An Alpine Adventure

So a visit to try out the Sno-tubes at Llandudno Ski and Snowboard Centre this time, and we were lucky enough to have a gloriously sunny day (also cold which fitted well with the theme)…A pretty steep drive up lands you in the car park at the ski centre, and the uphill terror ride (yes that’s an exaggeration) is rewarded with a fabulous view of Llandudno and a surprisingly tropical looking Irish Sea.

The disabled parking is on the left close to the centre, the car park itself is pretty rocky and uneven (it is on top of a craggy Great Orme though). It would probably be very difficult in a wheelchair, but as I keep reminding myself the reviews aren’t focused solely on wheelchair access and it’s hopefully about highlighting the aspects that are accessible even if you have some mobility difficulties.

We made our way straight down to the slope where the sno-tubes are set out, there is a ramped bridge followed by a walk across a grassed, slightly uneven area.

As big fans of Makaton and of course Mr Tumble, we had been able to prepare Emily in advance by watching (for the 247th time) the episode where they visit Craigavon Ski Centre to try out sno-tubes; and had learnt the Makaton sign.

We watched big bro whizz down first, as Emily always needs to see things for herself before trying them out and it always helps if he does a demonstration. Luckily she’s pretty much an adrenaline junkie so once she’d seen it for herself she was happy to hop in. We were a bit unsure when told she had to ride alone, so started her off lower down the slope for the first go…

Emily loved the ride down, then just needed help to pull the tube to the end of the slope until everyone in the group had travelled down. Next up is the walk back to the top with your tube.

I had emailed in advance about the height of the sno-tube slope, and was told it is 80m but that adults can help with the walk up. Turn number 1 Daddy thought he would pull Emily up, but safe to say after an uphill workout it was a 2 man job the next time with one of us walking up with Emily and one pulling the tube…

We were then able to have a go at travelling down in a group with a bit of spinning thrown in (luckily not fast enough to be thrown out).

We always approach new activities like this with a bit of uncertainty, not knowing if Emily will be able to join in or access the activity fully. Emily spent physio sessions at home in a standing frame between the ages of 1 and 2, and wasn’t able to pull herself to standing at furniture until she was almost 2. She started walking at 2 and a half, using a rollator for the first few months.

It would definitely have helped us in those early uncertain days if we’d known that she would be able to do something like sit in a sno-tube independently, and have such a great time.

It was a little tricky to find any accessibility information on the ski centre’s website, but my emails were responded to very quickly with as much information as possible; so get in touch directly if you need specific details. Or watch an episode of ‘My First’ on CBeebies when Rex and his family visit the centre!

There is a nice café at the centre, serving delicious hot chocolate. It was pretty problematic for us in terms of lots of steps to access the building (ramped access in places); and also internal steps and levels so helicopter mode around Emily was activated.

A great day for everyone, you can hit the slopes (not literally hopefully), go toboganning or enjoy yourselves in the Sno-tubes.

Disability Skiing Wales run a dedicated group on a monthly basis on a Saturday afternoon, so get in touch if you fancy hitting the slopes!

Spooky Accessible Adventures!

A quick round up of the Halloween treats on offer at some of the accessible venues we’ve visited and enjoyed during the last few months! (Have thrown in a few of our random photos, sorry no spooky shots available).

Halloween week at Ruthin Gaol, Denbighshire

Ruthin Gaol are holding Halloween Week during the Wales half-term (27.10.18-2.11.18). You are invited to wear your spookiest costume and join in with arts, craft and other Halloween activities.

Greenwood Family Park, Snowdonia

 

Join in with lots of Halloween fun during both the England and Wales half-terms (20.10.18-4.11.18) at Spookwood. So much to enjoy and be terrified about – a Monster Hunt, Halloween Crafts, and spookiest of all ‘The Greatest Undead Show of all’ when the Transylvanian Monsters Carnival take over the Forest Theatre…..

Knowsley Safari 

A great deal at Knowsley Safari Experience with a Half-Term Half-Price deal for kids during both the England and Wales half-terms! Join in with Pumpkin Carving and making Crafty Masks in the Halloween Activity Tent, or watch the Birds of Prey display get the Halloween treatment…..

Terror Mountain – at Silver Mountain Experience, Aberystwyth

 

This looks like potentially the most terrifying of events available over the Halloween period! A unique 12+ attraction has popped up for Halloween (opening this weekend) built within the Victorian silver mine, which includes 4 live action horror attractions, scary entertainment and much more….For those not seeking to be too terrified, Silver Mountain also have family Halloween activities planned for half-term.

And finally…

Storyhouse Chester – Halloween Party

Join in with Halloween activities on Wednesday 31st October at The Den in Storyhouse Chester, including Spooky Stories, Halloween Crafts and Games, followed by a Costume Parade to spooky music through The Kitchen!

 

A Magical Bumblebee – Mythfest Wales

So this time it was a trip into the imagination with a visit to the magical outdoor family festival Mythfest Wales, right on our doorstep in beautiful North Wales. This is an immersive adventure with the ingredients of storytelling, natural crafts, magic, outdoor theatre, laughter, forest school fun, legends and mythical characters; and best of all it’s based on tales of North East Wales (yes I’m biased…). Also described as an Eco Pantomime, this is a sophisticated and enchanting venture into outdoor theatre and local mythology; with a twist of modern conscience.

We’ve been lucky to visit lots of wonderful places this Spring/Summer and it felt like a nice end to the summer sunshine (now sadly gone, flip flops packed away) to go on an outdoor adventure before hibernating for the winter.  Where nicer to spend an Autumn afternoon than in colourful (smoke as well as leaves) woodland with mythical creatures and stories.

This is a little bit of a tricky blog to write because I don’t want to create any ‘spoilers’, and I want to talk about the accessibility; so I’m going to have to contain my enthusiasm and make sure I don’t tell you too much, to make sure you can discover the magic and make your own adventures next year!

From an accessibility viewpoint, I think Mythfest Wales may not have been something at the top of my list, as unknown locations in woods are not always reliably accessible or level, and I wouldn’t be confident in advance about issues like parking/distance to walk etc. My advantage here was that Plas Derw Forest School is in our local area and I felt fairly confident that it would be physically manageable for my little bumblebee.

It was a short walk from the car park at Coleg Cambria to the Mythfest location.  The obstacles we faced in the physical environment included rabbit holes, tree roots, muddy paths, uneven fields and downhill paths (i.e. as expected in wet Welsh woods). Emily has balance and co-ordination difficulties teamed with ataxia, so this kind of terrain could be described as a challenge! She doesn’t tend to look down when walking and will happily plough on through any environment she’s in without any sense of danger.

However, Emily was able to manage fine with help from me and we had lots of help from the lovely characters during the activities. There were just as many places during the adventure which were level and Emily sat happily to watch the show. As I’ve commented on previous posts we are used to having to give Emily extra help in unfamiliar environments so we never let that stop us.

It would be more difficult for wheelchair users (we would have struggled with the Maclaren Major) but you could perhaps talk to the lovely organisers and look at the alternative venues if you are tempted to experience the magic next time.

The way Mythfest has been planned created a lovely flow to the afternoon. We started in the forest school area with an introduction from the Tylweth Teg (fair folk) who guided us through the afternoon in charming character.

We then moved through the fields and woodland to reach the open area where we watched the 1st part of the charming and very funny story being told and acted out, with lyrical storytelling by the wonderful Ceridwen. (When I asked Emily which was her favourite part of the afternoon her answer was ‘Green Lady’!).

We were left on a cliffhanger, and were then taken by either the Water Fairies or Fire Fairies to create ways to overcome Arawn, King of the Otherworld (the ‘baddie’!). The Fire Fairies took us to another woodland area to search for and make our own powerful staffs, and to learn an incantation to strip Arawn of his evil powers.

We then moved back to the forest school area to make magic potions….

The afternoon of adventure finished with a return to the open theatre area to see the second half of the story being told, and for us to use our staffs, incantations and magic potions to ward off evil…

We had a magical outdoor adventure with Mythfest Wales, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other families. You will hopefully be able to manage the environment if you have a certain level of mobility, and enjoy all the amazing aspects of this family festival. A portaloo and disabled portaloo were provided onsite; and there was plentiful parking in the level carpark.

Mythfest may be a gentle introduction to theatre and creative storytelling if you have littlies (or biggies) with sensory issues who become overwhelmed within a theatre setting; and may respond well to the tranquil and spacious setting.

Mythfest Wales is already booked to return to a new location in North Wales next Summer, at Wepre Park in Connah’s Quay. We will also be keeping our eyes peeled to see when return visits to the other 3 sites used in 2018 are announced! (Talacre Beach, Llandegla Forest and Clocaenog Forest).

www.mythfestwales.co.uk

We even managed to find some familiar goblin and non-goblin friends along the way…

Emily’s favourite – Green Lady:

Vanessa and all the Mythfest Wales team kindly invited us to the festival to take a look at disabled access and facilities. All opinions expressed are entirely our own!

 

 

A bouncing bumblebee – Flip Out Chester

So a trip to Flip Out Chester, tackling trampolines minus bungee ropes and side nets – with Emily, always slightly risky….

Luckily they both really enjoyed the adventure and were very reluctant to leave at the end of the session! With a total of 200 trampolines at Flip Out Chester you won’t struggle to find a spot to bounce to your heart’s content.

When you arrive at Flip Out there are parking spaces available by the entrance, and level access into the building. Once you have queued to collect your wrist bands and socks (£2 per pair or just swap your socks from another trampoline park); it’s a level walk into the room where you view the safety video (this is actually a really humorous video but also gets the message across!)

You then enter into the arena, to the left are the secure lockers, and behind them the impressive ‘Clip and Climb’. Once you have stored your belongings you enter the arena through a lovely fairy lit tunnel, definitely the prettiest disabled access ramp I’ve seen so far!

When we emerged from the tunnel it was a ‘wow’ from our 2 for the sheer size of the arena and number of trampolines (the biggest trampoline theme park in England!). The trampoline arena includes 200 trampolines in total (50 Olympic trampolines), 4 wall runners, 3 drop slides (2 of which look unnervingly vertical for the faint-hearted like me), a Total Wipeout area, 2 foam pits, and more.

There is a well managed wristband system so numbers are controlled. This meant there were plenty of free trampolines to choose from and the strict rules of 1 per trampoline meant it was really safe for Emily, as she does have to take it slowly.

A big favourite for our aspiring free-runner was the area at the back of the arena with loads of different sized and shaped trampolines, wall runners and stunt boxes. There is also a Ninja Warrior style area, and trampoline basketball (hilarious).

Emily wasn’t too happy to be missing out on the foam pit, but luckily there is a mini foam pit in the Under 7s area which saved the day (and a rest for those rosy cheeks).

We also discovered tucked away in the corner a lovely raised playbarn which Emily enjoyed. I was happy to see that a gate was installed at the top of the steps which meant I could sit down for a few minutes (until she decided to tackle the bumpy steps to the top, doing her usual trick of standing upright before reaching the top – eek). Cue Mum squeezing through areas designed for littlies, really must lay off the cheese.

After our time was up on the trampolines they reluctantly left the arena, but the arcades area and themed diner soon distracted them. All of this area is really level and wide, so is very accessible. The diner has free-standing tables and chairs, and plenty of room to negotiate around them.

Not so long ago I wouldn’t have thought trampolining was something Emily could manage because of her balance and co-ordination; but actually she has surprised us by how well she manages it with that extra bit of help (and a cheeky bit of physio thrown in too, to ease the parent guilt).

Flip Out Chester also offer weekly ASD and Disability sessions, which are dedicated quieter sessions with appropriate lighting and sound. Disabled visitors can be accompanied by a carer with free entry, and there is a disabled toilet. Flip Out have a large First Aid room and bed which can be used if changing facilities are needed. (The nearest Changing Places facilities are located at Ellesmere Port Sports Village 2.5 miles away).

Our big boy has already planned his next birthday party (in his head), and I think this is a fantastic party venue and trip out for all, whatever your level of ability!

 

We were kindly invited by Mike and the team at Flip Out Chester to visit and have a look at the disabled access and facilities. All opinions are those of Team Bumblebee!

 

 

 

Tiger Tails (and more!) – Knowsley Safari

An exciting around-the-world safari experience this time with a trip to  Knowsley Safari near Liverpool. This is a great place to go at any time of the year, we experienced a number of interesting weather systems during our day there; but luckily there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities.

We started off with the Safari Drive (100% an indoor activity – or at least inside the safety of your car…). If you arrive by car you pay at the entrance booths, and drive straight ahead to begin the Safari Drive, or left to visit the Foot Safari, café, etc.

Adult entrance into Knowsley Safari is £17.50 (£15.75 online) and child entrance is £13.50 (£12.15 online). Carers can visit the park free of charge.

You are given 2 child-friendly maps, so our 2 excitedly consulted the Safari Drive map as we headed off onto the 5 mile safari drive (the longest in the UK!).  I won’t say too much about this, just add a few photos, no spoilers! It’s a great experience, you get so close to the animals and see them in a very relaxed habitat. They aren’t at all phased by the passers by, including those who randomly park up with their flasks.

It was slightly nerve-wracking when the lions walked right behind and alongside the car but you can imagine the excitement levels of the small people….

We chickened out of the baboon enclosure as we didn’t fancy being separated from our windscreen wipers, but pulled over on the car-friendly route to have a giggle watching the brave souls who did take on the ‘friendly’ baboons…

Once you leave the safari drive and head down to the main centre, there is very easy access from the blue badge parking spaces into the Oasis Restaurant where we took a quick pit-stop for lunch and to wait for the rain to pass.

We were really lucky as it cleared up and the sun came out; but before heading to the outdoor attractions we took in the lovely Sea Lion Display, watching Roger and Arthur and their clever tricks. Sea Lion Cove has raised seating, but if you speak to the staff on the way in you can be seated at the front without the need to use the stairs.

Once we left Sea Lion Cove, we were spoilt for choice for what to do next. There is a Birds of Prey display, the Bat Forest, Wolf Country, the giraffes and lots more animals to see on foot; a fairground, a train ride, some lovely parks – and more! The pathways are well-maintained and easy to manoeuvre with a buggy or wheelchair. Emily needed help onto the rides and with using the steps, but this is always the same when we visit rides.

Our final stop of the day was the fabulous Russian-inspired Amur Tiger Trail which we all loved! The tigers have been moved to a brand new enclosure which is visually stunning and also includes an intrepid explorer style activity trail for the children.

Once you arrive at the Amur Tiger Trail station, children can collect their own trail map and use this to explore the area, collecting stamps on the way back. You can enter the trail via the ‘Wobbly Bridge’ but there is also level access (which we used on the way back as the bridge was possibly one wobble too far for Emily as it was a two-man job!).

The trail has been really carefully planned and is completely accessible. There is a fabulous viewing platform with full-length viewing windows. We  were really lucky as the tigers were very active that day and we got unbelievably close to them.

 

Knowsley Safari Experience is a fantastic day out both for all the family and from an access point of view too. Access to all viewing platforms  is wheelchair accessible, and there is ramped or level access everywhere. The Equatorial Express train ride and Baboon Bus can accommodate wheelchairs.

If you are planning a day out and have a member of your party who has a disability, take a look at the accessibility page on the website (www.knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk); particularly the outstanding access statement which has photos of all areas of the park (I wish all attractions did this!). Knowsley has a number of disabled toilets, and there is a large disabled toilet with a bed and mobile hoist.

There is so much to see and do here for all ages. There are lots of extra experiences available including kids clubs, Safari School, keeper talks, den-building, Animal Encounters, Bat Nights and themed events (Christmas looks ace!).

There are lots of changes and exciting new developments planned at Knowsley, if they are of the same high standard as the amazing new Amur we can’t wait to go back once they are finished!

As you leave the park, pay a visit to the loo and have a giggle at the animal-themed humorous posters (see below for one of my favourites….).

The team at Knowsley Safari Experience kindly invited us to visit for the day to experience the disabled access and facilities. All views and opinions expressed are our own.

Thank you Knowsley!!

 

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….

 

 

 

Tiddler Tales, Doodle Dancing and a zoom on a broom…..

A wonderful few days at the Family Arts Weekend at Theatr Clwyd, Mold! I’m ashamed to admit that I hardly ever make trips to this lovely theatre, just a few miles from where we live.

In our never-ending quest to find adventures to compensate for being abandoned by the boys for the world of cricket, it can sometimes be tricky to find activities that I know Emily will be able to access and enjoy. When I spotted the wide variety of events and activities on offer over the weekend I thought we should give it a go.

Emily has a very limited concentration span (unless it’s YouTube videos of other children opening boxes of toys, who uploads these strange things and manages to get 23 million views??!!); so the short duration of the productions and storytelling sessions really appealed.

On our first day we went to see ‘Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales’, a 60 minute show which tells the story of 4 popular Julia Donaldson books cleverly woven together with music, puppets and funny characters. I had booked 2 seats at the end of the row (incase sharp exit required) which also happened to be behind the space reserved for wheelchairs.

This worked out really well for us as it provided a space for Emily to stand, dance or randomly sit down on the floor when she needed a little ‘sensory break’ (aka escape from Mummy’s silly expectation of sitting still in a nice comfy chair). I am getting better all the time at not minding when Emily is the only one standing up or dancing, as long as she’s having a great time who cares!

On Day 2 it was ‘The Doodle Dance Show’, our best theatre experience with children so far (in my humble opinion). A magical story-show, this was a 60 minute interactive session incorporating storytelling, dance, music, combined with audience participation and activities. Even the most inhibited dancers/artists (i.e. grown-ups) were having a great time.

This was in the Clwyd Room which has more of a workshop feel to it. There are steps down into the room with handrails either side, but I did also spot a small wheelchair lift in the corner. We all sat on cushions on the floor around a huge piece of white paper, I’m sure if you were unable to lower onto a cushion wheelchairs would be completely welcome.

Finally Day 3 was a 25 minute showing of ‘Room on the Broom’ in the cinema, another one of Julia Donaldson’s lovely books. We like it so much we accidentally have 2 copies in the house. There is a lift down to the lower level of the cinema and a small area for wheelchairs with 2 companion seats. Booster seats available for the littlies!

The Family Arts Weekend was really affordable, ticket prices ranged between £5 for Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, to a free event in the cinema. There were also lots of free or very low-cost activities, including craft, street dance, costume areas and face painting. Window painting proved very popular (think I’m going to regret encouraging that)…

We would like to catch ‘You’ve Got Dragons’ if it’s back at Theatr Clwyd another time, as this is a fully accessible show with creative captioning, BSL and audio description.

Theatr Clwyd appears to have had adaptations to provide accessibility to all areas, including additional lifts and wheelchair areas; and overall it feels very accessible (other than the tunnel from the car park which is not wheelchair accessible). There are 4 blue badge spaces directly outside the theatre, and some spaces in the main car park. You can exit the car park by the entrance onto the road if the tunnel is inaccessible for you.

There are disabled toilet facilities, but no Changing Places facilities (the nearest ones are at Holywell Leisure Centre approximately 20 mins away, or many more in Chester).

Theatr Clwyd is part of the nationwide HYNT card scheme which provides a free ticket for a PA or carer. The theatre has many additional accessibility features including an induction loop system, captioned and described shows, and relaxed performances.

You cannot fail to find something here to entertain everyone in the family, including cinema, theatre, dance, comedy, art exhibitions or just a cup of tea and a cake. If like me you have a small person with a limited concentration span, who loves to dance, listen to music and all things magical; then the family activities are probably for you! If you (also like me) have a bit extra to think about, take the time to have a look at all the accessibility information. If your littlie has sensory issues, don’t be put off as there are lots of additional options around this, and it’s a really relaxed venue.

If you don’t live near this lovely theatre, take the plunge and google your local one. Many theatres and art centres now really go the extra mile with accessibility.

Happy dancing!

 

Banana Split – an Ice Skating adventure

Emily and I decided to take our life (or at least the possibility of our fingers being sliced off) into our hands, and try out a disability ice-skating session at Deeside Leisure Centre recently. I appreciate you don’t all live in this area, but I wanted to encourage you to search this out locally. It’s not something I would have given a second thought to, presuming that it wouldn’t be something Emily could access and that standing up on blades would be impossible for her. After being encouraged by a friend we decided to give it a go….(beware of the occasional bad ice-related references).

An amazing sight greeted us rink-side, children and adults whizzing around on penguins, bananas, in wheelchairs and Maclaren Majors. At this point I started to relax a bit, although still really unsure how this would work out…Emily usually either launches into something new with gusto or goes into a mini meltdown and can’t be persuaded. Hoping for the former at this stage as it was flipping freezing (!).

Apologies in advance for photo quality, was attempting to remain upright and balanced in uncomfortable, high footwear…

Emily was given some cool (!) bobskates to wear, which were almost flat and meant she could walk in them with help to the side of the rink. At this point in time it wouldn’t be a possibility for her to walk in regular ice-skates, so the bobskates are a fab way to be introduced to the sensation of being on the ice if you haven’t got the balance and co-ordination needed  for ice-skates.

There were lots of coaches and helpers around, and a banana was brought over. We helped Emily onto the ice and straight onto the banana (all going well so far). One of the coaches then took Emily around the rink and luckily her adrenaline junkie side kicked in and she loved it.

2 people can sit on the bananas and be pushed with ease by someone wearing ice-skates. The bobskates meant Emily’s feet moved with ease on the ice. Children or adults who were confident to stand on the ice could use a penguin balance aid.

Unfortunately I eventually had to say goodbye to terra firma and take my turn on the ice. As you may be able to tell I held on with a firm grip and made sure not to stand up too straight or move too quickly. We did get up speed a couple of times but none of the circling and whizzing business Emily enjoyed with the coach. Our only hairy moment was Emily deciding to disembark from the banana mid-whizz but all was rescued from disaster.

I would really urge you to enquire at your local rink or with your local disability sport officer about disability sessions, we can’t wait to go back and have another go at an activity I never in a million years thought would be something Emily could try and love. No matter what your level of ability there will be a way to get you on the ice. The sessions are much quieter than an open skating session and the loud music is turned off. The whole family can join in and enjoy a bit of chilly freedom.

The session was £5 for a 45 minute session, free entry for a carer, and no skate-hire charges. Physical access to Deeside Leisure Centre and the ice  rink is very good and there is a new café which is also accessible. Plenty of disabled spaces close to the entrance, and disabled toilet facilities. The nearest Changing Places facilities are in Holywell Leisure Centre (CH8 7UZ) or venues in Chester including The Storyhouse and Grosvenor Park. Unfortunately both of these venues are at least 15 minutes away.

So whizz on down, and via blades, bobskates, ice-skates, wheels, penguins or even a banana – get yourself onto the ice!!!