I got my first tastes of the outdoors when, as a child, my father would carry me on his back along beaches and over hills as my walking ability wasn’t up to much in these days.
Then in the local scout troupe I would take part in some activities like canoeing but wasn’t able to go hiking or skiing at that at age. I used to get mad when the scouts were doing a midnight hike or a trip to Glenshee that I wasn’t allowed to go on.
As a young teenager I understood had cerebral palsy but found it more difficult to accept my limitations and developed a real aversion to the answer “no!”
Joining hillwalking clubs and societies is a great way to make friends and get active
My passion for the outdoors just grew and grew until at university in Dundee I joined the Uni hillwalking society. With them, and friends that I met through there, I began bagging Munros.
Over the 4 years of my degree I managed to bag around 25 mountains that I am really proud of. I’m going to be honest it could be difficult to get people to go out walking with me, particular when the days got short in the winter. I have always been slower than most and, for some, going at my pace was not appealing.
However do not let this hold you back – I also made good friends who were a bit more patient and would happily spend a whole day doing one peak with me.
Keep it up – you will soon be doing things you never dreamed of
My passion for the outdoors has continued throughout my life and as I’ve got older I have become fitter and even more able to do things.
I am so much more able now and my cerebral palsy holds me back even less and I can do things now that I could never have dreamed when I was a kid. However it’s not been, and continues not to be, without obstacles and I face a lot of uphill battles that I’d imagine other disabled people face when trying to enjoy the outdoors.
I have experienced some difficulty in finding people to climb or walk with. I joined numerous clubs for climbing and walking but, as I am slower than and not as able as others, it could be difficult to get people prepared to go out with me.
This has been the case in many sports clubs I have joined. If people have a short window at the weekends to enjoy their sport, I can understand most people wanting to make the most and not plod up a single peak with a slow coach!
Do not let this stop you, by joining these clubs I have met many people who are prepared to spend the extra time and, more often than not, its lead to really good friendships.
Your goals and achievements are your goals and achievements
I have learned to be realistic about the goals I set myself and not compare myself with other people. For some, trekking over the Andes might be in their sites or they may have already cycled half way around the globe. I may or may not do these things, but it doesn’t’ make my adventures or achievements any the less.
I’ve learned to set goals, to push myself and not try to keep up or compare myself with others. Sometimes we can have adventure or achievements right on our own doorsteps.
Want to try something but you think you will need support? Just ask!
I learned to ski around the age of 31 by joining up with a disability group at my local dry ski slope. I absolutely love skiing and, if I could do anything, I would spend the whole winter in The Alps. After spending hours and hours on the dry slope I wanted to have my first holiday abroad.
I wrote to a local ski company called Ski Hame and explained that I wanted to ski but needed a little support. They could not have been more positive and I have had many wonderful holidays in France with them and they have become really great friends of mine.
Some advice when on camping
On a practical note I’ve realised that camping and camp-sites still have a lot of catching up to do to make themselves accessible to disabled people. I’ve recently come across camp sites on the web with a disabled sign and a big score through them to say we are not equipped?
I have also arrived at camp sites who have said they are disability accessible and have appropriate facilities and have got there to discover that their facilities fall short of the mark.
My best advice is always phone the camp-site ahead of arrival, let them know you are coming and what you require – they are almost always delighted to help.
Alongside this another tip is to choose your timings wisely. I stayed on a camp-site recently and, although was not yet peak season, was getting really busy. If a camp-site has disabled facilities, more often than not that means they have one single disabled shower. At peak season it can be really busy and hard to get access.
Do not let anything put you off
I continue to love spending time in the outdoors and don’t’ let anything put me off.
Having cerebral palsy has off-course made it more challenging and difficult but my drive and determination has never been greater. I have more fun in my life than I ever have and it’s down to a change in my mind-set.
I look at every day as an opportunity for adventures and fun. Adventures don’t have to be up mountains or on rock faces. We create our own adventures wherever we do and I hope I continue to achieve more and more in outdoor sports and inspire others to do the same.
If you’d like to learn more I blog regularly about my adventures here: