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Aberdeenshire cafe’s new wheelchairs help make beach accessible to all

Ben Henry tries out the new Hippocampe wheelchair at Balmedie beach with father Gavin.
Submitted
Ben Henry tries out the new Hippocampe wheelchair at Balmedie beach with father Gavin. Submitted

A beachside community cafe has helped make one of the most popular parts of the north-east coastline accessible to all.

The Sand Bothy at Balmedie beach officially opened its wheelchair project at the weekend, enabling people with disabilities to explore the golden sands and shoreline.

After a fundraising drive, volunteers at the Sand Bothy have bought four Hippocampe wheelchairs.

The £3,200 chairs have balloon wheels for traversing even soft sand and a corrosion-resistant frame to withstand sea salt.

One of the chairs is suitable for adults and all are now available for half-day bookings on Sundays.

Children must be able to be transferred from their own wheelchair.

The idea for the rental service was brought to the group by Aberdeen mother Laura Henry, whose 13-year-old son Ben has quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

Mrs Henry saw a similar scheme in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

She said: “When you go on to the really soft sand, you just can’t get the wheelchair through it.

“And some need to take oxygen tanks and other equipment, and the weight of the chair is so heavy there’s absolutely no way you can push it over sand.

“It’s really sad as a ‘regular’ family wouldn’t think twice about this.

“But other families who have able-bodied children with them can’t all go to the beach either, you have to have two sections where one stays away from the water as they can’t go on the sand.

“So a chair like this is a small thing which can make a big difference.”

She added: “They make happy memories for when times aren’t so good.”

To book, call 07864 350989.

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