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We got more active!

Jonathan and Yasmin riding a tandem bike

Who were we, and why could we do it? We were 10 people all in some way associated with the Get More Active project by Surrey Coalition of Disabled People. This was one of the first Get More Active Get Together’s organised by the Coalition to try out different activities and meet up for some fun!

A standard two wheeled bicycle is out of the question for people with severely limited sight, if their legs don’t work or don’t exist. This can be overcome with either a side-by-side navigator on a specially designed tricycle or with pedals replaced with hand controls incorporated in handlebars.

On Thursday June 30th, six variously impaired people and four staff members of the Coalition arrived at the “Alice Holt Activity Centre”. The facility has a variety of machines which by various means could either be pedalled normally or made to move by hand controls.

As I have no sight, I was nobly assisted by Yasmin sitting side by side with two conventional pedals like Yasmin, the difference being between us that her handlebars steered, had brakes and a simple three-speed gear control level. Another staff member, Angie who relies on using a wheelchair rode in a seat similar to a wheelchair but connected to what is similar to the front wheel of a bike but having two “hand pedals” which enabled her to steer.

Alice Holt Forest is just part of an ancient woodland.  Situated four miles south of Farnham just over the Surrey/Hampshire boundary it has many footpaths and wide gravel tracks where these specialised and standard bicycles can explore the serene environment.

Before we set off more widely, we all tried out a figure of eight test trail. My navigator safely guided us around. All of the trails are made of stone, probably chalk chippings. The forest trails have some hills and hollows. The level bits were easy, rolling downhill even easier but the uphill stretches required some “leg work” or handiwork.

Having passed first base, we joined the others along a half-mile long circuit. There was plenty of banter between everyone, a great time was had by all.

All too soon my first time on wheels came to an end.

A group of members taking part in the cycling Get More Active Get Together

Alice Holt has an interesting history, geography and geology. In the 8th century, all of the woodland for miles around was controlled by the Bishop of Winchester. Timber was a highly valued commodity. The forest had many oak trees. Centuries later around 1815 the Napoleonic wars created a shortage of material for our Royal Navy. Many of these trees were either taken on the River Wey to the Thames dockyards or to Portsmouth for building our warships. The economic and ecological value of the forest landscape was realised and during the early 20th Alice Holt and its neighbouring Marle Wood were effectively nationalised. World War 1 created another timber shortage. The nation could not wait for two hundred years, so faster growing Conifer trees were planted where once mighty oaks had stood. Alice Holt Forest now has a more ecologically minded management, some oak and other trees are replacing the conifers. The Activity Centre has the cycle hire, a high-wire activity tree top experience, a café and of course accessible toilets.

Katy Hubbard, Angie Taylor, Charlotte Payne and Yasmine Broome organised taxis or lifts in their cars to get us all there and back home safely.

A massive thankyou to them all.

Jonathan Fisher

Chairman, Surrey Coalition of Disabled People

June 30, 2022

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