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.

Accessible woodland trails

Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum is a great place to visit if you like woods and great views!

Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire
Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire

We came here after visiting Hampton Court Castle which has a lovely accessible walled garden but whose woodland trails required a bigger scooter than mine.

We picnicked in the car park surrounded by trees (parking is free with a Blue Badge) then moved to the main car park which has some designated Blue Badge spaces and set off into the woods with a basic map provided by the visitor centre. The trails are way-marked, including the route to the viewing point!

Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire
Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire

The paths were earth and occasionally a little muddy in places (as it had chucked it down the previous night, it was actually remarkably dry!) and generally bump-free. We made our way to the viewing point for yet another wonderful view of the Herefordshire countryside.

Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire
Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire

As it is an arboretum, many of the trees were labelled but we managed to identify a giant redwood even before reading the sign!

Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire
Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum, Herefordshire

The visitor centre has locally made honey and preserves and some lovely cards and gifts and friendly staff. Accessible loo a little small but enough room for my scooter! Plenty of parking, including some Blue Badge spaces although it could possibly do with some more and I’m not surprised – it was a great place to visit not only for scooter-users: there were plenty of people with pushchairs as well. You can borrow an electric scooter for a suggested £5 donation if you book it in advance.

I thoroughly recommend this place if you fancy some fresh air, trees and a lovely view!

We visited while we were staying at Valley View, Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove. Other accessible things to do nearby include Yat Rock and Hampton Court Castle, The Prospect, a modest park in Ross-on-Wye with yet more lovely views and the riverside paths down below – in fact the tourist office sent us a wheel-users route to get around Ross – it’s good to know more places are starting to think of these things.

Charming cottage and very high-tech!

Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford

Valley View is a lovely cottage for two: comfortable, spotlessly clean and well-equipped plus it has amazing views. It also makes a really good base for exploring the area and there are plenty of accessible things to do.

Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford
Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Hereford

The cottage comprises a sitting room, kitchen-diner, bedroom and ensuite bathroom, all of which have plenty of space to get around easily in a wheelchair and the access is really easy, just a slight ramp to get you over the threshold with hardly a bump. The table is high enough that you can sit at it in a wheelchair. Thatch Close Cottages comprises three cottages in total, all of which can be linked in different combinations for larger groups.

Fabulous view from Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove, Herefordshire
Fabulous view from Thatch Close Cottages, Llangrove, Herefordshire

There are various high-tech features such as the kitchen worktop with hob and sink will rise and lower at the touch of a button as will the bathroom wash basin and the dressing table. Despite this, the overall feel is of a cosy cottage and the decor is charming.

The spacious bathroom has a shower seat, lots of grabrails and even a wash-dry loo.IMG_1256

I was really impressed that the website included a list of everything that was included as so often you are not sure quite what to bring. In the event, one or two of these were actually missing but it was just a case of mentioning it to Ed, one of the owners and they were provided straightaway. Ed and Marion are obviously really keen that people enjoy their visit and will lend equipment such as a shower wheelchair or toilet seat raiser (which some places charge for) and they even have a talking microwave and other kitchen equipment for the visually impaired. In fact, when Ed asked if there was anything that would improve the place and I mentioned that the sofa was a bit low, he promptly fetched some feet to go underneath it which raised it up – perfect! The household equipment generally is very good quality – although I’m not sure any two of the glasses matched each other! – however, we have been in some cottages where the kitchen equipment is a bit worn. Here everything was in really good condition and there was all you could need for meal preparation.

Easy access at Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Herefordhsire
Easy access at Valley View cottage, Llangrove, Herefordhsire

The cottage complies with very high levels of accessibility on the National Accessibility Scheme and has been inspected by the Fire Brigade. It has various safety features such as an emergency pull cord in the bathroom and emergency lighting in case of power failure. There are further details and a full accessibility statement on the cottage website.

The walled garden at Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire
The walled garden at Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire

The emergency lights do unfortunately mean that there is some light at night which might disturb some people and the patio could do with some TLC but otherwise the cottage is fabulous and even includes a generous welcome basket including breakfast ingredients, a bottle of wine, home-made cake and marmalade. The cottage can be linked to the ones next door for larger groups. You could hear some noise from through the wall, but not too bad.

St Mary's churchyard, Ross-on-Wye
St Mary’s churchyard, Ross-on-Wye

There are plenty of accessible things to do in the area, such as Symonds Yat – we parked up at Yat Rock and had no problem accessing the lookout point with my scooter – there are also plenty of benches on the way. We also visited the original Hampton Court which has the most amazing walled garden which was fully accessible and my scooter coped fine with the lawned area. Entrance was free for a carer so we only had to pay one entry fee! The woodland trails would have been too much for my scooter though but very nearby is Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum with very attractive woodland and the paths lead to a viewing point with amazing views over the countryside. It is free and even the parking is free for a Blue Badge holder.

By the riverside, Ross-on Wye
By the riverside, Ross-on Wye

Another day we visited Ross on Wye where if you park up by St Mary’s church you can go through the churchyard to a park called The Prospect with, you’ve guessed it, amazing views! We later parked down near the river and there is a riverside path which is easily scootable too and very attractive. The tourist office sent us some leaflets about the area, including a ‘buggy route’ around the town – we didn’t follow all of it, but it’s good to know that they are thinking about accessibility.

Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire
Amazing view at Queenswood Arboretum, Herefordhsire

This is a gorgeous part of the country and Valley View is a great place to stay with plenty of accessible places to visit within easy reach.

View from Yat Rock, Hereforshire
View from Yat Rock, Hereforshire

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.

Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

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.

The auditorium, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
The auditorium, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

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!

Bar area, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Bar area, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

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.

Foyer, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Foyer, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

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.

Café, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Café, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

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!

Russian musicians play faster when it’s cold!

NCEM entrance

Koshka are a trio, Lev Atlas and Oleg Ponomarev on violin and Nigel Clark on guitar, playing Russian gypsy folk, sometimes sinuous and haunting, sometimes jazzy and foot-tapping, always excellent, at least going by last night’s concert at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) in York. We also had a listen to them on youtube in advance.

They were joined for a few numbers by Lev’s daughter (didn’t catch her name!) – Russian folk songs in the first half and a couple of night-club numbers in the second.

We have tended to avoid smaller groups at the NCEM as it needs a bigger sound to fill the place but with music of this quality, it wasn’t a problem, there was so much variety – and some amusing anecdotes in between.

I would definitely recommend catching Koshka if they are appearing near you – I’m sure no one could resist their folky, jazzy sound!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The NCEM is a wonderful venue I have reviewed before as we often go. It is accessible and spacious, has two Blue Badge spaces in the carpark on Percy’s Lane and you can park in the street outside. There is an accessible loo and the staff are very helpful – offering to move chairs if need be for example. They serve drinks beforehand and at the interval and there are leaflets and fliers for other events displayed at an accessible height.

We’ve never been to an event there that wasn’t great, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on their events calendar if you are in the vicinity!

I do like a nice, smooth promenade!

On the prom at Bridlington

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!

Bridlington prom
Bridlington prom

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.

On the prom at Bridlington
On the prom at Bridlington

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: bridlington.tic@eastriding.gov.uk

Bempton Cliffs nearby are also accessible – we decided to save that for warmer weather!

An ace(r) time to visit!

Thorp Perrow
Thorp Perrow
Thorp Perrow

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.

Thorp Perrow
Thorp Perrow

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.

Thorp Perrow
Thorp Perrow

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.

Thorp Perrow
Thorp Perrow