Tuesday, 21 February 2017

New Beginnings

After 7 years, the time has come for me to move on from Blogger.

But don't worry, the exciting news is that I've launched carrieannlightley.com! Feel free to take a look, send me feedback and subscribe to read all of my new blog posts.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Irton House Farm: Accessible Staycation

Back in June I was chatting to the lovely Lindsay from Irton House Farm, Cumbria. After confirming their listing on the OpenBritain website, and chatting about the benefits that they can access as a Partner of Tourism for All, Lindsay very kindly invited me to spend a weekend in one of their cottages.

Irton House Farm is a working sheep farm of 246 acres in the Lake District National Park, commanding superb views from the farmstead over Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw.  Immaculately kept self-catered apartments offering spacious and comfortable self-catering holiday homes, for 2, 4 and 6 people. All include wet rooms and ground floor accommodation making them fully accessible for disabled visitors.  They’re also dog friendly (by arrangement) for pets and assistance dogs, so Poppy came along with Darren and I.
The cottages were converted from farm buildings by Lindsay's parents Reg and Joan 27 years ago. Considering how long ago that was they had such vision; the accommodation is very spacious, with wet room showers, accessible kitchens, helpful aids and equipment, amazing views and such a homely, non-medical feel. There are plans to modernise the interiors but keep the farmhouse, country cottage look and feel.  In the long term, the plan is to convert one of the farm buildings into a central place where guests can meet, chat and enjoy a drink by an open fire, and events can be hosted.
Lindsay, Nick and their children are a welcoming, kind family who are passionate about promoting accessibility to the countryside. They have many guests who they count as personal friends returning year after year.
After a peaceful first night, we were woken by the noise of sheep at the window.  Our plan for the day was to visit the nearby Lakes Distillery, and the market town of Keswick.
The Distillery is a renovated 1850s Victorian model farm, located next to Bassenthwaite Lake. Here
they produce The ONE Whisky, The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka.  The shop, bistro, bar and tour are fully accessible, and the tour is billed as one of the best distillery tours in the world.  As we’d brought our dog along with us, we opted for lunch on the terrace.  The food was delicious, generous and locally sourced.  We couldn’t leave without visiting the shop, and came away with a bottle or two!  We found the staff friendly and engaging, and knowledgeable about their products.
Next stop was Keswick, around 20 minutes drive from Irton House Farm.  Situated between Derwentwater and Skiddaw, Keswick has become the major centre for tourism in the north lakes.  After parking up at the local Booths supermarket (2 hours free for Blue Badge holders) we came across Podgy Paws pet shop, such a lovely place!  Poppy was happy to be treated to a new harness and a bone.  Next we came to the market, which was lively and bustling with over 70 stalls, selling everything from local produce to clothing and footwear.   We finished off with smoothies and cake at St Mungo's deli.

Back at Irton House Farm, after a tour of the vacant cottages and a stroke of the newest additions to the farm – two ponies – we settled in for our last night, and happily headed home the next morning with a leg of their award winning lamb to roast!
We had a thoroughly enjoyable time exploring part of the Lake District that’s reasonably local to us, but not somewhere we’ve spent much time before.  I think we can all benefit from a Staycation, as we have such wonderful places on our door steps.

Accessible Edinburgh: Travel Guide on TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor commissioned another accessible travel guide from me, this time Edinburgh!

 Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city, and is a fantastic place for anyone with mobility requirements to visit: Easily accessible, with a broad mixture of great things to see and do. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

I'm raising funds for a Panthera U3 wheelchair

I am raising funds so that I can purchase a Panthera U3 Lightweight Active wheelchair that will give me true independence, less pain, and a more active life. I have Cerebral Palsy, and have lived in Kendal, Cumbria all my life. I have been using wheelchairs supplied by the NHS, but these no longer meet my needs.

Anything raised above our target will be donated to Tourism for All, the charity that I have worked for for 11 years, which helps disabled people to access holidays and travel. These funds will be used to redevelop the Tourism for All website, so that we can reach and help many more people, enabling everybody to have holidays, trips, and memories that last a lifetime.

Tourism for All are very kindly processing all donations on my behalf, which means that we can access match funding.  Any donation big or small would be greatly appreciated and used solely for this fundraising.

This wheelchair gives me the best posture, and is so easy for me to push.  I can add a large front wheel for all terrain and proper dog walks, and a power pack to make it electric, meaning that for the first time, I will be able travel for work and holidays with true independence.

For more information and to donate click here.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Delightful Derbyshire - a weekend at Croft Bungalow

I was lucky enough to be the first ever guest at Croft Bungalow, in the Peak District, back in April.  I was encouraged to fill the lodge, which had 2 bedrooms, so along came my husband Darren, friends Rachel and Alastair, and of course, Poppy the puppy.
Croft Bungalow is a level access bungalow that can sleep 3 or 4. It has been recently refurbished (completed October 2015).

There is one large bedroom (which can be set up as a twin or double) and one single bedroom with electric profile bed. This can also be turned into a sensory room and lighting can be provided if required. It has a large lounge (with bed/settee for one adult or two children), kitchen and wet bathroom, with grab bars that serve the shower and toilet. Wheelchair access to Croft bungalow is via a ramp. All internal doorways have been replaced to be wide enough for wheelchair access.   Outside at the rear is a large private south facing garden with open country views and a large level flagged patio area, a wheelchair friendly picnic bench and a gas barbeque.  The bungalow also has Wi-Fi, and Freesat TV.

The finishing touches really make Croft Bungalow special. It feels so homely and comfortable that we settled in almost instantly, and they’ve done a fantastic job of adapting what is a relatively small property.
After a full cooked breakfast (prepared by chef Darren) on our first morning, we decided we’d spend the day at Crich Tramway Village.  A couple of week’s beforehand, whilst exhibiting on the Tourism for All stand at the British Tourism & Travel Show, I’d met Amanda from the Tramway Village who offered us some complimentary tickets. 
As vintage trams ride down the traditional village street, it really does feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, to a bygone era.  All areas are wheelchair accessible (and dog friendly, with the exception of the National Tramway Museum) and there is an Access Tram which runs twice a day, and should be requested on arrival at admissions.  Unfortunately, the Access Tram had broken down on the day of our visit!  But with help I was able to transfer to the regular tram, and the staff were so accommodating, knowledgeable and enthusiastic – many of them are volunteers .  A “smoothway” provides a smoother alternative to the cobbles for wheelchairs and buggies, and is shown on the village map.  We enjoyed a delicious ice cream fromBluebells, drinks at the Red Lion pub (which has an accessible toilet) and took home some old-fashioned treats from Barnett’s Sweetshop.

On our way back to Croft Bungalow after such a fun day, we decided to pop in to one of the village pubs, also called the Red Lion Inn, which is just 100 metres from Croft Bungalow.  We had a lovely time here chatting to some of the locals and enjoying drinks.  It definitely isn’t the most accessible pub I’ve been in – the doorways and toilets were tight and difficult to navigate, but manageable for a manual wheelchair user with some mobility.  The pub boasts it’s own microbrewery and a varied menu of tasty looking food.
We enjoyed a relaxed evening at the bungalow, making use of the garden patio.  After yet another hearty breakfast the next morning we set off to visit our friends David and Felicity Brown, at Hoe Grange Holidays just down the road.
Darren and I had a wonderful stay at Hoe Grange back in 2014, so we wanted to visit for a quick catch up, to introduce them to Poppy and see the latest additions to their holiday accommodation – glamping pods!  At the moment the pods aren’t easy to get to using a manual wheelchair, so the famous Boma 7 was wheeled out, and off up the farm fields I went.  The glamping pods are a chic mini cabin just for two, with the added luxury of your own bathroom and kitchen facilities.  Though they haven’t been purpose-built for accessibility (there are 4 very accessible, larger cabins on site for this) a pod would be manageable for me, and we hope to return soon to try one out!
The final destination on our Derbyshire trip was Carsington Water, as recommended by our colleagues at Accessible Derbyshire.  This is a reservoir, with a visitor centre, and a wide range of facilities including shops selling souvenirs, craft items, embroidery materials, ceramics, books etc and a cafe and restaurant.  You can hire Tramper mobility scooters and accessible bikes here, and there is a Sailability Club offering accessible sailing.  Our visit here was the perfect end to our trip, and we had such a lovely walk on the very accessible path around the water.  We were pleased to see that it was so busy, with locals and tourists alike, and Poppy made lots of doggy friends!
This was our second trip to Derbyshire, and we will definitely return, as we still have so much more to see.  Thanks to all of the people who welcomed us so warmly!


Friday, 15 April 2016

Homelands Trust-Fife: luxury and accessibility combined

The lovely people at Homelands Trust-Fife invited me there back in February.  I was encouraged to fill the lodge, which had 2 bedrooms, so along came my husband Darren, friends Chris and Kate, and the newest addition to our family, Poppy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy!

credit thestonevillage
Homelands sits in mature woodlands in the pretty seaside village of Lundin Links, with panoramic views across Lundin golf course and Largo Bay to Edinburgh and the Lothians. In this beautiful setting, four luxurious lodges have been built, each with a wide range of equipment to suit various disabilities.
Specialist disability equipment, such as ceiling tracking hoists, profiling beds, clos-o-mat toilet and riser/recliner chairs are provided to ensure all visitors’ needs are met and the dream of a family or group holiday can be achieved. The buildings are architecturally stunning and luxuriously furnished. Homelands has an extremely welcoming environment for disabled people, as well as their carers, friends and family members. Three of the lodges can sleep four people (six with a sofa bed) and the fourth can sleep up to eight people in four twin/ double bedrooms.

The Paxton Centre, just a few yards from the lodges, is open to guests and day visitors and offers a variety of alternative therapies, counselling, exercise classes, art workshops, and mindfulness, in addition to various other activities and one off events.
Our first port of call on arrival was the local pub!  I’d asked Jan, the Secretary at Homelands to recommend dog-friendly, accessible places to eat and drink.  Helpful as always, Jan recommended 8 locations, and also some suggested itineraries for our weekend.
At the Crusoe Hotel, just a short walk/wheel from Homelands, we dined on delicious ribeye steak and chatted to some of the locals.  The gorgeous, beamed ceilings and views of Largo harbour made for a really lovely atmosphere.  The hotel didn’t have accessible toilets, but the ladies toilet was step free and manageable in a manual wheelchair.
Waking up to a view of the coastline the next morning was really rather special, and after fuelling up on bacon sandwiches we headed out to the Loch Leven Heritage trail, an accessible thirteen mile circuit round the loch.  I’d been lucky enough to borrow a Mountain Trike from Progression Bikes in Dunkeld.  Over the last couple of years I’ve gazed longingly at the Mountain Trike when attending mobility shows, and even had a go, but a flat, level exhibition hall is quite different to the great Scottish outdoors, as I was about to find out! 
Our timing was fairly terrible. As soon as we were on the trail the weather turned against us.  I tried to persevere, but my inexperience with the Mountain Trike really showed and I was terrified of dropping off the cliff!  Poppy was as disgruntled with the weather as the rest of us, so we retreated to a nearby café to warm up with hot chocolate.
The Mountain Trike IS a fantastic piece of kit, as it gives riders the ability to go to places that were completely inaccessible previously, whilst maintaining the function and versatility of a standard wheelchair.  I just need some more practice, preferably in the sunshine.  If you’d like to have a go, check out the accessible rambles that my colleague Craig Grimes organises in the North of England.
Once we’d thawed out, we decided that a visit to St Andrews would be a less challenging way to spend the rest of the day.  The Medieval centre of St Andrews consists of a series of narrow alleys and cobbled streets with shops, restaurants and cafés.  This makes for a slightly bumpy ride in a wheelchair, but it’s such a lovely place just to take in the scenery and people watch.
Our evening was spent enjoying a lovely relaxed dinner in the lodge, and planning the next day’s activities.
First on the agenda was a visit to Kellie Castle , which is a National Trust Scotland property.  As it was a Sunday in low season the castle itself was closed, but we had a lovely walk around beautiful gardens and woodland.  For those wishing to visit the castle, the ground floor is accessible for wheelchairs, as are the shop, tearoom, toilets and garden.  A wheelchair is available to borrow, and there is also an accessible tour facility featuring a slideshow and photograph albums.

credit thestonevillage
The last stop on our tour of Fife was the pretty little fishing village of Crail.  Charming cobbled streets tumble down to the miniature harbour, which is sheltered by cliffs and surrounded by historic fishing cottages.  Seasoned wheelchair travellers will know that cobbles + hills can make things particularly difficult, so I’d recommend a strong pusher!
Our time at Homelands was so special, as the accommodation has such a high standard of accessibility, without any compromise on style or luxury.  It is difficult to incorporate equipment such as hoists and profiling beds without giving the impression of a hospital, but the team at Homelands has got it just right.  It was wonderful to explore a part of Scotland that we hadn’t before, even with all the liquid sunshine!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tourism is for Everybody - and a snippet of me on ITV News

Together we are able - New movement puts respect at the heart of accessible tourism 

This week sees the launch of Tourism is for Everybody - a movement to help the travel and tourism industry better understand and cater for the 12 million plus people in Britain who are disabled in some way.

ITV News reported, Tim Backshall, spoke to me, and to the people and businesses in our region who are trying to make a difference.  A warm welcome for disabled people in the lakes - watch the film here.

Tourism is for Everybody encourages individuals, businesses & policy makers to pull together to deliver a warmer welcome for ALL visitors, including those with some form of impairment.

The campaign is being launched this week at the British Tourism & Travel Show and is led by national charity Tourism for All, the voice for accessible tourism in the UK. As their Chairman and campaign spokesman Tim Gardiner MBE explains “It’s not just about legislation and infrastructure, it’s about awareness and respect.”

Nineteen percent of people in Britain and approximately one billion people in the world live with an impairment. Although they already travel quite widely - making 263 million day trips and 12.8 million overnight trips within England alone – research by Tourism for All suggests that disabled people’s experiences are often less than satisfactory and that they can be made to feel awkward or unwelcome.

The Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP said: “Tourism in the UK is thriving with more people choosing to stay at home than go abroad. From the beaches in Bournemouth to the museums in Manchester, I want disabled people to share the experiences that others enjoy freely. The spending power of disabled households is already £212 billion and by making a few changes, this can go further. Businesses have made great strides by making physical changes – introducing ramps, handrails and hearing loops. But for some, providing a warm welcome and a positive attitude is equally as important as the facilities. ”

The Tourism is for Everybody movement asks travel and tourism businesses to honour nine commitments (see appendix), which include embracing equality, training their staff, appointing an ‘Access Champion’ and monitoring their performance. Free Tourism is for Everybody toolkits are available for businesses and a dedicated website www.tourismisforeverybody.org includes a helpful section for people looking for advice on stress free travelling.

Individuals and businesses can also get involved on social media by following @TI4Einfo on Twitter and using the hashtag #togetherweareable to share stories of good practice and otherwise. There is also a dedicated facebook page @tourismisforeverybody.

“For most people tourism is one of life’s richest experiences” says Tim Gardiner. “But if you have a long term illness or some form of mobility impairment, trips that should be pleasurable can turn out to be unnecessarily stressful or difficult both for yourself and for the people you are travelling with. A little effort from tourism professionals can make a massive difference. ”

As well as helping make disabled tourists feel included and respected this campaign could also benefit businesses. Tim Gardiner says “Disabled travellers and their companions already contribute over £12 billion to our economy and the market could be bigger if people were assured of a welcome. It’s about offering good customer service to everybody and that’s just good business sense.”