words by Steven Hastings & photos by Katie Kennedy
Is Bowling Basin accessible for all?
Katie and I recently visited Bowling, to find out.
If you’re visiting by car there are a few parking spaces at the roadside and there is also an overspill car park.
The overspill car park is quite flat but there was a small hill which I struggled to get up in my powered wheelchair.
I found it very easy getting around Bowling Basin in my powered wheelchair as the paths are flat, but this was not always the case as we found out.
In 2013 the MovieMakers group paid Bowling a visit.
They are a group of film makers with mobility needs, based at the Disability Resource Centre in Paisley.
Part of what they do is to assess various places on their accessibility and film it as proof of any issues they find.
The group is tutored by Jim Thomson, who lives in Bowling and is on the village’s Community Council.
He saw what the paths at the Basin were like and thought it was terrible that people in wheelchairs were unable to get around.
Jim said: “It’s such a pretty place, and it’s not right, people shouldn’t have to struggle so much.”
He contacted Scottish Canals, then went along with the MovieMakers to film their experiences as proof of the access problems.
When I watched the MovieMakers’ first film, I saw that after they went over a wee bridge there was a small step which was very difficult to get over in a wheelchair.
It has now been tarmacked over, which is great.
After their first visit to Bowling Basin one of the MovieMakers said: “The path narrows and it’s quite difficult to manipulate a (manual) wheelchair on my own.”
In the film one participant described feeling “unsafe going over the cobbles.”
The MovieMakers shared their film with Scottish Canals who are responsible for the upkeep of Bowling Basin.
Scottish Canals did all the improvements the group asked for, including paths beside the cobbles and other paths were widened.
The MovieMakers returned to Bowling in 2016 and made a follow-up film to show the improvements to the area.
Both films can be viewed at www.moviemakers.org.uk
Scottish Canals also built the Bowline Walkway and cycle path over the old railway bridge.
This was officially opened in 2021.
The walk up to the Bowline is all ramped and the Bowline itself is flat.
There is signage telling you about the history of the bridge and Bowling Basin along the walkway.
There are stairs up to some areas but there is also a ramp.
The arches under the railway bridge have been turned into retail outlets and a café.
Behind the café there is a green space with picnic tables and toilets.
The toilets are locked and you can get the key from the café.
The accessible toilet is part of the National Key Scheme so your own RADAR* key can be used.
Bowling Basin is now a more vibrant place where everyone can get around.
As Jim told us: “From my tenement flat I can now look down and see people being more independent in their wheelchairs and people pushing prams.
“It’s great to see, it came to life big time.”
*If you have a qualifying benefit or a Blue Badge you can contact most councils in Scotland and they will give you a free RADAR key.
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