Following a £30,000 lottery grant, the Network Caradale group located in scenic Kintyre, South West Scotland will be opening a new outdoor activity centre early next year with forest trails that are accessible to disabled people, thanks to the acquisition of a BBC Top Gear winning TGA Breeze.
Carradale was once a busy fishing village and a popular holiday destination served by the Clyde steamers however today it is more popular with visitors looking for an outdoor experience which includes forest trekking, wildlife spotting and mountain biking. The Network Caradale group, who originally managed a small café where the new outdoor activity centre will open, is a community business and registered charity that is now lottery funded and consists of 11 local directors. It is the intention of the group to modernise the original tearoom and simultaneously open a mountain bike hire centre, heritage museum and a hub for disabled people to access the rural surroundings. If this first phase is successful, the group plans to launch further activities such as archery and canoeing which will hopefully pull even more tourists into the area and give a valuable boost to the local economy.
Inclusion for everyone, regardless of ability, is a key focus for the new outdoor activity centre, which has resulted in the Caradale centre purchasing a TGA Breeze mobility scooter. Primarily designed to be a luxury mobility scooter for everyday use, the Breeze also has superb off road capabilities that were demonstrated on the BBC Top Gear TV programme earlier in the year. This feature was seen by over 8 million viewers including Jim Galbraith, one of the Caradale Directors, which sparked his group’s idea to focus on ‘accessibility for all’ at the new outdoor activity centre.
Jim explains: “When I saw how well the TGA Breeze performed climbing up a Welsh mountainside on BBC Top Gear, I was very impressed. I hadn’t realised that certain mobility scooters had these superb off road capabilities and this opened up my mind to the Breeze’s suitability for our centre. The terrain the Breeze tackled was extreme during this TV programme and consisted of slippy mud, steep inclines and rocky paths that are also common in our area here in Argyll. However, to ensure suitability for a wide range of disabled visitors, we are organising a range of less extreme trails that start and finish at the centre and will be graded according to rider ability, distance and terrain. The Breeze with its 30-mile range will have ample battery power to complete these routes and its impressive active suspension will easily deliver a smooth and stable ride for users during the trails. Four of our five pre-planned forest trails will now be accessible for both able and disabled visitors with the idea that active visitors can cycle side-by-side with users of the TGA Breeze – total inclusion for all. We do have another new scooter for hire and if these prove popular, then we plan to purchase more in the future, especially if we can find a commercial sponsor who can help with funding.”
The Caradale group intend to target and promote the new outdoor activity centre to individuals with a wide range of disabilities from amputee ex-servicemen and women through to elderly people and younger individuals with specific conditions. The centre is backed by the Forestry Commission and is located near to three hotels in the village of Caradale, which will provide accommodation for larger groups from further afield looking to access the forest and coastline. A new website, informative leaflets and trail maps will be available soon, all detailing the capabilities of the TGA Breeze.
Jim concludes: “These are indeed exciting times for us as we have just taken receipt of our new mobility scooters, the 16 quality mountain bikes are close to delivery and the new centre nears completion. We aim to be fully operational by March and we are currently in contact with the Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers association in regards to finalising our pre-planned routes for disabled visitors. On initial contact with this group, I asked whether they would recommend a certain type of mobility scooter that would be both highly reliable and suitable for use in the rural environment. They strongly suggested the TGA Breeze that reaffirmed my opinion following its success during the Top Gear extreme challenge. We are delighted to have now purchased one of these excellent machines and are all filled with great anticipation regarding its first outing when the centre opens next year.”