I had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle and the surrounding areas on holiday this year with my partner, Richard, and my dog, Milo. We had beautiful sunshine throughout our time which really made our time wonderful when we visited all the beautiful places in the North East! Tynemouth was no exception with the ruins of Tynemouth Priory and the quaint, bustling town centre. The beach itself was absolutely beautiful and had a really safe family feel alongside lots of couples walking their dogs along the stunning coastline. As any wheelchair user or person with limited mobility knows, accessing a beach is one of the trickiest things you can do! Your wheels sink in the sand so you barely make it a few metres off of the beach access ramp unless you are light enough to be lifted by companions/ carers (I would break Richard’s back if we tried that!). Therefore, Richard and I were absolutely delighted to find the charity called Beach Access North East (http://www.beachaccessnortheast.org) who give free access to a range of beach wheelchairs and beach mobility equipment in the North East area. This meant I could wheel onto the beach with Richard and Milo and even paddle my feet in the sea!
It felt absolutely amazing as Richard pushed me along the sand as beach access is something that I’ve often missed out on since my spinal cord injury and nerve damage! Plus, this was our first “family” holiday since we got our lovely dog Milo and, since he was a starved rescue dog, he had never been in the sea before. His first time in the sea made the day even more special! If you are taking your furry friend with you then do be aware that you can only have dogs on half of Tynemouth beach (at the end of The View restaurant) from May until September. Apologies for the long hyperlink but the full map of dog access can be found here from page 3 onwards (https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ web-page-related-files/Dog%20owners%20guide%20to%20North%20Tyneside%20beaches.pdf).
North East Beach Access were really flexible with timings with us – we messaged a lovely lady called Caroline to arrange her to drop the beach wheelchair off at the Tynemouth beach ramp so we could use it for a couple of hours. You can contact the charity by phone on 0300 999 4444 or via email on email@example.com in advance to arrange the times for your free beach equipment hire. If you do visit the Tynemouth Longsands beach then Blue Badge holders have free use of any of the dedicated disabled bays on the ramps at either end of beach and they can also park for free in any on-street bays or council-run car parks. Make sure to display your Blue Badge timer properly and to check the particular car park notice board just to check you’re ok to park there for free. We used Tynemouth Longsands beach but Blyth beach is also covered by the team. Neither beach has storage directly on the coast so a volunteer has to be available to collect the wheelchairs from their inland storage locations and drop it off to where you are located. The charity are currently fundraising for beach-side storage so more users can have access to the beach! Obviously, the wheelchair we used required a companion to push you but Richard said that it was fairly easy to get traction on the damper sand towards the sea. Plus, you could just use the wheelchair to get you to a central beach location to have a picnic/ build sandcastles if you didn’t want to push far along the coast. The charity doesn’t provide companions to push the wheelchairs but I am told they are looking into purchasing self-propelling beach wheelchairs in the future! Also, they have a specialised floating wheelchair that can actually be taken into the sea. Ours could only be taken into the shallows. To use the floating wheelchair you must wear a wetsuit.
The charity do absolutely wonderful work to help wheelchair users access the North East coastline in beach wheelchairs. It was honestly one of the most memorable days of my entire holiday as I had no limitations or barriers when accessing the beach! If you are searching for a worthy charity to fundraise for then I would love you to contact Beach Access North East to allow the Trustees/ volunteers to talk over the amazing work they have been doing over the years. Otherwise, give them a ring to arrange a beach wheelchair to allow you to access the coastline fully! Enjoy! 🙂