The Monday Ramble activity session at Sense has been a regular feature in many deafblind people’s lives over the past six years. It was an opportunity created specifically to get deafblind people from across the Midlands region together to do regular, gentle exercise, and improve fitness levels.
Initially, we discussed how best arrange this. The over-riding consensus was that deafblind people would enjoy and benefit more from experiencing a wide range of different environments, rather than just one location.
By calling it The Monday Ramble, the hope was that it would fix into people’s heads, the notion that this would be a regular, fixed feature in their weekly calendar, an opportunity to start the week with some gentle, healthy exercise.
The aim was to keep things as simple as possible. There are three essential criteria for a rambling location:
- We need access to (preferably disabled) toilets
- We need somewhere to purchase drinks and snacks – with the best will in the world, not everyone will come prepared with flasks of tea and picnic blankets, although many now do
- At least part of the course needs to be wheelchair friendly
If a venue fulfils these simple criteria, then it becomes a potential Monday Ramble venue. We have now accessed over 70 different locations around the Midlands.
Some places are clearly more appropriate and accessible than others, in which case we attempt to revisit them at different times of the year, in order to experience the seasonal changes.
As much as possible, all locations are free of charge to enter. Occasionally we experience unavoidable parking charges, and, whenever necessary, I will negotiate a discount at places where we have to pay, such as botanical gardens or nature centres.
One of the personal delights in organising the weekly venues has been the discovery of so many green spaces across the industrial heartland that is Birmingham. This region has a surprising amount of parks and woodlands, and the pride that people take in them has meant that we are usually met with a warm and friendly welcome wherever we venture.
Many of the Sense support staff have expressed their own gratitude at being introduced to so many new places themselves that they would otherwise not know about. I regularly hear the refrain “I’ll be coming back here with the kids/family/in-laws” etc.
Better still, is when I hear that Sense staff teams will make a point of returning back to a venue with the deafblind people they support, sometimes when they are working at the weekend and there is no time-tabled activity to attend. Just knowing that a particular place has all the right amenities necessary for a group of deafblind adults with specific needs, is invaluable knowledge.
This aspect of ‘sharing the knowledge’ has been a most gratifying feature of introducing The Monday Ramble. As a local man myself, I am proud of what my home town offers, the friendliness of its people, and its wide variety of interesting locations.
Most weeks we visit parkland, woods, and open spaces like lakes and reservoirs. We have also explored the canal network, felt the vibrations of planes landing at the end of the airport runway, taken tours around football and athletic stadiums, museums, galleries and farmland. So many different sensory experiences, in all weather.
Even when the weather has been at its most extreme, with snow on the ground, or pelting rain, I am constantly amazed at the lengths people will go to in order to attend!
This has proven to me that The Monday Ramble really is an all-year-round activity. Walking outdoors, taking in the fresh air, feeling the different temperatures and experiencing the seasonal changes, are all such simple pleasures and things that all of us can enjoy and benefit from.
Along the way, some people have attempted to compile their own Monday Ramble Memory Book. This can take the form of just collecting a simple souvenir they can take back with them; a weather cone, a special stone, a pamphlet, or a map for example, just something that can evoke a memory at a later date, rekindling a happy moment and a permanent reminder.
For many deafblind people the concept of distance can be quite an abstract one, and difficult to explain accurately. To help this process we have had people in the group use what we call a Map Stick. Following a concept developed by Dr. Joe Gibson at Sense Scotland, The Map Stick is essentially a tool designed to demonstrate distance. It has different tactile markers on each end, and in the middle. This allows any walk, whatever the length, to be represented. It can really help alleviate anxiety once the deafblind person has grasped the concept, and can then understand, for example, when the walk has reached half way.
Finally, the benefits of bringing people together should never be underestimated. The Monday Ramble is open to all and enjoyed by many. Our group encompasses all age groups, and all abilities.
People are encouraged to do as much as they are comfortable with, and to stay for as long as they like. This allows social groups to form and friendships to be strengthened. It is lovely that so many now look forward to their Monday Ramble, regarding it as such an integral part of their social life, as well as it being a pleasant way to exercise and stay healthy.
If you would like to take part in the Monday Ramble or receive the quarterly schedule, please email firstname.lastname@example.org