In 2001, the Highland Disabled Ramblers made their first great escapade, with the assistance of mobility scooters.
These ambitious wanderers take pleasure in fresh air and the sights and sounds of the outdoors. They are also the vision of friendship and are often seen chatting just like any other group of people you’d find on an outing together.
Unlike the lucky ones among us that prepare for such a journey merely by putting on our shoes and setting off, preparations for a ramble Highland Disabled Ramblers style takes a lot more work. Their routes have to be surveyed in advance to ensure its safe for their scooters, and their mobility scooters have to be dropped off at their desired starting point.
In an interview with the Ramblers’ secretary, Elspeth Kennedy, we were able to understand the group’s background story. “Many of our members are people who’ve been active in the past when they were more able”, Elspeth told us. “This gives them the opportunity to get out and enjoy the countryside. As well as getting out there’s the companionship too. And volunteers, like me, feel they are doing something worthwhile.”
The scooters the Ramblers’ use have to be a lot tougher than your average mobility scooter to handle the more tricky terrain, and as we all know this means they come at a higher cost. Luckily enough, money is raised to help the group buy them. Through outdoor fundraising events such as the Great Wilderness Challenge and the Highland Cross, and as well as funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, they have gathered together enough money to buy them.
In various locations, a wide network of suitable routes has been built up over the years for the Ramblers. As well as the Cairngorms they visit the Black Isle and the trails at the bottom of Beinn Eighe, among many other venues. On some of their trails, the group have to be accompanied by rangers to ensure their safety. Some of these rangers have worked in the places that they accompany the group in, so they can also provide another interesting insight and facts about the area.
For the ramblers, weather is not often an obstacle, although on the odd instance it’s been too vigorous to handle and the somewhat disgruntled ramblers have had to retreat. On their first wander of the year of which the destination was Darnaway Estate near Forres, the rain was relentless. One Rambler even wrote a report of the trip for their website and described the eventful trip with these words: “The hood of a waterproof jacket and an umbrella, while trying to drive a scooter, does somewhat limit the surrounding view, but the impression was of well-kept, open woodlands and a well-maintained ‘lived in’ castle.” Despite the downpour, the group even caught a glimpse of some wildlife, according to the report “The group of quail by the roadside was the wildlife highlight.”
The groups year for outdoor activities starts once a week in April up until November, and sometimes twice a week in the summer months when the weathers on their side. Sadly, after November time it gets too cold for the Ramblers’ outings, but this doesn’t stop them! They indulge in a variety of other indoor activities, from having lunch together, to quizzes and talks from guest speakers.
Visit The Highland Disabled Ramblers’ website at http://www.highland-disabled-ramblers.org/ for details of how to contact the group, of what the Ramblers’ do, how to book a place on an outing with them and information about impending trips.