Accessible sport and leisure activities are central to Disability Horizons. With that in mind, Martyn and I were recently invited for an afternoon with Calvert Trust Exmoor to try out some adventure of the accessible kind!
We set out one cold and miserable London morning not really sure exactly what activities we would be able to do at the Calvert Trust Exmoor. We’d seen some amazing pictures on their website of disabled people taking part in all sorts of adventures, from abseiling to canoeing.
But in reality, as Martyn and I both have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, we had no idea whether our impairments could be accommodated. We both struggle to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea and have very little balance and head control, so it was safe to say that we were sceptical of we would be able to do.
How wrong could we have been…
To take advantage of a brief moment of sunshine, the first activity we did was abseiling. The Trust has a sizeable outdoor climbing wall that is intertwined with an array of ropes and harnesses. Looking down from the summit of the wall, both Martyn and I weren’t entirely sure how we were going to do it!
Steve our instructor, explained that we would be transferred by hoist to a manual wheelchair which has supports and safety harnesses. Our PAs, Jozef and Filipe, would abseil down beside us, and Steve would safely lower us down the wall. Rob Lott, Head of Communications for Calvert Trust Exmoor, was on hand to answer any queries or concerns.
The trip down went very much to plan (thankfully!); it was actually quite a serene experience. Neither of us minded being in manual wheelchair for a short time and we both felt secure; our heads and bodies were well supported.
The best way to describe the crate stack is to think of it as a human form of the game Jenga. Simply put, you are connected to the ceiling of the indoor arena with a harness, and the objective is for a teammate (in our case, our PA), to place crates under you to create a tower.
As more crates are stacked, you slowly rise higher and higher to the top of the stack. Eventually the crates fall over, leaving you hanging from the ceiling via the harness. The video probably gives you a better idea of how crate stack works!
To add a bit of competitive tension, Martyn and I competed against one another to see who could be ‘stacked’ the highest. In the end, and probably the best result from a diplomatic perspective, we drew.
Like with abseiling, the special harness provided to us had all the support and protection needed to ensure we were safe and comfortable.
Crate Stack was a novel experience, but a huge amount of fun. Throughout the activity, the banter between us all was really good laugh and both Martyn and I were appropriately unsupportive of one another’s efforts!
The final activity is pretty much what it says on the tin. While strapped to the harness and with our heads and bodies supported and protected, we were swung from one end of the room to another like a giant pendulum.
We absolutely LOVED the giant swing. The video makes it look more extreme than what it actually was, but the adrenaline rush was simply incredible. If we had time, we would have used it again and again!
As we had come such a long way from London to Exmoor, the Calvert Trust let us have dinner and stay overnight at the accommodation available at the activity centre.
Both Martyn and I stayed in one of the adapted rooms which were, in my opinion, probably the most accessible room I have ever stayed in on holiday. In addition to the roll-in shower and plenty of space, the room also had a ceiling track hoist and electric beds. It was a bit like staying at home.
Exmoor is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. The activity centre is right by a reservoir with an accessible path, and the entire area is just so pleasant and relaxing.
Our afternoon at Calvert Trust Exmoor was just a taste of what is on offer. We tried out three of the fifteen activities available that broadly range from horse riding to kayaking; all made accessible to disabled people.
For both of us, our afternoon at Calvert Trust Exmoor is something we will always remember. The attitude and willingness to make so much so accessible to so many disabled people is something that, in our view, resonates across the organisation.
Our instructor was simply amazing, and amidst all the fun and games, it is easy to forget how much training and dedication had been put in to make sure that Martyn and I were safe at all times.
If you are looking for some adventure this summer, check out Calvert Trust Exmoor.
By Srin Madipalli