“Let’s just see what’s around the next corner,” are words my children remember me saying all too often when they were getting tired and wanting to go home. You see I used to love an adventure, but special needs has worn me down so that I usually play it safe. So many unsuitable places, so much planning involved.
Just occasionally I get a push to do something new or make a promise that I’m not prepared to break. Even when I wake up on the morning of the big adventure and wish I could just stay at home instead.
Yesterday’s adventure was part of the summer camp organised by the Rainbow Junior Arch Club, and I was bringing some children with me, so I had to go. The destination was Greenan Farm and Maze in County Wicklow, over an hour’s drive away and even from the website I could tell that the facilities for people with disabilities would be limited, so I had to bring a huge amount of stuff, from magic cream to muffins. Just in case. We were heading to the country after all!
It was a lovely day out and a wonderful place to visit, and we were blessed with the best of weather: warm sunshine and a cool breeze, but I couldn’t help looking at the venue through a disability lens. And it was a long way from perfect.
It began in the car park, where there was no disabled parking, just gravel, which is difficult for buggies, let alone wheelchairs.
My favourite attraction was the nature walk down to the dragon fly ponds that could be reached by two routes, one had a covered path which was doable with care (and muscles). The other ran alongside a stream and was gorgeous. I felt a welcome million miles away from the city. But the path was narrow, steep and sloping in places, with tree roots at every turn, and we had to give up at the Rowan tree above.
We tried out the two mazes, one has hedges and one doesn’t.
We looked at the animals, and B got to make friends with a horse.
We admired the exhibits outside and inside (some areas of the two museums were not accessible either)
And of course we tried out the café and the toilets. The café was lovely with gorgeous coffee, which is always essential for tired special needs parents, but a limited menu though so I brought my own lunch for B. Better for cakes than savouries and good on intolerances and allergies. However my daughter could not use any of the three toilets and had to wait until we got home.
So the drive back had an added urgency, but I was still enjoying a natural high from a day spent in the country with lungs full of really fresh air, and that lovely feeling of sun kissed skin which I’ve mostly missed this summer.
I would love more adventures in the country with my daughter, but it is almost impossible to find anywhere off road that is wheelchair accessible. Greenan Farm worked for us yesterday because B was in her adult buggy, and there were lots of friends on hand in case I needed help. But with a few tweaks and a decent disabled toilet (preferably a Changing Place) it could be so much better for people with disabilities – and families with buggies too.