Find reviews of places to visit, places to stay and places to eat as well as a few other things! Use the search function if you are after somethings specific or have a look at the map. The links page has some useful websites as well as links to all the places reviewed and a link to an interview I gave to Euan’s Guide, explaining why I set up Accessibility Reviews. Please use the comment function to add more detail to any of my posts – it all helps make this a useful resource for everyone!
I recently had a home demo of the WHILL model C powerchair from TGA Mobility. I had seen some videos about it on-line and it looked robust, well-designed and hi-tech so I thought I would give it a try but unfortunately it’s not for me.
It has lots of plus points: it copes well with uneven surfaces and would easily deal with a kerb of up to 2 inches, its cleverly-designed wheels mean it has a very tight turning circle and it can even go sideways. You can operate it remotely via an app, so if you were sitting on a chair, for example, and the WHILL was not next to you, you could use your mobile to bring the WHILL over. The armrests are quite low so I could pull right up to our desk without having to raise the arms.
On the other hand, I really don’t think I would need to operate it remotely, so having the cost of that technical innovation included in the price is a bit of a waste. The seat is in two parts – the basic seat and the cushioned part, which is perhaps why there was a peculiar rocking motion as I went around. It is easy to manoeuvre but while the joystick is positioned for your stronger hand, the on/off and speed controls are on the other side which I found a little problematic.
The deal-breaker for me, though, was not being able to lift the foot plate, which would mean not being get out of the chair independently. Also, the large front wheels get in the way a bit when getting on and off. I was almost relieved that it wasn’t the perfect powerchair given the hefty price-tag.
The rep showed us how the chair worked (although not the remote operation) and we tested it both indoors and out and he put no pressure on us whatsoever which was great and he said our comments and feedback were useful to him for future demos.
Everyone’s needs and abilities are different, so for some people this well-designed piece of kit will be perfect.
We had a fun time at Ambiente in Fossgate, York, sharing various tapas dishes between four of us. Having eaten tapas galore in Spain, I would say that these seemed pretty authentic, although some were better than others.
They describe the food as having “a Yorkshire twist” – they use local as well as Spanish suppliers, for example, the morcilla is a mixture of local sausage meat and Spanish black pudding, round a quail’s egg, so it’s actually a delicious kind of Scotch egg.
The croquetas, patatas bravas, chorizo y patatas and buñuelos de pescado (fishcakes) were also fabulous. The pulpo (octopus) was good too but I wasn’t impressed by the gambas (prawns) or the champiñones (mushrooms) – a good excuse to try some of the other items on the menu next time! The bread was good too, a soft, herby focaccia.
Staff were pleasant and efficient. Pete had checked out the place in advance as we weren’t quite sure about negotiating the doorway: there is a bit of lip which is higher on one side than the other but with both doors open it was easy. The trickiest thing were the cobbles nearby. There is no actual parking for the restaurant, but there are parking bays in the street. According to the council website, those with a Blue Badge can park in them free of charge, although there was no mention of this on the parking meters. We pulled up in a nearby private parking area in order not to have to set up my power chair on the road. This meant negotiating some rather bumpy cobbles but nothing my chair couldn’t cope with. Pete then parked the car in a bay over the road.
Inside the restaurant there is plenty of room to manoeuvre and the tables are high enough that you can sit at them in a wheelchair. There is an accessible loo with grabrails – didn’t use it, though, so can’t describe it in detail. There was background music but not too loud. They have two branches in York as well as one in Leeds and Hull.
Here are some other eateries I’ve tried.
We had hoped there would be ducklings in Rowntree Park and there were! Quite big really, and we also spotted a coot on its nest, sheltering several tiny young ones (cootlets?).
We came along the riverside path to the main gates from the direction of the Millennium Bridge having parked at the bottom of Butcher Terrace and all the trees, shrubs and cow-parsley are lush and beautiful.
The flower borders in the park look a little less wild and neglected than sometimes and have plenty of colour and interest – lupins, geraniums, peonies, euphorbia and much more.
All the grassy areas are positively rank with daisies – thanks to all the goose poo fertiliser, I presume – beautiful or a bit much? Not sure.
There’s an attractive art installation of lots of tiny yellow birds on one side of the bridge and an uneven bit of the lake path has been repaved – hurrah!
As it was half-term, the kids’ play equipment, skate-park and café were all being well-used and as the sun was out, everything looked gorgeous. We even got a wave from pleasure boat passengers on the river!
Last time we came for a visit the park was flooded so instead we went to the Homestead, but both parks are lovely, accessible and well worth a visit.
This is a popular place! Even early on a Tuesday lunchtime, the café was pretty packed but we nabbed a table by the window and had a very tasty lunch, served by pleasant staff, before, inevitably, buying some take-home treats from the deli!
It was a bit early in the season for much home-grown veg, but that part of the shop was still well-stocked: not sure if some of it was imported, but they do generally sell locally-grown produce. The deli part sells cold meats, cheese, salads, bread, cakes, ready meals both fresh and frozen and loads more. Their website has details about their ethos of “fewer food miles – more farm yards.”
Access was easy: the car park had quite a few Blue Badge spaces although they were all full when we arrived but we managed to park on the end of a row so there was room to get out. Entry was easy: low thresholds that my powerchair could manage easily and although the produce part of the shop was a little tight, you could get round although it would be impossible to pass anybody else who was in there. The deli had more space and most of the shelves were easily reachable. The staff would have been happy to help if not.
The café tables were the sort where you can easily sit at them in a wheelchair. There was plenty of room as we headed to the table, although on the way back I needed a chair to be moved so I could get through but people were happy to help. They do hot meals as well as sandwiches, paninis, baked potatoes and homemade cakes. Many of the cakes are also sold in the shop so you can enjoy them at home too.
There is seating outside as well as a children’s play area and some animals to see and feed.
The Balloon Tree was easy to find, on the A166 just past Gate Helmsley. We’ll definitely be going back!
On the whole, it was rather fun and I’d go again. We went on a Monday night, arriving about 6.30 and it was pretty busy. Service was a bit slow and rather amateurish – they lost our drinks order so we reordered but didn’t get them until after the food started arriving! We had ordered from the ‘Ration Packs’ (small plates, rather like tapas) part of the menu and five dishes between three of us was fine as we weren’t up for a big meal – two or three of them came with delicious bread and the bill was incredibly reasonable. They also do burgers, steaks, salads, sandwiches and sharing platters as well as a range of other dishes.
Pete had checked the place out in advance for access – we sat in the lower part which has level access and an accessible loo. I think the main bar has level access too, but you’d have to leave the building and re-enter if you wanted the loo! The tables in this section were not the sort you can sit at in a wheelchair – I sat on one of their chairs. Some of the tables had bench seats but staff were very accommodating about swapping the seats around.
The food was tasty without being fabulous and some parts better than others, but on the whole I prefer it to the food at Bill’s which was our last foray into central York. You can park on Fossgate after 6.00pm (free for residents) and there are dropped kerbs or you could use Pavement as a drop-off as we did (the pavement is flush with the road).
To sum up: tasty enough food, pleasant staff if a little haphazard and a good, buzzy atmosphere – we’ll go again!
I thought I was going to be blogging about Rowntree Park but when we got there (as we half expected) it was closed because the river is in flood. (The rest of the city is fine, just a couple of riverside paths are under water!)
Instead, we tracked across town to The Homestead and discovered that, whatever the time of year, there is always something interesting to see there.
They are replacing the old flowering cherry trees in the Cherry Walk (and in fact seem to have planted lots of new trees all round the park) so that particular part was fenced off, but you could get round to see all the rest of the park by just taking a different route. There are plenty of daffodils out as well as camellias, hyacinths, primulas, scillas, hellebores and lots of ornamental bushes with interesting foliage.
When we last visited they were creating a space with some seating next to the mediaeval garden. This is now finished and has an attractive water feature.
The park also has a children’s play area and pop-up café, although these was shut on the day we visited probably because the heavy rain had made everywhere so muddy. There is also a rock garden, pond and plenty of benches and also toilets including an accessible one which no longer seems to need a RADAR key.
The car park has several marked Blue Badge bays and although there is some rather bumpy concrete to get over to reach the path, and some of the paved paths are a little rough, most of them are tarmac.
It’s good to know that The Homestead can be enjoyed at any time of year and as the weather improves and the tree-planting is finished, it can only get even more beautiful!
Ash Cottage is different to most cottages – it was really cosy even on the first evening! In fact, it was almost too warm as we couldn’t resist lighting the wood-burner.
It is one of ten cottages at Tottergill Farm, Castle Carrock, Cumbria run by Tracey and Barnaby Bowan – all are luxurious, some even have hot-tubs.
Compact, with a living-dining-kitchen, bedroom and wetroom bathroom, Ash Cottage also has some outdoor space with fabulous views towards the Solway Firth and Scotland.
The cottage is part of a huge barn, converted into several cottages while other buildings contain the rest of the cottages plus there are other outbuildings to house the pigs and chickens you share the site with. There is also a wood-store with logs for the wood burner. So often we have found that the first evening in a cottage is rather chilly, even if it’s warm after that, but Ash Cottage , which under-floor heating as well as the wood burner, was cosy from the off!
As with all cottages and the accessibility issue, everywhere is different and everyone has different needs; the important thing is to gather as much information as you can in advance. The owners’ website has an accessibility statement with details about all the cottages and the site generally and they were happy to answer questions via email. They also have some equipment they can lend you, such as a shower stool, toilet seat raiser or dining chair with arms.
I actually found the cottage through Premier Cottages, as you can include in the search filter the level of accessibility you need. Ash Cottage is NAS level 2, which is for people who can manage a few steps and that is pretty accurate but it would be tricky for someone who couldn’t cope with slopes or who required more in the way of grab-rails for example. Also, some of the track to get to the farm is very pot-holed and bumpy which might be problematic for some.
We actually had a slight problem on arrival – my powerchair wouldn’t go over the threshold! Some cunning arrangement of the rugs from in the house helped, but it wasn’t ideal. Also, the furniture needed moving so I could get to the dining table. The whole site slopes and the slope to access the sitting-out area of Ask Cottage was a little precipitous. Had the weather been warm enough for sitting out, I suppose I would have attempted it but in the end, the issue didn’t arise – even in the sunshine, the wind as still keen!
The first full day we were there, the rain did not let up at all so we were forced to just chill out with the newspaper, books and a jigsaw, listening to our favourite CDs! On the second day, the weather was a little iffy but quite bright so we ventured off to The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed, near Hadrian’s Wall. Opened last year, The Sill has a permanent exhibition about the landscape and our relationship with it as well as temporary exhibitions – the current one is about Dark Skies and preventing light pollution. It is very interactive but I think they could have incorporated a little bit more detail into the landscape exhibition without spoiling the child-friendliness. The whole place has been designed with accessibility in mind: automatic doors, a lift, accessible loos, even a changing-places area with shower. Outside there are plenty of Blue Badge spaces as well as bike racks and next door is a Youth Hostel.
The café, which specialises in local produce, is on the first floor, accessible by lift and is light and airy with great views over the countryside. We just had a sandwich, which was great and very generous, but I can’t comment comprehensively on the menu, however it did all look good! There is a path from ground level right up to the garden roof and you can also access it from the café. There is a hard surface, but it was rather juddery so I didn’t fancy venturing too far on it but the views even from this level were good. From the roof they must be fabulous!
On the following day, we went to Talkin Tarn, a very attractive local lake surrounded by woods. The track was absolutely fine for my scooter so we enjoyed the views, the woods, the waterfowl and the fresh air. Very fresh it was too – it even hailed briefly but fortunately we were under the trees so barely noticed!
There is ample parking which is free for Blue Badge holders for up to 3 hours if you display the time that you arrived. From the car park to the lake is quite a slope but you can park behind the café/ gift shop where there are some marked bays and access from there is much less steep. There are toilets, including an accessible one requiring a RADAR-key. The website doesn’t seem to mention parking or access so I shall have to do a review for Euan’s Guide!
A couple of coincidences: when I started researching my family history, it turned out that some relatives lived in a cottage at a place called Tottergill. When I first googled it, up came some holiday cottages in Cumbria! Turns out there is also a Tottergill in Arkengarthdale and that’s where my granny’s granny was born! Second coincidence: Tracey Bowan is from a part of Leeds very near where I grew up. Third coincidence: down the road from Castle Carrock is a car-mending place called Allison Peter!
To sum up: if Ash Cottage would suit you in terms of access, then I thoroughly recommend it. The situation is great and there are plenty of accessible things to do nearby (the Carlisle Tourist Information Centre supplied me with some suggestions and links). As a guest at Tottergill, you also get free use of a local swimming pool. The cottage owners are really friendly and helpful, keen on reducing the carbon footprint of the place and on making your holiday as enjoyable as possible.
Click here for reviews of other accessible places to stay.