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
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!
The Alnwick Garden prides itself on its accessibility but what a bumpy ride!
We enjoyed our visit to The Alnwick Garden: the weather was sunny. the walled garden is lovely and it was good to see somewhere with accessibility designed into it from the start but some of the path surfaces were so bumpy that it was rather annoying. There are lots of very positive reviews on Euan’sGuide so I feel a bit ”bah, humbug” being negative but I found the constant jolting very tiring.
A couple of years ago, I think I would just have been
grateful that somewhere was accessible. Now, I tend to question why places
aren’t more accessible and what could be done about it? I’ve emailed the
gardens on the subject.
The walled Ornamental Garden at the top of the slope is very
attractive as is the Rose Garden and there were lovely wild flowers by the side
of the path as you came down through the Cherry Orchard, but that’s not enough
to draw me back. It’s designed to be very child-friendly and there were plenty
of children really enjoying the little streams in the Ornamental Garden, the
various fountains in the Serpent Garden and the swings in the Cherry Orchard,
in fact some families were literally camped out on the lawn area below the
Grand Cascade but I didn’t see much interest in the giant-themed features such
as a huge pair of boots or a giant-sized pie, perhaps because of the notices
warning you not to climb on them.
It is clearly a very commercial setup: there is a large shop
and cafe, all very accessible and the plant centre, in fact many of the plants
around the gardens had signs saying that they were available to buy in the
shop. On the other hand, they also do lots of community outreach such as
activities for over 55s and for young people. They also lend out wheelchairs
and mobility scooters which you should book in advance.
We arrived by car and followed signs for Accessible Parking.
There are many members of staff in attendance to help and I’m pretty sure we
were directed to a general parking area but as the staff were aware of our Blue
Badge we had plenty of space as the next car parked leaving us ample room. Apparently
there is designated Blue Badge parking but this was the summer holidays so
perhaps it was full. It was up hill from there to the ticket office (we hadn’t
booked in advance) then through the main gates onto the terrace with plenty of
café tables and a view of the Grand Cascade. We had been given a map of the
gardens with the accessible routes marked but still managed to get a bit lost
as we made our way to look at the Serpent Garden and Rose Garden. I think maybe
I slightly missed the point of the fountains in the Serpent Garden, they just
seemed a bit dull to me! We wound our way through woodland to the top of the
slope on fairly good paths: other reviewers comment on this being rather hard
going for those pushing somebody in a wheelchair but at least there are benches
all round the gardens for a rest.
The Ornamental Garden at the top is absolutely lovely with
little streams, good paths everywhere and some beautiful flowers and shrubs.
From there along to the Cherry Orchard the path was rather
rough and then the snaking path through the orchard was very rough indeed as the
tarmac surface had been worn away in many places plus the bends are quite sharp
so you had to concentrate on your steering. Towards the bottom, there were some
beautiful wildflowers growing amongst the grass.
Once we were on the flat we then encountered the worst bit
of path of the lot near the Poison Garden. This had a queue so we gave it a
We had a look in the shop which was light, airy and spacious
with lots of souvenirs, gardening books, some tools (very decorative and
expensive!) the usual jams and chutneys and also a small exhibition by a local
artist. We didn’t partake of anything in the café which was ‘food-court’ style:
different outlets but with central tables which I think were
wheelchair-friendly. There were also some very civilised accessible loos,
accessed via a spacious lift to the basement level. There are other accessible
loos around the site. Apparently the Treehouse tearooms are also accessible via
It was a pleasant visit and I would happily visit the
Ornamental Garden again but wouldn’t be inclined to pay the entrance fee just
for that! It’s great that access has been built in to the place, it is far more
than just a token effort but I feel less and less inclined these days to accept
poor access and to me, being constantly jolted constitutes poor access. I’ll be
interested to see their reply to my email about the path surfaces. I’ll keep
Burnby Hall Gardens, Pocklington are renowned for their fabulous collection of waterlilies but there is a lot more to the gardens and they are brilliantly accessible – I just can’t quite decide which type of path I like best.
They have been doing some restoration and improvements so there
aren’t so many waterlilies as normal just now (they hold the national collection)
but plenty were out and looking lovely and there is much more to see. It’s
years since we have visited and they have created new paths since then and new
areas to explore, such as the Victorian Garden, Aviary Garden and a shady walk
with hydrangeas each side as well as the revamped rockery.
In the reception area/shop they gave us a map which is also on their website although the hydrangea path must be very new as it’s not marked. It was made of what I believe is called self-binding gravel: very fine gravel, claylike in texture and great for wheels. Other paths were resin, such as the ones in the Rock Garden which is lovely and smooth or tarmac with just a couple of loose gravel or bark chip ones which are easy to avoid if your wheels can’t cope with it. I also gave the path to the stumpery a miss as it was too bumpy.
It was easy to get right to the water’s edge too as there were viewing platforms especially for wheelchair users. Actually, I only remember one of them and you reached it by going over the grass but this was very smooth – more so than our lawn at home! I guess the gravel paths are the greenest option as they are permeable but might get muddy in wet weather.
It was very busy when we were there but it was never a problem
and there was a lovely atmosphere – everyone was enjoying themselves! There is
a café selling cakes and light snacks with indoor and outdoor seating, accessible
loos (didn’t use them but got a photo and they look very civilised!) and
baby-changing. There were also plenty of benches as you go round.
The museum is accessible too. It houses artefacts gathered
by Major Percy Stewart, who lived at Burnby Hall, which is now council offices,
during his travels around the globe during the early 1900s. Stuffed animal
heads might not be to everyone’s taste but there are plenty of other
interesting objects and some interactive parts.
The shop sells gifts and postcards and the staff were helpful and friendly. There is plenty of parking although not enough Blue Badge bays – there were a number of people using scooters and chairs and no wonder when it is so accessible – they hold an Age UK award for accessibility. Pete dropped me off then found a space elsewhere. There are details about parking on their website.
We will definitely be going back – perhaps at different time of the year to see the garden in different moods. It’ll be interesting to see it develop as the lilies and rockery plants return to their former glory. I also like supporting somewhere so committed to making themselves genuinely accessible – they deserve our business.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Roses, lupins, clematis, goslings… there’s plenty going on in
It looked more well-tended than sometimes when we visited
the other day and, as ever, the mix of tree types is very striking: copper
beeches contrasting with the greenery. There have been some improvements in the
pathways, various uneven bits have been smoothed.
There are always plenty of interesting things to look out
for. On our visit there were goslings, moorhen chicks and ducklings and all the
installations which make the park so varied such as the duck house on the pond,
the ‘chess-piece’ horse that small children love to scramble on, the totem pole
and the helmet. There is of course, the more traditional play equipment and the
skateboard park and there is even a boat selling ice creams across the river!
I used to always use my scooter when we went to the park, but
actually my Powerchair handles all the surfaces absolutely fine, even the
slight bump at the flood barrier.
Lovely as The Homestead is, you can make a longer visit at Rowntree Park because of the paths by the river. These are a little rougher than the paths within the park and the cycle path heading out of town is rather bumpy with tree roots but not too bad. I understood that was going to be fixed, perhaps it will be soon.
It’s always a pleasure to visit Rowntree Park and the riverside paths.
Decided to give Homestead Park a go with my power chair rather than my scooter. I had my email to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust half written in my head, asking if they could make the crazy paving a bit smoother and found that they have done exactly that: the pathway near the pond that was a bit rough going is now tarmac like most of the rest of the paths – hooray!
I still emailed them, though, to enquire if the surface of
the car park could be improved as it is really bumpy and they promptly replied
to say that they are looking to improve it, so good news all round for those of
us who like a smooth ride when possible.
It was a lovely, sunny day so the park was being very well
used: the children’s play area seems really popular and there were plenty of
people admiring the gorgeous flower beds.
There always seem to be improvements on the go. During our
last visit, they were replacing the trees on the Cherry Walk and these were in
bloom and looking lovely. There was a guy in waders clearing the pond and
plenty of other staff generally tending the place, which is always immaculately
Great to know that they are committed to improvements in
accessibility as well as in horticulture!