In winter in the UK, sunshine and daylight is precious. When the sky is clear, I like to get up and out at a decent hour to catch those magical rays. At the end of November I wrapped up warm for a wheelchair bike ride on the Cuckoo Trail, in the lovely Sussex countryside.
We started at Hailsham, but next time will start at Hellingley to avoid some of the slopes. Also Hellingley is more out in the country than Hailsham. There are some slopes but a lot of long flat parts. In some places the path was wet and muddy with sludgy leaves, but its all surfaced underneath, so the wheelchair won’t sink you just get muddy wheels.
Precious Winter Light.
We only did a section of the trail back in November, so I will update this info when we have explored it further. Apparently there is a quite a steep bridge to cross at the Polegate end. At Hailsham there is a car park right next to the trail. Coming out of Hailsham the path cuts through some housing on quiet roads, but it is well signed how to get back on the trail. After that we continued towards Hellingley, there are some ups and downs but they are quite short, it’s fine if you have a strong helper. There is also a road to cross. Around the Hellingley area the trail flattens out so we continued on enjoying the countryside. We must have got halfway to Horam but had to turn back quite soon to get back in the fading daylight.
I can’t wait to come back to this trail when the daylight hours are longer.
More Info on the Cuckoo Trail
For general information on where to park and where you can access the Cuckoo Trail, take a look at this pdf : The Cuckoo Trail for walkers, cyclists and horseriders I hope this guide will include accessibility information (eg where the hilly parts are and which bits are more suitable for wheelchair users) next time they update it.
Had a brilliant day on the Tarka Trail, we did 16 miles on a Duet Wheelchair Tandem!
We hired the Duet wheelchair tandem from Bideford Cycle Hire for £17 for the day. They have private access onto the Tarka Trail, it’s an unsurfaced slope and a bit bumpy. I had my strong pedaller push my wheelchair up onto the trail and then bring up the Duet wheelchair tandem. After transferring he then took my wheelchair back down to the car. Parking is free if you hire a bike. Once on the trail its a nice, smooth tarmac surface and mostly flat. We passed the charming railway carriage cafe at Bideford. Then lovely views of the estuary as we were leaving town.
There is a bit of traffic noise from Bideford to Instow but it’s still a very pleasant ride. At Instow there is a disabled toilet (RADAR key required) at the back of the car park. It’s not very far from the trail but be careful crossing the road with the Duet as it is a bit more awkward to handle than a wheelchair on turns and curbs etc if you aren’t used to it.After Instow it’s peaceful with lots on nature, birds, sheep, cows, horses, fields, estuary and marshlands. At Fremington Quay there is a cafe and a flat path along the quay with a large lawn. After our picnic on the grass we headed back the way we came staying on the car free Tarka Trail.
We arrived back at the bike hire with time to spare so we rode a mile or so towards Torrington where it is more wooded with slight gradients. I’m so glad we did, as we met a very kind lady cyclist called Sheila, who very generously offered me her copy of “Wind In My Wheels” by Josie Dew. It has a chapter about her journey from Lands End to John O’ Groats on a wheelchair tandem!
Westward Ho – Wheelchair Walk, Pier House and Beach
Despite the moody weather I really enjoyed the wheelchair walk on this coastal path. The rain had perfect timing. Just as we returned from the walk it poured down, so we went for lunch at the Pier House. The food was good and the portions large. Good wheelchair access and a massive disabled toilet too.
Since the weather brightened up after lunch, we continued the walk in the opposite direction down to Westward Ho! beach. The path which passes the rockpools becomes the promenade and is fully surfaced, wide and flat with lovely bay views. According to thispdf, Accessible Trails in Devon, there is another easy access walk nearby at Northam Burrows, but we didn’t get around to that one.
Wistlandpound Wheelchair Walk
Wistlandpound has a peaceful nature wheelchair walk circling a lake which is sheltered by woods. To access the blue badge car park you must get a gate code from reception. From the blue badge car park the path is quite smooth compressed earth and gravel. There were steeper gradients than I had expected so if you want to do the full loop a strong pusher is required. Assisted canoeing on the lake is one of many activities available here for disabled people, for more info see Calvert Exmoor Trust.
Wheelchair Access at Rosemoor Gardens
There are plenty of disabled parking bays at Rosemoor Gardens, disabled toilets and a spacious cafe with room to move in between tables. 2 trampers are available (book in advance) The surfaces are smooth tarmac paths, flagstones, compressed earth and gravel, flat brick paths and in the woods compressed earth and bark.
Part of the gardens are on a slope so a strong helper may be required for some of it. The path down to the lake is on a gradient. The earth and bark path through the woods is quite smooth with gentle slopes. The gardens are split in two by the road. The main gardens in front of the visitor centre are stunning and fairly peaceful. To access the other side there is a path that goes under the road, on this side you get quite a bit of traffic noise from the road. If you are a bit sound sensitive (as I am) you might prefer to stay on the visitor centre side.
Wheelchair Tandem at Haldon Forest Park
2 different rides on a wheelchair tandem duet in the same week can’t be bad.
We did the Discovery Trail at Haldon Forest Park which is 2.5km (1.5miles) of compressed earth, gravel and bark path (which is fairly flat and wide) through the forest with some gorgeous views of Devon countryside. There are some short slopes so you might need a strong pedaller but nothing too steep. It’s a little bit tricky with the duet at the 2 road crossings due to the narrow wooden barriers, but it does fit through. Be careful crossing the road especially if you are new to handling the duet. Back at the car park there is a disabled toilet that’s big enough for the duet to actually fit it, but only just.