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Caravan Holiday blog by Dave Gale

The lovely Dave Gale has written a little blog about caravan holidaying, below is some Q&A.

What is your impairment? Becker Muscular Dystroph

How does this impact on your life? – It affects my mobility and causes pain and discomfort

What difficulties do you face when travelling? – Primarily access to things as although I am ambulant I face many issues a wheelchair user faces with accessibility. I can also suffer fatigue and can tire easily.

Tell us about the best experience you’ve had when travelling – particularly when facilities haven’t been perfect, but the welcome and service you’ve received has made up for it. – I can’t pinpoint something specific but I do find that on the whole if facilities aren’t up to scratch the customer service is still good and every attempt will be made to make it a comfortable trip.

My name is David Gale. I am 32, a civil servant and part time disabled campaigner originally from Carlisle but now live in a village called Lochmaben near the town of Lockerbie in South West Scotland with my partner Tracey and my son Spencer. I have a disability called Becker Muscular which is a degenerative muscle wasting disease which affects my mobility.

In September Tracey and I and my partner decided to take our son, Spencer of 20 months on his first caravan holiday. We chose Whitley Bay as our destination, just north of Newcastle which is not too far from where we live in Southern Scotland.

When booking the caravan park with Park Resorts, we let the park know that I needed ramp access, which was there when we arrived and I was able to access the caravan with no issues. There was also a parking space in front of it which made things easier. Inside the caravan the access was good, though the hallway was narrow. The bathroom had hand rails in it and a seat in the shower. While the bedroom did have a hoist and furniture was lowered as was the kitchen sink and part of the kitchen top. I worked well for my needs; however a wheelchair user may struggle with space limitations.

The first evening we decided to visit the complex in the caravan park and familiarise ourselves with the amenities. It had a convenience shop, arcade, restaurant, bar and a park all of which were fully accessible. Obviously my son wanted to go to the park first and have a run around, the park had a view of the sea and numerous different apparatus to play with. After this we had a meal and Spencer joined in with the entertainment staff painting once the terrifying (in his eyes) mouse mascot Pipsqueek had left the stage!

After breakfast on Tuesday we decided to visit the neighbouring coastal towns of Cullercoats and Tynemouth. First we went to the park in Tynemouth which had parking right in front of it and was easy access. It had a wonderful view of the sea as it was slightly raised up. It had a good array of things to do in it for children and adults alike. There was a play park, café, maze, crazy golf and a boating lake although some of these things are seasonal and may not be open all year round. After the visit to the park we went to the Tynemouth Blue Reef Aquarium. There was plenty of parking in front of the aquarium and it was free for blue badge holders. The Aquarium was quite small but it had a varied choice of animals to see. My son loved seeing the otters and the tropical fish in particular, it also had seals which put on a show at certain times of the day. It was very informative and also was on the whole accessible.

Then we went a little bit further up the road to Cullercoats beach which had a great park which again was overlooking the sea. My son had a whale of a time going around this park. By this time it was lunch and we decided to drive to a Harvester in North Shields for a meal. The meal was great and the staff really helpful. After the meal we went into Whitley Bay itself and then Sainsbury’s to stock up on some food for the caravan.

Wednesday we decided to go into Newcastle as the weather was taking a turn. To make the experience a bit more exciting for Spencer we took the Metro train from Whitley Bay to Newcastle Central which was a 28 minute journey. He had never been on a train before so he enjoyed the journey a lot. There were plenty disabled parking bays outside Whitley Bay Station and a ramp to get across the platforms. The trains were also level with the platforms making access on and off the trains straightforward. Once at Newcastle the station had lift access to the concourse and then to the mainline station. A lot of the route now has step free access which is great.

The first place we went was the Discovery Museum which is about a 5 minute walk from the station. The museum is primarily a celebration of the history of the North East from the area’s history as an important sea port to its military history. There was plenty for the whole family and best of all it was free and had parking right in front of the building. Another impressive thing is the number of lifts and accessible toilets all of which had automatic doors as well. I would recommend visiting the café as the scones were very nice and the staff helpful.

On the way back to the station we then visited the Centre for Life which is always a great place for exhibitions. The museum helps fund a lot of research the University of Northumbria do into genetic diseases such as my own Becker Muscular Dystrophy. There was an interesting exhibition which was showing what the insides of animals were like and it’s always fun going around the brain zone where there are numerous games and activities to do that test the brain. But the highlight for me was the big children’s area upstairs. There was lots of drawing and building materials for children but the best part was the imagination play. This had an impressive selection of different scenarios. There was a kitchen, a shop, a waste dump and a garden among others. We then got the metro back and decided to go for a meal at the Harvester again, as we enjoyed it so much the first time round.

Thursday was our last full day. I had looked into some local family activities and decided on the Whitehouse Farm Park near Morpeth. It was about a half hour drive up the M1 but was worth it. There was free disabled parking right outside and the majority of the park was accessible. First we went to see the petting zoo which had loads of rabbits, goats and guinea pigs among others for children to pet. Then there was a big park and also a big soft play area where Spencer was in his element especially in the ball pool.

For lunch we went to the restaurant which was serving lovely looking hot dishes as well as the usual cake and scones. After lunch we visited all the other animals on the park such as the ponies, owls and pigs. The only issue here was the ground was covered in stones which made pushing the push chair difficult as well as my difficulties with walking. It may be difficult for ambulant disabled or manual wheelchair users to get round these areas. On the whole it was worth a visit and if they could improve the access around to some of the other animals it would be an excellent place to take your children.

After the farm park we went into Morpeth itself. In Morpeth there was an excellent public park called Carlisle Park which had a great play area and was next to a river and as it was a beautiful day it made it look especially nice, the town had a decent array of shops and places to eat, certainly worth a visit. After this we decide to go the coastal route via Blyth back to the Caravan Park to see the park and Habour but unfortunately it was far to misty to see anything so after a meal in KFC we headed back to the caravan.

Friday was the day we left and before we went home we went to the royal quays shopping outlet in North Shields as it wasn’t much of a detour. It had a decent array of shops and a few food outlets. It was all accessible and had numerous disabled toilets. After this was the drive home and the end of our little trip to the North East.