A garden especially for this time of year!

There are a few gates to negotiate

Breezy Knees 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 on wheels.

Even the approach to Breezy Knees Gardens is colourful!
Even the approach to Breezy Knees Gardens is colourful!

We 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.

September Garden, Breezy Knees
September Garden, Breezy Knees

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.

There are a few gates to negotiate
There are a few gates to negotiate

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!

Rather narrow loo doorway!
Rather narrow loo doorway!
Accessible loo, Breezy Knees
Accessible loo, Breezy Knees
The car park, Breezy Knees
The car park, Breezy Knees

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.

You could use this as a drop-off point if the gravel car park is a problem
You could use this as a drop-off point if the gravel car park is a problem

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.

Plenty of autumn colour at Breezy Knees
Plenty of autumn colour at Breezy Knees

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.

What can I say?
What can I say?

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 weather.

Gravel path, Breezy Knees
Gravel path, Breezy Knees

This visit was a lovely experience all round: seeing so many beautiful flowers and shrubs was very restorative in these chaotic times!

September Garden, Breezy Knees
September Garden, Breezy Knees

Here are some more accessible places to visit.

More than just waterlilies

The Upper Lake, Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

The Upper Lake, Burnby Hall Gardens
The Upper Lake, Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

The Rock Garden, Burnby Hall Gardens
The Rock Garden, Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

Accessible viewing platform at Burnby Hall Gardens
Accessible viewing platform at Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

Smooth paths at Burnby Hall Gardens
Smooth paths at Burnby Hall Gardens

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 café, Burnby Hall Gardens
The café, Burnby Hall Gardens
Accessible loo at Burnby Hall Gardens
Accessible loo at Burnby Hall Gardens

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 Stewart Museum, Burnby Hall Gardens
The Stewart Museum, Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

The Victorian Garden, Burnby Hall Gardens
The Victorian Garden, Burnby Hall Gardens

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.

Click here for lots more accessible places to visit.

The Balloon Tree – accessible farm shop and café

Café at The Balloon Tree

This is a popular place! Even early on a Tuesday lunchtime, the café was pretty packed but we nabbed a table by the window and had a very tasty lunch, served by pleasant staff, before, inevitably, buying some take-home treats from the deli!

The Balloon Tree , Gate Helmsley
The Balloon Tree , Gate Helmsley

It was a bit early in the season for much home-grown veg, but that part of the shop was still well-stocked: not sure if some of it was imported, but they do generally sell locally-grown produce. The deli part sells cold meats, cheese, salads, bread, cakes, ready meals both fresh and frozen and loads more. Their website has details about their ethos of “fewer food miles – more farm yards.”

Entrance to The Balloon Tree
Entrance to The Balloon Tree

Access was easy: the car park had quite a few Blue Badge spaces although they were all full when we arrived but we managed to park on the end of a row so there was room to get out. Entry was easy: low thresholds that my powerchair could manage easily and although the produce part of the shop was a little tight, you could get round although it would be impossible to pass anybody else who was in there. The deli had more space and most of the shelves were easily reachable. The staff would have been happy to help if not.

Easy, level access at The Balloon Tree
Easy, level access at The Balloon Tree

The café tables were the sort where you can easily sit at them in a wheelchair. There was plenty of room as we headed to the table, although on the way back I needed a chair to be moved so I could get through but people were happy to help. They do hot meals as well as sandwiches, paninis, baked potatoes and homemade cakes. Many of the cakes are also sold in the shop so you can enjoy them at home too.

Café at The Balloon Tree
Café at The Balloon Tree

There is seating outside as well as a children’s play area and some animals to see and feed.

The Balloon Tree was easy to find, on the A166 just past Gate Helmsley. We’ll definitely be going back!

Other accessible places to eat.

Fabulous view!

Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank
Sutton Bank

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.

Rhododendron time!

Moorlands, York

A friend once told me that our family had a thing about making the most of rhododendron time and I must say I do seem to have a deep-rooted sense that you ought to get out there and see daffodils, bluebells, blossom,

Moorlands, York
Moorlands, York

rhododendrons, roses etc when they are looking their best!

So after not going there for years, we went to Moorlands to the north of York

to see the rhododendrons! It had rained a little that morning so there was the most glorious damp woodsy smell but the sun was now out and so were the birds – there must have been hundreds of them singing their heads off and we very clearly heard a cuckoo calling. There were plenty of rhododendrons and azaleas in bloom but also

Moorlands, York
Moorlands, York

plenty yet to flower so it would be worth visiting in the next couple of weeks.

It is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and it is not large so makes a good short visit – there is a circular route which takes you past a couple of ponds as well as through the woods and for the able-bodied, there’s a bird hide up some steps. There are plenty of benches and carved posts showing you the wildlife to look out for (we spotted a couple of bunnies!) as well as information boards about the wildlife and the history of the place. The YWT also manage Askham Bog which we visited earlier in the year.

In very wet weather I can imagine Moorlands would be very muddy but despite the morning’s rain, when we went it was just damp albeit with a few easily-avoided puddles. The path is mainly just earth: a little uneven in places but nothing drastic, largely flat and with room for passing. The main obstacle is a kissing-gate at the entrance, but I was able to negotiate it on my scooter with a three-point turn. (OK, maybe slightly more than three!) Parking is by the roadside outside the gate – there is space for about a dozen cars and the road is quiet so it was all perfectly easy.

Entrance to Moorlands
Entrance to Moorlands

I definitely recommend this for a visit at any time but especially at this time of year – rhododendron time!

Possibly the best view in the world!

Swaledale

Swaledale
Swaledale

Certainly the best view in Gunnerside, maybe in the whole of Swaledale. If this cottage, the Garth, had been wonderfully accessible I would have been inclined to keep it to myself but as it turned out, it did have its downsides. We booked it through Yorkshire Cottages although you can do it through Owners Direct which has some different and more recent photos.

Getting in and out involves a couple of steps, not very deep ones but no handrail and when wet, rather slippery. Inside was so huge (it sleeps 6) I used my trusty Luggie scooter to get around between rooms! The house was designed to make the most of the fabulous views and has huge windows in every room, most of which look over, up or down the dale.

View from terrace
View from terrace

There is a shower cabinet as well as a bath but with rather a high step up into it, otherwise everything is fine – they obviously take note of comments in the visitors’ book as new sofas and reading lamps have been added. The décor is somewhat dated (actually, very dated!) but it’s all pretty comfortable and very well-equipped. The first evening in a cottage is always cold in our experience, even though this place has central heating rather than storage heaters. There is a real fire, so we stoked that up then didn’t need it the rest of the time as it was perfectly cosy.

The Garth, Gunnerside
The Garth is the cottage with the inverted v shape eaves

I’m not sure about accessible things to do in the area – we did everything there is to do before access was an issue, so looking at the stunning views is the main thing we do now! Anyone wanting recommendations for things to do or where to buy things, do ask. One of the things we did was the route from Langthwaite to Low Row which takes you through the ‘watersplash’ from the opening shots of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ – it’s a fabulous route with amazing views. This is a bit tame but something new we tried was the fish and chip van which comes up the dale and stops in Gunnerside on a Friday night – wow, best we’ve had for a long time. Supporting local businesses is always a good thing! There are of course walks galore, including investigating the industrial ruins of the area’s lead-mining past – it is this mix of natural and industrial heritage which makes the dale so attractive in my view.

So the quest for an accessible dales cottage continues – I was gutted that this one is not really suitable but new cottages appear all the time, so here’s hoping! I hope you like the posed picture with the bottle of wine – not a bad view from your kitchen!

Posed picture from kitchen
Posed picture from kitchen

We drove over the amazing Buttertubs pass to get home – no view this time due to the weather but, trust me, it is staggering.

Fabulous music venue!

NCEM entrance

Söndörgő are a Hungarian group, comprising three brothers, their cousin and a school friend who play folk tunes from Hungary and other countries on various sized tambura – a mandolin-like instrument  – and also on the flute, clarinet, drum, double-base and various other exotic instruments as well as vocals now and then too. Sometimes quiet and melodic at other times fast and furious, they are versatile and well worth catching if they tour the UK again! Have a taster! CDs were on sale on the night.

NCEM2
NCEM interior (with a different band!)

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) is a brilliantly accessible venue with a ramp and then heaps of space inside. OK, the thresholds meant a bit of a bump but nothing drastic and it was easy to find a place to sit then put my Luggie scooter to one side or if you were in a wheelchair you could easily site it at the end of a row or move a chair out of the way. As we entered the auditorium, staff offered to help should we need it. In fact, the evening we were there for Söndörgő, there were three people using wheels of various kinds. There is an accessible loo and leaflets are displayed at a reachable height. They also do refreshments: beer, wine, soft drinks etc before the show and during the interval.

NCEMWe have been to the NCEM many times and have never had a duff experience although we always choose bands with at least four musicians as there was one occasion when there were only three and though lovely, the music did sound a little thin. We have seen some groups which you could describe as ‘early’ music (medieval Spanish) but mostly we’ve see what I guess you would call world music: Indian, Jewish, Eastern European – they have a huge variety! It’s a wonderful venue, being a converted church and with the friendly staff and great music there is always a lovely atmosphere.

http://www.ncem.co.uk/