24 September 2017

We woke to a beautiful sunny Sunday morning relaxed and ready for our walk around the Royal Parks of London as part of Ataxia UK's annual awareness-raising fundraiser.

After having to replace the inner tubes to one wheelchair wheel and my freewheel because of previously undetected punctures, we were not so relaxed, as we now left home slightly later then we had planned.

Needless to say, after having the usual search for disabled parking, we missed the start of the walk and the Lord Mayor of Westminster's rousing speech.

Undeterred and following the route on our map, we got to the first checkpoint where we saw the distinctive purple Ataxia shirt worn by Ataxia UK's staff members: Sara Mohammadi pointed us in the right direction.

Here we met Steph Marley, who was acting as back marker, and accompanied us for the rest of the 'Long Walk'.

It was a perfect day for a walk and perfect conditions for doing so in a wheelchair, definitely not as 'lumpy and bumpy' as the London Bridges Challenge last year!

The parks

The sunny weather also meant the Parks were well used, with picnicking families, fellow walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers.

The Parks are lovely at this time of year, as autumn is just starting, and apart from the permanent features, such as the Italian Gardens and the Serpentine, there was also a farmyard set up next to the Serpentine Gallery, with goats, pigs and a Shire horse, bringing the country to the city.

We completed our walk through Hyde Park by walking through Wellington Arch, where we picked up one of the volunteers from The Champions Club, who provided huge and welcome support on the day.

We then made our way through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, crossing over The Mall into St James Park, passing two guys being photographed sword fighting next to Canada Gate! (Only in London!).

The finishing line

Once through St James Park, the prettiest of all three I think, we picked up the last of the volunteers and made our way, via Parliament Square, to the Embankment and then to the Strand, where we ended our walk in the Lord Mayor of Westminster's Parlour.

Here the Lord Mayor, Ian Adams, had provided a welcoming buffet, and an opportunity to exchange tales from our day with other people with ataxia and their family members, the staff and volunteers from Ataxia UK and also with The Champions Club contingent.

We were also invited into the Lord Mayor's Suite where we saw his ceremonial gown and sword as well as the fantastic view of London from his Parlour window.

It was a brilliant end to a brilliant day, and we had much to reflect on as we made our way back to the car, which was a good thing as it was, of course, parked near to the start of the walk!

Iain Fryatt

photo: Iain with father Graham and his partner Karen, meeting Ian Adams the Lord Mayor of Westminster