Could try harder!

How do you reach those automatic doors?

 

The Ashford International Hotel is theoretically accessible but I don’t think they are really committed to getting it right.

We stayed here one night before getting the shuttle the next day and, as you can imagine, chose it for its convenient location rather than its character!

How do you reach those automatic doors?
How do you reach those automatic doors?

When we first arrived, we parked in a marked Blue Badge bay but then realised that to leave the car park meant negotiating a rather bumpy ramp so we decided to use the drop off space by the main door instead. There was a really rather bizarre wheelchair route from the car park to the door which involved a short pathway and then the choice of either rejoining the road or going over some very rough grass to reach the automatic doors. There was no way to get to the automatic doors without going over the grass. We were glad we decided to use the drop-off area but then realised we were going to have to use the revolving doors. Eventually we noticed a blue button with a wheelchair symbol which we pressed and I think it slowed down the speed of the revolving. It was fine but I wouldn’t really choose to use revolving doors in a wheelchair!

Weird wheelchair route Ashford International
Weird wheelchair route Ashford International

The reception desk didn’t have a lowered portion which again doesn’t really show commitment to making things accessible. We checked in and went off to find our room which was down a lot of corridors and meant negotiating heavy fire doors. The route the receptionist indicated was actually not the shortest route!

Weird wheelchair route Ashford International
Weird wheelchair route Ashford International

The room was good and spacious but the bathroom was rather strange. It had a very good shower seat and the basin could be raised or lowered as required but the basin was so close to the loo that you had to sort of sidle in to access the loo. Not brilliant for anyone let alone people for whom sidling is not that easy! The accessible loo in the lobby was an awful lot easier to use.

Not much room to access the loo!
Not much room to access the loo!

This is starting to sound like a list of moans. When we went to the restaurant we discovered that the tables were not the sort you can sit at in a wheelchair so I had to transfer into one of their dining chairs. Generally, I like sitting in a dining chair but when you’re tired it can be easier to just stay put in your own chair.

Restaurant Ashford International
Restaurant Ashford International

On entering the restaurant we were greeted with the information that I was the “Guest of the Day!” What treats did this entail? A plate was put on our table with Guest of the Day piped on it in chocolate and sprinkled with stars. Our excitement and gratitude knew no bounds. Actually, it explained the two mini bottles of prosecco in our room with a note addressed to Hayley explaining that she was Guest of the Day. I was evidently Hayley.

I can’t actually remember much about the meal, other than that we didn’t fancy any of the starters so had mains and desert. The staff were very pleasant and efficient.

Revolving door, Ashford International
Revolving door, Ashford International

We then decamped to the sitting area in the lobby which was rather chilly as the outside doors were open at the far end.

Tricky ramp to exit carpark, Ashford International
Tricky ramp to exit carpark, Ashford International

Breakfast next day was in the same restaurant so there was the same issue with seating but the breakfast was fine with plenty of choices. Could have done without a member of staff having absolutely violent BO, though.

To summarise, a conveniently placed hotel with some accessible features but we would not stay there again, it was just too much like hard work! They emailed a link to a feedback form and I ticked the box asking to be contacted but have not heard anything back, showing yet again that they are not really committed to great customer service and accessibility. Their loss!

For more details and photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

Click here for more accessible places to stay.

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Ye olde accessible pub!

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The Black Horse Inn at Thurnham near Maidstone in Kent is an 18th-century inn that manages to be accessible too!

The Black Horse Inn, Thurnham, Kent
The Black Horse Inn, Thurnham, Kent

We stayed here one night on our way back to York from Folkestone and although I’m not sure I would stay here again as there are probably other, better places in the area, it was fine and convenient and better than the Ashford International we stayed at on the way down. (that’s another story!)

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The old part of the pub has been extended sympathetically so that when you’re inside, you can’t really tell where the old parts ends and the new parts begin. According to the website, the pub is mentioned in The Canterbury Tales, so presumably there was an earlier pub on the same site. The accommodation is in barns across the car park from the inn, the four rooms at the top of the slope being accessible, family rooms.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The rooms are pleasant and spacious, ours had a double bed and a single plus a couple of tub chairs, coffee table, tea and coffee making facilities (the UHT milk said it tasted like fresh milk and it did!) and a spacious wet-room style bathroom with a fold down shower seat, a couple of grab rails and two sinks, one lower than the other so more convenient for wheelchair users.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

To get into the pub, they have ingenuously created a brick-paved pathway that takes you up to the back of the pub, although you could go via the car park if you preferred. When we arrived, it was Sunday lunchtime and extremely busy but once we were checked in, (there is a separate reception, but it was closed) we were able to park opposite our room or you can park directly outside and there was a slope to get in to the room.

Accessible pathway at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible pathway at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

We ate in the pub in the evening. The tables were not ideal with a wheelchair but you could get pretty close up to them. The food all sounded great and although it didn’t quite live up to expectations, it was fine. I did the terribly English thing of, when asked if the meal was all right, I said it was fine when in fact the pork belly I had chosen was rather dry. We had a very nice Greek sharing platter for a starter and my glass of rosé was very good so all in all, a good meal. IMG_1725

Breakfast was good with plenty of choices: I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg, Pete had a full English and there was toast with jam and fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The staff are pleasant and efficient, it was easy to find, in fact it was surprising to find such a quiet little village so near to the motorway, so a very convenient place to stay.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

For more detail on the accessibility and photos, see my review on EuansGuide and click here for more accessible places to stay, eat at or visit.

Accessible gourmet stopover

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

It’s just as well we only stayed one night at La Cour de Rémi otherwise we might not have fitted through the door on the way out!

If ever you need somewhere that is a bit of a treat and within easy reach of the channel ports, this is it!

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

The hotel rooms and restaurant are in the stables of a château that was the headquarters of the British tank command in the First World War. Sébastien, the proprietor, has created a lovely relaxed atmosphere with his friendly team of staff, comfortable rooms and fabulous food. There’s an additional room in a treehouse.

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

It is slightly a work in progress still: the paths need redoing, they were very rough and there was no slope into the restaurant. The staff had to bring a wooden board but that worked a treat and everyone was very jolly and good natured about it. In other circumstances it could all have been a bit awkward but it certainly wasn’t here – all just part of the laid-back atmosphere. They will be sorting out the access so maybe we’ll just have to go back to check it out!

Parking space, La Cour de Rémi
Parking space, La Cour de Rémi

Our room (chambre 2, if you are looking at the website) was really spacious with a sofa and two upright chairs with arms. It wasn’t entirely user-friendly as they make use of original features, so what had been the trough for the horses’ feed overhung the head of the bed and did not make a very good headboard! Also, the bed was a bit low and the bathroom floor very slippery when wet but generally it was fine as a disabled-adapted room as it had grab rails and a shower seat. The toiletries were lovely and there was also tea and coffee making facilities. Only one coffee sachet though, so we had to ask for some more but it was worth it as it was surprisingly good coffee!

Chambre 2, La Cour de Rémi
Chambre 2, La Cour de Rémi

Dinner was a really fun experience. Once we had negotiated the temporary slope, we entered a restaurant with tables I could sit at in my power chair (hooray!) and with a huge wooden table down the length of the room, apparently hewn from a single tree trunk. At this, a member of staff was industriously slicing home-made bread. We were brought some of this along with a terrine dish half full of rough-hewn home-made pâté plus a stone jar full of gherkins. This was our ‘amuse-bouche’ or appetiser! Pete would happily have eaten nothing but that all evening! Our food was equally wonderful (best fish I’ve ever eaten!) and they use plenty of home-grown vegetables, fruit and herbs from their lovely walled garden as well as other regional produce.

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

Breakfast was equally fun: a brioche loaf between the two of us with two kinds of home-made jam, ham and cheese and boiled egg along with lovely coffee and hot milk. I love it when they offer you hot milk so you can have milky coffee that isn’t cold!

Tank Corps memorial, La Cour de Rémi
Tank Corps memorial, La Cour de Rémi

They are planning to add a little museum about the tank corps but if we were to visit again, it would be for the location, the atmosphere, and, yes, the food.

The chateau de Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
The chateau de Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

For more details about the accessibility and more photos, please see my review on Euan’s Guide.

Click here for more reviews of accessible places to stay.

 

 

 

Relaxed, accessible hotel

Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

Les Saules was a very relaxing place to spend a couple of days on our way from Calais to our gîte in Normandy. We spent two nights here which meant we had a day to explore the local area, the Baie de Somme, so we went to the coast for some extremely bracing sea air!

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The hotel is quite modest in style but does what it does very well, which is to provide a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere in pleasant, comfortable surroundings with good food and helpful, welcoming staff.

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

Our room was on the ground floor and had a terrace outside with table and chairs, looking over the grounds which were very attractive, including a couple of ponds with ducks. In fact the terrace reached all round the hotel and there was an outside dining area which would have been lovely had the weather been more settled. There was a bit of a door sill to negotiate to get out to the terrace but Pete had cunningly brought a couple of pieces of slightly chamfered wood for just such an occasion and they made it easier to get in and out.

Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The hotel has a spa but it’s just as well we weren’t intending to use it as it would have meant negotiating the pebbly car park. There was a disabled bay in which we parked initially before realising that I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate the pebbled surface. Access was fine at the front of the hotel, just a couple of slight bumps, so we used the driveway as a drop-off area then Pete would park the car afterwards. There was further parking on a tarmac surface.

The Spa, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
The Spa, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The bathroom had grab rails and a shower seat; I would have welcomed an extra drop-down grab rail so that there was one each side of the shower seat and the loo was very high but I guess different arrangements suit different people. You can see more or less what the room was like on their website if you look at the ‘chambre premium.’

It seems to be becoming more common for hotel rooms on the continent to have tea and coffee making facilities and they were happy to provide us with some milk.

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

When we went to the restaurant the first evening, we realised that the majority of the tables were too narrow for my power chair to fit under so I would have had to transfer to a dining chair, which I can do but it all adds to the hassle, so I was pleased when a member of staff pointed out that a nearby table in a different style would work (it was one of just a couple of old, wooden circular tables) so we used that and asked if we might reserve it for the next evening and they even reserved it for us for breakfast!

The terrace, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
The terrace, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The food was good without being fabulous and they use local produce and have some local specialities on the menu. Disappointed they had run out of decaffeinated coffee though!

Breakfast involved croissants, pastries, and cheese, fruit and yoghurt and also eggs. This provided us with a slight puzzle: we had assumed they were hard-boiled and started to peel one when we realised they were in fact raw and you are supposed to pop them into a bath of hot water to cook. The laughing waiter assured us that we were not the first people to make that mistake. Fortunately we realised in time to avoid getting raw egg everywhere!

The next day we investigated Le Crotoy, Fort Mahon and other places along the coast. It was incredibly windy so we didn’t venture outside the car other than to take photos and try to find postcards but I think it would have been possible to get along the prom at Le Crotoy at least. It clearly suited the people windsurfing and kite surfing at any rate!

At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme
At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme

I would stay at Les Saules again as it was a very pleasant place and the access was OK. It was just over sixty miles from Calais, so convenient for the tunnel or ferry.

At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme
At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme

For further details on accessibility and more photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

See my website for more reviews of accessible places to stay.

 

Lovely, accessible gîte in Normandy

Beautiful, spacious, peaceful and with a fully accessible ground floor, La Fresnaie is a great base for exploring the local area with its picturesque towns and villages and wonderful, rolling countryside.IMG_1590

La Fresnaie can be booked for four people or six: the ground floor has two bedrooms and a wet room style bathroom, while upstairs there are a double and a twin, a bathroom and toilet.

The terrace, La Fresnaie
The terrace, La Fresnaie

Surrounding the house is a terrace, some of which is shaded so you can enjoy the sun or keep out of it, whichever you prefer and there is plenty of garden furniture for if you want to eat or sit and relax on a sofa. The car parking is also covered so you can easily pack or unpack the car, whatever the weather.

The terrace, La Fresnaie
The terrace, La Fresnaie

The grounds, which include the home of Paula and Nigel the owners and two other cottages, are beautiful with plenty of the ash trees that the place is named after and we were thrilled to see red squirrels running about and to spot buzzards wheeling overhead.

A lot of thought has gone into the accessibility: grab rails by the loo and shower which has a drop-down seat. The doorways have a very low threshold so there is no problem with access and in the kitchen the worktop which includes the hob is at a lower level with space underneath.

A few things could be improved to make it even more wheelchair-friendly, for example, the dining table was of the sort that you cannot fully pull up to in a wheelchair (we popped a book under each leg to raise it up but of course that did make it rather high!). Fortunately, the table outside was of a different design and we were able to eat out there quite often. I could have done with a vertical grab rail by the loo but I guess that sort of detail is going to be different from one person to the next.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

We were not too worried about whether there were many accessible things to do in the local area as we fully intended to have a very relaxing time after the incredibly stressful few weeks I had just had at work (long story). There were recommendations in the visitors’ book but this is where the difference between perhaps pushing somebody, a child may be, in a wheelchair and accessing things in a power chair are two different situations. I tend to duck out of exploring things which look rather hard work as, the greater the hassle, the less worth doing it becomes. Just driving around spotting ‘dream cottages,’ getting glimpses of castles and absorbing the still traditional French village way of life was great fun in itself.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

For all there were big supermarkets on the edges of some of the towns, many people still pop to the local boulangerie for their daily baguette.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

The supermarkets were useful as, much as I like to support local businesses, quaint little shops are not generally accessible. Many French supermarkets have a ‘traiteur’ counter where you can buy portions of home-made style meals to take home. They are so much nicer than a ready meal and much easier than actually cooking from scratch. We tried a good range of them as with hotel stays on the way to and from the cottage, we were not bothered about eating out during our week in Normandy, and they were delicious.

Lassay-les-Châteaux
Lassay-les-Châteaux

When we visited Lassay-les-Châteaux, a lovely little town with a wonderful castle, we explored La Roseraie, a delightful rose garden, perhaps slightly past its best so late in the season but still full of a huge variety of beautiful roses. It is very easily accessible from the main car park of the town which is tarmac and the paths in the rose garden are fine gravel. We also visited Domfront, Bagnoles de l’Orne and St Fraimbault – all very picturesque. Many towns and villages are ‘villes fleuris’ – full of flowers at this time of year.

Domfront
Domfront

Our intention was to have a really relaxing time and we certainly did. We had chosen somewhere that was lovely to be at even if we didn’t do very much and that was pretty much exactly what happened. Just being at La Fresnaie, relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet was exactly what we had hoped for!

La Fresnaie, Loré, Basse-Normandy
La Fresnaie, Loré, Basse-Normandy

For further details on accessibility and more photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

 

Cosy Cumbria cottage with great views

Entrance to Ash Cottage

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.

Entrance to Ash Cottage
Entrance to Ash Cottage

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 farmyard, Tottergill Farm, Cumbria
The farmyard, Tottergill Farm, Cumbria

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!

Sitting out space with great view
Sitting out space with great view

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.

Parking space and entrance to Ash Cottage
Parking space and entrance to Ash Cottage

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.

Doorway at Ash Cottage
Doorway at Ash Cottage

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!

Entrance to The Sill
Entrance to The Sill

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.

At The Sill
At The Sill

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!

Talkin Tarn
Talkin Tarn

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!

The woods at Talkin Tarn
The woods at Talkin Tarn

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!

The path at Talkin Tarn
The path at Talkin Tarn

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!

Waterwheel at Tottergill Farm
Waterwheel at Tottergill Farm

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.

Luxurious and accessible!

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The Roost is a lovely, one-story cottage  which sleeps four in two bedrooms with two bathrooms. It is one of six cottages at Field House Farm near Bempton in East Yorkshire.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The house is wheelchair accessible, although my power chair needed an extra shove to get it over the threshold of the front door, and although the internal doors are not wide, I was able to get around without any problem.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

There is a double bedroom with an ensuite bathroom which has a shower over the bath and the other room can be configured as a twin or a king-size double and the ensuite bathroom is a wet room with space to manoeuvre a wheelchair.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The furnishings are all really good quality and it was very comfortable, although a little chilly as the weather was very cold and the cottage had not been booked for a while but we were able to turn the heating up and get the wood burning stove going so it was lovely and cosy the next day. This is virtually always the case with cottages so we did expect it but of course if you’re only staying a weekend it means it’s not so warm for more of your stay! There was plenty of wood and they told us we could help ourselves if we needed more.File_001

It’s a really well-equipped cottage and there was a welcome tray with tea, coffee, biscuits and a bottle of wine. The decor is lovely with original features from its former life as a farm building and there was an interesting history of farm in the cottage information folder.

The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks
The Roost, Field House Farm Cottages, Bempton, East Yorks

The cottages also have impeccable green credentials, using a wind turbine and rainwater capture, encouraging recycling and using local products.

The friendly, helpful owners (who live on-site) have other cottages at nearby High Barn, where we had stayed last year and on both occasions we were really lucky with the weather, so as last time we had a very sunny visit to the promenade at Bridlington which is nice and smooth for wheel users with plenty of parking. The Blue Badge bays were all full but with this being off-season, there were loads of free spaces nearby.

The prom at Bridlington
The prom at Bridlington

All the cottages at Field House and High Barn are different, but if there is one that suits you, I thoroughly recommend them!

The Spinney, High Barn cottages
The Spinney, High Barn cottages

For further details of accessibility features, see my review on Euan’sGuide.