Fingle Bridge is gorgeous which isn’t very surprising, it’s in a gorge, set deep in mixed woodland on the north side of Dartmoor.
The bridge is old, narrow and beautiful, crossing the River Teign in surroundings designed for chocolate box manufacturers.
The Fingle Bridge Inn has a garden running down to the river, the river is crystal clear and rocky, a delight to birdwatchers, fisherman and anyone with a soul. Across the bridge a track runs near the river, upstream to the Deerpark, downstream to Steps Bridge.
The tracks along the river are rocky where they aren’t muddy, rutted by logging work and crosscut by rivulets carrying the Devon rain down the steep wooded slopes. It is a beautiful site and a source of local revenue from timber operations, fishing and tourism. Working forest tracks are a pleasure to walk, exciting to cycle but a nightmare for wheelchairs.
I explored it last week from a wheelchair, and it is beautiful and accessible if your wheelchair is on an iBex pulled by a pony.
There are millions of places we take for granted if we can walk, which are an impossible dream for anyone in a wheelchair or even with mobility issues. Making these places “accessible” isn’t the solution, because making them accessible destroys their natural charm.
Running a concrete path next to the Teign, would destroy the river for everyone while allowing those in wheelchairs to see the destruction. Pony Access, makes areas accessible without any modification. Mud, ruts, tree stumps or stones, gravel or soft sand, rocks, long grass and heather add variety. They don’t form a barrier to the iBex.
This video shows Obama taking 17 stone/110kg of me, driving from a wheelchair, cruising upstream from Fingle Bridge to the Deer Park at Easton, and back.
Every time you think the scenery is unbeatable, the gorge twists and another stunning vista opens up. Castle Drogo, looming over the gorge, shaded pools, waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, lichen hung trees and then, finally opening to the Deer Park which gives a incredible feeling of space.
For the second trip, featured in this video,
in intermittent driving rain, I fitted the seat option on the iBex.
It takes two minutes to switch from standard, ie wheelchair enabled, to the seat option. This allows two or three adults to share the ride.
Cruising downstream from Fingle to Clifford Bridge is less dramatic. Still stunningly beautiful, incredibly varied but I had more chance to focus on the wildlife. A heron lifting lazily from his perch, followed by a dipper and another heron. Then the electric blue of a kingfisher, then a pair of kingfishers and a pair of dippers, I think displaying.
A rocky pool with a pair of Goosanders who I caught on video flying off and a Buzzard on a kill completed the day. All of these were seen on the move, from a wheelchair enabled vehicle, without special knowledge or pre planning. This was Obama’s and my first exploration of this stretch of the Teign, but we will be back.
If you have mobility issues, places like Fingle Bridge and the Upper Teign are accessible without damaging the environment. You don’t even have to like ponies. Pony Access is about access. Access with ponies, access to ponies. But Obama is perfectly happy to take people where they want to go. Fishing, birdwatching, tree hugging, picnicking, dog walking, listening to the sounds of the river or sharing a walk with friends, all these are possible with Pony Access.
Pony Access, Safe Access Anywhere.
This final video shows the instant pony release system, the reason Pony Access can take you in Safety where nobody else can.
The remote control instant release can also be operated by the driver and any carers. You can’t get any safer.
If you are very quiet you may even get to see young pheasants exercising their pets. Some people don’t approve, but I do.