Surrey Coalition of Disabled People

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Return to the pool!

Find about Surrey Coalition member Claire Bellinger’s long-awaited return to the pool in the attached article

This week I’ve been talking to Claire Bellinger, Surrey Coalition member about her long-awaited return to the swimming pool.  Claire tells me she first started swimming regularly 5 or 6 years ago when she requested a “buddy” to go swimming with her through the Tandridge befriending scheme.

The lady that she was linked with has since become a good friend they had been swimming together every week until, of course, the pandemic lockdown had stopped them. Even once the pools had re-opened, restrictions meant that changing rooms were unavailable which for Claire and many other people with disabilities meant that swimming was still not an option. However, last week the time felt right, and Claire and her friend went swimming for the first time in nearly two years.

Claire tells me about their routine:  her friend picks her up and they drive to Tandridge leisure centre which is run by Freedom Leisure. The centre has a council run car park outside where there are 4 blue badge spaces, or it costs £1 for 2 hours parking for non-blue badge holders. The swim costs Claire £4.30 and a carer can swim for free. There is an accessible changing room and shower for wheelchair users as well as a selection of smaller and family changing rooms. Once changed, the showers are warm and easily accessed and then it’s into the pool. Tandridge has a 25m training pool and an adjoining leisure pool with sloped access. Claire walks with sticks into the water and then leaves them on the side before taking her friends arm and walking in a little deeper, then using a “noodle” flotation device to help support her in the water. Claire describes with obvious joy how being in the water is like “entering a different world. It’s really lovely, I can let go and do things in the water that I can’t do on land.” Whilst in the water Claire likes to take the opportunity to run through some of the exercises her physio has given her as well as enjoying a good stretch during a star float. After about 30 minutes she knows that she has reached her limit and she is starting to tire so it’s time to get out and head home. Despite feeling a little tired she’s also feeling great after a bit of physical activity and already looking forward to her next swim!

If you’d like to find out more about swimming opportunities near you, including swimming groups for people with disabilities or accessibility information for your local pool please contact Katy:

Phone or SMS text: 07434 865062


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