Sunday, August 12

Walking and disability; Or is that a benefit?

Walking out in the New Forest earlier today, I wandered through one of the many enclosures that abound. The back of Wilverley Plain in fact. A much quieter spot and convenient for car parking and a post walk coffee and a scrummy piece of Dorset apple cake. Mmm. Nice.

The enclosures are mostly criss crossed with very solid shale tracks, flat, even and suitable for walker, cyclist and pushchair alike. Which also means they're very busy this time of year with the holiday crowd. Young kids on bicycles. Yappy little dogs on thirty foot leads. Groups six abreast across the whole width of the path. That sort of thing.

Meanwhile there's more hidden tracks, rougher underfoot, boggy in places, and well rutted from the horse
riders passing through. Not difficult terrain compare to hill country, but it pays to look ahead to avoid getting muddy and even with the summer sun still very boggy and rutted in places.

Such tracks are my choice to steer clear of the crowds. Well mostly. An occasional dog walker. One or two serious walkers just passing through the area. But not a lot else.

So I was somewhat surprised, passing through a particularly difficult section, to realise that the elderly couple that I'd just exchanged a quick 'Good morning' with were not arm in arm for any romantic inclinations. Ah well - I can't of course discount that entirely.

But the main reason they were so close side by side was due to one of the couple being blind.

I must admit that's the first time I've can recall meeting a blind walker outside of a city street or near the edge of the car park. And that ground was not especially easy going. No white cane either as far as I could see. And they were stomping along as well.

A positive experience to come across. And thinking back on it now something that should really be far more commonplace. If human senses do increase to adjust for the loss of one of them, what better enjoyment than the smell and sounds along a forest path?

But not a place to have an argument and find your partner has stomped off I guess.

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Richard & Pauline West are regulars on the TGO Challenge - they do some surprisingly tough routes - even more surprising as Richard is totally blind.

Pauline guides him by holding his hand and describes the views. They are a wonderful inspirational couple. I have also bumped into them on top of Kinder Scout.

I wonder if you met them John?
I also met a blind male walker - being guided by another man I seem to recall - in the woods on the eastern side of Thirlmere earlier this year. They were going at a cracking pace. And the path was not easy in parts - even for the fully sighted - lots of boggy bits and tree roots to trip over, as I remember all too well.
If I do happen to spot them pout again and make sure I stop and chat next time. I'm intrigued
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