Looking back over my posts for the last couple of years, there was not as much of a change in our activities as I was expecting. Does that mean we’re still doing things or does it mean we’ve never done that much?
I think we probably do more in the way of gardens and outdoor spaces now and fewer restaurants as it’s tricky not to put on weight even when eating healthily if you can’t really exercise. Also, there are not that many local restaurants which are really easily accessible especially with the parking situation in central York.
Our last holiday was a lot less ambitious than previous ones where we would stay in three or four hotels on the way to and from a holiday cottage in France or Spain for example. I currently find staying in lots of different places on the same holiday too tiring.
I was pleased, though, to see that we are still managing to see live music fairly regularly. I think, also, that even if I was perfectly hale and hearty, we would be doing different things than, say, ten or fifteen years ago. More gardens than, for example, stately homes or museums as I really like looking at gardens these days, much more so than I used to. We’ve always liked visiting castles and we used to like city breaks in Europe but we have done plenty of that in the past and while of course I would like to do more it’s not breaking my heart. Except the thought of never again being able to just wander around Paris looking at things like the flower market on Ile de la Cité – that just gets to me every time.
When we did a few exotic holidays, such as going to India, I don’t remember at the time thinking that we had better do these now or we might not be able to later but that’s how it turned out and I am very glad that we did as it is lovely to look back on those holidays.
Our tastes have changed, partly, I suppose, to do with ageing, but also to do with accepting the inevitable. The important thing is to try not to make comparisons with what you used to do, which would change anyway, but to do what you can and what is enjoyable.
Well, not so sure. This is the first time in 30 years that Berwick Kaler has not starred in the York Theatre Royal pantomime although he did write and co-direct it. He also appeared in the filmed section which has become an annual fixture.
I don’t think the issue was the lack of Berwick so much as that the pantomime can be a bit hit and miss. Some years you come away having laughed solidly all the way through, other years not so much although it is always very good with plenty of audience participation, great sets and costumes, no smut and Wagon Wheels aplenty!
Whether you like it or not is, of course, subjective. It was always going to be tricky continuing the pantomime after Berwick’s retirement but I think they have succeeded very well, particularly as the usual cast were all in there.
Like last year, we had places in the Dress Circle, only this time on the side nearest to where you enter. The accessibility is just great, the lift is spacious and you don’t need to back out of it as it has doors on more than one side. They could maybe have created a wider corridor outside the lift but were probably restricted by the space available and have done the best they can. It would be good to know what their policy is on evacuation of wheelchair users in case of fire. Obviously, it’s not something you want to think about but I suppose one should.
The staff are all incredibly helpful and pleasant and the honeycomb ice-cream is delectable. The pantomime runs until 25th January.
As usual, we parked in Duncombe Place, braving its horribly rough tarmac.
Will we go next year? There’s plenty of time to decide.
The Budapest Café Orchestra play a wonderful mix of Eastern European dance tunes, gypsy music, Kletzmer, even variations on classical tunes. None of the band are actually from Budapest but how they explain this and their general banter is great fun.
As I have said before, the National Centre for Early Music needs a decent sized band, ideally above three, to really fill the place with sound and the four incredibly accomplished and versatile members of this group certainly managed to do that with their double bass, accordion, violin and guitar (or sometimes balalaika) plus percussion.
I read somewhere that the NCEM had been given some funding to increase accessibility, so I was interested to see if there had been any changes. The only one I could see was that the gaps between the paving slabs up to the entrance (from Percy’s Lane) had been filled in, making it much smoother. I was disappointed that the thresholds hadn’t been changed, they still give you rather a jolt but in general the place is very accessible.
We had joined their Access Scheme and had booked a Blue Badge parking space but unfortunately when we arrived both the accessible spaces had a car in them, with no Blue Badge on so we just pulled up and decanted me then Pete parked up in the one remaining ordinary space.
I went inside and explained the situation to the person on reception who was most apologetic and made a note so we shall just have to see what happens next time. At the end of the concert, one of the accessible spaces came free so Pete moved to that so I could get in the car. By the time we left, even though we were amongst the last people there the car park was still almost full so I think they probably weren’t concertgoers but people sneakily using a convenient parking place.
Not an ideal situation but at least they are trying to have a good system in place. It’s good to support somewhere accessible and we have never had a disappointing evening at the NCEM.
I thoroughly recommend The Budapest Cafe Orchestra if they have a gig in your area, you are sure to have a fun evening!
Recently we visited somewhere we’ve only been to once before at a different time of year, a couple of places we are very familiar with at all times of the year, somewhere completely new and somewhere we haven’t been to for 19 years!
All of them were great in different ways. It’s lovely to go somewhere that you’ve never been to before, as Fairburn Ings was for us, especially if you come away feeling that you would like to go back, that there is still more to explore.
It was also fascinating to visit the place we hadn’t been to for nearly 20 years, in this case St Nicholas Fields in York. They run all sorts of eco-themed events for kids and anyone who wants to get involved but it’s also a very peaceful and wildlife friendly place for a stroll. We lived very near it when it was first established and, as you can imagine, it looks very different now: little saplings are now fully grown trees!
That’s what I love about going back to familiar places: seeing how they have changed. When we went to Burnby Hall Gardens recently, I found that my memory of it was very hazy and it was actually much better than I remembered! This is partly because they have been developing it, creating new pathways, revamping the museum and generally making it more accessible.
Visiting places you are very familiar with could be seen as routine or dull but when it’s a garden or park, it’s different every time you go. When we lived near Rowntree Park we probably averaged a visit every week and while we don’t now go there as frequently as that, we know it well enough to notice small changes and developments.
It’s great to see that at least some of the roses planted next to the pergola have grown up the posts and over the top like they’re supposed to. I expect a lot of the children who visit would agree that the totem pole and ‘chess piece’ horse (if not perhaps the helmet which never seems to receive much attention) are fun additions to the park. The flowerbeds seemed to be doing very well on our last visit and there is always something of interest, whatever the time of year.
The University of York campus also changes all the time, although that is often because new buildings are being added but it is still very pleasant with plenty of wildlife and good paths.
More and more, I feel inclined to give my time and money, if we are talking about somewhere with an entry fee, to places that have made an effort to make themselves accessible to all, rather than ones that have made what seems to be more of a token gesture. There are also places which are reasonably accessible but it’s just not that convenient for me anymore such as ones where you really need to be use a proper overland type scooter because of the terrain, such as Golden Acre Park or Temple Newsam near Leeds or Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale. If you can manage a large mobility scooter and cope with some jolts and bumps over the rough terrain, I still thoroughly recommend them.
It’s a bit cold now for visiting outdoor places – fine you are walking briskly but rather too chilly if you are sitting on a scooter! I’m already planning and looking forward to next year’s excursions though!
It had occurred to me that after all this rain, Fairburn Ings might be flooded but it was a lovely sunny day so we thought we’d go anyway.
Fairburn is quite near Ledsham where we have been to the
Chequers Inn on many occasions and is easily accessible from the A1.
The Ings are managed by the RSPB and they have reclaimed
former coal mine spoil tips to create different types of habitats for a variety
The paths are generally quite fine gravel and there are also boardwalks. Most of the boardwalk areas were inaccessible due to flooding but the small bit we were able to do, part of the duck and swan feeding platform, was a great surface. We could have explored much further around the site than we did but it would have involved a long and quite steep slope so we just admired the view and turned around. There are various hides, all of which have level entry. There is really good access information on their website.
The visitors’ centre has level access and a power-assisted door
and sells lots of RSPB gifts as well as birdfeeders and food. It doesn’t have a
cafe but it does have a coffee machine and snacks and a little seating area
where you can eat or drink. There are loos including a unisex accessible one.
The staff member who welcomed us was really helpful,
pointing out on the map which parts of the Ings were best for wheelchair users
and which were not flooded!
Entry is free for members of the RSPB and for Blue Badge
holders (non-members are charged £4 per car).
This is definitely a place to revisit once the floods have
Our summer holiday this year was a very modest affair but
really relaxing and restorative just as a holiday should be.
We had decided ages ago that we would “staycation” this year
in anticipation of Brexit-related chaos after the previous deadline of 31 March
(is that right? It’s all such a mess!). I don’t know if it’s because we
therefore weren’t geared up to a longer holiday or to going abroad or whether
I/we would have felt like this anyway but the thought of a long journey, even
one broken up into stages (or perhaps particularly one broken up into stages
with several different places to stay) would have been an utterly exhausting
As it was, the journey up to Doxford Cottages only took three hours. We started out on the A1 but as there were signs flashing up that there was congestion ahead we switched to the A19 for a while. There was sunshine and showers on the way with one particularly monsoon-like downpour, fortunately not in heavy traffic, when even the wipers in superfast mode couldn’t cope. That meant it was particularly lovely to arrive at the cottage, Fox Cover, in sunshine!
I’m sure any wheelchair user would agree that it’s also
quite a relief to arrive at an unknown destination and find that it is, indeed,
One of the first things we spotted on arriving was a really
cute little rabbit and we saw plenty more during the week as well as various
other wildlife spots, including a weasel, a mouse, woodpeckers, squirrels (they
used to have red squirrels which would have been lovely but grey ones are appealing
too!) nuthatches, chaffinches, lots of rooks and also bats.
Our delivery from Food Heaven arrived so we were
all set for a relaxing time. I’d been having a somewhat stressful time at work
so the complete switch off was very necessary. I barely looked at my personal
emails and certainly didn’t access work ones or accessed any social media and
we just caught the headlines on television now and again.
Reading, doing puzzles and jigsaws was the order of the day.
Yes, it’s tame but it was also blissful.
There are a number of accessible things to do in the area.
Knowing that the weather was not going to be terribly good, we had only really
planned to go to the Alnwick Garden and to the coast.
The weather did exactly what was forecast: it rained solidly
all Sunday but we had planned to just relax that day anyway. On Monday we went
to Barter Books,
a huge second-hand book shop in the old station in Alnwick. It has a slightly
bumpy threshold but is accessible and has an accessible loo and a few
designated parking bays right outside the door.
We have been here before but not for a few years; they have
developed the café since our last visit but there is still the same relaxed
atmosphere and, of course, thousands of books!
The next day, as the forecast was good we headed to Alnwick
Garden (see my separate, more
detailed review). I had read reviews of this on Euan’sGuide
and knew it was accessible, which indeed it was as long as you don’t mind a
bumpy ride. Many of the surfaces were very uneven but it was a pleasant visit
overall and the walled garden is really attractive. I contacted the gardens
once we were home and they said that improving the path surfaces is part of
their development plans and they are going to include millions of fibre-optic
lights in them so that the gardens can open at night.
Another day we explored the coast which is lovely and
unspoiled with huge sandy beaches and big skies. We went as far as Bamburgh, an
immensely impressive castle which we had visited before when I was perfectly
mobile so this time we just admired the outside. I’m afraid I’ve been a very
bad blogger and not taken anything like enough photographs.
Because these days doing lots of visits is quite tiring,
it’s really important to us to have a cottage with pleasant surroundings and
preferably a good view. This cottage has that in spades and we have even booked
to go back next year. It’s important for us to get cottages booked up in plenty
of time as there are not that many cottages which are exactly suitable and with
the sort of surroundings we want. We had rather hoped we would be able to book
it for a short break but it was only available to book for a whole week during
the times when we want to go so we decided to go back next summer. I promise I
will take more photos next year!
Gardens has a September Garden which is a sight to behold. I really
recommend these gardens for everybody but they are especially good if you are
visited Breezy Knees before, in August 3 years ago so it was interesting to
see how it has developed. As you might imagine, this time the September Garden
was at its peak and looking really fabulous and colourful.
In other parts of the gardens, there were still plenty of
roses and myriad other plants: I suspect there will be something of interest at
any time of year.
This time, instead of using my scooter, I used my Powerchair
which did mean that we had to avoid some of the paths as they would have been
too rough. Dilemma! I am less keen on using the scooter these days, preferring
the chair but the scooter makes accessing the loo rather difficult. Using the chair
mean some of the paths would be very bumpy but you can more easily access the
loo if you need it!
The car park is still very rough with loose pebbles although
someone if else was driving they could pull up next to where the tarmac path
starts to drop you off then move the car.
There was less of a bump entering the reception/shop than I
remembered. Exiting it there is rather a bump which, because of the way the
threshold is designed would have been worse coming back through but the staff
member serving us said she would be happy to open the gate for us when we left.
This is where the difference between a manual wheelchair and
a Powerchair is crucial: a manual wheelchair can be tipped to get over the
threshold, whereas a Powerchair can’t and many places which say they are
wheelchair accessible are not actually accessible with a Powerchair.
Staff attitudes are hugely important. This place is clearly
trying to make itself accessible (there are also plenty of benches for anyone
on foot who needs a rest) and the staff are welcoming, friendly and helpful. Their
website says that any new areas will have tarmac paths. I’m quite happy with
gravel as long as it’s the really fine type called self-binding gravel and even
grass is fine as long as it’s firm, although of course this depends on the
This visit was a lovely experience all round: seeing so many
beautiful flowers and shrubs was very restorative in these chaotic times!