Back to Homepage   Forward to Recent Releases Clare's Blog
Click on interactive map for accessible venues
Jul 2016 to Dec 2016

Click here for our top ten pick of Irish locations

Sunday 18th December 2016
This week my roving reporter Una has recommended Tayto Park as a great family friendly accessible place to visit in Ireland. This is an outdoor activity centre and zoo in Ashbourne, Co. Meath. I have yet to visit the park but it is definitely on my must-see list because they offer wildlife and conservation studies as well as zip lines and climbing. I might give the big roller coaster a miss.
Una tells me that some of the rides are specially adapted for people in wheelchairs, so they don't have to get out of the wheelchair to participate. The Tayto Park website assures us that during December, Santa’s Grotto is fully wheelchair accessible. Registered assistance dogs are welcome. The staff can also provide help as follows:
“Guests with disabilities can avail of the reduced admissions price of €12 as well as have a carer accompany them for no admission cost. We understand that some of our Guests may experience difficulty with queueing for extended periods of time. For this reason, we invite you to use the Member's entrance when arriving to the Park. A Ride Assistance Pass may be obtained from the reception desk in the Admissions building. This allows your party to avoid the queue on up to 6 attractions of your choice during the day in conjunction with valid wristbands or tokens. Ride assistance Passes are reserved for guests who do not understand the concept of queuing or may become agitated or distressed when queuing for prolonged periods of time.”

Check out the full details on their website as I have shortened the extract. This looks like a smashing day out for everyone and prices are reduced during the winter months... as is daylight of course.

This week’s horse book is Reining In Murder by Leigh Hearon ISBN: 9781496700339.
Annie Carson who keeps horses on the Olympic Peninsula is called to a road accident by police; a bay Thoroughbred has been rescued unharmed but the driver of the vehicle and trailer was killed. Annie takes the spooked horse home to care for him until ownership can be established. This starts her involvement in a crime investigation as it turns out the crash was no accident. See my review on Goodreads.

Our nature book is Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores ISBN: 9780465052998.
This enjoyable and easily readable book looks at the coyote, from prehistory when it split with the grey wolf line and trotted across the Bering landbridge to form the jackal tribe, to modern times when, with wolves almost extinguished, it has free rein to reproduce in almost every American state.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and fed a rescued seal, among other good works free with care2

Sunday 11th December 2016
Last week we were away scouting a location. The city of Denia in the strip of Mediterranean coastline on Spain's south east, is a relatively inexpensive place to stay during the winter months. While some of the footpaths are less than ideal for wheelchairs, a recent redevelopment of the harbour and marina has provided an excellent harbour walk.
Designated parking for wheelchair users is situated both in the harbour grounds, and outside along a path and beach which is a natural preserve. I like that metal rails keep anyone from parking on the spot next to the path where the ramp is located, and the rails can also be used to pull the chair up the ramp.
The top of the harbour wall is decoratively and smoothly tiled, with wooden railings. Strolling along, you can view the fishing harbour, the marina full of yachts and the coastline as far as Cape St. Vincente. Looking back you get a view of the old town and the handsome Castle up on a height. This city used to rule the Balearic Islands off the coast, and you can watch ferries and the commercial harbour which once served the raisin trade.
Even during winter we found a café or two open along the marina, where the ground floor restroom was suitable for wheelchairs. To get down again to this marina level, we followed a long ramp with stout metal railing. Dog walkers are ordered to pick up after their pets, which always helps. Recycling is strongly encouraged and we saw no litter or potential hazards for walkers in this area.

This week’s horse book is Boys Don't Ride by Katharina Marcus. ISBN: 9781311664648. A smashing young adult story about earning the right to riding lessons by doing the work of looking after ponies... and helping others. Tull is seventeen and scraping by as his absent father doesn”t always live up to his responsibilities. A girl called Liberty has no money either, but she does have access to ponies and horses as her mother runs a riding centre. Tull loves horses but has never had the chance to learn to ride.
Liberty has a cleft palate/ hare lip which required a few operations and still leaves her marked, so she is not easy to make friends with, feeling defensive. But Tull doesn't care because he’ll get up at the crack of dawn and help with ponies if that’s what it takes, so why would he worry about someone’s looks? See the rest of my review and find out more on Goodreads.

This week’s environmental book is Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann. ISBN: 9780735842083. This unusual book is good for any age from young readers up, so might make a good Christmas present. Moletown is gorgeous and clever, an art book with fun and a message about our own lives.
The mole comes to live in a green meadow and his family and friends come to join him, but the intricate machines they build for tunnelling and mining coal make their lives more busy. They have a civilisation after enough time has passed, a dense urban underground population where moles hang up their helmets at night after a day in the office or works, all beautifully drawn.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

During the past two weeks I offset ten pounds of carbon, rescued a baby turtle and planted three fruit trees for free among other good works with Care2

Sunday 27th November 2016
This week I would like to draw your attention to accessible London Transport, specifically the Docklands Light Rail. This line mainly serves the east of London including Canary Wharf and Greenwich, and meets the Tube at both north and south stations. If travelling through Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street, you should head for Bank or Stratford to join the DLR routes. If flying in to City Airport in Docklands you are directly on the DLR. The Jubilee Line is an accessible Tube line.
The DLR is driverless and was built to be accessible - no steps, none of the famous ‘mind the gap’ on Tube lines. The original Tube trains were designed to bring working people to work, and later lines were added piecemeal. This means that you may have a Tube journey that includes changing platform by walking through a tiled tunnel that leads up steps, over the head of a train tunnel, down steps again, and be quite a long walk too. Not every Tube station has elevators, and some have very deep sets of escalators which would be hard to cope with for a wheelchair. Once you get to a DLR station on the other hand, a lot of it is above ground, and all is at an easy accessible level.
To use public transport in London now, you need to buy an Oystercard and tag on and tag off to be debited for the length of your journey and how many zones you use. You can top up the card at stations. Buses do not accept cash. The card is good for buses, Tube, DLR, trains within London, river boat bus and the cable car from Greenwich to the north of the river. On buses, wheelchairs are free. Each bus has a sliding automatic ramp, usually at the middle door. Assistance dogs are welcome.
This link shows the London Transport website page where you can see how to plan and make accessible journeys around London. Four people in wheelchairs are filmed getting river boats, buses, Tube and DLR trains. You can see that the Jubilee Line, being very modern, has step free access to platforms via lifts, and at other stations there is a blue and white wheelchair symbol on the ground for a wheelchair to use this spot to board. A call station can be used to summon a platform assistant to help a person needing a portable ramp. The staff will also help a person through barriers and direct them to the stations and routes they need. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympic gold medallist, is featured in one of the films. Her message is “Give it a go. Come on board.”

This week’s horse book is Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins. ISBN: 9780993683701 I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of a young competitive rider whose life changes in an instant. She decides to spend the summer doing something different, staying alone in her family’s holiday cottage on an island and working in a B&B.
An Appaloosa mare isn't the ideal wage packet.
See my review and learn about the series on Goodreads.

This week’s nature read is The Ferocious Summer: Adelie Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica by Meredith Hooper. ISBN: 9781553653691
As a journalist researching for a book, the author spent a summer on the Antarctic coast with the science team which works to study everything that can possibly be studied, including penguin colonies. The small Adelie penguins had to brave leopard seals and foul weather as they strove to collect shrimps to feed their chicks.
As much a portrait of the people and living conditions at Palmer Station as anything, this is a fascinating read. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored the planting of a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely and contributed to Amnesty International among other causes. I did this at no cost through a site called Be careful as with many sites today, the comments may contain spam ads.

Sunday 20th November 2016
This week the place of interest is recommended by my roving reporter Ellen. I love visiting garden centres and these days they have so many additional ways for you to enjoy the afternoon.
“Otter Nurseries, at Ottery St. Mary. Devon, a short way over the border from Somerset and about 8 miles east of Exeter. They have a good collection of wheelchairs at the doorway and you may use them for the day at no cost. This is a garden centre, with a good restaurant, clothes shop, country craft place, sells homemade jams, chutneys etc is huge, really, and has a great Christmas display each year. The only drawback is the small number of designated disabled car places there are. However, even when these are used you can drive to the door, drop off your disabled passenger and settle them in a wheelchair under cover, then go off and park your car.”
With flowers, plants and aromatic herbs, a garden centre has plenty of fragrances, and contrasting plants to touch as well. I’m really pleased to hear that this business took the initiative and has made all their customers so welcome. Their restaurant advertises a gluten free option and locally sourced foods, including meats; they suggest that you can ring ahead if you have special dietary requirements.
The photo is from my own garden.

This week’s horse book is The Perfect Horse: The Daring American Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts. ISBN: 9780345544803. Ballantine Books.
This history is quite chilling as we follow the horse breeding schemes of the evil Third Reich. Germany is today one of Europe’s biggest producers of horses. In 1936, when the tale starts, the Great War had killed millions of horses; exports of horses were demanded under reparations; the Olympic team did everything it had to do to win all the gold medals for Germany. The Second World War despite employing tanks, trains and trucks, used 2,750,000 horses from Germany alone, sixty percent of which were killed according to this book. Poland was invaded and stud Arabians stolen by Russians, then the rest were sequestered by Nazis for breeding in their cause. While breeding was an inexact science, the principle of breeding the best horses for a particular purpose was well understood and the Nazis wanted to breed a purebred race of war horse. The Lipizzaners of Austria, trained in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna under Alois Podhajsky, were a natural target.
I love the photos of the Lipizzaners training. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. As with any factual book on wartime, this contains some distressing scenes so is not suitable for children.

This week’s nature book gets into our back gardens. Welcome To Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John M. Marzluff, Jack Delap. ISBN: 9780300197075. Yale University Press. This book mainly focuses on mainland America but also looks at Britain and Hawaii. We see that bird species have had to cope with the spread of urban habitats and some have thrived while others have been lost or reduced. Species are categorised as avoiders, adapters or exploiters of urban habitats. The author lists nine ways to make our home areas more attractive and helpful to birds. These include putting up nest boxes, adding stickers or blinds to high windows and planting berry bushes in the garden. The illustrations are gorgeous, showing birds in their environments. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed this book on Fresh Fiction.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and donated to the Jane Goodall Institute, among other good works, for no cost at
I also need to thank Allan, my husband and webmaster, for putting this blog on the web each week.

Sunday 13th November 2016
A good place to visit for disability access and an interesting day out, is the Museum of Transport in Glasgow. This newly built museum is on the Clydeside where the River Kelvin meets the Clyde, and occupies some of the former warehousing, shipyard and dock space. A tall ship which once carried cargoes, the Glenlee, is moored alongside and forms part of the exhibition. Limited parking and buses are transport options and a dedicated phone is provided to call a taxi.

The Riverside Museum building has an interesting design shape and the inside is like a great hangar to fit double decker buses, trams, cars, aeroplanes and more. Very popular areas include a reconstructed 1930s Glasgow street, with a horse and cart, including inside the shops. Sit comfortably inside a subway train where you can hear conversations from the past, or listen in to passengers on a tram. All kinds of transport are included from bicycles to space travel, even a massive train built in Scotland and sent to South Africa, and some you might not think of like traditional prams. These can be viewed from different levels as you rise through the building.

There are lifts and restrooms to suit the less able, while the café is on the ground floor and the chairs and tables are not fixed in place. There's so much to see that you'll likely want a lunch, but just because you are in Scotland that doesn't mean you have to eat haggis. We enjoyed a wonderful rich Moroccan chicken soup which was a meal in itself, with tea and coffee. Later we sampled more tea on board the ship, which can be hired as a catering or party venue. When we visited, the lift to lower decks was working but the website suggests ringing in advance. I was pleased to note waterbirds on the river as well as some boating activity. Seats are available and a person using a mobility aid had a good time getting around. The Museum states that it welcomes people with hearing impairment and assistance dogs are permitted.

This week’s horse book is La Grulla by John R. Wright.
A grulla, a crane-coloured mare of Spanish descent, is at the centre of the beautiful, carefully crafted tale. Some elements of this Western historical adventure remind me of Max Brand (for a strong and gallant young hero, and girl who can ride and shoot) while the epic journey and search for a safe home remind me of The Outlaw Josey Wales.
I am a horse lover and several horse and mule characters play a great part in the story. The people too are individuals and we see our central hero growing through the journey, ending in a fantastic endurance ride with death at his heels. The tension is gradually introduced and builds through the book until I did not want to put the Kindle down, I was so caught up and entertained.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week’s nature book is If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems by James P. Lenfestey.
"We are bees then; our honey is language."
- Words Rising by Robert Bly.
Indeed humans are like bees, and we depend upon these industrious little pollinators. Published to highlight the threat to the bees worldwide from colony collapse, insecticide, impoverished landscape and varroa mite, this diligently collected set of poems has something for everyone, young and old. I noticed that some poems were principally about bees, but many more just mentioned bees as part of the scene they were depicting. Whether in an early line or a late one, the bee was shown as an indivisible part of the garden, field, hillside or farm. Coleridge's Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath, manages to mention bees in both the first and last lines. Emily Dickinson describes bumblebees as well as honeybees. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and sponsored the rescue of a baby turtle, plus other good works. I did this for no cost through the site

Sunday 6th November 2016
This week I'd like to recommend an accessible visitor site in Ireland: the Dunbrody, a recreated famine emigrant ship. She sits by the quays in New Ross, Co. Wexford. While building the three-masted barque she was prepared for a sea voyage. She sailed across to North America and returned to New Ross from where the ancestors of John F Kennedy had travelled to a better life.

Dunbrody has a lift to make her accessible below decks. The staff are very helpful and are happy to put the lift to use. This is suitable for three or four people or one wheelchair and one or two people. On board, visitors can handle the parts of the ship and furnishings similar to those used by emigrants. Actors will tell their stories and explain the lives of people from various backgrounds. The sounds and scents of the times are provided and this is a really immersive experience.
Close to Dunbrody on the quays is a new Visitor Centre with a first floor café and restrooms. These are fully wheelchair accessible. New Ross is not large so I suggest planning a lunch in the town as well as the shipboard visit. This location is an easy drive from Kilkenny. The Dunbrody Famine Ship received an award at the 2015 CIE Tours Awards of Excellence. These awards are based on an independent evaluation of questionnaires completed by CIE Tours International coach tour customers. Dunbrody is open seven days a week from 9am with the last tour at 5pm. Tours last about an hour.

This week’s horse book is Small Town Filly (Sandbar Stables Cozy Mystery #1) by Bethanie Cushman. This is a very enjoyable, not too complex or violent mystery. There are plenty of horses, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned. The tale follows a young lady in America who mysteriously inherits a riding stable business on the Gulf Coast, a sandy beach in Florida to be precise. Trouble is, various hotel developers want the land, and the next door boating firm wants it too. See the rest of my review, and find out about the author and see other reviews, on Goodreads. The book is suitable for anyone from mid-teens to adults.

This week’s nature book is Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront by Heather Wolf.

I love this account of starting to birdwatch from almost no experience, in a brand new park built at Brooklyn Bridge. Heather decided to document each species she found and this meant she had to buy a better camera... and learn to be a better photographer. The results, the photos in the book, are often stunning for their beauty and lively quality. Heather took strolls to the park near her home often so she got to see migrant coastal birds as well as residents and noted their behaviour; nesting, feeding or staking territory. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed it on Fresh Fiction. This book has a foreword by David Lindo, an urban birdwatcher from London.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and raised a farm animal humanely. I did this for no cost at and supported other good works as well.

Sunday 30th October 2016
Recently my husband and I visited Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool is one of the new museums along the waterside which used to be docklands. The docks were the lifeblood of the city and shipbuilding was carried out here on an enormous scale as well as goods trading. The Museum of Liverpool was one of the best attractions for people with disabilities we'd seen.

No entry fee. Automatic doors. Assistance dogs welcome. Staff are friendly and capable. The building occupies several floors but there is a free locker area on the ground floor, with Braille on the keys and lockers. Wheelchairs are available. A Braille guide is available as are large print versions. Spacious lifts and a central spiralling ramp provide easy access. The lift has Braille markings and each area has its floor plan provided in a raised format near the entrance.

Each floor has its own set of restrooms including a disability access one and nursing mother facilities. Seats are regular features of each floor, especially in front of a short film. These were particularly welcomed by older people. The café, with free-standing tables and chairs, provides hot meals and cold snacks, good fuel. For a hot filling lunch we each paid seven pounds plus tea and coffee.

With differing aspects of the city's history highlighted, from nautical paintings to the Grand National and World War Two, an enormous array of artefacts has been collected. There is too much to see in one day. Many of the exhibits contain sound recordings, like the voices of people who tell their stories, or typical sounds of the time and place, and the Beatles are a highlight. Signing in BSL and some captions are provided as well. I also found scent spots, with cargoes and dock scents. Touch exhibits include stonework, fabrics and dock materials.

We visited a pilot boat which was docked alongside the building. This has stairs, but a visitor with a stick was able to get aboard and see most of the boat with the free guided tour. When we left the museum I thanked the people at reception and told them this was the best museum I had seen for inclusive access. This museum has a policy of being autism friendly.

We stayed in a hotel, part of an inexpensive chain facing the dock area. Basic needs were met and we dined in pubs further up the city; of course, everything is uphill from the sea but there is a lot to look at in a small area. We also visited other museums in the dockside area, which can be easily accessed on foot or in a wheelchair. These were the Merseyside Maritime Museum and International Museum of Slavery. Parking for cars with disability badges is provided. Another item of interest to me was the monument to the Working Horse of the Liverpool docks.

Horse Book: Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker. ISBN13: 9781783444014. Paperback, 352 pages. Published 2016 by Andersen. Sexism and bullying are rife when a girl from a troubled background tries to work her way up from groom to apprentice jockey. A fine grey mare called Manhattan is just as difficult and will be condemned if she doesn't shape up and start winning races, as her Arab owner won't breed from losers. And our young heroine has a dodgy uncle who encroaches on her growing freedom. This is a reminder to all young readers that acting the maggot will get you nowhere but down. Age: YA to adult.

Environment: The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. ISBN13: 9780465055999. Hardcover, 304 pages. Published 2015 by Basic Books.

The book explores the relationship we have had with seeds over the centuries and how our near relatives gorillas still search them out for food. The oldest seed to have survived and sprouted is a date palm seed found at Masada, two thousand years old. The author spent time with various researchers, in forests, farmland, jungles and in a coal mine. Carboniferous plants which we have found are ferns and horsetails; but only the swampy land preserved plants, and on the uplands, paeleobotanists now believe, grew conifers producing the earliest true seeds. Chapters are devoted to the chemistry of coffee, of chocolate, of chile pepper. Spices coming along the Silk Road and wheat carrying rat flea larvae played immense parts in history.

During the week I offset seven pounds of carbon; bought three trees to be planted; saved a turtle hatchling. And more, all at no cost. See the website for details.