I’ve been kindly asked to write a blog post on how I manage to access Dartmoor, as a disabled person.
I am a wheelchair user, but things are complicated a bit by the fact I can’t sit up for more than an hour a day or travel very much…with these factors in mind, ingenuity has to play a big role !
I’m lucky to live in a Devon market town that is literally half a mile from Dartmoor.
So there are many places to discover close by, about a five mile radius of where I live.
After I fell ill in 2013, and was signed off sick long term, I was determined to continue the photography that had been my career, but as so often in life there had to be some big changes. These were of course mainly viewing the moor from a car, and using much smaller equipment, light SlR or compact camera and small tripod. My illness effects my cognitive ability too so things have to be easy to use. Luckily we live in an age where everything is more accessible, and easy to use including photographic equipment.
Its worth mentioning I can’t travel very far because of my health, Plymouth’s only 16 miles from my home and I haven’t travelled there for three years now. So my travel radius is about five to ten miles from my home. However there are some great places to go nearby.
I’ve also hit upon the idea of laying in the back of the wheelchair van I have access to, it has sliding doors and I can experience the view and sounds, without expending energy. There’s a photo of my set up In this blog, you can see my camera on the tripod.
Using close cropping and a zoom lens I hope I can still convey the spirit of the moor.
Lanes and roads feature in my photos much more now, they are a popular subject
matter and something I overlooked when I could walk a mile or two In the past.
I have started labelling my photos on Twitter and Facebook, with a disabled symbol for access. ♿️
Even though I can’t walk on the moor, just being out and seeing it from a car or laying down in the wheelchair van does me so much good. I love hearing the natural sounds, a stream, birdsong, the sound of livestock.
Some people have reacted with sadness when they see my laying down in the back of a car posts, what they don’t realise is that most of my life is spent indoors, laying down.
Just being out of the house is nice, even if I do have to view the world from a wheelchair or lying down…or even sometimes…lying back in a wheelchair ;).
I do believe when life is difficult you have to look and see what you can do, even if it is limited. Difficult as it is, it’s still precious, and so is the natural world I photograph.
(All the pictures attached are taken by the roadside or from the wheelchair van.)
Thanks for reading.
I visited Tavistock’s historic Quaker cemetary yesterday. It’s a wildlife haven and as I drove in my wheelchair, I saw bluebells, primroses and the silent flight of many butterflies between the old headstones.
I can only travel a short distance and bluebells are hard to come by, as not many woodlands are safe or accessible to wheelchairs.
Bluebells normally grow in hedges and open ground on Dartmoor and flower in mid to late May, it being higher ground than other parts of Devon.
My wheelchair got stuck in some mud in the cemetery but I got out of it and guided it out of the mud easily enough, phew !