the last three miles of the day.

The path was slightly overgrown with vegetation but without any access issues the FourX did as well as the legs.

The mileage today was the shortest so far and we finished the walk by 6pm. This was the earliest finish of the whole challenge. The day seemed shorter and easier than any before and we all enjoyed it a lot.
After saying goodbye to Lindsey, Richard, Mark and Mike, the core team decided on treating ourselves at the Chinese restaurant overlooking the Humber. We ate our dinner glancing over the river and felt really relaxed and pleased with the day and the challenge to date. Part of us however was sad that tomorrow is the last day of this amazing adventure.
Unfortunately the dogs were not allowed in the restaurant and their dinner had to be served on the car seat.

Day 8 - Selby to Faxfleet

Beautiful sunshine woke up up in the morning of day 8. The Maypole Farm B&B where we stayed last night served us amazing breakfast with a spread of fruits and juices and beautifully presented full English. While eating we were guarded by Arthur - a full armour knight with a lamp in his head. We unanimously voted this the best breakfast so far.
At Selby station we were met by:
Daphne Pleace
Simon Wightmam with his dog Poly
Lindsey and Mike Pilsworth  (Mike was voted Day's Chief Technical Solutions Engineer )
Tanya Earnshaw with her dog Pebbles
and Trevor Blythe who came to see us off but was not willing to walk another day:)
On route we were joined by:
Chis Tomson
Jon and Jan Bird with their kids Katie and Jamie who were on scooters
Jim Wardill
First adventure of the day was a path closure and a diversion to take us around the closed section.
Soon the diversion had finished and we were on the TPT again. After about 5 minutes walk a new obstacle appeared in our way. A quick look was enough to know that we woudn't be able to tackle this one without the help of strong man. Fortunately as were were considering what to do next Jim came along on his bicycle. With Jim, Simon, Mike, Tanya and Lindsey lifting the chair we managed to get it to the other side of the obstacle. I guess we were lucky again. Thanks Jim for all your help.
The walk continued with no problem and we were met by many people who recognised us from the TV. Two cyclists said they also intend to do TPT in few weeks. 
Second obstacle of the day was a closed gate accessing the flood bank. About a thousand cyclists managed to squeeze in through a narrow opening but we were not able to. This time Mike took charge of the problem and presented us with a solution. 
By that time we were all getting a bit tired.....
At about 1pm we were met by Emma from BBC Look North who filmed us for a bit for a morning show on BBC Hull.
We had a nice half pint in the pub...
... and looked at maps a lot....

 ...gave way to a family of 8 crossing the road...

While walking on the flood bank from Saltmarshe to Blacktoft Roy proudly showed us the developing RSPB operational base at Blacktoft and Mike showed us some Konik Ponnies grazing the reserve.

We added Corn Bunting and Grasshopper Warbler to the bird list and it was great to see a brood of four fledged Lapwings.
We finished at Hope and Anchor where we had a lovely meal and were joined by Jim on his way back from holiday.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Day 7 - Braithwaite to Selby Train Station

It was a difficult morning and despite a good weather forecast we really needed to convince ourselves to get out of beds. Roy was still sleeping at breakfast and Tanya had a mental blockage to move any of her muscles. Full English was eaten in silence and only after getting the right amount of calories did we have the strength to pack up the van again and go to the meeting spot.

At the car park in Braithwaite we were met by:
Emily Ting (who came from London to walk with us for a day)
Danny Udall (voted Day's Chief Technical Solutions Engineer )
Tanya Earnshaw with her dog Pebbles
Alan Lee on bicycle who saw us on the local news and decided to join in
Brian Scott TPT Group Coordinator Bentley to Selby
Martin Boldan TPT Volunteer

On route we were joint by:
Trevor ad Gill Blythe (friends from the trip to Ethiopia)
Heather and Jake McGee

The first part of the Trail was along the beautiful New Union canal. The route was nice and easy and sunshine came out from time to time to remind us of the time of the year. The group was moving fast and in no time we were on the road and into the forest track, were we saw another kind of sleeper across the track. FourX had no problem dealing with this obstacle however we wondered out loud what was the reason for its existence?

From the map it looked as a big part of today's cycle route was going to be on the road and we decided to use the walkers part of the trail as much as we could. Walking through overgrown grass and narrow tracks was no problem for the FourX, which only proves how important are access points in the outdoors experience. The battery did very well and the ground was a soft break for feet from the hard tarmac.
We were going at a good pace again and just after 2pm we got to Snaith for our half way break. We stopped for tea and coffee and had lunch in an amazing little bakery called The Kitchen. The choices of salads, sandwiches and cakes were immense and temptation was to just buy the whole place or move to Snaith permanently. Here we also met Trevor and Gill. Trevor joined us for the rest of the day with Gill being on driving duty.

Our first obstacle of the day was a kissing gate on the walkers route of the trail. It was neither a disabled one nor did it have a Radar lock and for a split second we thought we will have to turn around. Fortunately our Chief Technical Solutions Engineer had watched similar gates being "sorted out" by motorcyclists many times and had a little something to surprise us. With Danny's knowledge and our determination we quickly went through the gate not leaving a single track of us ever being there.


During one of the brakes Emily shared with us a video of yesterday's BBC Look North news. We will try to get the link tomorrow.

Towards the end of the day with only 1.7 mile to spare we were met by Heather and Jake who brought us refreshments and walked with us for a short while. They set off to meet us on the Trail but went the other direction and we had to send "scouts" to track them down.

In the evening Tanya came across a strange discovery of a blister in a very mysterious place.... not normally associated with walking.