Wheelchair, Coast to Coast
“An inspirational and determined lady making the most of life!” was how Jackie Lambert described the speaker when giving the vote of thanks at the close of Asby WI’s guest’s talk.
During the evening members had heard how Debbie North, originally a teacher in Blackburn, Kirklees and Lincolnshire, and a keen hillwalker, had been diagnosed as having the ‘spine of an 80 year old’ which was crumbling. Surgery followed but this left Debbie wheelchair bound. She returned to teaching but retired early when the fact of her disability was not taken into account.
She was, however, determined still to get out and about with her husband. She made her very first trip in an ‘ordinary’ wheelchair to Gordale Scar, followed by another excursion using a National Trust wheelchair around Malham Tarn. Then pneumonia struck. Recovering from another spell in hospital she decided to do the Coast to Coast long distance trail.
This time using an all-terrain wheelchair, Debbie and Andrew followed their own version of the Wainwright classic and were met by family and friends at Robin Hoods Bay after coping with a route full of obstacles: rocks across tracks, locked gates on bridleways and horse stiles, to mention just a few.
An unexpected phone call led to Debbie meeting Julia Bradbury and setting up a website, ‘The Outdoor Guide’, with the tagline – “Find it, share it, wheel it”. Debbie currently acts as a volunteer with the Yorkshire Dales National Park checking routes for wheelchair users and as a consultant to stately home owners (in particular Chatsworth House) where she advises not only on estate routes but also on how to plan displays inside the house with wheelchair users in mind.
In addition she makes recommendations to owners of holiday cottages on how to make the cottages more welcoming by having accessible facilities for things like charging electric wheelchairs overnight. On top of all that she is heavily involved in an Eco-schools project which gets handicapped young people out of doors and into imaginative play.
Debbie has appeared on Countryfile in which she ascended Mam Tor. She lists High Cup Nick, Skiddaw, Blencathra and Helvellyn as summits conquered. She has been filmed by Terry Abrahams for one of his ‘A day in the life of ..’ series and to date has wheeled the Coast to Coast three times! Together with husband Andrew she has written a guide book cum biography entitled ‘In the Spirit of Wainwright’, a copy of which she generously donated for the evening’s raffle.
The evening closed with the usual business matters and refreshments, the latter provided by hostess Jackie Lambert. Raffle prizes were won by Carol Smith, Susan Walker and Jackie Lambert. The competition for a view on the Coast to Coast was won by Pam Cowey.