My task for this issue was to visit a lady on Sileby Road who said she lives
in the forgotten end of Barrow. I rang her to make arrangements for a visit
expecting her to say she lived at number 200 odd Sileby Road, or even on Huston
Close, so was completely surprised when she told me her address as it is just the
other side of the bridge over the brook, heading towards Sileby!
When I arrived at her house I was greeted by ferocious barking so expected to see a large dog accompanying her to the door, wrong! The source of all the noise was a Border terrier, quite a small breed really but he did sound fierce and clearly felt threatened by my presence. Bobby, the terrier, was quickly despatched to the kitchen where the noise continued until he was certain that I was a welcomed visitor.
I was soon engaged in conversation with Susan Smith and curious to know why she felt this particular area of Sileby Road was “forgotten”. Susan explained that there was a little more to this statement and she proceeded to tell me about her circumstances.
Both Susan and her husband have disabilities; they have mobility scooters but struggle to use them in Barrow. For instance, they would like to visit The Soar Bridge, taking their little dog for a walk on the way. Their preferred route would be to take the jitty from Sileby Road through to Avon Road, along Welland Road then down Ribble Drive to Mill Lane. From Mill Lane there’s a footpath alongside the children’s play area that leads into Pig’s Close then on to Bridge Street. From here it’s just a short distance to the pub. Sounds simple doesn’t it? I decided to give it a try and imagined myself on a mobility scooter.
The first thing I notice, in the jitty, are the many humps in the tarmac caused by the growth in tree roots over the years, Then there’s the overhanging foliage from trees and shrubs, especially the brambles at this time of year. Right at the end of the jitty is the ‘piece de resistance’ a dog-leg metal barrier that is completely non-negotiable with a mobility scooter! The route to Mill Lane is fine from this point BUT the footpath to Pig’s Close is another obstacle. I doubt anyone would be able to get a pushchair along here and there’s certainly not enough room for a mobility scooter. There’s brush underfoot and overhanging branches from the hedgerow. There is one positive however, the footpath through Pig’s Close is pretty good although I’m not sure how it would be in wet weather.
I can hear you thinking that there must be an alternative. There is, it’s Sileby Road, where, in places, the footpath is very narrow, cars are often parked partly on the pavement and it isn’t suitable for a small dog. Surely there has to be a case to consider improving this route, making it accessible to everyone?
Susan also highlighted some of the other problems she has been experiencing due to poor access for people with disabilities. She likes to do her own shopping and used to use the local Co-op. Until its recent refurbishment the shopping trollies, here, used to be available from the front of the store, now they are kept in the car park. Just imagine the problem this can cause for people like Susan, who can walk, albeit slowly, and as long as she has something to hold on to. She can’t leave her scooter unattended in the car park but it would be fine at the front of the store. Susan asked the manager if a few trollies could be available at the front of the shop but was informed that everyone comes by car nowadays so they had to be in the car park area!
This conversation made me so much more aware of the difficulties that affect people like Susan and her husband. I wondered what, if anything, could be done. Firstly, have a look at your front garden, do you have shrubs or hedges that hang over the footpath? If you do, please cut them back. Please park carefully and certainly not on the pavement. If you see someone struggling to reach an item in the supermarket offer to help. Perhaps the Co-op manager will give some thought to the needs of shoppers who struggle with their mobility. I know mobility scooters are allowed in the store but how do you negotiate the sliding fridge doors, what happens when you can’t reach the item you need?
Susan did mention that staff in other places were helpful. She said that at H2O they are most obliging and that although the path in front of their shop is in a poorstate the staff will help her get to the back of this shop and enter by the rear door where there are no steps.
As I walk around Barrow now, I look at the state of the jitties and footpaths, I consider how I would manage if I had mobility problems or was using a scooter like Susan. Generally they are appalling e.g. Church Street, Beveridge Street, The Banks, Hall Orchard jitty, Sileby Road and High Street just to name a few. What can be done to improve this as some people are virtually housebound due to this problem? Perhaps the Parish Council could offer some advice in the next issue of Barrow Voice. Watch this space!
Thanks again Susan for your time and your story. I can well understand why you feel your needs are forgotten.
Ginnie Willcocks - With thanks to Susan Smith.