Immersed in Van Gogh – and fairly detached about being in town

360° projections at the Immersive Experience (Visityork.org)

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience was lovely, visiting that part of town for the first time in years was not as great as expected.

The Van Gogh Immersive Experience has come to York having previously been in Brussels and elsewhere – it’s at St Mary’s Church, Castlegate, next to the Jorvik Viking Centre.

The main event is the 35 minute Immersive Experience where you are, indeed, immersed in 360° projections of Van Gogh paintings accompanied by music and some voice-over. They are not just static paintings though: windmill sails rotate, trees and flowers blow in the breeze, rain falls, a train passes through a sunny landscape and yes, you become enveloped in a starry, starry night. They make imaginative use of the space, sometimes projecting different pictures between the pillars, at other times one picture fills the room and you are part of the landscape.

360° projections at the Immersive Experience (Visityork.org)
360° projections at the Immersive Experience (Visityork.org)

I think their website said that it was wheelchair accessible but didn’t have information about who could get a concession and whether an accompanying carer could go free. I e-mailed them to enquire and they asked me to forward my booking confirmation so they could make a note that I would be accompanied; this all seemed a little complicated so I suggested they update their website information to make all this clear and they have! Result! The staff on duty at the venue were very helpful.

Entrance to the Immersive Experience
Entrance to the Immersive Experience

There is ample Blue Badge parking fairly nearby in the Castle Carpark by Clifford’s Tower. The route between the two is a bit bumpy but not too drastic – we came via the road as it’s a quiet one and the dropped kerb at the top of the slope near the church is quite a good one. If your wheelchair is too big to manoeuvre around to the entrance, you could go in the exit. The seating was mainly deckchairs which was a jolly idea but many people were struggling to get in and out of them, plus there were a couple of wooden benches.

360° projections at the Immersive Experience
360° projections at the Immersive Experience

Unfortunately, the second part of the experience was in a room up a small, steep little slope that my chair couldn’t cope with (I think the stabiliser wheels back got caught in the angle as it was so steep). What we missed was mainly some activities for kids, so that didn’t matter to us but there was also some virtual reality headsets (at an extra cost) which I was really looking forward to as I’ve never tried virtual reality so I was very disappointed but I guess it can’t be helped: it’s an old building. It might be that they could have tried a bit harder, though, it was a really steep slope for anyone on wheels.

Reproduction of Van Gogh's room at Arles
Reproduction of Van Gogh’s room at Arles

Afterwards, as the rain held off, we had a look round Coppergate Walk as I have not been there for years. It was very busy and I don’t want to do York down, but it was a bit scruffy, very commercial, with pop-up food outlets and somewhat rubbish strewn. The sloping pavement meant that the entrance to the Body Shop has a small step so wasn’t accessible. I wasn’t worried about The Whisky Shop, the jewellers or the umpteen cafés but we were able to pop into Boots and Fenwick’s which has changed mightily since I was last there. The fabulous selection of greetings cards that they used to have on the ground floor has now been moved to the lower ground floor and wasn’t quite so fabulous anymore but there is a very spacious lift to get you there.

Van Gogh at the Immersive Experience (Visityork.org)
Van Gogh at the Immersive Experience (Visityork.org)

I have mixed feelings about being in town: it was good to see some once-familiar places, but on the other hand a lot of the things you can get in town, you can also get out of town where, as well as being more accessible, is a lot less crowded. We used to be a bit snotty about out-of-town shopping but now realise how incredibly convenient it is for anyone other than the very mobile. On the whole, I can live without looking round shops anyway!

Do visit the Van Gogh if you can – it’s beautiful, it’s different and it’s fun.

Other accessible places to visit.

How to garden when you can’t garden

Enjoying the garden

There is so much more to gardening than actually getting in there and getting your hands dirty (fun as that is!). There is planning, monitoring, learning from mistakes and of course, enjoying the garden!

Not being able to garden when you want to is extremely frustrating but, as I have said before, you can’t go round being annoyed all the time, you have to make the best of it. Yes, we could convert the garden into lots of raised beds, reachable from a wheelchair but that isn’t going to happen. We like the garden how it is, and we will like it even more after some more tweaks!

As with all projects, it’s always a good idea to think in advance about what you already know that will help and what resources you have to call on. You probably already have a good idea of which plants and flowers you like and which work best for you. If you are new to the area where you live, you could always have a look at other houses orientated the same way as yours and see which plants are thriving in which position, at least in their front gardens. There are, of course, lots of books and online resources to help decide which things to plant and how to look after them. I like the Hessayon ‘Expert’ series and have also found plant finder websites to be useful for finding a plant for a specific place. Resources also includes people: it’s great fun to have a chat with other gardeners about what works for them and to share your own tips (rather like this!)

The next stage is to work out what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. Planning also means you don’t end up having to move plants after you’ve put them in place: we managed to plant something that needs sun in the one place in the border that doesn’t get any, so it had to be moved as did something short that we planted behind something that turned out to be taller than expected – I probably hadn’t done enough research in advance!

The next stage is monitoring: the day-to-day tasks of weeding, deadheading, watering and general nurturing which, as I can’t do them, I have to remind my under-gardener to do, but he’s getting the hang of it!

The final stage is assessing what you have achieved. Of course, the garden is an ongoing thing, it’s never ‘finished’ but, maybe in Autumn, it’s worth thinking about what worked, what didn’t and why and what you would do differently next time.

Enjoying the garden
Enjoying the garden

I find that even though I can’t really join in with the physical work in the garden, there are many other aspects of gardening which I can!