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Leslie Barr's Story...
Leslie and Steve in WA1 Call me Herbie, were the words of introduction from Herbie Milton, one of the volunteers at Walking on Air for the disabled, based at the Scottish Gliding Centre, near Kinross. As soon as the words were said, writes Leslie Barr, I had an immediate flashback to the 1970s when my family went to a cinema in Glasgow and saw The Love Bug, the first of a series of films based on the extraordinary VW Beetle called Herbie. Much as I enjoyed the main feature, it was the accompanying documentary about gliding which left its mark on me that night. I knew that some day I would like to be up in a glider, even though I did not have a head for heights.
In fact, the opportunity arose one winter's day in the early 1980s at an airfield near Arbroath and it was an occasion which could have put me off gliding for life.
As an adult in the company of some young air cadets I was determined to fly, although I was really scared stiff. I explained to the pilot that I did not have a head for heights, but regardless he decided to do some steep manoeuvres. My fear was compounded by the fact that the glider did not have a canopy.
Once on terra firma I welcomed my mug of hot coffee and Mars bar to recover from the experience. I did not realise that the Mars bar was hard and, as soon as I had taken a bite, I broke my two upper front teeth. It was a day which made its impression in more ways than one! I decided I would never again go up in a glider. Leslie Thermalling
However, circumstances were to change my decision some 20 years later.
Shortly into the new millennium, I was diagnosed as having a rare neurological condition with limited life expectancy. In the midst of all this I was inspired by Lindsay Cant, who I had known for some years when resident in Kinross. She is a remarkable young lady whose attitude to very serious health problems is quite humbling. As she had been talking about being up in the Walking on Air glider I felt encouraged to have one shot at it as I possibly would not be able to do it again. I was saying to myself, "If Lindsay can do it, so can I".
When I arrived at the Scottish Gliding Centre (SGU), the staff and volunteers were so understanding. John Henry was my pilot for the special day. I was very grateful for the experience of soaring above Loch Leven and the nearby hills, which were so familiar to me. It was a day to remember and cherish.
In a different spirit, I thought to myself, "I'll never again be able to glide". In fact, my physiotherapist advised me not to continue due to the risk to my health. But once again, circumstances were to change in an extraordinary way, much to my surprise. I regard it as a miracle, and that's another story. Leslie and Steve in WA1
After several years, my original diagnosis had to be revisited as a result of a steady improvement in my health. So I was able to resume gliding in the summer of 2009. I have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to be in the glider, which can quickly be adapted with hand controls. The team of pilots and helpers are so helpful and patient as they encourage people like me to develop confidence and learn new skills. Lindsay always talked about doing a 'loop the loop', which I can assure you was never going to be on my agenda. Well I addressed that fear on a visit to Aviemore with some members of Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers in May 2010. There was a space in our programme which allowed a fellow rambler called Maria Duncan and me to visit Feshiebridge, where the Walking on Air glider was conveniently located at the time for an annual event. What a marvellous coincidence!
It was a wonderful flight, so near to the snow-covered Cairngorms even in May. It was also my chance to experience the manoeuvre I dreaded. I took the plunge and asked Joe Fisher, my instructor, to do my first loop. Lindsay was so surprised when I told her my story and, to mark the occasion, designed a special card which I cherish.
Maria, who also had the opportunity to fly at Feshiebridge, has encouraged a number of fellow disabled ramblers to participate in wheelchair curling at Kinross Wheelchair Curling Club and, as a result, we have become hooked on another sport for the disabled, which is growing in membership throughout Scotland.
In turn, I have been encouraging Maria and others to consider gliding for the disabled as being part of their sports therapy development.
Yes, my story has been one of changes and it is great to be able to encourage others, as others have encouraged me. Maria's story is wonderfully inspiring, especially as her health has progressively deteriorated, and there is no better person to tell it than Maria herself.


Maria Duncan's Story...
I joined a group called the Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers in 2006 when I discovered that, due to illness, I was no longer able to walk any great distance. I so thoroughly enjoyed the experience of freedom in the countryside that I couldn't wait to go out again and again. I have never looked back - have been on countless rambles, been on a rambling holiday, made so many new friends and found out about things like the Seagull Trust (a charity which runs canal barge trips for the disabled) and the Kinross Wheelchair Curling Club. Leslie Thermalling
In 2009, on a ramble, I was given a leaflet about Walking on Air - Gliding for the Disabled. I considered it, decided it was something I wanted to do then filed it at the back of my mind. However, my daughter mentioned it later that year, asking if I was going to do it and would I like that as part of my Christmas present. I immediately said yes. Wonderful! I decided that since it cost 40-50 for my first flight and three months' trial membership, it would be wise to wait for better weather. I managed to wait until four days after my 62nd birthday in the spring of 2010 before taking to the skies over the SGU's airfield at Portmoak, where I had the time of my life.
The gliding club includes a fantastic group of volunteers in Walking on Air, who give up their time to share their love of flying.
On the big day of my flight, fellow rambler/curler Leslie Barr came along to take some photographs and, with my son boosting my morale and my friend trying to convince me that I was mad, I took to the air. IT WAS FANTASTIC - and I booked to go back again, and again, and again.
I decided to use this event as a sponsorship for the benefit of Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers and raised approximately 350, for which I was very grateful to all who sponsored me.
This first experience of gliding meant so much to me - yes, I do lots of other activities, but since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and digging myself out of the depression that goes with the diagnosis, I always felt that there must be more to life!
As my legs have become weaker and weaker as the years go by, I have felt heavier and heavier within myself. The first time I took off in the glider I asked my instructor Joe Fisher if it would be okay to curse - I didn't - I just said wwwooowww! The adrenalin rush was amazing - and still is every time.
The peace and quiet and restfulness of being up in the glider often leaves me speechless (something most folks who know me will find hard to believe). The sheer weightlessness is truly fantastic.
I could never find enough adjectives to describe all the wonderful feel-good feelings I have and I can never thank everyone enough for the help (mental and physical) and encouragement they all give. What next? Goodness knows. Time will tell.