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.