Since May this year, life has changed dramatically for me and my family. We can no longer go just about anywhere… well, I can’t. I need crutches to get around a few steps, or for anything more than a few steps it’s a wheelchair or mobility scooter. When I first started having to rely on these walking aids, I realised that going places were not going to be as easy as they once were. And I’ll be honest… it was depressing. But the good thing is that I slowly learnt how to adapt and find some awesome places to go that are great fun, amazing, accessible AND family friendly.
I’ve been recommended by quite a few of my readers to write a blog post about accessible days out. But I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do… it’s only been 6 months or so of experiencing life like this, and I’m far from an expert. However, we have indeed gone a LOT of places in the last few months with a wheelchair or mobility scooter, and so, I thought it could definitely help at least a few people to share my top tips. And so, here it is! I hope this helps, and please do share to anyone who may benefit.
Sheffield Accessible family days out
Sheffield City Centre
Going into town was one of the first days out I braved even before I had my own wheelchair or mobility scooter. This is because cheap scooter hire is available from Mobile Sheffield in the Moor Market, at the Clarks & Partners stall. All they require is to sign up, register with ID and pay a couple of quid for day hire. You must call at least 24 hours in advance to book one and then just collect from there. It couldn’t be easier and this really helped me to get out and about and enjoy the city centre before I had my own scooter.
The scooters they have are small, handy and easy to drive. Available to use all day and you can go where you want in town. It’s a really handy service.
As for things to do in the city centre, I’ve found all the usual things we did before are still accessible. I’ve been to Gell Street playground with my son and found it fine to get around inside with a scooter and I could push him on the swings etc., the cinema (although be aware the Light Cinema don’t allow babies under 1 in screenings), Winter Gardens, Peace Gardens and Crucible Theatre.
We ate at The Tea Studio cafe at the Art House just off Division Street which I found very accessible with a ramp and disabled toilets. Other accessible places to eat in city centre include Winter Gardens and the restaurants around that area, restaurants at Leopold Square, Costa Coffee in Orchard Square, John Lewis and Sheffield Cathedral cafe.
There’s free scooter or wheelchair hire at Meadowhall. The mobility stand is at the Argos entrance to Meadowhall. You need to call and book ahead for a mobility scooter in advance, but can walk up on the day for a wheelchair.
The whole of Meadowhall is accessible and I had no problems anywhere. Eric really loves the new riverside adventure playground, and it’s spacious inside so I could get in with the wheelchair and find a space to be close to where he was playing without any problems.
Free scooter hire at Fox Valley, a lovely place for food at Zorro Lounge, and shopping! We called Fox Valley to enquire and book the mobility scooter, which was arranged for us without any issues. It was waiting for us next to Zorro Lounge when we arrived and had to ring a number for one of the security team to bring the key and check our ID. Really quick, good service.
Fox Valley is all accessible and has some good shops like JoJo Maman Bebe!
Wentworth Garden Centre
We had a day out here and took the mobility scooter, had no problems at all getting around or accessing anything. The family farm and playgrounds are so much fun for kids, and there are some picnic benches just behind the large sandpit/water playground area, where I could sit and park the mobility scooter while he played. The rest of the farmyard was flat and accessible with a ramp up to the entrance/exit. The animals were easy to reach from the mobility scooter both outside and inside the barns.
I didn’t go inside the tea room as in previous years I’ve found it to be soooo busy, so we took our own food for a picnic… but I’ve heard that it is accessible.
We did go into the historical walled garden. I did the maze with the scooter and could follow a path around the outside of the gardens, although the majority of the good stuff is in the middle that is only accessed by steps and this was a bit upsetting. However, it’s historical and so sometimes, it’s just to be expected. I still enjoyed being there with my family, the maze and the woodland area that the scooter managed to drive around.
Hillsborough Park & Walled Garden
I absolutely love gardens and parks, and when I can’t quite see everything properly because it isn’t 100% accessible it’s really disappointing. But the Hillsborough Park Walled Garden is fantastic for this… all the little paths around the entire walled garden are accessible and wide enough for a mobility scooter (or wheelchair). There’s no ‘little areas’ that wouldn’t be suitable to see and no waiting around feeling left out. A picnic area with benches is towards the top end of the walled garden, and they’re the round ones rather than the square ones that I find easier to transfer to from the scooter.
The rest of the park is completely accessible and flat, including around the water so you can go feed the ducks, too. There is a library, and toilets in the bowling green, though I’m not 100% sure if there are any disabled facilities. For toliets/refreshments we go to the Costa Coffee at Leppings Lane, they have ramp access, or alternatively the Costa Coffee at Hillsborough tram stop has step-free access.
Chatsworth House gardens
Chatsworth House have really made the effort to try and be accessible for everyone, and for that I was grateful. I called up to book a free mobility scooter 2 days in advance before our visit, I swapped my wheelchair for this on the day, no problems. The scooter was light weight, easy to drive and similar to the one I use at home. I was given a map and guide for accessibility walks around the gardens that I found really useful.
The gardens have all accessible flat paths around the main parts. There’s a few paths that go off-road, including one down to the Revine, which I followed. I had to then get off and use crutches to go up the Revine a little way; it was slippy and I honestly wouldn’t recommend this (and it is marked OFF on the accessibility map!) but if you are very keen like me, then it is doable so long as you are very slow and careful. The revine is absolutely beautiful and it’s a shame it’s not accessible.
Inside the maze is not accessible and the revine. At the Grotto there is no accessible ramp or anything into it, but it is up high so that’s sort of to be expected just a little disappointing. I did feel a lot of the time I was just waiting for Eric and ollie who went off and explored. But the main paths are accessible, so I wanted to include it.
No mobility scooters are allowed inside the house itself, wheelchairs only and there are lifts. We didn’t do this, just the gardens. The farmyard is accessible and has a lift up to the adventure playground, but then it would be not accessible as there is wood chip everywhere. There is a flat path going up to the playgrounds, though… though I’m unsure how you would be able to transfer to a picnic bench.
Sheffield Botanical Gardens
This is one of my favourites because NOTHING is off limits! And I just love going here and being able to see everything I would do on feet but without walking – I don’t feel disappointed or left out at all! There’s so many wonderful paths to go down, flowers, plants, the glass houses to explore (and they’re accessible all inside, I even made it around the small bits as they’re just wide enough), there are disabled toilets and plenty of space in the open grassy areas.
I even found the small rock garden with the fish to be accessible with my mobility scooter, and went around the fish pond with Eric. And the bear pit.
Most of the paths around the gardens are flat, wide and easy. There are a few areas down near the fossil tree that the terrain gets a little tough, but can be very easily avoided.
I honestly love Sheffield Botanical Gardens so much, and even more so now I’ve experienced how accessible it is. 🙂
Woodland Walk: Forge Dam to Endcliffe Park
This is mobility scooter friendly only and definitely not suitable terrain for a wheelchair. We got a taxi to Forge Dam with the scooter, played in the playground, sat outside the cafe and fed the ducks. There is a disabled toilet. Then a beautiful walk through the woodlands, and although it was a little rocky at time, my little scooter did just fine. Keep to the ‘easy going trail’ which is marked (and always be on the right hand side path) which is more suitable as the other paths lead to stepping stones.
Near to the end of the walk, I also went up a little path at Shepherd Wheel Workshop to the top to see the water and ducks, so don’t miss out on that as it is beautiful.
I was able to go all the way from Forge Dam to Endcliffe Park no problem, with another playground and cafe at the end.
Norfolk Heritage Park
The woods at Norfolk Heritage Park past the playground (not Jarvis Lum) have these big, wide open paths that are just fantastic for mobility scooters and to be honest, I would be tempted to say it’s OK for a wheelchair, too. It’s not particularly rocky terrain and definitely not like wet, boggy woodlands.
There is an accessible ‘centre in the park’ with disabled toilets and a cafe. 2 playgrounds, including a big adventure playground and a smaller one across from it with baby swings, picnic benches, scooter track and musical equipment that I was able to do with Eric on the scooter. I found it easy to access the playgrounds (although the wood chip in the adventure playground meant we had to stay close to the gate once in – but that was fine).
This beautiful walk is amazing, good views and it’s a flat path all the way around so there’s no problems at all for scooters or wheelchairs. I highly recommend it.
The village of Low Bradfield can be a little tricky as there isn’t always a flat path, or marked crossings, and at times I was just in the road. I couldn’t find a public disabled toilet, but I know there is one at the school rooms deli or the plough pub.
Zest swimming pool
I was really happy with the accessibility at Zest community centre swimming pool. We went to an open family lunch time swim. It was not busy at all, easy to access and the facilities fantastic. Price was good value for money, too, and the entire building was accessible. At the swimming pool there’s big accessible toilets with shower rooms suitable for wheelchair users. A separate accessible entrance to the pool, there is a hoist, a ramp or steps into the pool, and the staff were helpful when I needed help with my crutches.
Crookes Valley Park and Weston Park Museum
There’s free wheelchair hire at Weston Park Museum. The cafe, gift shop and entire museum is accessible with a lift up to the picnic area above. I had no problems getting around the museum with Eric and would definitely go back again with the scooter.
The park is accessible, flat path all around including where the ducks are and the bridges wide. Keep going past the sports facilities, exit to the left hand side and Crookes Valley Park is just next to Weston Park Museum. There is a flat path around the water and a playground that’s easy to get into.
And a little further away…
We’ve managed quite a few trips since I had the scooter/wheelchair and not being able to walk won’t stop me! I absolutely love traveling, near or far and have found these places great:
Wakefield – Hepworth Wakefield & Pugneys Country Park
Hepworth Wakefield is a lovely art gallery with gardens, playground, cafe and picnic areas. We love it there. And bonus, it’s VERY accessible. Everything in there is accessible, there’s lifts, disabled toilets, everything is flat.
Pugneys Country Park was a real surprise for us and we were able to swap my mobility scooter for a more off-road terrain one for going around the lake. This was fantastic and only cost a few quid. I highly recommend doing this. There’s bikes to hire, including children’s trailers, too. Playgrounds, a trail, cafe, miniature railway… so much to do.
Hull – The Deep & Hull and East Riding Museum
We spent the weekend in Hull and I experienced a mixture of non accessible and accessible days out. Firstly, the museums quarter is a great place with lots of free museums but the Street Life museum on the day didn’t have a working lift, so I was only able to see the lower ground. But that’s still great, lots to see. It’s free. The Hull & East Riding museum, just next door was sooooo accessible around the entire museum. There were wheelchair lifts at nearly every corner and I didn’t miss anything out.
The maritime museum is also free and accessible, with a side door step free access and ramps, lifts inside the museum.
The Deep was very accessible, with lifts, ramps and flat paths everywhere. The DinoStar museum in the fruit market is not accessible to the floor above, only the ground floor, as there’s no lift. However, they give free entrance if you find difficulty with stairs to see the bottom floor.
Haven Primrose Valley
The whole holiday was fantastic at Haven Primrose Valley. Firstly, they do accessible caravans and this was just great. The accessible caravan had a big ramp to get up to the front doors of the caravan, sliding doors throughout inside, wider to fit a scooter or wheelchair, wet room and lower kitchen units.
Throughout the whole of the park I found it accessible including both the swimming pools. The arcades, lakeside complex, funfair was all accessible and fine for going around with a scooter. The only two things I wouldn’t have been able to access if I couldn’t have transferred to crutches were the beach and paint a pot studio (steps going up, no ramp going up to the inside area of the paint studio). We did lots of activities, swimming, exploring the park and it was a fantastic holiday.
Birmingham – Library, Birmingham Museum, Thinktank Museum and Cannon Hill Park
We did 3 days in Birmingham, it was great fun. Thinktank Museum is all accessible and I highly recommend the museum in general, just fantastic and loads to see. The Birmingham Museum is FREE and that was accessible, too, and had a little childrens play room and lovely tea room. Birmingham Library was amazing, a new renovated library with a secret garden… lifts going up and disabled toilets. Highly recommend that one.
Cannon Hill Park was easy to get around, all flat and I went into the playground with Eric. The MAC centre had a cafe and art exhibition centre that I accessed with the scooter and it had disabled toilets.
and not visited just yet but going to…
- Chester Zoo. I’ve booked a coach trip to Chester Zoo in a few weeks and have rang to order a mobility scooter to hire, rather than take my own just to make things a bit easier. It was very easy and the staff on the phone have been great answering any questions for me and helping me figure out how I can access the Lazy River Boat – they do indeed have a wheelchair accessible boat.
- Renishaw Hall. I’ve seen on their website they do wheelchair and mobility scooter hire, but I have not been yet. I have been prior to needing them and it was a fantastic day out.
- Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We are going next month for Eric’s birthday to the halloween event, with a mobility scooter. From previous visits I remember it being mostly flat paths and accessible so it shouldn’t be an issue.
And things I don’t recommend…
Sadly, I have had really bad experiences with Northern trains. I’ve been told I’m not allowed on their trains anymore with my mobility scooter, despite the fact it dismantles down and can be carried on/off the train. I have had more than 1 bad experience with their staff and find their policy extremely discriminatory. You can read about that here.
In comparison, we had fantastic service by CrossCountry Trains who turned up on time, to help us at the station as promised, with 2 members of staff to help get us on the train with the scooter.
I do hope this has helped some of you who may be using a wheelchair or scooter, or perhaps need to find a day out that’s accessible for family or friends. Please do get in touch and recommend me accessible days out, trips and little places to go nearby. I’d love to try them out. 🙂