Pip's Story My Bendrigg Experience
As told by Clare, Pip’s mum
We are really lucky to live between the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks but how were we going to enjoy them as a family when our twins have complex disabilities? We really thought outdoor pursuits were an impossibility for us but then we were fortunate enough to join a local support group visiting Bendrigg Lodge. We’ve never looked back! Now Pip, one of the twins counts climbing as her favourite thing and is keen to try out competitive climbing.
Pip was 5 when we first visited Bendrigg, she had only been walking just over a year and had absolutely no sense of danger or depth perception. Sensory difficulties meant that just getting into a harness and helmet was a major challenge but thanks to the endless enthusiasm of the staff it was eventually achieved. It slowly dawned on me that Pip was far safer experimenting on the end of a rope than she was on a local country walk where she needed a hand held all the time (which she often resisted strongly!). Pip didn’t do much climbing on that visit but a seed had been sown.
We visited Bendrigg several times over the following few years and were thrilled when their indoor climbing wall was completed. How could anyone resist all those tempting climbs? Well actually neither of the twins would go into the climbing hall at all due to the echoing acoustics – we’d come across the same thing before with the girls refusing or taking fright at going into railway stations or churches due to sensory overload. Again the flexibility of Bendrigg came up trumps – no pressure to go in, calm and enthusiastic staff letting the girls come to terms with the new environment in their own time. Win, win, not just for confidence in visiting climbing walls but a whole host of other places too!
It probably took Pip 4 years of visits to Bendrigg to complete her first climb. It taught me a huge amount about patience and enjoying every little step as the staff encouraged and congratulated her along the way. When things often seemed dark and difficult in every day life (paperwork, cuts in services, scary appointments) these were really important times in our lives.
As Pip entered her teens a couple of instructors both at Bendrigg and Calvert Trust mentioned that there were competitions for disabled climbers and didn’t I think Pip might enjoy them? First time it was mentioned I promptly forgot, second time I registered that they really meant it and third time I actually looked online and saw there were try outs for the BMC para-climbing in Newcastle! As I mentioned before, large echoing and busy places aren’t Pip’s forte so I was quite prepared for her to go on strike at the door of the climbing centre which is in a large church but her love of climbing carried her through. We didn’t manage to stay the whole day as it got too much but it gave us the clues as to what to work on for this year and we are looking forward to a trip to Edinburgh to do just that. It was also a pleasure to meet such a supportive group of people.
Pip’s next exciting event is a day on the crags with Bendrigg’s newly formed inclusive climbing club and we will be thrilled to see her enjoy a sport in the beautiful local hills that I never thought she would access. I would also put money on her coming away with a load of skills that will improve her life in ways we could not have imagined.
Update – April 2017
Pip continues climbing and was awarded runner up in the ‘young female achiever’ disability sports awards, attending a presentation evening and posh meal out at Slaley Hall near Hexham. Pip’s award was for her progress in climbing, which she started at Bendrigg over 10 years ago. Getting up on stage in front of 250 people was quite an achievement in itself. Pip told everyone she was very happy with the award and looking forward to doing even better next year.
Update – Sept 2017
Pip attended the BMC Paraclimbing Competition in Edinburgh in September and won 1st place in her category. Bendrigg Tutor Gemma described the day: “What an incredible day with Pip and Charlotte. Well done to both of them for achieving fantastic scores along with 1st and 2nd place in their category. A brilliant atmosphere with lots of enthusiastic and inspirational people. I’m sure this is just the beginning of paraclimbing in the UK and next year we will see even more competitors.” Big thanks to Bendrigg Patron Jamie Andrew for giving the girls advice and support on the day!