Clevedon Marine Lake to be fully wheelchair accessible

A tidal swimming lake will be fully wheelchair accessible by the summer, a spokesperson has said. 

A hoist and disabled changing room are being installed at Clevedon Marine Lake in north Somerset. 

Project manager Hilary Jenkins-Spangler said: "We want the Clevedon Marine Lake to be a model of excellence for inclusivity."

One mum, from Taunton, who has a disabled daughter, said it would make a big difference to their family. 

Gemma, whose 13-year-old daughter Georgia has cerebral palsy and requires an oxygen tank, said there was "nothing like that around here".

Georgia is unable to sit up or hold her head up, but her mum said being in the water was her "favourite thing". 

"It gives her that weightlessness, it calms her movements down and she loves the flotation of the water, so for her to access something like this, as a family, it does mean a lot to us," the 41-year-old from Taunton said. 

"It just opens the door to us for a day trip out and that is just brilliant."

She added: "I just think it is amazing and they are not just building it because they have got to, they are doing it for the right reasons, it isn't just come to us because we've got this, it is come to us because we want you here."

Donna Littleton, 54, from Nailsea, has been a trustee for the lake - where her husband swims - for more than a year, despite never having been able to use it herself. 

She has lower spinal damage, making her completely numb in one leg, as well as a number of autoimmune conditions. 

"Some people will never understand how important this is," she said. 

"Personally for me, spending many years down there with my family, wishing I had the option to use the facility... I just think it gives people the option if they want to, and that is so important, a lot of the time as a wheelchair user that option is taken away, it isn't even a thought. 

"So that's what it means to me, to have the option, to do some kayaking, to do some swimming, to paddle with my grandchildren. Without it, that option isn't there."

Ms Littleton has been a wheelchair user for 15 years and said her condition left her in a lot of pain.

"When I am in the water, I am not [in pain]," she said.

"Through the pandemic the pain was relentless because I could not access the water, by God's grace I survived through it, but it's just important to keep my joints moving and of course when you're in the water you are weightless. 

"It has been exciting watching it all develop and come to fruition."

Funds have been raised for the work through a funding bid to North Somerset Council's Great Lakes Project and fundraising by Marlens, the charity behind the lake.

The lake was refurbished in 2015 with ramps installed, but it was not fully wheelchair accessible or able to support people with additional needs. 

North Somerset Council is now helping arrange the installation of the hoist - which it is hoped will be done in the next couple of weeks - and volunteers have been helping to refurbish an old crazy golf kiosk to make the changing rooms. 

Ms Jenkins-Spangler, whose son has autism, said it had been "an incredible community effort". 

"I hope this will benefit anybody and everybody who wants to access the lake, that hasn't previously been able to," she said.

"It just adds more variety and richness to people's lives when they can integrate in family trips and access the water."

Ms Jenkins-Spangler, who has design skills and a furniture-making background, said she was also keen to make sure the changing rooms were an "inspiring space".

"I want this space to bring joy and open possibilities to those who use it," she said.

"I'm really proud of the whole project, and it's been totally worthwhile." 

Once completed, the hoist and changing room will be available to use through a booking system on the Clevedon Marine Lake website.