A LAKE District charity has found that lockdown has had a huge impact on the physical and mental health of disabled people.

Calvert Lakes revealed that 84 per cent believe the mental health of the disabled community has suffered, while almost one in four say the restrictions have adversely impacted the physical health of those with disabilities.

It says this impact is fuelling holiday demand, with 60 per cent of those surveyed planning to arrange a trip during the remainder of 2020.

The Keswick-based centre, which provides fully-accessible residential breaks, interviewed hundreds of disabled holidaymakers plus their carers and family members for their views on the accessible tourism market in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a further boost to the domestic market, 95 per cent said they will be booking in the UK.

Every year the Cumbria and Lancashire Rotary Club arranges for 50 adults with a range of disabilities to visit Calvert Lakes.

Organiser Helen Hunt said: "We see the amazing impact it has on their wellbeing and sense of self. For many this week-long residential is the highlight of their year.

"The lockdown and isolation of the last two months has an even bigger impact on those with disabilities than the general population, adding to the restrictions and difficulties they face in daily life.

"We really worry about how this will affect their longer-term physical and mental health and it is our plan to come to the centre as soon as we can."

Regular visitor Natalie Parr, 45, says the benefits of Calvert Lakes breaks are huge. She was left paralysed from the chest down and with severe and complex medical problems, aged 25, after suffering from Guillain Barre syndrome which attacked her nervous system.

As a teenager and young adult she had lived life to the full, with a love for adventure and travel.

"Life changed hugely for me and my family, needing 24-hour care and everything adapted. I didn't have much confidence in who I was after my illness, but I was encouraged to go to Calvert Lakes," she said.

"I can honestly say it gave me the real Nat back, the person who was desperate for adventure. I was able to take full part in everything and giggled, squealed and laughed more than I had done for the years of being so scared," she said.

"Calvert played a huge part and still plays a huge part in keeping me feeling alive and keeping me feeling totally included in our world. I always get excited when I know I'm going back and know I can be put into a harness and I am free and able.

"I cannot describe how happy that makes me feel. My wheelchair gives me freedom but ropes and harnesses give me the ability to get to great heights."

There are however obvious concerns, with 40 per cent of those surveyed needing to consider shielding measures due to underlying health issues. Meanwhile, 21 per cent will not book a residential activity break until all restrictions, including shielding guidance, are lifted, and six per cent would not book for those in their care until there is a Covid-19 vaccine.

Covid-19 safety measures on-site are also considered key. Half of the respondents would prefer housekeeping to keep out of bedrooms while 52 per cent expect contact free check in and perspex screens. More than a third expect staff to be wearing face masks.

Calvert Lakes business manager Justin Farnan said the research was a "huge boost" for the Lake District and the UK's accessible tourism market as it indicated a strong desire for people to book over the coming months. He said: "There are very obvious and understandable concerns in the disabled community over Covid-19 considerations but the need to address the physical and mental health aspects of the lockdown is driving demand. It is clear that confidence is returning."

Calvert Lakes has been delivering challenging outdoor adventure for people with disabilities since 1978. The first of three Calvert-branded centres, in normal circumstances it welcomes over 3,500 residents per year as well as serving the local community through their stables and hydrotherapy pool.

In March, when the extent of the crisis became clear, the charity implemented a survival plan and is now making plans to reopen towards the end of the summer. Mr Farnan added: "We know the importance of what we do here for our visitors and are making detailed plans on how to deliver our operations while accommodating the new rules we are anticipating.

"This may involve us making some changes to the activities we offer, layout of the accommodation and dining areas, plus opening the centre to those just looking for somewhere safe and secure to recuperate. We've been here for over 40 years and are looking forward to helping vulnerable people enjoy the fresh air and countryside for many years to come."