After commenting on a recent twitter post about his trip to Bendrigg in 1992 & 1993, we asked Mark to share his story!
“In the early 90’s I was a support worker, employed by an inner London borough, working in the community supporting a small group of brain injured people. The work was tough but fun, my colleagues and clients became lifelong friends. My boss Paul was a very dry-humoured Cumbrian, exiled to London, and one day he came up with the idea of a holiday at Bendrigg.”
I was utterly stunned by the setting
“Before long we were packing up the persistently unreliable minibus and making the journey up the motorway. I had never been to the Lake District before and I was utterly stunned by the setting, it was a far cry from the inner London estate we had come from. For one of our guys it was one of the first times he had ever been out of central London, it was a genuine culture shock. I remember his face as we surveyed the open spaces and huge sky.”
We did things that I did not think could be done
“Our care tasks remained the same whether we were in London or the Lakes. People needed support to wash, dress and eat etc but now we were adding activities such as canoeing, abseiling and caving to our days. We did things that I did not think could be done, people with very limited movement and even more limited opportunity, took on physical tasks that looked impossible. It was the Bendrigg staff that made the impossible possible, it was their knowledge, encouragement and belief that pushed us all, me and my colleagues included, to go beyond what we thought we could do. True bravery is wheeling yourself backwards off of an abseiling wall when you have never attempted anything like that before and you never thought you could do it; I saw that happen more than once.”
It was a week of working hard and playing hard
“I recall that the evenings were as much fun as the days. I was taught to fire-breathe, a trick I still wheel out from time to time, much to the amazement of my own children (and the horror of health and safety officers the world over); but my inability to learn how to juggle has persisted. The week flew by and, following a second visit by the nice man from the AA, we packed the van and hit the M6 South. We were all exhausted, but we had earn’t this tiredness, it was a week of working hard and playing hard. It was so hard that we booked for the following year and did it all again (as did the nice man from the AA).”
None of us know our limits until we are allowed to test them
“It is more than quarter of a century since I last visited Bendrigg Lodge, I see from photographs that the centre has expanded but has remained true to its aims of inclusion and pushing boundaries and expectations. None of us know our limits until we are allowed to test them, many of us are hesitant, needing the support of trusted people to enable us to go one step further. Bendrigg did that for my clients, my colleagues and me. In the intervening years I am sorry to say that three of my four clients and two of my five colleagues have now passed away, some of my happiest memories of them all are of being on the wind-swept hillsides or lakes near Bendrigg. I still work with people affected by brain injury.”
They taught me to see ability
“My visits to Bendrigg were amongst the hardest working weeks I have ever had but they remain the most memorable too. They taught me to see ability, they showed me what it means to work in a team and they formed a lifelong love of the outdoors. I am a city-boy but I relax by spending time in the hills. I am certain that Bendrigg has had an impact on thousands of people in a similar way and I look forward to seeing it continue to thrive and give life-changing opportunities to many.”
Do you have a Bendrigg Story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!