Here are some places I thoroughly recommend visiting! they are great for everyone but I’ll also mention their accessible features!
Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve
We decided to visit Norfolk because I had seen a review of Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, run by the Hawk and Owl trust, on Euan’sGuide, so we booked some accessible accommodation nearby, which turned out to be far better than we thought – see my review of Norfolk Disabled-Friendly Cottages for more detail.
Off we went to Sculthorpe in the Saturday morning sunshine and we weren’t disappointed! It’s lovely to go somewhere that’s so accessible you don’t have to give it any more thought than anyone else would – this is how it should be.
The whole place is accessed by boardwalks with netting on for grip and all the hides are accessible too. The only non-boardwalk section is the lane you go down between the visitor centre and the reserve itself – but as the staff explained, you could drive down the lane and start on the boardwalk from there if you preferred.
As the lane wasn’t rough (just small pebbles), we parked by the visitor centre (the carpark is gravel but with hardstanding for the Blue Badge spaces) and scooted from there. The visitor centre, which is where you pay – a voluntary donation – and where the loos are, is of course, fully accessible and has a shop and plenty of information. There are two accessible loos – one inside and one outside.
We headed off after a member of staff had given us a map and explained how all the hides are accessible and mentioned a few things we might see – not just birds but potentially deer and water vole too!
It was very beautiful and quiet and we could hear birdsong as we scooted round – including up into the hides, some of which were high in the air but with gentle ramps to get in. We were rewarded by spotting some birds we’d never seen before, on a feeder just outside one of the hides and we also watched some water vole running in and out of their holes by the stream – just lovely!
The whole experience was great – the easy access, the pleasant, helpful staff and of course, the wildlife!
National Centre for Early Music (NCEM)
Sklamberg and the Shepherds are a trio who play Eastern European Klezmer with such infectious jollity that not only were the audience clapping along, but a group of ladies started dancing – a sprightly, circular dance we have seen them perform at concerts of a variety of different bands at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM).
We’ve seen a lot of bands playing Klezmer music, with influences from various parts of Europe. Some are wilder, some more heartbreaking than Sklamberg and the Shepherds but I’m not sure we’ve seen any who seemed to enjoy their performance so much! Their album Aheym reflects what the performance was like as much as a recording can – they never have quite the same energy but it is very jolly.
This is the first time I have been to the NCEM with my powerchair and it was a great experience – a member of staff helped us find a good place and removed a seat for us so I could be on the end of a row and still have a good view. It was mid-week and the venue not that full, but there’s always plenty of space. Another member of staff was a wheelchair user, so they must be even more aware than ever of access issues. If ever they have a refurb, they could maybe make the thresholds a bit smoother, otherwise, it is a very accessible venue, with reserved Blue Badge holders’ spaces in the carpark, an accessible loo and leaflets displayed at easily-reached height.
I think it makes for a better sound if there are at least four musicians but Sklamberg and the Shepherds with their piano, accordion and clarinet and sometimes guitar pretty well filled this lovely venue.
Refurbished York Theatre Royal
Our annual trip to the panto at York Theatre Royal was extra interesting as this was our first visit since the theatre reopened after its £6 million refurbishment.
It now incorporates what was an open-air colonnade (previously full of fag-ends and pigeon poo!), now glassed in and turned into a bar/café area and expanded box office and all beautifully accessible with automatic doors.
There is also a lift up to the Dress Circle, and there are wheelchair spaces both there and in the stalls. There are several rows at the front of the stalls where there are no steps; the rest of the stalls have been raked. We were in row C and it only really occurred to us once we were seated that there wasn’t much room for people to get past to their seats further along. People were very accommodating and either went round a different way or stepped over but we realised that if you were in row B, you wouldn’t have this issue as there is no seat in front of the end seat – we shall have to book very early next year to get the perfect seat!
I was able to leave my scooter over by the wall – the nearby steward was quite happy for us to leave it there as it was not in anyone’s way.
I think generally the alterations are for the better – there is so much more space: it used to be quite a crush in the foyer before a performance.
The accessible loos (at ground at Dress Circle level) are new and good and the stewards all very friendly and helpful. As before, they provide booster seats for small children, have audio-described and BSL interpreted performances and the ice-creams at the interval are fabulous!
As for the panto – it’s a bit of institution and people seem to love it or hate it! We’ve been every year for the past 25, sometimes with members of my family who loved it too – you don’t need to be local to enjoy it. They don’t include any smut and the odd political comments are infrequent and mild. There was plenty of opportunity to boo and hiss the baddy and a fair bit of other audience participation.
I definitely recommend it and recommend checking out the refurbishment if you have ever visited the theatre and not found it very user-friendly – it’s so much more accessible now!
Bridlington has never been my favourite Yorkshire coast resort: Scarborough has more to do, Robin Hood’s Bay and Sandsend are more charming, Whitby is more dramatic, but Bridlington has what they don’t: a wonderful stretch of accessible promenade!
It was the most gloriously sunny day when we visited, though very chilly, and lots of people were enjoying it, including wheelchair users and a lady who came up and enquired about my Luggie scooter – I did such a great sales job, I should ask for commission!
On the one side you could smell the seaweed while on the other there were shrubs and bushes so you felt well away from the road.
There were some Blue Badge parking bays with smooth access to the prom, but they were all full so we used a nearby ordinary bay which just meant a slight ramp of an inch or two to get on the prom.
There were other Blue Badge spaces in the carparks, but I guess in Summer it will be so much busier, I don’t know how easy it would be to get a space. There are Radar-key loos at intervals on the prom – didn’t use them so can’t comment, but the spa and no doubt the new leisure centre further along have accessible loos.
As I mentioned in my previous blog about the place we stayed near Bridlington, as towns get done up, they become more accessible: it seems to be the way now to make the transitions between surfaces eg road and pavement, much smoother. This is a vast improvement, as jolting up or down a not-properly-dropped kerb is not pleasant.
Apparently the South Bay has a prom too and the Tourist Office do a guide to accessible places in Beverley, Bridlington and Goole. I can’t spot it on their website, but you could always e-mail them and request it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bempton Cliffs nearby are also accessible – we decided to save that for warmer weather!
An ace(r) time to visit!
Sorry for the awful pun, but now is a brilliant time to visit Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale as the acers are a fabulous blaze of colour as well as many other trees which are also looking wonderful.
We hired a scooter (for £1), the ‘off-road’ type and they give you a map which shows the wheelchair accessible paths. I would imagine pushing someone round might be rather hard work as there are no smooth paths and in fact some were really bumpy, but most are either grass or fine gravel. It can get muddy so it’s best to after a dry spell.
We had forgotten it was half term and there were Hallowe’en things going on and the place was packed but there were also lots of people who were there to admire the trees – as you can see from the photos, it didn’t spoil the views. Even the ones in the carpark looked great!
Despite it being busy, we and the friends we were meeting managed to snaffle an outdoor table – it was just mild enough – and there was still plenty of choice of cakes!
Loos including spacious accessible ones are available at the café and the bird of prey centre.
The staff were really busy but were pleasant and helpful – as we left, someone came with us to bring the scooter back from the car.
We’ve always visited Thorp Perrow in spring before to see the bluebells but an Autumn visit is definitely worth it too.
Great places for Autumn colours
Bit chillier now but we’re still getting plenty of sunshine so a great time to catch some lovely Autumn colours. Rowntree Park in York is starting to look good and I know
Daft name, lovely gardens
Breezy Knees is a garden, nursery and café at Stockton on the Forest near York which I had heard of a while ago but was somewhat put off by the silly name. However, we’d been told it was good so thought we would go and – wow! It’s lovely!
The café seems to be quite a draw judging by the numbers of people –we didn’t sample it so I can’t comment! – but the gardens are extensive enough that it didn’t feel remotely crowded despite the numbers.
The different areas are separated by fences or hedges and you can visit gardens for different times of the year plus the beautifully scented rose garden, the shade garden, rock garden, cottage garden and many more, including fountains and ponds.
The paths are mainly tarmac or fine gravel, some are rougher gravel and some are grass – this was a bit bumpy for comfort but we didn’t have to go that way, we could have back tracked and stayed on the smoother paths. There are also plenty of benches.
It’s all accessible apart from a couple of sections, which the staff explained and marked on the map for us but there was plenty to see anyway. The café is accessible too – also lots of the seating is outside and there is an accessible loo, although this was a little tight for the scooter I was using which is 50cm wide There is ample parking with some reserved for blue badge holders.
I can definitely see us going for a return visit – you can get a season ticket which would make it worthwhile if you planned to visit four or more times a year.
By the river in York
It is very pleasant to pootle along by the river in York – the Millennium Bridge gives great views up and down the river, there are benches and information plaques here and there,
viewing platforms which jut out to give good views of the river, there are often rowers to watch or people to wave at on the pleasure boats and it’s all so green and pleasant!
The cycle path heading from the bridge out towards Bishopthorpe is a little bumpy in places where tree roots have raised the tarmac but nothing too drastic and of course, you need to be aware of cyclists coming along! Heading the other way takes you to Rowntree Park or you could head right along towards the city centre on either side of the river.
The park is looking lovely just now with roses and clematis on the pergola and the herbaceous borders, if not quite so well-tended as they once were, are still full of colour. The café was busy with people enjoying the view, the kids’ play areas were in full swing and families and dog-walkers were all enjoying this splendid park!
It was voted the best view in Britain – well, I’m always going to prefer the dales to anything else but the view from Sutton Bank is pretty darn good as views go!
We went first to the visitor centre expecting that they would have a leaflet with a map on it but instead a very helpful chap drew us a map and explained where to go. Odd that they didn’t have printed maps – maybe they had run out. The website gives you detailed access details.
There is ample parking and a café within the visitor centre and toilets out in the courtyard including a Radar-key operated accessible one which wasn’t the cleanest but was OK. First time I’ve used my Radar key – at least it confirms that it works!
Anyway, the paths are good – just had a bit of a steep camber in places so you need to keep to the middle but I suppose that’s to help them drain. There’s a circular route of about a kilometre which takes you to the (accessible) viewing point with a chart telling you what you are looking at – all the way to the dales! We stopped to have a picnic there – it was a gorgeous day if a little hazy – and it wasn’t particularly busy although no doubt it’s busier at weekends. You can go on a longer route which takes you to the White Horse – I’m sure we’ll be back to do that another day.
University of York
York University campus is a great place for spotting ducks, geese and great crested grebes on the lake and all manner of other birdlife as well as squirrels and rabbits. At this time of year you can spot daffodils, crocuses, hellebores, cowslips, blossom, trees coming out into leaf and, yes, lots of ducklings! The Heslington Lane side of campus which has fewer humans was alive with birdsong when we visited.
I can’t find anything official but as far as I know the public has every right to
visit the campus, as if it were a public park and visit it they certainly do – obviously it’s quieter and easier to park during the university holidays. Their website explains that disabled parking is free of charge and at evenings and weekends the pay-and-display parking bays are free too.
Generally, the whole campus is accessible, although there are building works going on which restrict access in places, and for anyone who has known the campus for some time, an immense amount of in-fill building, but generally there is an alternative route if one is blocked. The buildings are mainly open and many have accessible loos. (Heslington East, the new campus, is also accessible and has a lake but being so new, it has less interest in the way of trees, shrubs and wildlife).
Some paths can be muddy and there were plenty of puddles after recent rain when we went, but generally getting around is fairly smooth – just occasionally transitions between surfaces were a bit of a jolt and there’s one steep bit by the lake that I tend to avoid but it’s a big enough campus that missing out a small bit doesn’t matter! There are examples of topiary, the odd bit of modern sculpture and carved tree stumps which all add to the interest as well as information boards about the wildlife.
It’s a very attractive campus with its lake, trees and bridges and a great asset for York to have such a huge expanse of, in effect, managed parkland that everyone can visit.
Another good place to visit for spring flowers is Rowntree Park. York
Spring is springing in Rowntree Park!
Rowntree Park is full of daffodils in bloom and plenty of trees which will soon be blossoming, others which are coming into leaf and there was a coot which looked very much like it was sitting on some eggs!
The park is recovering from the floods around Christmas time and is very muddy in places but the tarmac paths are perfectly accessible although there were a few puddles out on the paths by the Millennium Bridge.
The café is fully accessible, see the Euan’s Guide review.
This is a lovely park to visit at all times of year – see my review from the Autumn.
We’ll definitely be back to see if those chicks have hatched!
A visit to the Bog!
Askham Bog! It’s a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) nature reserve which we’d heard of but never visited until the other day. Some time ago I contacted the YWT to ask about how accessible Askham Bog is and got a helpful reply so we decided to visit and I’m sure we’ll go back to see what it’s like at different times of the year.
If ever you’ve come up the slip road off the A64 to Askham Bar / Tadcaster Road, you may have seem some cars parked on the left – that’s the carpark for Askham Bog. The first part of the path involves a gate and a slightly rough surface but once you are down the slope you are on wooden walkways with wire over them to improve grip and there are passing places and a few benches. I wouldn’t have wanted to try it with my Luggie scooter but my sturdier ‘Bootmaster Plus’ copes better with bumpier surfaces and was fine.
The Askham Bog page of the YWT website lists all sorts of flora and fauna you might see including water voles, roe deer and even Exmoor ponies! There are information boards to help you spot things. The path is circular and you are soon back to where you started – it’s not a big visit but for a quick run out for some fresh air, it’s very pleasant and although it’s near the A64 you aren’t too aware of the traffic.
When we went there was a chap from the YWT with membership information who was keen to tell us of other YWT sites which include Moorlands and Strensall Common – more details on the YWT website.
Temple Newsam, Leeds
There is loads to visit here including the house, the rare breeds farm and the grounds with their lake, hothouses and in spring, spectacular rhododendrons. The grounds are free although there is a charge for the house and farm. The house was built in the C16th and was the birthplace of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ husband. The farm nearly always seems to have cute baby animals and the buildings and displays are interesting too. The grounds are really extensive and a lot of it can be explored in the all-terrain scooters you can borrow – they are the most solid scooters I have used. The first time we went the ground was really soggy but it was no trouble (there are perfectly good tarmac paths but they were blocked in places as they were setting up for an event). The only thing to watch is that they are the sort of scooters that go faster downhill and also there are a few places, around the farm for example, where the cobbles are a bit rough. You park in the carpark nearest the house and the scooters are usually ready for you by the hut, but they will bring them over to the car and show you how to use them. This was the first place I ever used a scooter and was so glad a friend persuaded me as there is no way I could have visited the grounds otherwise and I hadn’t seen them for years! There is really good information at this link about all the access issues. The number to ring to book is 0113 336 7560 – ring Mon-Thur, it doesn’t seem to be staffed on Fridays.
Golden Acre Park, Leeds
Visited this gorgeous place recently and enjoyed the lush plants and the wonderful wildfowl on the lake. There is also a café and plenty of parking. The main carpark is joined to the park by a tunnel under the road but if you are borrowing a mobility scooter you can park in the bays in the park itself by the café. The scooters are free of charge and very sturdy although not the most convenient to operate but the paths are easy enough to negotiate. Ring 0113 2613064 to book a scooter. Great visit! http://www.leeds.gov.uk/leisure/Pages/Golden-Acre-Park.aspx
Thorp Perrow Arboretum, near Bedale, North Yorkshire
This is a gorgeous place to visit at any time of year, full of mature trees, beautiful shrubs and loads of daffodils and bluebells in Spring. There are national collections of various plants, a birds of prey centre, a lake, a tearoom, accessible loos and ample parking. You can hire mobility scooters sturdy enough to cope with the terrain which can be a bit boggy at times. They charge £1 and you must prebook by ringing 01677 427203. We found staff to be really pleasant and helpful. There was no problem about taking the scooter out to the car. http://www.thorpperrow.com/index.html