Last time I checked in with you, I was heading down to Bognor Regis for a family trip to Butlins. This post will fill you in on my experience there. However, as swimming was a big part of the trip, I’ve opened it up a little broader. Enjoy!
Kasia and I set off 2 Monday mornings ago, packed for 4 nights and were excited like kids! With my manual hoist, shower chair and sunglasses in the car; I sped off with my thumb operated accelerator and handlebar steering to the south coast. I had been to the same Butlins as a teenager, but couldn’t remember much, and am physically weaker now. I’m always therefore a little nervous of the facilities on such a trip.
On arrival we were greeted by friendly staff who guided us to the right room. After checking in over at the main tent, it was helpful having a family crew of 10 to assist us with all my gear. We have managed alone, but its tiring. Plus my 2 nieces even helped out!
The room caused a bit of a stir. We all paid £200 each for rooms, breakfast and dinner, plus entertainment etc. Having an adapted room meant being away from the others, but in relative luxury. The others literally had a room and loo. We had a room, huge accessible shower, lounge with tv and kitchen with everything you need. Sometimes its good to be disabled 😉
With all my equipment there, a good accessible room and my family too; it was time to have fun. The first day was best weather wise. I enjoyed giving my eldest niece a wheelchair ride along the beach front and chasing the youngest from causing trouble. They are 6 and almost 2. Unfortunately the weather tailed off, and so we just chilled within the complex, swam, ate and chatted the other days. In the evenings we saw a Katy Perry and Jessie J act, plus the Jacksons and the famous redcoats of Butlins.
All of the complex was wheelchair accessible, with lifts, toilets and helpful staff. Depending on your disability, you can access some of the fairground rides too.
So, swimming. I used to swim loads as a child. I learnt to swim without armbands aged 4 in Florida, I was in the local newspaper with the prime ministers wife for a charity swim I did, and generally thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I had my spinal fusion surgery in 2000 and lost the ability to swim for a long time. A couple of years back I started going again, found it more stressful, but healthy and fulfilling.
It had been a while since I had last swum, when we were in Butlins. I had the luxury of all my familys support, including 3 strong blokes in the crew. Having sussed out the situation with the staff, I was happy to go for it. Planning ahead, I had my swim shorts on under my trousers already. Once undressed, I was lifted onto their pool chair and rolled to the water, whilst having my head held. The chair rolled into the sloped pool floor, so access was easy. I was held during the crazy wave machine, but managed to bob about with a float otherwise. Afterwards I was placed back on the chair, used the accessible shower with the help of mum, kasia, my sister in law and niece (I know, I’m high maintenance!) and was lifted onto a slightly uncomfortable changing bench. Once dried and dressed I was lifted back to the safety of my wheelchair!
Enlightened by the exercise, healthy action and fun; I wanted to go again. Being in Cambridge this week, I researched local pools on the Internet, read up on access and phoned about. In the end I was surprised how many could cater for me. I ended up going to Chesterton sports centre last night. This was awesome! They had a hoist to get me from my chair, to the pool chair, to the changing bed and so on. The pool hoist was great, the lifeguards were super helpful, PAs goes free, and the changing bed was soft, wide and water proof for showering. More importantly I enjoyed the swim, felt shattered after (in an unusual way) and feel great today.
If you have a disability and feel worried about swimming; I urge you to give it a go! If you already swim, I’d love to hear from you on your experiences good and bad.