Silver Mountain – A Dragon’s Tale, an Elf and a Bumblebee

During a recent mini-break in Mid Wales we decided to take a scoot out to the Silver Mountain Experience, situated in the beautiful Cambrian Mountains 11 miles outside Aberystwyth. Originally a silver-rich lead ore mine dating from the 19th Century, Silver Mountain has been carefully restored bringing back to life this snapshot of Welsh mining heritage.

The Silver Mountain Experience is now a popular family attraction, combining myths, fantasy, history, tour experiences and interactive activities. Above ground there is lots to see and do, and plenty of exciting/spooky underground adventures too…

The car park is directly next to the reception/shop and there is a designated blue badge parking space. Level access with a slight lip takes you into reception where you will receive a warm welcome, often by characters in costume!

If booking online you save 10% so entry prices are £11.65 for an adult and £8.95 for a child. Disabled visitors pay full price and carers £10.35. On arrival you receive maps and information, and all the tours and activities are explained.

There is a ramp up through the shop and fairly level access to the above ground area. This area is very atmospheric and has retained the feel of the original mining buildings. The surface is level but quite uneven due to the rough terrain and original mining train tracks. This may be a challenge for a wheelchair user.

One of Emily’s favourite things to do is to make a mess or get wet, so she made a beeline for the undercover Gem Panning area where you can pan for gems or gold (and keep any treasures you find).

Emily also loved the Silver River water play area where she had great fun trying to control the water flow, building dams and generally getting soaked again…

 

 

We were then booked onto the Dragon’s Tale Tour, an exciting actor-led adventure following clues to search for a shy dragon named Grotty, who lives somewhere deep underground in the Silver Mountain…

This was a delightful tour, led by the charismatic elf Tanweth. The children are told the story of Grotty before the adventure begins, and the interactive tour involves them searching for clues and cracking the code. I won’t say too much about this magical adventure (no spoilers!) but all the children loved it.

The tour takes about an hour and takes in most of the surface level attractions. This includes a trip up into Woo Hoo Woods where you can spot things along the way including the Giant’s Pan Pipes and Wang Bats colourful umbrellas.

Emily needed a lot of help moving around the surface area, including an incline up into the woods, moving across several bridges, uneven surfaces while moving around and several sets of slate steps. She was able to manage it all though, and it was well worth the challenge.

The final part of the tour is fantastic (again no spoilers…) but having followed all the clues you head into the underground tunnel in your search for Grotty. Here there are quite a number of slate steps to reach the entrance, but there is also a point of level access. Emily needed lots of help in the tunnel as it’s obviously dark and you are walking across the original train tracks, but it is very atmospheric and she loved it.

We finished up with a trip to the coffee shop, where you can find reasonably priced and freshly prepared food. You can also buy snacks and drinks, and there is an outside picnic area.

We didn’t venture on the spooky Black Chasm tour as this is rated 12+, or follow the Miner’s Life tour; but this would definitely warrant a future visit with the boys.

The Silver Mountain Experience is a lovely family attraction, and the Dragon’s Tale tour is of a high standard. We didn’t experience the other tours, but I’m sure they would be of a similar quality. There are additional attractions on the surface level including Fossil Dig, a Mining Museum, trail quizzes and Time Lab. You can also wander around the woods and outside areas.

Access wise Silver Mountain is a little more challenging than more modern attractions, and Emily needed lots of support and physical help due to aspects such as some uneven surfaces, train tracks and inclines in places. This is usually the case whenever we visit somewhere new, and it was a little more physically demanding. However Emily was able to manage and really enjoy the Dragon’s Tale tour and the surface level attractions.

At the moment there are no disabled toilet facilities at Silver Mountain, but this is planned for the future. The nearest facilities are at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre, a short drive from Silver Mountain. The nearest Changing Places facilities are located at the Welsh Assembly Government building in Aberystwyth.

Thank you Silver Mountain for a magical few hours and a trip back in time!

The team at the Silver Mountain Experience kindly offered Emily a complimentary visit to the attraction to take a look at the disabled facilities and access. All views and opinions are our own!

 

Forest Fun at Greenwood!

A trip for Team Bumblebee to the lovely Greenwood Forest Family Park in Snowdonia, which has recently won The North Wales Chronicle award for top family attraction in North Wales for the 7th year running.

The grey drizzly day (come back heatwave all is forgiven) didn’t spoil the day; and having packed both suncream and wellies (we know the multiple weather systems of this part of the world well) we headed off into the forest.

When you arrive at Greenwood the blue badge parking is close to the entrance (turn right when you arrive) and we managed to get a space a stone’s throw from the entrance.

 

We received a  warm welcome when we arrived at the entrance via level access from the car park.  Entrance prices are £15.95 for adults and £15.40 for children 3+, you are entitled to a 50% discount for disabled visitors and their carers. You are provided with a map of the park, and in our case a really clear guide on how to use the Ride Assist pass on supervised rides (which you collect from the Acorn Gift Shop).

First a quick stop off to flex the muscles:

Followed by a dash for the Green Dragon Roller Coaster, the world’s only people-powered rollercoaster. The Ride Assist guide directs you to approach the ranger at the exit point, which is reached by a number of steps. If you are able to walk short distances and manage a fairly small number of steps, accessing the ride this way cuts out quite a long walk to the entrance, and of course the queues.

Calm faces before take-off:

 

Once you are on the rollercoaster hold on tight, it’s faster than it looks, but great for all ages. Loads of screaming and the obligatory unflattering photo on the 360 degree horizontal loop (only £2). If you have the Ride Assist pass you can go around again without having to leave the rollercoaster.

The walk up and down to this part of the forest is fairly steep, as are many of the areas around the forest and you will need to flex your muscles if pushing a pushchair or wheelchair. The paths are a mixture of tarmac and gravel but well-maintained.

Next up was the Great Green Run, a 70 metre (fast!) sledge run. Emily wouldn’t have been able to manage this ride as she would have to ride alone, but luckily the Little Green Run is right next to it. There is a slightly inclined path (with 1 small step) up to the top. It also gave us a good view of the boys terrified faces as they came down the big run…

We then decided to head to the Greenoak restaurant in the main building for some lunch and a warm-up. The food is really good, reasonably priced and served quickly, a bonus with a littlie who isn’t a big fan of sitting still, or even a big one who wants to get to the next ride. There are also picnic areas and snack bars dotted about the park.

After fortifying ourselves we decided it was time to take on Solar Splash, with it’s two 60 metre water slides and 91 metre tube slide (we chickened out of the tube slide…). There are separate queues for the two and the tube queue was noticeably shorter!

This ride can only really be accessed by visitors with a level of mobility as there are 64 steps to the top of the ride tower. This was my most nerve-wracking bit and the 3 of us surrounded Emily to get to the top. There was a casualty but luckily it was only my flip flop which I managed to almost lose on the steps on the way up (I had a similar incident at the Isle of Wight Needles cable car in 1981 so I’ve got form…).

The Solar Splash platform is pretty high, and although the views from the top are stunning, I wasn’t too keen to look down! I wouldn’t have felt confident waiting here with our wobbly escaper as it’s quite open, but using our Ride Assist pass we were able to move to the front of the queue before losing our nerve….

It’s a great ride (video available on my Instagram page!) and we then disembarked on wobbly legs to view the photos which were hilarious (and again only £2).

A short stroll (again up a relatively steep hill) to Moon Karts where you can ride on a single or double pedal-powered moonkart. I think the ‘child’ in this picture enjoyed themselves..

 

Just along from Moon Karts is Woodland Rovers, which is a new 4 x 4 driving course through a Woodland circuit. They both loved this and we had to go back a further 2 times! It’s £2 per car for the ride, one of the very few rides which has an additional cost, but is well worth it. Emily needed to be lifted in and out of the landrovers but was very happy to be a passenger making full use of the horn.

A trip downhill next to the Enchanted River Ride. You can use your Ride Assist pass to approach the ride by entering via the exit, with 1 small step down to the jetty. Again Emily needed to be lifted into the boat and it does rock slightly as you all sit down. A nice gentle ride through the forest using the oars and overhead ropes to help you (and on this occasion a bumper car ride with the boat in front who couldn’t quite grasp the directional requirements…)

There are lots of great activities and events at Greenwood including daily shows in the Forest theatre, den building, an indoor playbarn, face painting, miniature tractor rides, Dragon Maze, Archery, Magic Chair and Treetops Tower park. There is something for everyone, even if you’re not too much of an adrenaline junkie…

We didn’t brave some of the attractions because of the drizzly weather (including the Giant Jumper and Barefoot Trail) but plenty of hardy souls were squelching their way around and having a great time.

All in all a great family day out, even on a grey day. There are activities and rides for all ages, set in a lovely woodland setting. It’s easy to find your way around using child friendly maps and signs. There are special events and family fun evenings on throughout the season.

Although not all areas are accessible for visitors with a physical disability, the park are very open about this in their Access Statement, describing the partial access feel to the park. As much as possible is done to accommodate this with level access to indoor areas, well maintained paths and Ride Assist passes. There are some fairly steep hills to navigate and these may be difficult if pushing a manual wheelchair.

There were areas we knew Emily wouldn’t be able to access prior to our visit, but also knew there was plenty she would be able to access with our help. Days out for us always involve lifting Emily in and out of things, or helping her with various physical aspects so we didn’t mind this; and Greenwood do everything they can to make the forest as accessible as possible.

(It would be worth reading all the access information and contacting the park if you have a wheelchair user in your party just to ensure you can access as much as possible.)

There are disabled toilet facilities at Greenwood, and a lovely clean First Aid Room with a full size bed located in the shop which you are welcome to use. The nearest Changing Places facilities if you require a hoist are at Pilas Palas Nature World at Menai Bridge, approximately 4 miles away.

All the staff at Greenwood are really friendly and helpful, and you receive a very warm welcome.

And of course don’t forget your trip to the Acorn gift shop with level access as you leave, the highlight of any attraction we visit with our 2…

So pack your suncream and wellies and head down to this beautiful corner of North Wales, only an hour from Chester and easily accessed by the A55. Even better head down for a holiday in the beautiful Snowdonia area (OK I’m biased) and see the numerous attractions this special part of the world has which will keep you and the whole family happy. Visit at any time of the year and you will always find plenty to do. Happy Holidays!

 

We were kindly invited by Mark and the team to visit Greenwood for the day and take a look at the disabled access and facilities. All views and opinions expressed are those of the Bumblebee team!

 

 

 

 

 

Welsh Porridge – on wheels

This time a trip to Ruthin Gaol, the first Pentonville style prison in the UK, tucked away in the picturesque historical town of Ruthin, North Wales! Yet another local attraction we have somehow seemed to miss, and in fact winner of a Visit Wales hidden gem award for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Originally built as a ‘House of Correction ‘ in the 1650s , it has a colourful history, finally closing as a prison in 1916. Following extensive renovation work in 2002 it re-opened as a unique visitor experience, where you can learn about life in the Victorian Prison system (and hopefully have your one and only experience of being inside a real prison).

Apologies if my historical facts are a bit off, not always easy to read and digest information boards when your eyes are somewhere in the back of your head looking for the great escaper…

This time our trip also included my Dad, a sometimes wheelchair user, so we also needed to see how a prison wing constructed in 1878 would accommodate modern wheels. I contacted the Gaol in advance to find out where the parking is, and how good access is for wheelchairs as there isn’t too much information on this online.

When you arrive at Ruthin Gaol, the disabled parking is situated inside the lower gate and level access is via the upper gate (a very short walk).

From the moment you arrive at the Gaol, you couldn’t ask for a warmer welcome from the two ladies in the shop/reception! Entry is very reasonable (£14 for a family ticket) and disabled visitors can be accompanied by a carer with free entry.

There are lovely activities for the children who were presented with a clipboard detective trail for the Gaol.  For the older children there is a genealogy style trail which is both fun whilst searching for the faces, but also really interesting in terms of finding out about inmates. For the younger ones there is a teddy bear trail searching for 6 different teddies hidden inside the Gaol.

I’m not going to say too much about the history as you go around or add too many photos as it’s much more fun to explore these yourself!

It was suggested we start in the basement, so we took the lift down from reception. The lift is big enough for 1 wheelchair and 1 extra person. The steps down are fairly steep and curve halfway down, but there is a solid handrail.

It’s fair to say there is a bit of a wow factor when you enter into the basement. There are lots of different cells and things to look at, a schoolroom area for the unfortunate children who had to go into prison with their parents, a dressing up area, lots of historical artefacts, information boards…..I could go on and on!

Unfortunately the doorways into the cells are too narrow for a modern wheelchair to fit through but there really isn’t any way these could be adapted! You still have a good view into the cells and lots of information and artefacts are in the main area. The slate floor is slightly uneven and may be a slight trip hazard, but a wheelchair can still be pushed with ease.

At the far end of the basement is another lift which takes you to the upper floor, or a steel staircase with a handrail on one side. A wow factor greets you on the upper level! Again lots to see up here, and interestingly a modern cell to compare with the cells seen downstairs. There is also a cell with information on the period during World War II when the Gaol was used as a munitions factory.

You then retrace your steps back to reception, where there are steps down to the kitchen, or wheelchair access is via an outside ramp. There is one small area which is not wheelchair accessible.

Finally a return trip to the shop where the big and small one received a sticker and postcard for completing their trails, and ripped me off for the obligatory gift shop tat (always the highlight of any visit).

On a very wet and grey day this was a great way to spend an interesting and fun hour or two. No easy task finding an attraction which is enjoyable and interesting for the whole age range, and has wheelchair/disabled access. Ruthin Gaol definitely ticks those boxes, and the warm welcome you receive and clear explanations of how to negotiate the building really do help.

The Gaol also has themed ghost hunting evenings (if you dare), storytelling sessions in the summer holidays, or Halloween events in October half-term.

Access for wheelchairs is generally good, many areas are quite narrow so you may need to check in advance if using a powered wheelchair or mobility scooter. There is no accessible toilet within the Gaol but there are disabled toilets in Market Street. Unfortunately there are no local Changing Places facilities.

Beware if you have a wobbly escaper, or even a non-wobbly little escaper. There is open access to various sets of steps and it’s a little dark downstairs so you have to keep a close eye.

A brilliant trip if you are looking to entertain a wide range of ages, great for a wet day but there is also a picnic area outside reception in the exercise yard. A lovely park just down the road and delicious chips across the road! Ruthin is also worth a wander around, a lovely historical town with cafes and independent shops. Some pavements are quite narrow and the road up from the Gaol is quite steep for a wheelchair so you may need to move your car.

Prepare to be spooked, entertained and warmly welcomed; and don’t worry you won’t have to eat Welsh porridge as long as you behave….