Hoewal, Rhydolion Holidays – a guest reviewer!

Take a look at this fab review by a guest writer – the lovely Jools telling us all about her trip to stay at Hoewal Cottage at Rhydolion Holidays on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, a really detailed and helpful review for those with accessibility requirements!

Time of stay: 2019.
Staying – 4 adults, including one permanent wheelchair user.

We booked through the “Best of Wales” holiday cottage booking site, looking specifically for an adapted cottage. We booked their six-bed cottage, though our party comprised of only four adults. Our daughter and son-in-law have stayed in adapted accommodation multiple times before, and have noted that for some people, the word “adapted” can be a very loose term. However, the booking gave the option of three different shower chairs for the wetroom, as well as a hoist for the bedroom attached. It also promised level access throughout, so it looked as though our wheelchair user would be accommodated for.

We were heading for Rhydolion from two different places in the UK, and although the booking form stated that parking was available on site, we thought it as well to check that there would be two spaces available. Rhydolion is a working farm, as well as being a holiday site, but we were assured there would be ample space to put both vehicles without compromising the day-to-day running of the farm.

We arrived at Rhydolion on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and were utterly delighted with what we found. As promised there was more than enough parking, and right outside the door of “Hoewal”, the cottage where we were staying. It was part of a complex of four cottages and a games room, ranged around one half of the large yard, which were clearly converted sections of the farmhouse and farm outbuildings. “Hoewal” had evidently had an extension which, it transpired, was to facilitate the inclusion of the wetroom.

The front door opened into a large lounge, which included a log burner at one end of it. This space opened into a dining area, from which access to the enclosed yard was gained via patio doors. At the other side of the dining area was a galley kitchen, which had plenty of space for wheelchair access and a large larder-style fridge-freezer, as well as a modern, well-appointed kitchen supplied with a washing machine, dryer, microwave and toaster, as well as a halogen hob and electric oven.

The bedroom with wetroom was accessed via a door from the lounge, and the double bed in the room had the advantage of being an electric adjustable bed. The large wetroom opened up off this bedroom, giving privacy and ample space for changing etc.

The other bedrooms and a second bathroom were accessed from the opposite side of the lounge, via a short hallway. The double room had access for a wheelchair at one side of the bed, and the twin room easily accommodated a wheelchair as well. The second bathroom contained a jacuzzi bath and the toilet in this bathroom had adjustable grab rails around it.

Our wheelchair user immediately set about exploring the cottage, and was delighted to be able to access every room with ease. He was pleased to see how much space there was in all the rooms, as he has found in other accommodation that it hasn’t been possible for him to get about everywhere within the building.

The cottage was beautifully decorated and very comfortable. The gas central heating boiler was in a wooden cupboard in the corridor towards the second bathroom, and the cottage was cosy throughout the cool evenings in early May. On arrival, we found a plate of home-made bara brith waiting for us, along with a jug of fresh milk alongside tea and coffee – a lovely, thoughtful touch from the owners. On reading Rhydolion’s own website, it transpires that Kathryn makes celebration cakes to order, for anyone booking the cottages for a special birthday or anniversary.

There was free wifi in the cottage, of sufficient capacity to accommodate the usage required by all four of us. The views from the adapted bedroom and from the enclosed yard were gorgeous, uninterrupted vistas of Llyn Peninsula farmland. At night it was so quiet we could hear the waves crashing on to Hell’s Mouth beach (Porth Neigwl on the maps) about a mile away across the fields, and the skies were so dark it felt as though we could see halfway across the galaxy. We watched shooting stars and satellites most nights, as the weather was kind to us and stayed sunny on most days.

The farm also has a field across the lane from the farmyard for camping and for touring caravans, the laundry room for which is at the other end of the run of cottages from “Hoewal”. The games room is a shared facility for the camping/caravanning area and the cottages. Behind the enclosed yard at “Hoewal” is the play area for both sets of visitors, but as we were staying during term time we didn’t see or hear many little ones.

There was an extensive information folder in the cottage, giving details not only of the cottage and its facilities, but the history of the area, and places to visit and eat in the locality.

Abersoch village is an easy five-minute drive away through the lanes, but due to its restricted parking and lack of grocery shops (it has become a tourist village in the years since I visited with family as a child), we shopped in Pwllheli, about a quarter of an hour away by car.

Pwllheli’s central carpark has free parking for blue badge vehicles, and is the site of the weekly market on a Wednesday. It is well served with shops, having a good mix of big brand retailers (Lidl, B&M, Home Bargains, Subway) as well as smaller local shops. “Buffers” café at the railway station was soon a firm favourite, and the staff there were very accommodating for the large motorized chair our wheelchair user employed to help him travel around when we went out. They have a large undercover area behind the café, between the café and the railway station, supplied with fleece blankets for cooler days if you want to sit outside, but which had plenty of space and was easily accessed from the main building. Note – this area is not completely enclosed, and is part of the access for the railway station. Small or adventurous children would need close supervision in the outdoor seating area.

Rhydolion’s owners were very friendly and solicitous, chatting with us whenever they saw us, and always mentioning that if we needed anything, we should feel free to knock at the farmhouse door.

We can thoroughly recommend Rhydolion. Indeed, our wheelchair user stated that he had never before stayed in such ideal accommodation, and that he would be happy to move in there at a moment’s notice.

Sunshine in Port Sunlight

The hunt for somewhere a) fun for all 4 of us, b) somewhere that isn’t linked to cricket or basketball but is interesting to an 11 year old and c) accessible, is a regular challenge… Looking for something to do for an hour or two on a rare cricket-free Sunday, we decided to pay a visit to Port Sunlight Village on the Wirral, only a short distance away from us. There was some access information on the website, whether or not it would entertain an 11 year old and 7 year old remained to be seen….

What a lovely little place, as soon as you turn off the main road across the Wirral, you are transported back in time. Port Sunlight is a quaint and peaceful village built in 1888 by William Hesketh Lever to provide housing for the workers in his ‘Sunlight Soap’factory. Today the village has a museum, art gallery, beautiful gardens and a thriving community.

We started with a visit to the Port Sunlight Museum, parking was brilliant as we easily found a free spot outside the museum. There is level access to the museum, and the reception, exhibitions and shop are all on the ground floor. There is an accessible toilet and a lift to the tea room on the first floor. Entrance fee is very reasonable and there are carer/disabled visitor concessions.

The museum is fab for all ages, and you can take as long or as little as you like to wander around. The history and story of Port Sunlight is absolutely fascinating, I can honestly say I am a bit hooked *obsessed* and want to find out more…I won’t spoil the story too much by giving detail of all the exhibitions but not only will you find out more about Port Sunlight’s fascinating history including the architecture and the lively social scene, but also find out more about The Beatles, World War II and early marketing strategies for soap!

There is plenty for children to do with interactive activities. Our 2 were overly mystified by the concept of a phone that you couldn’t walk around with or check the cricket scores on…

After a wander around the shop we paid a visit to Number 22 next door, an opportunity to take a step back in time to a worker’s cottage furnished as it would have been in Edwardian times.

I think recreated spaces are wonderful at helping children really get a feel for history, and a trial run of wash day gave them an appreciation of the modern day washing machine!

After visiting Number 22 we were ready to hit the tea shop. The café at the Port Sunlight Museum was closed for a private function but the friendly staff directed us to the café at the very accessible Lady Lever Art Gallery directly across the road. We then had a wander around the open areas outside the museum and gallery just as the sunshine finally made an appearance, before (reluctantly *for me*) heading back into the 21st Century.

Next stop Portmeirion and Bournville to satisfy my new model village obsession….

A Flying Bumblebee chat with……Hannah’s Hope!

Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with Hannah Deakin! Hannah is 28 years old and is a disability blogger over at ‘Hannah’s Hope’. Hannah suffered an injury as a young teenager, went on to develop several illnesses and secondary complications, and as a result is now a powerchair user. Hannah fundraises for Starlight Children’s Foundation and is a Disability Ambassador for the White Lodge Centre. She is also a public speaker and runs workshops raising awareness of disability.

Hannah very kindly agreed to take part in my mini-interview series and has shared her accessible travel tales!

When and where did you have your first holiday following your injury and after becoming a powerchair user? How did you feel before you went and was it how you expected?

My first holiday following my injury and becoming a powerchair user was my Starlight wish in 2013. I had not been on holiday since 2005, so for my wish I asked to go on a family holiday. We went to London for just under a week and it was amazing. Although I had spent many years in London, it was in hospital there, so it was lovely to actually see it! We were lucky that most things were organised by Starlight, so a lot of stress was taken away. Mum and Dad went up to the hotel prior to our stay to do a recki, check what they had there and that everything would work! Luckily, it wasn’t too far to do that as you couldn’t really do that if you were going abroad! I was really excited before the trip. It was my first holiday in 8 years! I was also slightly apprehensive that everything was going to work. It was amazing. Lovely to have a break and do enjoyable things. I have since been on a family holiday to Winchester. It worked so well we have been there twice.

Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday that is suitable for your whole party but can also meet your accessibility needs?

Yes, definitely. We like a hotel as opposed to self-catering accommodation, it means we don’t need to worry about shopping and cooking, everyone can have more of a break and it is one less thing to worry about. Many hotels though, do not have the facilities I require. Some hotels that are more set up for disabilities, often seem like they are more for the elderly and I am 28! Others, could accommodate my needs but are more institutionalised with many visitors with learning disabilities. They look wonderful for some people and I am glad they are out there, but I am mentally very bright and able, I just have high physical needs.
Also they would not fit my parents needs either and we like to try and do what a family without a disability wants to on holiday, and emphasise my ability not disability.

What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!

Our top requirements are that the hotel is wheelchair accessible, has a wet room, interconnecting rooms, somewhere that will take their bed out so we can put a hired electric bed and air mattress in, car parking and somewhere that is not too far distance wise. It is important that there is somewhere nearby that we can hire equipment from (electric bed and air mattress). Nice food is also important! We struggle to find places that meet these requirements.

What reassurances would you offer other travellers with a disability considering their first holiday or accessible day out?

It is difficult and challenging to find accessible breaks, but it is great to have a break, have a day out or a holiday. I recommend researching and planning as much as possible to avoid unexpected hurdles. Start somewhere fairly local and then spread your wings further a field!

And finally……How would you summarise, “Holiday Happiness?”

I would summarise holiday happiness as a relaxing break with easy accessibility, friendly and accommodating staff, warm weather with sunshine (but not too hot), local attractions and places of interest to visit and good food. Somewhere that meets my requirements, so makes the day to day aspects easy so we can enjoy the break.

A big thank you to Hannah for taking the time to tell me more about her accessible adventures and for sharing fantastic tips and reassurances for other travellers!

Buzz on over to Hannah’s blog for more info and her social media links x

www.hannahdeakin.blogspot.com

Fab but hilly! Center Parcs Woburn Forest

Just a mini review this time following our recent trip to Center Parcs Woburn Forest. I wasn’t planning to write a review as there are plenty to be found online, but having visited I wanted to mention a couple of accessibility-related tips! Owing to a comedy of errors including a forgotten camera battery, a cracked (and continuing to slowly crack) phone screen and a wildfire stomach bug we have almost no photos…This is 1 of only 2 which contain real life people.

We have visited Center Parcs Sherwood Forest a couple of times in the past and found it really accessible (and flat!) There is accessibility information available online for Woburn Forest. The one part of it that seemed to pass us by was the hilly nature of the site! It wouldn’t necessarily put us off a return visit, but a flat site is a lot easier when taking mobility into consideration.

We stayed in a lovely 3 bedroomed Woodland Lodge which had great level access and was very spacious inside.

We didn’t choose to stay in an adapted lodge but the en-suite shower was really spacious.

The only step was from the patio doors out to the barbecue and seating area. In retrospect it would have been a good idea to request an area at the back which was flat, the wooded area behind the lodge would be fab for children to explore but not ideal when a wobbly 7 year is attempting to scramble up unaided…

The main thing I wanted to mention for those who need accessibility tips is the hilly nature of the site! We were at the top of a 10% gradient hill which recommended cyclists dismount on the way down, so you can imagine how unlikely it was that the unfit adults could cycle back up again! Quite embarrassing when small children and pensioners were overtaking but moving on…

Emily isn’t able to ride a bike yet so we use a trailer when out and about. It was pretty impossible to pull that up the steep hill!

There is a shuttle bus service for guests with mobility difficulties which can transport you around the village, and has wheelchair access. We used this one evening as there was no way Emily could manage the walk back, particularly up the hill!

I had a chat with guest services about the location of the adapted lodges, although I think if we were to return to Woburn it would actually be more important to get a good (level) location near the Village Square. The lady in guest services recommended contacting Head Office when booking to ensure your lodge meets your needs.

We are big fans of Center Parcs but hadn’t last visited since Emily was 1 so hadn’t thought about the actual physical layout of the site. We loved our trip and it’s a great place to visit, but if you have accessibility needs make sure you are placed somewhere level!

And of course who needs a £250m Center Parcs site to explore when the Parc Market has mini trolleys?….

A Flying Bumblebee chat with…. An Ambitious Turtle!

Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with an Ambitious Turtle – otherwise known as Fi Anderson! Fi is a mum of 2 little girls living in the UK, who also manages to squeeze in being an active disability campaigner and an award-winning disability blogger. Fi has the progressive muscle-wasting condition Muscular Dystrophy and works in a variety of roles including as a Transport Ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy UK, and being involved in many campaigns around accessible travel, toileting and housing. Fi is also co-founder of The Minicore Project, and works as a motivational speaker, panellist and guest blogger.

Fi often blogs about her accessible transport experiences as a power wheelchair user and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her family adventures and accessible travel. One of my aims is to share our personal family adventures with other families or disabled travellers, and I thought it would be fascinating to include Fi’s experiences as a young parent with a disability.

Where was your very first holiday or day out with Abbie and Ava? How did you feel before you went and was it how you expected?

Our very first family holiday was in August 2016 to Roquetas de Mar, Costa Almeria Spain when Abbie was just 4 and Ava 10 months old. I was insanely anxious despite going through every step of the way with a fine toothed comb, ringing around, double – triple checking that the airline, transfers, hotel etc all knew our needs exactly and that everything was set for our journey. The holiday itself was amazing, we made some wonderful memories. The only thing I’d say is the trip cemented the notion that everybodys version of what “accessible” actually means is different!

For example I was excited to get in the pool at the hotel, only I needed a pool-side hoist. On the hotels website and via the gentleman I spoke to on the phone both stated the pool had ramped access. Which I took to mean it had a ramp to use a water proof wheelchair to literally roll down into the pool. When we got there and saw it for ourselves there was noway what so ever a completely non-ambulant guest could access that pool. It was ramped to the raised pools edge, then you have to be able to get up out your chair and sit on the pool edge, and launch yourself in like an able individual.

Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday or day out which is both suitable for you as a family but can also meet your needs?

Yes, this was a huge obstacle! As a Mum I was on the hunt for a package holiday with lots of fun things for the kids to do at the hotel and surrounding around, but I also needed an accessible hotel room with a wet-room. For without I wouldn’t of been able to shower at all for the whole 2 weeks we were there. Just like in the UK, there was a severe lack of wheelchair accessible hotel rooms that also would allow for an additional bed for our eldest.

I came up against a crazy “health and safety” rule on why hotels with accessible rooms wouldn’t allow for an additional bed to be placed within for a child, this was because their hotel insurance states its a high risk factor if wheelchair users don’t have x amount of room to manoeuvre around. I get that but it’s almost as if they don’t expect disabled people to go on holiday with their immediate family. In the end I did find a hotel willing to put an extra bed and cot in their accessible room, but I had to upgrade it to a superior room to bypass the health and safety issue and that cost us a lot more than we budgeted for.

What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!

Accessible room which would allow for an extra pull out bed and travel cot. The same accessible room’s bathroom to have a wheel-in-shower vs a bath. Lots of things for the kids to do but good for wheelchair access. Ability to get in the pool with my girls.

Finding an accessible family room was the most stressful and time consuming. I used Enable Holidays to judge what may work access wise and tried to find the same hotel on budget holiday websites to avoid the disability holiday price tag that comes with doing through a disabled persons travel agent. It saved me over £1,500 doing all the leg work myself when I compared the same holiday with a company like Enable Holidays.

What reassurances would you offer parents with a disability who are considering their first family holiday?

As long as you do your research and know your own needs, it’s totally do-able! There’s an awful lot of leg work if you do it yourself to save some pennies but once you’re on that beach with your family it’ll all have been worth it!

And finally……For you all as a family, “Holiday Happiness is……?”

Holiday Happiness is the ultimate pay off to everyday struggles and a chance to focus on your loved ones making unforgettable memories.

Thanks to Fi for giving such an inspiring account of her family holiday experience, I would most definitely second the notion that people’s version of ‘accessible’ can vary quite dramatically! A perfect example of exactly why access information really needs to be so much more detailed, allowing individuals to make their own decisions on whether it really is accessible for them.

Buzz on over to Fi’s website and social media links to find out more.

www.lifeofanambitiousturtle.co.uk

Sandcastle Santa!

A trip to a magical Christmas Woodland this time, courtesy of the wonderful charity The Sandcastle Trust. Their annual ‘Sandcastle Santa’ event means that dozens of families living with a rare genetic condition can choose a Santa experience near to them, and The Sandcastle Trust will make that Christmassy dream come true!

(Apologies for date stamp on photos!!!)

We chose to visit ‘Christmas Woodland’ at Blakemere Village in Cheshire. Christmas Woodland includes woodland theatre, magical characters, snowy scenes, songs, paths through fairy lit trees, a white unicorn and ends with meeting the big man himself in the North Pole.

There are good parking facilities at Blakemere and it was only a short walk down to the Cheshire Outdoors Centre where the journey begins. The entertainment starts as you are guided by your comical elf down to meet Furbal the Elf to introduce you to the story and journey ahead through the magical rainbow entrance. (Very impressed to see Makaton being used here!)


Although the hunt for Santa and the magic of Christmas takes place in the woods, it was very accessible and mostly a fairly level walk, other than some slight inclines, obligatory tree roots and rabbit holes. It was quite muddy and boggy, so even though it’s accessible for buggies, it probably wasn’t always an easy push. Emily needed her hand held all the way round as she doesn’t tend to see or adapt to slight inclines or changes in terrain, and would lose her balance very easily.

On your way around you meet lots of magical characters including a Scottish owl, Jack Frost, and even a white unicorn (won’t say too much incase it’s a spoiler!); and lots of quirky Alice in Wonderland style touches…

The trip ends with your arrival at the North Pole where you meet Santa and the children have the opportunity for a chat and to receive their gift.

We were then taken to the warm home of Mrs Christmas, a welcome chance to escape the freezing rain! In here you are entertained by Mrs Christmas and her elves, and the children decorate some yummy gingerbread men. On the way out parents even receive a gift of a bottle of local ale or a large Christmas candle!

At the end of Christmas Woodland is the opportunity to try some ice-skating and toast marshmallows on the firepit. We chose to miss out on this as we were so cold, and escaped to the Blakemere restaurant for a delicious Sunday Carvery! Again, good disabled access.

On your way around the Christmas Woodland there are lots of nice Christmassy touches to enjoy while you make your trip through the woods to meet Father Chrismas.

The Santa Experience at Christmas Woodland is £19.95 per person, or £27.50 for the Ultimate Santa Experience (which includes ice skating, gingerbread decorating and gifts for all).

It was fantastic to see Makaton around the Christmas Woodland, Blakemere worked with the Makaton Charity in order to promote this at their venue, a brilliant example of inclusion.

Thank you to the Sandcastle Trust, Christmas Woodland at Blakemere, and of course the big man himself – Father Christmas. Merry Christmas to you all!