Back to Homepage   Forward to Recent Releases Clare's Blog
Click on interactive map for accessible venues
Jul 2017 to Dec 2017

Click here for our top ten pick of Irish locations

17th Dec 2017
For a change this week I am showing a useful looking item. This is called Firefly and it is an electrically powered one-wheel unit that attaches to the front of a wheelchair, making it into a tricycle with its own lithium battery power!
I showed the pictures to a wheelchair user who said “Oh wow!”
I have not tested this so I don't know how effective it is, but it would certainly help with getting up ramps or travelling any kind of distance, and reduce sore hands. A wheelchair user's helper would have an easier time of it too. The information provided says it “fits most active wheelchairs and reaches speeds of 12mph.”
I have chosen this link because it gives a great video demonstration of a wheelchair user simply fitting the Firefly and getting around easily. If you Google it, you will find a dealer for your area.

This week’s horse book is a western romance, The Bull Rider's Cowgirl by April Arrington. ISBN: 9780373757435.
This exciting and vivid romance features a young lady who is determined to be a world champion barrel rider, chasing the rodeos to qualify. As Jen has a learning disability that makes reading difficult for her, she is not sure what she'll do after she has to quit rodeo - other girls might attend college. For now, she cares for her grey horse Diamond and stays away from the men.
But one bull-rider in particular might prove a distraction. Colt is a fine sportsman, but when his business-running parents are killed in a crash, Colt has to drop everything and go to care for his little step-sister, who has been raised around servants and is scared of ponies. Jen rightly feels that Colt should not have to do this on his own, so she makes the trip with him, missing out on points.

This week’s nature book is The SeaLand Incident by Brent Saltzman ASIN: B01LW2F7BB.
This is a very unusual book and well worth a read. I'm in admiration of the author who took a whole lot of detailed research about keeping fish, sharks and whales in captivity, and took it one step further to conjure up for us the spectacle of a 16ft long Great White - in a tank.
The narrator is researching for a journalistic article about an incident which supposedly occurred in 2015 after Tropical Storm Ana, when a large shark was trapped in a sea inlet near popular tourist spot Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Without spoiling matters, I can tell you that we understand very early that all did not go well.
Indeed, given the amount of warnings we are provided with on everything from complexity of maintaining correct water salinity, and transporting sharks without choking them, to large marine life killing trainers as the orca did in documentary Blackfish, it's hard to imagine any other outcome.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, fed a rescued seal and raised a farm animal humanely with

10th December 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Our class from Dublin Business School visited and as the day was bitter cold we walked through the grounds of the Botanic Gardens to the Museum entrance, and made a beeline for the café to enjoy a hot lunch. The dramatic installation of a sea of poppies was well worth a look; timed to coincide with Poppy Week, this ceramic flow of flowers was by Paul Cummins Ceramics Ltd.

Inside the Museum occupies five floors and has lifts to all, with some displays that sweep up through the whole building and others that are on themed floors. Among other interesting objects were a cannon from a Spanish Armada shipwreck, a skeleton of an Edmontosaurus dinosaur and a stuffed champion Irish wolfhound. The ground floor presented the Troubles in Northern Ireland and how it affected local people. As we went up we went further back in history, to the post-Ice Age natural environment, with a skeleton of the Irish great deer next to a reconstructed model of the deer, also called Irish Elk. Further back we found meteorites and geology. Not forgetting the wickerwork dragons on the ceiling!

The restrooms are accessible, though all located on the ground floor, and I was pleased to note a sign explaining that not all disabilities are visible. This is especially thoughtful. Seating is provided at intervals through the galleries, but I did not find objects for touch or scent and there was not much in the way of sound effects. I observed a family including a young person with a learning disability enjoying the Ice Age animals. With a lot to explore, plan to spend a day in the Museum, or else to come back!

This week’s horse book is Show Stopper by Mary Monica Pulver. ISBN: 9781557739254.
This is a nice story from the point of view of describing an Arabian Horse show, or the early part of it, held in America. A murder occurs overnight and it's wrapped up rather quickly without too much forensic evidence. We get a lot of gossip about people doing bad things to horses in the hope of winning prizes and prestige. I'm pleased that we don't see much of this appalling behaviour.

The series is about a male detective but in this book he is not in the picture and his wife, an amateur sleuth, does the investigating.

Show Stopper

This week’s nature book is The Edge of Extinction: Travels with Enduring People in Vanishing Lands by Jules Pretty ISBN: 9780801453304.
The author has travelled a considerable amount and made the effort to meet people in marginal areas leading cultural lifestyles out of step with today's world. He mentions having been in China thirty years ago and the changes since. We see nomadic herders, fishermen, mountain dwellers and bird-catchers, everywhere from Mongolia to Finland to Australia.

I commend the author for recording these ways of life, and noting difficulties such as strip mining or industry which encroach on their lands.

However I would have liked to see some suggestions from him as to how modern life can make improvements. Living on the fringe of civilisation would be cold, painful, hungry, physically strenuous, risky and isolating. There would be early deaths, especially for pregnant women, and high infant mortality. The role of women is not considered by the author, but these family-raisers would have unsanitary water and random access to food and clothing. With ever more water supplies being bought up by water-selling companies, how will some of these basic lifestyles persist? And is this a fair way to bring up children?

Options not considered by the author are available. Compromise allows people to live the way they choose, with modern assistance and contact.
The Turkish government gives grants to shepherds for solar panels which are carried on donkeys, in order for them to power up laptops. Cellphones, charged by solar panels worn on a backpack, may carry an app to diagnose eye diseases such as cataract and glaucoma on the spot, so doctors can provide targeted treatment to remote areas. The charity UNICEF uses public transport and local staff to provide vaccines and education in the remotest areas of the world. An origami microscope made of paper with inbuilt lenses and LED light source, can be used to diagnose diseases such as malaria.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, and bought a woman a biometric smartcard so she can open her own bank account. All with

3rd December 2017
Getting in the festive spirit, this week I visited the Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall. Our Dublin Business School group had been booked in for a guided tour, so we were taken around City Hall which was nicely decked out for Christmas. We learnt about the 400-year-old charter of Belfast as a city; a painting showed that it was established in shipbuilding, linen making and farming at that time. The council chamber with opposing benches, journalists' seats and Lord Mayor's seat were all open to us and we saw paintings of Queen Victoria and Edward the Seventh who visited, as well as portraits of past Lord Mayors, and a ballroom which hosts charity and public events.
As we had climbed stairs to reach the upper floor I asked if the building was fully accessible, explaining that I blog about disability access. I had noticed that the upper floor had doors which opened at the push of a button, so I was pleased to learn that a lift is provided to take anyone with mobility issues to the upper floor and the building is accessible. Because I had asked, I was then shown a very handsome platform lift to help visitors get from the ground outside to the raised ground floor of the building.
The market outside was just as easily accessed and was all contained within the stout railings of the grounds. I bought artisan cheeses from a cheesemaker who had come over from Cheshire, and a simnel cake from a local cake maker. Hot foods and drinks, and many kinds of handmade gifts, were on offer as well as the chance for children to play in a snow globe. Well done to Belfast City Hall for putting on such a friendly event.

This week’s horse book is A Bit Of Sugar by Deborah Wilson ISBN: 9781457542329.
This is a sweet story about a young girl who wants a pony of her own, and a family of good people who want her to be happy. The read flows easily and introduces various characters and issues.
I am sure the tale will be enjoyed by pre-teen readers. The girl heroine wants a pony and keeps saying so, and is then able to convince her parents to give her one. I was like that, but I was told that ponies cost a lot to keep on an ongoing basis and that when I grew out of the pony it would have to be sold. These points are established through the story later, but should have been explained to a fairly mature young lady.

This week’s environment book is To The Poles Without A Beard by Catharine Hartley ISBN: 9780743231527.
This honest memoir is a contradiction in terms. Catharine became, with another woman team mate, the first British woman to walk to the South Pole - a year later they were the first British women to walk to the North Pole, making them the world's first women to walk to both Poles. And she tells us that she did this because she had nothing better to do.
Lacking a direction in life and disliking school, this young woman took stage manager jobs because they were easy and she was shy. She spent time travelling to remote places like deserts and Borneo, taking foolish risks travelling alone, while - this is what annoys me - having no understanding of the natural environment nor asking if she could help anyone. If I spent months living among rainforest people I would be asking the WWF if I could carry out species counts and asking UNICEF if they needed vaccines or school supplies delivered.
To The Poles Without A Beard

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, saved a turtle hatchling and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at

26th Nov 2017
This week I recommend a trip to the National Leprechaun Museum in the heart of Dublin. I visited with a young person, probably the best way to go, but all ages will enjoy the variety of themed rooms and settings, from a stone circle to a giant's kitchen. The legends are told by a folklore teller and we found plenty of things to play with or climb on - parental supervision required. A nice little café is called Brambles café and there is a gift shop too. Spooky stories feature in an evening opening event.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and has an accessible restroom. We found quite a bit of moving around is required but seating is provided. Nice for a cold wet day.

This week’s horse book is Kimbay by Rose Doyle ISBN: 9780330341929.
Living in the big house at Kimbay after her father's death, a young woman has to decide whether to give the Irish stud farm and racing world two years in a make-or-break effort or to go back to her French boyfriend, a businessman in Brussels. Flora is more of an onlooker and decision maker than a hands-on person, though she does do hands-on work as well. For no reason I can see she lets anyone at all ride the hacking horses and bring strange horses into the yard at breeding season. There is a more experienced manager and she has a filly in training with a reasonable trainer. Flora however resents leaving the decisions to these people and gets their backs up while doing the wrong thing. Naturally there is an element who wants her to fail.

This week’s environment book is The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution by Clive Finlayson ISBN: 9780199658794.
This author has spent years studying the Neanderthals, especially the remnant population of Gibraltar, their last home. He's including Neanderthals, whose DNA has been found among modern humans, and Denisovans, the recently found Siberian group with a DNA which has also merged with humans, as humans. To me it is obvious that seashore, river valley, marsh and estuary are a better environment than open plains full of predators, for a small, fragile people. He says we followed water around as the climate dried and got wetter, as we moved around the world or the world changed around us. We were rain-chasers. The Sahara is the prime mover of such changes becoming a barrier to passage when dry but showing that at various times in the past there were rivers and lakes, now arid fossils.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling, fed a rescued seal and other good works with

19th November 2017
This week I recommend a trip to Brú na Bóinne which is the visitor centre for the World Heritage Site holding Newgrange and other prehistoric tombs. When I was young a school trip to Newgrange meant getting off the coach and walking across a field. Now a major visitor centre is the only permitted access. Evidence of habitation and ceremonial burial dating back 6,000 years can be seen in the centre. The famous tomb of Newgrange, which marks winter solstice, is 5000 years old, older than the Pyramids at Giza, and a bus with guide takes visitors from the centre.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and can be used in the centre and site, except that they can't enter the passage tomb - but a reconstruction of the chamber is in the centre. Restroom facilities are in the centre. The spacious café offers various choices including baked potatoes and salads when we visited.

This week’s horse book is Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry ISBN: 9780689716010.
Now in Kindle format. Annie Bronn Johnston tells her own story from early childhood in Nevada through a crippling bout with polio which left her trapped in a cast and learning later to walk again. She married a young man who worked on and purchased her parents' ranch. Annie had her own mustang, Hobo, and had grown up around them as working horses, so she was horrified to find that mustangs were being rounded up wholesale from the wild country and sent to petfood plants.
As a part-time office worker Annie embarked on a paper crusade, calling in journalists, editors and schoolchildren as well as prominent local politicians. She could see that the Bureau of Land Management intended to allow profitable exploitation of every last wild horse to protect the interests of sheep and cattle grazers.

This week’s nature book is The Burnt Fox by Neil Grimmett ASIN: B01HDBX10E.
Neil Grimmett was a deeply talented writer who used portions of his earlier varied career for material, so here he tells of a man introduced to the work of gamekeeper on a Somerset estate. We'll expect a lot of the tale to be fiction for dramatic's sake but his skill at conveying location, atmosphere and a creeping sense of malevolence will make ‘Burnt Fox’ linger in your mind long after closing the book. The early part of the story is set in a Council sink estate, rich in its dreadfulness and the main character's desperation to escape. The wood-encircled manor house with ponds, mineshafts, ice house and tied cottage, seems like a way to better the family's fortunes.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, gave a woman a biometric smartcard to open a bank account and funded the Jane Goodall Institute among other good works.

12th November 2017
This week I'm reminding readers to check ahead of visiting a place of interest, as many close or go on shorter days and hours for the winter, or over the Christmas period. The hours will be announced on their websites. The John F Kennedy homestead, which is located at Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, closes for the last week in December. I visited the family farm from which the Kennedy family set off to America, in 2002 and since then a new interpretive centre has been added. Here visitors can see the historic return home of John Kennedy in 1963, to meet his cousins. The history of the farmstead and the family are traced to modern day. This handsome stone farmhouse and outbuildings are wheelchair accessible with plenty of car and coach parking. At present there is no café, but a picnic area is provided.

This week’s horse book is In Pursuit of a Horse by Christine Meunier ISBN: 9780987533.
This is a short book for pre-teen girls who want to read about keeping and riding ponies. A few young girls are allowed to spend two weeks with a lady who keeps and deals in ponies, during the hot Australian summer. They may be able to buy or lease ponies if they can find ones to suit them. A good deal of basic information is imparted.
One of the families has recently moved to the area, and while both parents have jobs, they have leased a surprisingly large property and are hoping to make money from it by taking livery horses. A nice touch is consideration of stable management courses and qualifications.

This week’s nature book is How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey ASIN: B06XPJPSN6.
This is a very enjoyable read with bright, colourful cheeky photos of chickens. The home flock kept by the author adopted her as one of them because she spent so much time with them, and they clucked and squawked to her in a way which she came to recognise as chicken language. They had separate alarm calls for danger on the ground or danger from the air, they had a greeting and a goodnight, and they even adapted a call to be the lady's name.
As well as behaviour of a free range flock, we get some history and modern science. When you see a few hens on a perch, the ones on the outsides of the row have each got one eye open to watch for predators, but half their brains are asleep.

This week I offset six pounds of carbon, contributed to Oceana, the International Animal Welfare Trust, the American Humane Association and Breast Cancer Research, as well as helping to educate a child through Children International

5th November 2017.
This week I recommend the Wexford Lavender Farm, as advised by my roving reporters Alison and Jimmy. Highly rated by Trip Advisor and seen on RTE, this Gorey, Co Wexford family farm has changed from dairy to organic lavender, barley and woodlands. The farm hosts a café and information centre, as well as a kids' playground and a cheerful train ride pulled by a quad bike around the farm. The main areas are all wheelchair accessible and the café chairs can be moved. The woodland walk is not accessible for wheelchairs and the car park is gravelled. Guide dogs only are welcomed. Check the website before you go - not just for history and information about lavender's uses, but for opening days and times which vary according to the season.

This week’s horse book is a free short story on Kindle. Takoda and Horse by Andrew Grey ISBN: 9781627984201.
This won't take long to read, but it's worth making time to enjoy the sense of place and gentle prose. A young Lakota man drives up the mountain for a camp over the weekend, but ends up finding a more reliable way to travel. Is it true that a great man deserves a great horse, but the horse must do the choosing?

This week’s nature book is Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table by Langdon Cook ISBN: 9781101882887.
This very enjoyable look at wild salmon, the people who profit from them and threats to them, is a fine reminder that clean environment and wealth go hand in hand.
From restaurant owners to native fishermen, the men who decided to market fresh salmon as opposed to canned, and the legislations they all have to follow, we get a comprehensive view of the topic. We also get recipes, adventure and travel down the west coast of America.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, gave a woman a biometric smartcard so she could have her own bank account, and supported the Jane Goodall Institute.

29th October 2017
This week I’d like to mention a positive step towards getting accessible routes on Google maps. Belinda Bradley posted on "Hello! Exciting news. We've been noticed. You all got #createwheelchairfriendlyroutes trending! And because of this, we have received Google's attention! They're extremely excited to collaborate and be involved. From this, I've been invited to discuss the possibility of these routes at their local guides event. We want disabled users to have the exact same service, mapping of routes and availability as any user." If transport and walking routes are accessible, visitors can enjoy many places of interest that have been made ideal for them. Getting there can be half the effort. You can view a petition and updates on this link.

This week’s horse book is Yearling (North Oak #2) by Ann Hunter ASIN: B010S2Y9C4.
This sequel to Born to Run revisits a troubled young teen who has come to live on a stud farm in Kentucky. She has many problems still, from behavioural issues to being illiterate to seeing the breeding process. Just as she is settling in, getting competent at riding and making friends, the daughter of the farm owners tells her that the colt she loves is going to be sold at the fall auctions. The farm is a business, but it's enough to make our heroine resent everyone.

This week’s nature book is For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose ISBN: 9780091797065.
I've really enjoyed reading this book every evening. Robert Fortune, head of the Physic Garden in Chelsea, London, was sent out to China to search for and steal the secrets and seeds of tea.
The Scot led a charmed life for at this time, 1840s, China was largely closed to foreign travellers and resented having lost a war to better military technology and being forced to trade on British terms. Once he obtained tea plants, cuttings and seeds, he had to ship them, hoping the glass Ward cases would work. Then Fortune had to find out the trade secrets of making black tea and green tea.
The central theme of the book is the wonderful and finicky tea plants and their cultivation, harvesting and the preparation of tea.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a farm animal humanely and supported the All for no cost at

22nd October 2017
This week my roving reporters Alison and Jimmy have recommended a visit to Wexford's Irish National Heritage Park. Situated near Ferrycarrig, on the River Slaney, this outdoor adventure recreates 9000 years of Ireland's history. Explore woods, tracks and ways of life then find a home-cooked meal in the café. The park is 30 years old and local naturalists enjoy birdwatching here.
Guide dogs only are welcomed. The Park is mainly wheelchair accessible and any paths not suitable are clearly marked. Mobility scooters can be borrowed for the day with a small charge. A hearing loop is installed, and audio sets are placed in three main points, Crannog, Ringfort and Viking, with particular emphasis on helping visually impaired visitors enjoy the sites.

This week’s horse book is Live and Let Growl by Laurien Berenson ISBN: 9781496703385.
Well done to the author on keeping this series fresh. Melanie and her Aunt Peg with their large Poodles are in Kentucky looking into a matter of Peg's having inherited a brood mare. As Peg knows everyone in the dog show world, they meet up with a senior lady who used to be big in showing and take her to a show; a murder inevitably occurs as old wounds are re-opened. Plenty of the scene is set on a stud farm.

This week’s nature book is Making Sense of Weather and Climate by Mark Denny ISBN: 9780231174923.
The author starts by saying that you don't need any more than a basic understanding of science and math to grasp his text. He proceeds with copious terms from physics and meteorology, so I'm recommending this book for those who are definitely interested in the science. Weather is the movement of air and water. From the water cycle and carbon cycle, the formation of hurricanes and tornados, and the results of extreme weather in terms of lives and cost, there is plenty to learn and plenty of reason to learn. The text is frequently illustrated with graphs, photos and line drawings. The Coriolis effect, centrifugal force and deep ocean currents are all discussed. Famous storm events such as Hurricane Katrina are cited, along with the drying up of the Aral Sea and the disappearance of California's water and aquifer. Major climate issues are on the world's discussion table.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, fed a rescued seal, saved a turtle hatchling and supported Amnesty International. All at

15th October 2017
Last week we were enjoying Octocon. While there I gained two roving reporters from Hodges Figgis, Ireland's oldest bookshop, which had kindly supported Octocon and had a fine display of SF&F books in its window as well as a stand at the Con filled with tomes.
Hodges Figgis is wheelchair friendly and has a lift to the first floor. The basement is not easily accessible, since this is an older building and there are limits to renovations that may be carried out. Staff are on hand however, friendly and willing to help fetch books either from the basement or from higher shelves. I asked about large print books, but these are sent directly to libraries by the publishers. Hodges Figgis does stock books which are specially created for people with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

This week’s horse book is Jackie on Pony Island by Judith M. Berrisford. ISBN: 9780340575468
In this adventure Jackie and her staunch friend Babs go with their ponies to explore nearby Pony Island which has a causeway covered by the high tide. Holiday cottages are available on the popular island and the girls befriend three young people who are giving pony rides on the beach, trying to raise funds to keep their ponies over winter. Many misadventures follow, from colic to near drowning to scoundrels and thieves. This book really has a lot crammed into it and a young reader can learn a great deal whether or not they like riding. Other than not having mobile phones the story doesn't feel too dated.

This week’s nature book is The Rights of Nature by David R. Boyd ISBN: 9781770412392.
I heartily recommend this intriguing book about laws and consequences. If at one time enslaved peoples, women and non-landowners did not have legal status as persons with rights, but now they do, what is the logical progression? The author shows how cases have been brought to try to grant rights, legal person status and other issues on behalf of primates, orcas and other creatures, even to the Great Barrier Reef. We get a chapter on the various intelligences of these animals and birds, with fascinating studies and examples.
While much of the book focuses on USA with the snail darter habitat being destroyed by damming and the spotted owl being placed at risk of extermination by logging, moving forward to the corporate bullying of fracking and factory farming, other nations are studied too. India, with the Asiatic lion and the grotesquely polluted sacred river Ganja, Costa Rica and Ecuador with constitutional changes to protect rainforest habitat, and more.

During the past fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, raised a farm animal humanely, supported breast cancer research, supported Amnesty International and more. All free at

1st October 2017
This week my roving reporter Allan has recommended the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin. This hotel, which has hosted Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention, for the past several years, is very accessible. Entrance, foyer, bar, restaurant, convention centre are all wheelchair accessible and the hotel can provide fully accessible rooms. Particularly recommended is a swimming pool downstairs which is very accessible too. The hotel is on Dublin Bus routes.

This week’s horse book is Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy. ISBN: 9781310122767.
This unsentimental novella follows the tradition of Smoky or Flicka in presenting a horse running loose with mustangs on the mountains, then passing through the hands of owners. The dangers of wild living are certainly shown with several foals not surviving to adulthood and the herd preyed upon by cougars and bears. Humans are not always kind or thoughtful, but the handsome quality of the black colt is recognised, making him valued more than other mustangs.

This week’s environment book is A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint. ISBN13: 9780749929756.
Inspector Singh is a Sikh but not, we gather, a wholly devout one, who is quietly married, clean-living but too fond of his food. He isn't the most popular policeman in Singapore and to get rid of him his superiors keep sending him on foreign cases involving Singaporean citizens.
I thought one strong aspect of this otherwise standard murder story with recognisable characters and tensions, was the issue of illegal rainforest logging in Borneo. Forest is being cleared wholesale and oil palm plantations set, because this highly productive crop is edible and can make biofuel.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, fed a rescued seal, saved the Peruvian rainforest and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at

24th September 2017
This week Ireland held Culture Night which is an annual evening of celebrating culture by various places opening doors to visitors, holding talks, tours and parties. One such location was Deaf Village, a centre which exhibited artworks and short films by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The event was also part of their Irish Sign Language week.

This week’s horse book is Rodeo Horse by Sharon Siamon. ISBN: 9781405243100.
A trio of pals are being split up for a few months, two of them being cousins. One girl is from New York and the other two are more into ranches and horses. At this point various adventures have left them with a mustang mare, Shadow, not broken yet, and they are in Canada but not at Mustang Mountain ranch, learning barrel racing with another two young people they meet. I enjoyed the horse scenes and some of the girls' changes in personality were funny, as they gain new interests and grow up a bit more by taking responsibility.

This week’s nature book is The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred. ISBN: 9780753545874.
As a tree surgeon, I'm rating this my favourite book of the year. The author shares with us some of his adventures while climbing trees, either for pleasure or while rigging cameras and filming for BBC and National Geographic.
These are no ordinary trees. The tale combines tree knowledge and mountaineering as James shoots a catapult - in extreme cases a crossbow - to carry a fishing line over the first branch, 170 ft in the air. The falling weighted line is then used to pull up a rope, nylon in the early pages, Kevlar by the end. The climber then uses his harness, clamps and karabiners to hoist himself manually. After that he can start to climb. Taking note of bark features, flowers, fruit or nuts, insects, spiders, bird life, iguanas, primates and the rather large harpy eagle who sees him as a threat to her nest.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling and supported Children International. All for no cost at

17th September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat has recommended a visit to Lidl in Sallynoggin. When she parks at the supermarket she can park under cover and take an elevator to the shop floor. This is very helpful to her when planning a shopping trip. I am always glad to get recommendations for places of interest to visit which go further to be accessible.

This week’s horse book is Riding Barranca: Finding Freedom and Forgiveness on the Midlife Trail. ISBN: 9781570765780.
Partly autobiography, partly travel writing, this is a horsewoman's tale. Laura Chester had a fraught relationship with her mother and riding was a way to escape from tension and just be herself. Barranca her favourite horse is a Missouri Fox-trotter with a four-footed walking gait and he covers ground in Arizona with her effortlessly. The drawback of her local trail ride however is the possibility of meeting armed smugglers, drug stashes and desperate immigrants. Another concern of Laura's is mining for metals which may be polluting ground water.

This week’s environment book is Adventure Cats by Laura J. Moss. ISBN: 9780761193562.
This is a smashing look at cats who share outdoor adventure with their owners. We're advised on harnesses, RFID tagging, vaccinations, warm jackets, travel crates, lifejackets for sailing and more. The photos alone are worth buying the book for in my opinion but the research and advice make it a splendid resource. I also love the travellers' tales, like the hikers who adopted two abandoned kittens while on a hike.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, bought a woman a biometric smartcard so she could have her own bank account and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at

10th September 2017.
This week I'm recommending Odeon Cinemas in Ireland. They are working hard to make the cinema accessible for individuals and families. For people with visual impairment, a headset can be provided for some films which carries a verbal description of scenes and actors' body language. A person with hearing difficulty can avail of a hearing loop, and subtitled performances are listed separately. Someone in a wheelchair can book a wheelchair space and someone needing a carer to help them enjoy the film can bring one free of charge when producing the appropriate card. Assistance dogs are allowed.
Also the cinema holds special screenings which are autism friendly, with no ads or trailers, and hope that in this way people with developmental needs can learn to attend and enjoy regular screenings with family. Great move! Each specific cinema has its facilities listed at the bottom of its page on the Odeon site.

This week’s horse book is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Anna Sewell was crippled as a girl, and lay near a window where she could watch the horses in the street. She became acutely aware of their working conditions and wrote 'Black Beauty' to tell it from a horse's point of view. This coincided with compulsory education, so for the first time the working class children could read. This raised awareness of the problems at the time, from overwork to a lack of drinking troughs on the streets, to the cruel bearing reins on carriage horses. The fact that working people were so dependent on their horses was another factor.
Anna Sewell's gravestone was destroyed to make space in the graveyard not many years ago. A cartoon published in a national newspaper showed a child sitting reading 'Black Beauty'. The caption was - "The monument to Anna Sewell that they cannot destroy."

This week’s environment book is The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton. ISBN: 9780425208977.
Great mystery. I'd previously read one by this author which was set in and around the Canadian antiques shop owned by the heroine. This book goes to Easter Island for almost all the story, in one of those mysteries involving a closed circle of people who know each other for a reason, in this case propounding rival theories about life and myth and moai on Easter Island.
Moai of course are the giant stone heads. As the heads all represent men, I was pleased to encounter some legends about women in the book.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, raised a farm animal humanely and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest.
All for no cost at

3rd September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat recommends visiting the Starbucks coffee shop in Blackrock, south Dublin. She tells me a lift is installed to assist patrons to reach the top floor where they can sit and enjoy marvellous sea views. Wonderful to see a business paying attention to the needs of local patrons.

This week’s horse book is The Lost Pony of Riverdale by Amanda Wills. ISBN: 1511567112.
Poppy and her dad, stepmother and half-brother aged six, move to Devon. Poppy is sure she'll be unhappy until she is promised the old pony that comes with the house, which brightens her outlook, only to discover that Chester is a donkey. I found this so funny and I could see a lot more humour in the tale, like young Charlie's dedication to tracking a big cat loose on the tors. By involving more of the local community we learn about a tall grey pony which used to live at Riverdale with the donkey, but has not been seen in years. Could he be running wild, and how would he escape the annual roundups?

This week’s environment book is The Dreaming by Barbara Wood. ISBN: 9780380715930.
Joanna Drury, daughter of a woman who had missionary parents and lived among Aborigines for a few years, sails from England in 1871 to find out what haunts her dreams.
We meet the colonial sheep farmers, see their rough ways of life and the cycle of shearing and lambing in the outback, though the red heart was unexplored at this time (or explorers had not returned alive) and some thought it possible there was a great sea in the centre of the continent. With the inundation of the land by new animals in great numbers, it wasn't long before pests and diseases caught up and some farmers faced ruin. As did their wives, who had made for themselves a virtual English closed society. And we meet Sarah, a half caste girl living with Joanna and her new family.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling and helped preserve the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at

27th August 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Culzean Castle in Scotland, on the west coast near Girvan. The handsome National Trust house is full of treasures like the contents of the Royal Armoury which were shipped up when they became outdated. The ground floor is easily accessed by wheelchair and the upper floors are partly in use as a hotel so not generally open to the public, but a lift is available to the rooms you can visit. The outbuildings such as the stable courtyards are converted to shops and a teashop with level entry - I enjoyed the secondhand bookshop. However the castle is not open during winter.
As well as the house you can explore the grounds and park. Wheelchairs and motorised wheelchairs are available and booking in advance is advised. Accessible restrooms are available and accessible parking is provided. The woodlands and strand are not easy to access but the formal gardens are very enjoyable to visit. I saw several different species of lichen on the apple trees, showing that the air is very clean.

This week’s horse book is Pony Express Courtship by Rhonda Gibson. ISBN: 9780373283514.
The Pony Express theme caught my eye. We don't have a lot of detail about this postal carrier, but we do know that by riding relays on fast, tough horses, the young men were able to take mail from Missouri to Sacramento in ten days through bandits, native warriors and natural hazards. The author supposes that a home station might have been set up along the route, in this case a small homestead with sons and horses to provide relays. The lady homesteader is a widow with a daughter and several adopted sons, who has to suffer the wagging tongues of townsfolk when an official of the Pony Express arrives to stay with her while he swears in and trains the lads. This is an inspirational story which is a good fit for the times, meaning that the romance which develops is suitable for reading by YA readers as well as adults.

This week’s nature book is Timothy The Tortoise by Rory Knight Bruce. ISBN: 9780752868721.
This is a nice look at the resident tortoise at Powderham Castle, best known to me as the location for the film of The Remains Of The Day. The author had first met him while aged four, on a visit to Timothy in the rose garden, and later returned to interview him. Timothy, a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, died at a great age. The tale visits all the people who owned either Timothy - since the Crimean War - or the castle - the earls of Devon and their families. We see how tortoises were used as live food stores aboard ship, how bombing made Timothy dig his own bomb shelter, and his rich diet of strawberries, dandelions and wisteria blossoms.
Timothy The Tortoise

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Children International and Defenders of Wildlife.

20th August 2017
Visiting London recently I was struck by the fact that the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge - called the Harry Potter bridge by a child I heard at the time - has got a lift to take users up to the top of the access to the bridge. This is because the bank rises sharply from the waterside and several steps are provided to get crossers to the access. Well done for fitting this lift which lets everyone enjoy the crossing between St Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern Gallery.

This week’s horse book is Diary of a Horse Mad Girl by Katrina Kahler. ISBN: 9781310207068.
This is a lively active tale, following a girl aged nearly nine who is lucky enough to be given her first pony. Sparkle is a calm palomino mare 13 hands high, just right and older now but still keen to jump and have fun.
I wasn't entirely keen on the way that the young girl is given a pony while not knowing much about them or being an advanced rider, but her parents have the land and she was bought a schoolmaster pony. We see a few accidents and escapes during the tale to underline that you can never be prepared enough. I like that the mom in the tale says you will get what you focus on, which is usually the case.

To celebrate International Orangutan Day I'm recommending Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy by Rita Goldner as this week’s nature book. ISBN: 9780983633358.
What a beautiful book! I can't express how much I admire the art and writing which has brought this rainforest into my room. We follow young Orangutan as he lives with his mother in the canopy, licking the rain off his fur, finding durian and figs to eat, making comfy nests to sleep in and evading the odd predator.
I especially enjoy that we see the whole colourful habitat, with the other animals and birds that inhabit the forest.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, rescued a turtle hatchling and saved the Peruvian rainforest. All at

13th August 2017
This week my roving reporter Annette has recommended visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden. This feast for all the senses sits on the banks of the Thames, tucked away like a little oasis in the heart of London. Originally this was an apothecary study garden, where medicinal plants were cultivated for teaching purposes and barges would moor conveniently. The garden then became useful for introducing newly discovered plants from around the world into Britain, as it has a mild microclimate and gardeners were keen to propagate new plants and discover their healing properties. This included tea!
A wheelchair is available for visitors, and step free access is provided at one entrance with a non-reservable disability parking bay beside it. Assistance dogs are welcome. The café is open every day but Monday, a great way to explore culinary herbs and aromatic teas. As with many historical buildings however, the Gallery is only accessed by stairs. But with 5,000 varieties of plants you might have enough to explore outdoors.

This week’s horse book is A Special Friend by Linda Chapman. ISBN: 9780141313467.
This is an enchanting tale for young readers. Lauren has a pony called Twilight who turns into a unicorn and can talk to her. Lauren meets a small pony called Moonshine at a local riding school. She thinks Moonshine looks so like Twilight that she must be another unicorn. But a different person has to be a unicorn friend for each pony to allow them to change. Then Lauren finds that a boy who is only staying in the area has quietly befriended Moonshine.
A Special Friend

This week I recommend nature book Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies by Paul S. Sutter. ISBN: 9780820334011.
I found this an interesting look at the land and its history. The Grand Canyon demonstrates the power of erosion of a mighty river, over aeons; the Providence Canyon however came about swiftly through ill-thought farming practices after homesteaders took over the land from Creek Native people in Georgia. Looking at the craggy, continually eroding gullies of marine sedimentary soil, we have to say that if good farmland was ruined, at least it leaves a pretty and educational attraction. There is also a nature reserve today which includes the plum azalea not found elsewhere.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa and provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Amnesty International.

6th August 2017
This week I'm praising Dublin's high level of installation of and awareness of AEDs or Automated External Defibrillators. Having just returned from a few days in London during which I did not see a single AED or a sign directing me to one, I appreciate the frequency of this lifesaving first-aid appliance at home. I see AEDs around me in supermarkets, airports and outside banks (as in my photo). I have seen a sign on the building site at Trinity College on Pearse Street saying that, besides the usual safety gear being required, an AED is on site. If you do not know where to find an AED, or the place where it is kept is locked, it may as well not be installed. Think of this gadget as a life buoy; notice it, and respect it.

This week’s horse book is The Paint Horse by Trudy Nicholson. ASIN: B00TGZ1P1I.
This is a short story which serves to introduce us to a series of YA books about horses and young people who love them. I found the writing to be enthusiastic but not polished. A girl who has had a paint - pinto to me - horse in the past, gets one final chance to save him from a sad fate.

This week’s nature book is Maid for the South Pole by Demelza Carlton. ISBN: 9781370152216.
This is an adult romance which makes excellent use of the remote location of Antarctica.
The eponymous maid is actually a meteorology student who is working as a maid in an Australian resort to keep income coming in. She gets the chance to work as a paid researcher on an Antarctic trip instead and jumps at the chance, later filming a vlog. Also along is a male penguin researcher who contributes quite a lot about king penguins, whose population is increasing now they are not being hunted anymore, but he falls through a lava tube on volcanic Heard Island early on and needs to be evacuated with serious injuries.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely, protected the Peruvian rainforest and aided Breast Cancer Research.

30th July 2017.
Recently I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, which has re-opened after a major refurbishment. I was delighted to see several wheelchair users having a good time getting around and enjoying the Irish and global art. The gallery itself is free admittance but a special exhibition has a charge, which is reduced for seniors and people with disabilities.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and the doors are accessible. The large lift between floors does not have Braille on the buttons but the numbers on them are raised and the lift speaks the floors. As some galleries are separated by a higher or lower level with just a few steps, small wheelchair lifts have been installed as you see in my photo. Accessible restrooms and dining also feature, with many choices of hot and cold foods. Guide dogs are welcome and large text guides can be provided. The Gallery runs tours for visitors who are hearing impaired or vision impaired, and they state that any courses they run are tailored to the individual.

This week’s horse book is Winter of the Crystal Dances by Angela Dorsey ISBN: 9781927100141.
This atmospheric gentle fantasy is highly enjoyable and should be loved by girls who like horses. A girl aged thirteen and her artist mother live in a mountain cabin without electricity. They ride horses and watch the local bands of mustangs. But now the winter has brought deep snow, and this might be good for scenic paintings but it's no help to wild creatures in need of food.
Told by Evy, who has the gift of being able to feel the emotions of the horses, and sometimes communicate with them, this winter's tale is replete with change and responsibility; with friendship.

This weeks' nature book is Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones. ISBN: 9781783961498.
Hunting is now illegal in Britain but drag hunts continue and sometimes they kill foxes. We start by finding the fox in fables, folk tales, furs and rural names like Todhunter. Moving on to a night with a fox shooting professional, which can be distressing. Be prepared for a few days out with hunts, including the saboteurs' point of view. Urban foxes, rescued foxes and foxes in the media conclude the picture.
We're told more foxes are shot than ever, foxes generally do not take live lambs, and foxes may spread wildflower seeds in their scat.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, and bought a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account. All at

23rd July 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Asgard, a yacht owned by Erskine Childers, author of The Riddle of The Sands, and his wife Molly. The couple and friends engaged in a massive gun-running operation to arm the rebels before the 1916 Rising. The story of sailing Asgard to Belgium to collect the rifles and ammunition is told in a daily diary. The yacht was bought by the State, used as a sail training vessel and then retired before being recently restored.
I like that Asgard is housed in a separate building at Collins Barracks Museum, which has been made very accessible. A ramp leads to the door, and the smooth floor has lots of room to wander around the yacht. The upper level is reached by a lift which has Braille and speaks the floors. In case the lift cannot be used to return, I noticed a wheelchair refuge point with a voice alert facility. The nearby Museum has accessible restrooms and cafe, and is near the accessible Luas tram line, while car parking includes wheelchair spaces and electric vehicle charging.

This week’s horse book is The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia by Jessie Haas. ISBN: 9781612126784.
I love this book with its many colour photos of breeds and activities. I don't recommend giving it to a young person who just needs a basic pony care book to start. This has so much content that a real horse lover will enjoy looking through the breeds, including recent American breeds like the American Curly and Azteca, or the sports, like barrel racing and four-in-hand carriage driving. We see a few interesting items and some ailments.

This week’s environment book is Dolphin in the Deep by Ben M. Baglio. ISBN: 9780439230216.
This well-written book for young readers raises some serious animal welfare issues on a holiday in Florida. When I read this it was written by Lucy Daniels, a pen name. Mandy Hope loves dolphins and while in Florida she visits a dolphinarium. The owner just cares about the money visitors pay to watch the dolphin show but Bob and Bing, the stars, are real live animals. Bob becomes ill and gets good vet care but sadly he dies. After that Bing is depressed and lonely. Rather than forget about it, Mandy wonders if she could return Bing to the open ocean.
Dolphin in the Deep

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, and raised a farm animal humanely as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at

16th July 2017
This week a few people have been recommending beaches in Cornwall, for wheelchair access, so I'm picking a spot called Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Cornwall which comes highly recommended on a site called The council has built a wheelchair friendly car park and restrooms, with level tarmac path to the beach and down the sand. Beach wheelchairs can be hired for a deposit and small daily fee. The natural features include dunes and pools, with a nearby canal. As this is a popular beach it is patrolled by lifeguards. Sounds like a wonderful spot for summer weather!

This week’s horse book is The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. ISBN: 9780736957366.
The tale of a young man learning to be a farrier, apprenticed to the Amish blacksmith, is entertaining and gentle. Between his girlfriend and a young lady who returns to the area after some time away, there is plenty of female interest.
This is also a story about horses and we learn that meat buyers throng the country auctions in these towns, but the Amish value horses as work animals. By contrast we meet a show rider on Warmbloods who might spend a thousand dollars on a pair of boots.

For a nature book I have chosen Owls by Matt Sewell. ISBN: 9780091959999.
I love this whimsical, gentle book with its colourful portraits of owl species and just enough text to make each one memorable. We learn that the night hunters have adapted to environments from forest to desert, from snowy tundra to rainforests. There's snippets of classical lore and native folklore, early discoveries and up to date classification of the newly found Omani Owl.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, saved a turtle hatchling and other good works.

9th July 2017
This week I can recommend a visit to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The main museum is in a historic building which is fully wheelchair accessible. This is the largest maritime museum in Britain and possibly in the world. One day won't be enough to see all it holds! An entire gallery is given to Nelson's era while another shows the sad history of slave trading; I saw lighthouses, tea clippers and steamships celebrated and there are always special exhibits - at present one on the Franklin expedition to find a Northwest Passage. Special exhibits have a charge, and carers for people with disabilities can enter free. Wheelchairs are available to borrow and there are large lifts to all floors. The restrooms and baby change rooms are accessible. Food is provided in a large central area with free standing chairs and tables, and room for kids to play at the Great Map of the world's oceans. The staff have been trained in recognising disability and there are cloakrooms, hearing loops and large print guides. Assistance dogs and Guide Dogs are welcome and some tactile exhibits are provided. Recently the Museum trialled driverless cars to help visitors travel between the gates and the building. Accessible transport to the grounds can be by Docklands Light Rail or the Thames river ferries.

This week’s horse book is Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby. ISBN: 9781405252256.
Samphire is a part-Arabian grey stallion in the New Forest, England and teenager Jodie falls in love as soon as she sees him. Buying him in an auction seems like her dreams coming true, but then her priorities have to change.
Jodie's father, a pilot in the RAF, was killed in an accident, and her younger brother Ed has a kidney disease requiring dialysis. Their mother writes a gardening column to support the close-knit little family. Jodie has volunteered in a riding stable in exchange for rides, so she is well aware of the work associated with keeping horses. Samphire needs much more careful handling however and has to be broken to ride.

This week’s environment book is Our Ice Is Vanishing by Shelley Wright. ISBN: 9780773544628.
I found this an interesting read and recommend it to anyone concerned about climate change or traditional ways of life being lost. The focus is on the Canadian Arctic where the author, a Canadian, went in the past to teach law to students in a Native town. She writes this book from a ship sailing unimpeded through the Northwest Passage.
By comparisons with historical exploration the author shows us that in the 19th century a northwest passage was not feasible, though the Inuit lived on the ice which supported small numbers. As the world has been warming ever more rapidly, a passage was eventually attained by Amundsen who took three years to do it, staying to live with Inuit and learn their skills for 18 months.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, saved a turtle hatchling and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest, all at

2nd July 2017.
This week my roving reporter Martina has recommended a look at Bitty and Beau's coffee shops. A couple named Ben and Amy Wright in Wilmington, North Carolina, founded this business in January 2016. As they had two children, named Bitty and Beau, with developmental disabilities, they looked into employment for them and found that between 70% and 85% of people with special needs are unemployed in the US. Since coffee shops are popular it seemed like a good move to open one where people with disabilities were not just welcomed but trained and employed.
So enjoying a cup of specialty coffee can help the whole community and you may get the chance to participate in activities like dancing, besides buying merchandise to show your support.

This week’s horse book is Dare to Dream by Kate Lattey. ISBN: 9781301911639.
Marley and her two older sisters live on the family farm, but when we meet them, they are all that is left of the family. Van and Kris work hard, breaking and training ponies to sell, competing for money prizes. Marley does her bit but she is getting fed up with having good ponies sold, just to meet mortgage payments. She'll never get to the top of her sport this way. Then a new unbroken pinto pony is brought in, Cruise Control, and her dreams grow.
Show jumping and training for a living is tiring, heavy, expensive and draining, and the courageous girls are up against anyone from weekend riders on pet ponies to wildly expensive mounts for spoiled kids with pushy parents. They don't have time to meet friends or do anything outside the sport; they find that winners are not popular. The New Zealand setting is well brought to life, with a major show requiring a ferry crossing of the Cook Strait.

This week’s environment book is Money Logging by Lukas Straumann. ISBN: 9783905252682
This investigative look at the Malaysian logging firms and palm oil plantations on Borneo, shows that greed, corruption and humanitarian nightmares are not confined to the usual suspects in Africa.
A ruling family, by selling timber licences and permits to exploit, became billionaires. They were backed by global banking organisations on the basis that the island's economy should benefit. However the hardwood timbers have been sold to the timber trade, oil palm plantations are filling the land, sterile monocrops by comparison, and the native people have been shunted aside. The soil is eroding away and with no volcanoes, the island loses more earth in every monsoon season. Landslides are common with no major tree roots. Oil palm trees are hugely productive of berries full of edible oil, but again the local people are not profiting from the sales.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as supporting Amnesty International. All at