Accessible Attractions in the East Midlands
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Covering the north parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
We’ve lived in the the East Midlands for over 40 years and during that time have visited many of the historic properties and attractions in the area. I jumped at the chance of writing an article about Accessible Attractions for Silver Travel Advisor as it was it a good reason to revisit many properties we’ve not been to for years. With increasing age, and creaking joints we now look at them through different eyes. These suggestions cover the northern parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Many places do try and cater for disabled visitors but by their very nature this is difficult as there are uneven floors and small steps to contend with. Being listed buildings they are unable to install lifts or stair lifts. In research, I discounted places like Bolsover Castle, Eyam Hall. Haddon Hall, Hardwick Hall and Tissington Hall, as few rooms are accessible by wheelchair users, even though some do provided photo books for the upper floors.
Many websites include information about accessibility and it is worth checking these out. A phone call to a property before a visit is also an idea, especially if you are wanting to book wheelchairs.
Chatsworth House in Derbyshire must be one of the major stately homes that everyone has heard about. and richly deserves the title of “One of the Treasure Houses of England” with its magnificent house and contents as well as acres of beautiful gardens. There are over 30 rooms containing an unrivalled collection of paintings, china, furniture and sculptures. The word opulent hardly begins to describe it. The house overlooks a lake with very tall fountain. There is a water cascade running down the slope over stone steps. There are flower gardens and rockery as well as the willow tree fountain. There is also a small farm although this tends to be more popular with the younger visitors. With a large shop and restaurants this makes a full day out.
Chatsworth sets a standard of excellence for accessibility, as they offer full access to the visitor route through the house, A lift allows wheelchair users to visit all the house. Visitors with visual impairments are offered a free audio tour of the house and there is a larger print guide book.
Shops, Carriage House and Cavendish Restaurant are fully accessible. Paths through the gardens are well made and a map of the grounds is available from staff at the house entrance showing different route around he rounds suitable for wheelchair users.
There is designated free blue badge parking near to the house. Visitors with restricted mobility can be dropped off and collected at the front of the house. A free buggy service is provided around the car park and stables area. A trailer offers rides to the woods and lakes behind the house, although wheelchair users need to prebook this. Wheelchairs are available for use in the house and grounds and electric scooters for use in the grounds. Again they need to be prebooked. Assistance dogs are allowed in the house, gardens and park.
Disabled toilets are near the house, in the Carriage House Restaurant and the farmyard. There is no reduction for disabled visitors, although a carer is admitted free.
Sutton Scarsdale Hall is the ruined mansion that can be seen from the M1 between Bolsover Castle and Hardwick Hall. It was built in the 18th century to rival Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth. It depleted the family funds and passed through a series of owners until 1915 when the house was asset striped of its furnishings, panelling and anything movable. Now it is a roofless shell. Information boards round the site have pictures of what it looked like in its heyday.
There is car parking by the house. There is a gravel path around the house and level entry through doorways into the inside with a gravelled surface. There is access to the house during day light hours and entry is free. There are no facilities there.
Clumber Park is all that is left of a once grand mansion which was demolished between the wars. It is a popular day out with locals as there is a lake, pleasant grounds, large Victorian walled garden, childrens play area, chapel, cafe and miles of tracks to explore. Now in the care of the National Trust there is a flat rate of £6.50 per car.
There is disabled access near the main visitor facilities and by the walled garden. Cars can also be parked by Hardwick village, the south west end of the lake, along lime tree avenue and around the cricket ground.
There is level or ramped access to all buildings. Disabled toilets are by the main visitor facilities with more near the cricket pitch.
Forest roads and tracks are well maintained. The paths through the pleasure ground and lakeside walk are wide and flat with a good surface. Wheelchairs and powered mobility scooters can be hired from the Cycle Hire Centre by the main car park.
Longshaw Estate a few miles from Sheffield and on the edge of the Peak District is a good place to enjoy the freedom of the countryside. There is a network of well graded footpaths around the estate which are wheelchair accessible and wandering through moorland, ancient woodland and along streams. There are views across to the hills of the Peak District and the gritstone Stanage Edge. Look out for the northern hairy wood ants and their huge nests made of pine needles. There is a Visitor Centre with shop and tea room.
Pick up a map from the Visitor Centre who can help with the best routes. There is parking just off the A6187 in Woodcroft Car Park which is a short distance from the Visitor Centre. Alternatively there is disabled parking by the Visitor Centre by the tea room. There is a disabled toilet here and Visitor Centre, shop and tea rooms are all accessible. There is a small charge for parking if you are not National Trust Members.
Crich Tramway Village makes a great day out for all the family with a blast of nostaglia for Silver Travellers. It owns a fleet of over 70 immaculately restored trams, many of which are in working order. It runs a regular tram service along a mile of track, from a typical tramway street scene and out into the open countryside with superb views across the Derwent valley. The Great Exhibition Hall has a display covering the history of trams from the horse trams of the 1870s to the last trams in service in the 1960s.
The museum has gone to great efforts to accommodate disabled visitors from disabled parking by the ticket office to very generous concessions for disabled persons with carers are admitted free. Wheelchairs are available for hire. Dogs on a lead are welcome.
It is a short walk from the ticket office down to the village site. This is along stone paving slabs which are slightly uneven. There is disabled access to all buildings on the site, either by ramp or a lift to the George Stephenson Discovery and Learning Centre. There is a shop. A tea room or the Red lion pub provide meals. There are disabled toilets at the Red Lion Pub, Assembly Rooms and Wakebridge tram stop.
Although there is no wheelchair access to most of the trams, there is a special access tram, a Berlin 1969 tram, which has been adapted to lift and carry people in wheelchairs. This runs daily at 11.30 and 2.30. Talk to the Inspector at the tram stop for further details.
Mattersey Priory is tucked away in the depths of rural Nottinghamshire, reached by a rough road. It is a lovely setting above the banks of the River Idle with only an old farmhouse for company. This was one of the few priories in England belonging to the Order of St gilbert of Sempringham. it was a small priory with only six monks and ten lay brothers and was never very wealthy. It was destroyed by fire in the C13th and never rebuilt. All that is left are a few ruins in a field. This is a place to drop out.
There is parking next to the ruins. They are surrounded by well mown grass and are fully accessible. They are open all the time and entry is free.
Southwell Minster is one of the best Norman cathedrals in the country. The twin towers at the west end have a continental feel. The nave is pure Norman with round pillars and arches. Separating the nave from the later choir is an elaborately carved stone screen. The choir is perpendicular with carved stalls and a modern gilded reredos behind the high altar. The octagonal chapter house contains some of the best carved capitals in England. There is a small shop and cafe. The church is open daily and donations are welcome.
There is disabled parking in Church street car park. There is level entry into the building which is fully accessible to wheelchair users.
Church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark-on-Trent is one of the largest parish churches in England and is a splendid example of a Perpendicular church. Its tall elegant spire dominates the town. The outside of the church is lavishly decorated with carvings, battlements and pinnacles. The inside more than lives up to the outside with slender pillars soaring up to the painted ceiling decorated with angels. The rood screen with its fan vaulting and the choir stalls with their carved fronts and arms are exquisite. The golden reredos behind the altar is early 20th century but fits in with the rest of the church.
The church is open daily although may close at lunchtime. It is fully accessible for disabled visitors. Disabled visitors can be dropped off near the west door, but there is no parking here as it is a special access permit area only. There are disabled parking bays on Kirkgate. The nearest car park is Mount Street Car Park off King Street.
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