This month José and I were spoilt with a holiday, a whole week away - just the two of us - well, plus Bradley and Zofia.
First of all we had to plan when to go. We needed to be sure José was discharged from hospital, and that it was a week without further appointments. Like any holiday it had to fit my work commitments and my colleagues' holidays. But it also had to fall between shift start and end dates for our live-in carer (not easy when they do two weeks on, two weeks off), and ideally be when Zofia was on shift - oh, and it had to be before the prices hiked for Easter.
Then there's where to go? We needed a wheelchair accessible property. With a roll in shower, and a shower chair - because it's bed baths at home. A height adjustable profiling bed with a hoist in a twin room - we're on different floors at home. A second bedroom for the carer and somewhere that welcomes dogs. Places that match this criteria are few and far between, so when I found Hoe Grange Farm was available the week we wanted we booked it. We didn't really care where it was!
Fortunately Hoe Grange Farm is a real find. A collection of luxury self catering lodges on a south Peaks farm. Each is accessible for different needs, there's even one with a hoist over the hot tub. The site is environmentally sustainable using an underground heating system, solar and wind power, which interested José. And the local information pack included not just wheelchair accessible attractions but also to dog friendly places too - making our days out easy to plan.
And then we had to pack. We were driving so we had the car for me, Jose, Zofia and Bradley. It was February/March so we'd need cold weather layers plus waterproofs and wellies so that's 2 bags each (Bradley made do with just the one bag of towels, toys and treats plus his bed). It was self catering so I needed my camping box of essentials - herbs, spices, oils, food for 24hours and wine. Then there's the medical equipment, such as the cough assist machine which keeps José's lungs exercised, medications and dressings etc = an extra 2 bags. We had a panic on Friday night when we realised in the handover between carers no one had placed the repeat prescription request; a call to the 111 service saw an emergency prescription raised for the duration of our trip. Finally we needed pillows. Yes, pillows were provided but José sleeps with eight, and most get folded to better support a limb, so we needed to take some spares. Yup, the car was going to be cosy - so we got a roof box.
A week in the Peaks with a wheelchair might not sound ideal but we found plenty to get up to. I'm planning on creating a website with more details of the walks we go on (working title "Bradley Barretta's Walks With Wheels") but here's a taste of what we got up to.
Day 1, we met a friend and her two dogs for a walk at Carsington Water. A very windy reservoir with a handy cycle track, and an upstairs café selling an excellent selection of cake.
Day 2, still very windy so we used our National Trust membership to visit Hardwick Hall. A volunteer gave us a private tour of the ground floor before we explored the formal gardens, then had enormous ginger and rhubarb scones in the café.
Day 3, I ran with Bradley and a stow away farm Jack Russell called Fudge along the High Peak Trail (disused railway) to Cromford where I met up with José and Zofia for a canal side walk to a café.
Day 4, we got snowed in. But frankly we were all ready for a rest, and with a reclining armchair available José was very happy with the first change of seat in ten months.
Day 5, José woke with a temperature and feeling a bit unwell. We called 111 again, not easy when phone signal was nonexistent. A doctor came, but by then José was feeling much better. He got the all clear and went to Buxton where Bradley and I waded through knee high snow whilst José and Zofia went caving. OK, not caving exactly but Poole's Cavern is wheelchair accessible (also has a café).
Day 6, A unique opportunity at Hoe Grange was the chance to try out the Boma 7. The Boma 7 is an all terrain wheelchair, Zofia and I were happy to demonstrate it's capabilities across the farm land (this one was hand control, but they are available with head controls). José, Bradley and I then gave Zofia the afternoon off. We went to Tissington and walked along the Tissington trail (another disused railway). We did about 3.5miles before we reached an impassable gully - apparently there used to be a bridge. Sadly we were too late for the café so we had to stop for a takeaway.
Day 7, we stopped at the National Arboretum on our way home. A place well worth a stop, lots of sculptures and landscapes providing opportunities to reflect on sacrifice and loss; plus, you'll be relieved to hear, not one but TWO cafés!
And that was our holiday, a welcome escape.