A coastal community is fundraising for a specially made beach wheelchair which will allow everyone to enjoy a popular north-east beauty spot.
Volunteers at Balmedie beach already have five manual Hippocampe wheelchairs.
These have balloon wheels for traversing even soft sand and a corrosion-resistant frame to withstand sea salt.
They have allowed people with disabilities access to the sea for the last three years.
Now the group are aiming to raise funds for an electric wheelchair, which will give even greater access to the beach.
The new wheelchair will allow users to navigate even the highest dunes independently.
Belhelvie Community Trust’s Fiona Winstanley scoured the globe to find the right chair, deciding on the X8 which will need shipped over from Australia.
At a cost of £13,750, the local community are rallying round to raise the sum.
The wheelchair needs to be ordered by November in time for the new season.
Balmedie beach is one of the north-east’s most visited beauty spots from spring to autumn.
Making the beach ‘truly accessible to all’
Mrs Winstanley said: “The new wheelchair won’t go in the water, but it goes up over the sand dunes. It’s really quite remarkable what it can do.
“It’s just that element of independence, for example a teenager might not particularly want to be pushed along by their mum or dad.
“With this wheelchair, you can control it yourself.
“We felt we needed something we didn’t have, something for all needs, and this is it.
“For some people, this will be the difference between getting to spend some time at the beach or not.
“It’s not just for people with disabilities either. Granny or granddad might want to go over the dunes but not be able to.
“The sand dunes look great fun, but not everybody will be able to get up there.
“So it really means everybody who wants to can spend some proper time at the beach.
“They don’t have to just stand and look, they can get involved.
“I did meet one teenager for whom that was the case, and my heart just went out to him.
“It’s for people like him this is all about.
“And for families, it’ll mean no more carrying a pram across the sand – I’ve seen people doing that as well.
“It’s about making the beach truly accessible to all.”
She added: “People have been very keen to help out, and we’ve had a lot of money come in from various places. We just need to get that last bit of funding.”
To donate towards the new electric wheelchair, visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/battery-operated-beach-wheelchair
‘A small thing which makes a big difference’
The idea for beach wheelchairs was brought to the group by Aberdeen mother Laura Henry, whose now 16-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.”
More information can be found at: https://balmediebeachwheelchairs.co.uk/