Rainy Wye Valley at the end of Autumn, 2018

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Woke up this morning feeling incredibly sad. Hard to express the emotion but I just needed to get out of the house and away from my life for a little while. I really am not well enough to have done such a thing but occasionally you have to push if just for your own sanity, I suppose.

It was absolutely pissing it down with rain but the escape of it, it felt like a somewhat charming addition. Not a warm one, I certainly wasn’t comfortable, but it’s good to be out in the fresh air.

I had a drive around the Wye Valley, revisited Bigsweir bridge, where I’d been much earlier in the fall. It’s interesting to see the contrast from then and now, how different the feel of it is in the early fall in cool sunlight to the grim looming cloud of the oncoming winter. The rain was just incredible, with roads flooding everywhere, water flowing down paths in the hills underfoot. 

I confess I’m not a fan of rural life, or of trees, I have a lot of gripes with its inaccess, and the rising levels of poverty as jobs leave the area and support is being reduced are startling. Trying to see beauty in an area with so much isolation, destitution, and suffering, I find it very hard to separate the aesthetic and the living, not least because the rural setting is what has been responsible for so much of it. It’s difficult not to be resentful, but I can appreciate that it’s beautiful, even if I do have wet socks.

A plea to drivers: Please stop blocking our way.

I am a wheelchair user. Navigating the pavements of the local towns in the rural West Country can be an absolute nightmare at the best of times. Drop kerbs lacking where needed, uneven pavements, overgrown hedges, and steep hills. Many places here haven’t caught up with the idea that some of us can’t get up steps which means our access can be limited to certain routes. Given how difficult this makes life in this area for people like me, as well as people in scooters, powerchairs, blind people with guide dogs, or people with pushchairs, I humbly request that car and van drivers don’t make life harder still by parking on pavements and blocking drop kerbs.

Alternative routes to where you are parking your cars is not always available. Without drop kerbs either side of you, going in the road is not always an option open to us. On busy roads attempting it can put us at risk. Even if you’re doing it for ‘just a minute’, we don’t know how long you’re going to be there or where you are in order to ask. We also don’t know whether asking you to move your car is going to lead to an aggressive confrontation, as has happened to many of us.

In trying to get out of the road where I live to get to the nearby bus stop or shops, I  have found the route blocked by exactly this. Cars completely blocking the main pedestrian exit from an estate which is largely made up of elderly and disabled people. To get around these cars I have to ring someone to help me take another route which I cannot manage by myself, either being pushed over muddy grass or adding a whopping 20 minutes to what would otherwise be a 3 minute journey, subsequently missing the bus. I’ve had neighbours complain of missed doctors and hospital appointments, or being unable to attend social gatherings. One came close to missing a funeral despite leaving considerable additional time because he found himself facing the same issue twice along the way.

Please, please consider people like us more before you look at doing this. Pedestrian life is already becoming more hostile, with charging points, pay and display meters, anti-cycle gates and similar objects blocking our way or making it difficult to navigate through foot traffic. This adds far more stress and upset than many people know.