How we try to assist those visitors who have mobility problems?
We aimed for many years in our own way to try and make the Arlington Bluebell Walk accessible to all, but in 2004 we invited the Access Auditor from the Eastbourne Group (now sadly closed) of the East Sussex Disability Association, as to how we could improve our facilities. We were most grateful for their guidance, as it raised our awareness of the important need of what can be done, as sometimes very small changes make such a difference.
Since 2010 we have assiduously read every article that Melanie Reid writes in the Saturday Times Magazine called Spinal Column, since she sadly broke her neck following a horse riding accident. She starkly brings to life the many difficulties she has to contend with now she has this serious disability, often written with much humour but clearly highlights the many frustrations she and others like her have to contend with on a daily basis. It is our first ‘must read’ every Saturday morning!
Last season when we had our inspection by VisitEngland under their Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme (VAQAS), it was pointed out that we did not have a fully detailed Access Statement, which is a description of our facilities and services informing visitors who have access needs. This is a mandatory requirement if we are to continue participation in their Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme. Their inspections since 2003 have been of tremendous help in guiding us in making many improvements year on year, so since we launched our updated website www.bluebellwalk.co.uk at the beginning of this month, we have on each page header a button listing our first attempt at producing an Access Statement. Any suggestions in how it can be improved would be welcomed please?
Outside Bates Green Farm the entrance to the Bluebell Walk, we have twelve designated parking spaces, where we endeavour to have a smooth service, as it is the road verge and not concrete! There is ample room between the spaces to manoeuvre wheelchairs or crutches and shortens the distance to travel to the Bluebell Barn, rather than parking in the Car Park Field.
We have increased the number we have available to twelve, as year on year the demand to use them increases. We get great satisfaction from helping visitors especially the elderly with mobility problems, who feel these scooters are too complicated for them to use, but explain there is just one small lever to push to go forward with no brakes to worry about. Once the simplicity of their use is understood they confidently venture forth, invariably coming back quite proud in having driven round the Bluebell Wood, so can’t wait to use it again next year! These scooters are available free of charge, but our insurance company asks that the person using one signs a simple form saying they use them at their own risk, keep away from the edges of the ponds in Beatons Wood, nor try to attempt to follow the Farm Walks, but just keep to the Blue Walk which is where the bluebells and white wood anemones flower.
Some Other Facilities
We repositioned the toilet that is wheel chair accessible last year not having time to decorate, but it is now tiled, freshly decorated with a large picture of bluebells covering most of the back wall. We have built a concrete ramp with hand rail giving easy access up the slight incline leading to The Gate House, so avoiding the farm track that can be at times a little bumpy, especially for those using wheelchairs with small front wheels. We have tried where possible to ensure the pathway in the Beatons Wood is as level as possible whatever the weather, and that access to the Bluebell Barn, Book Room and round the petting animals is wheelchair friendly. We are always pleased to have any feedback, as the aim of the Arlington Bluebell Walk, is to ensure every visitor, both able bodied and those with disabilities have a memorable day out, we only wish we could control the weather and when the bluebells flower!
In spite of this constant cold weather we have now at last seen our first white wood anemone, plus a few bluebells, whils Scotland has had the odd day when temperatures reached 18/19 degrees, when will our turn come! Every Friday once we open, we report on how nature is encouraging the bluebells to flower in this lovely part of Sussex.
Next Friday we will explain the need for coppicing in Beatons Wood.
This message was added on Saturday 19th March 2016
Sounds great. Must we book the disability scooters?
The scooters are not booked in advance. We have plenty available but, on the off chance they are all out when you arrive, it should only be a short wait until one is returned. Opportunity for a cuppa in the cafe while you wait :-)
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