Saturday, 28 April 2018

Accessible Glamping

A few weeks ago I was looking for somewhere I could go for a short recharge break. I love the glamping idea, but could I find the right one for me? My criteria were: wheelchair accessible, trees near, campfires allowed, and not on a big site with lots of people. My expectations were low. More like non-existent.

And then I found The Bulworthy Project, in Devon.

The owners live in 12 acres of private woodland which they manage - and in that woodland is a small, off grid, wheelchair accessible log cabin.

I stayed for 3 nights and LOVED it.

I enjoyed the outdoors, both in sunshine and rain. (Bring waterproof trousers and jacket!) The woods are small, but varied. And I often found myself just sitting - getting lost in the sights and sounds, or lying back and having a nap under the trees.

And I enjoyed the indoors - warm, cosy and dry. I even did some editing of the next stickman books!
Collage of 8 photos of trees, woodland clearings, more trees, beautiful trees, and a happy me.

 Collage of photos 5: 1. printed draft of a stickman book with cup of tea, 2. more trees, 3. camp fire and dinner, 4. camp fire, 5. After dark, camp fire in background, cup of tea and book in foreground.

Collage of 4 photos: Wood burning stove; happy me in a tree in the rain; chair stuck in 8 inch thick mud soup; photo taken inside cabin of music score, tenor recorder, and woodburning stove in background.

And yes. I totally plan to go back again!

About the cabin:

The official blurb is on the owners website

This is the official photo of the front of the cabin:


Internal access:

And I've added some access notes below.

This my sketch of the layout. The numbers correspond to the notes below.


C is written on the plan in places I can turn a full circle in my manual chair.

1. The shower. Very narrow, maybe 600mm. Water is heated by the wood burning stove, and once it's hot the tank stays hot for well over 12 hours. I asked if they had a shower seat - they didn't, so they bought one. And despite it being a big stool in a tiny space it worked really well. Currently no grab rails.

2. The toilet. No grab rails, but can get my wheelchair in to the room, and the small wash hand basin means it's easy to use from wheels or standing. The mirror is a bit high, but I'm sure that can be sorted by the owners.


3. The bed is quite high. This image shows me perched on the edge of it. It was about 15cm higher than the seat of my chair. On the plus side this means storage space underneath.


4. Fold out table fixed to the wall, with 2 folding chairs. I put the folding chairs under the bed so I had better circulation space.

5. Wood burning stove (also heats water) on a large metal surround so you can't knock into the stove itself when you go past.

6. Wood store (with locked cupboard of water heating tech above)

7. unit with a few shelves and hangers. (currently all quite high).

8. Kitchenette - sink, 2 ring hob, drawers/cupboards with utensils etc in, and a small camping fridge. All the storage is either on the countertop, or below it, so no high cupboards.

9. Doorway, with a threshold of approximately 1 inch.

10. Veranda: covered, wooden, approximately 1.3m wide (guesstimate)

11. Ramp. (guesstimate 1m wide) takes you up the side and onto the front veranda. It's wide enough to store a power chair in the dry (unless the rain is horizontal) and probably wide enough to turn most wheelchairs round - but my Off road chair (Magic Extreme X8) isn't great at small turns, so I chose to reverse back down the ramp using the steering lock.

12. Steps down to grass.

The view from the doorway into the cabin, and then the view from inside the cabin through the open door where you can see a path into the woods.

Outdoors:
The cabin is in a small clearing with a BBQ and a camp fire area, surrounded by young trees. The owners house is visible through the trees, but far enough away not to be 'overlooking'.

There is space to park on a lane about 3 metres from the ramp. There are main-ish roads close enough to hear an occasional truck, but not close enough to intrude.

There are no streetlights (obviously!) so bring a torch or two.

The accessibility of the woodland will depend very much on the individual and their equipment. I could go pretty much everywhere that was wide enough to fit my chair through, both along tracks and into un-tracked areas, although I avoided areas that looked excessively boggy. Well...most of them. I blameand got stuck and was cheerfully rescued by the long suffering owner. In fairness to the chair, that mud would have drowned a quad bike . (I have an Extreme X8. I think a standard power chair would have seriously struggled with much of the terrain and possibly completely failed, so please make your own assessment as to whether your chair would cope!)

In a manual chair getting around the woodland would be very challenging - there are some footpaths, but they are foot paths worn by feet, and the owners quadbike, and are going to be very affected by things like wet weather.

Any chair will get muddy. I'd advise having the wheelie equivalent of wellies that get muddy and are left on the veranda,  and slippers which stay clean and dry and are for use inside.

But part of the beauty of this cabin was that by opening the door or sitting on the veranda you are in the woods - with the birdsong. The BBQ and campfire areas are within a few meters (over rough grass, but close) so one day I barely left the clearing and still had a really lovely time.
Photo collage of 2 images: 1 photo of ramp to cabin, and 2 a campfire.
(The camp fire location is at the top right of the image with the ramp - you can see the log benches.)

Electricity: Solar power.
There are lights in the middle of the room, by the kitchen area, by the bed, and in the bathroom, and 2 USB sockets by the bed.
NO standard 3 pin sockets. So there is no-where to charge a power chair. My chair lasted staying there 3 nights ( 2 full days and 2 half days)  without charging and going on several 'walks' through the woodland each day, but not with much power spare. Speak to the owners if you might need to charge a power chair - but be aware that their home runs off solar power too so leaving a chair to charge overnight may not be possible. For a short break you may need to keep an eye on battery power and try and ration usage a bit. Like you would if camping in the wilds for real.

Internet:
The cabin has wifi. There's nowhere to charge a laptop, but the wifi gives good phone access to the internet.

Phone reception:
I had no phone reception at the cabin (EE) - but could use the wifi to make calls. In the woods where there wasn't wifi, there was often phone reception.

Owners:
If you speak to the owners (or email them) about access needs they can help - e.g. I asked about a shower seat and they bought one for my visit.
They are also very chilled and real about disability - not once did they say I was brave, or question my competence/ability to look after myself. (Explaining why this is remarkable would be a whole blog post in itself - but many of you will know what I mean.)

Would I recommend it:
In short, if you think this sounds accessible to you and you love being in nature: Yes.

4 comments:

  1. We’d like to say thanks for giving us, by far the most useful review our cabin has received to date. We’ve always intended to make the cabin as accessible as reasonably practical and the feedback you’ve given us is immensely useful in taking this forward.

    We’re looking into grab rails for the shower. Unfortunately, in trying to get a lot of cabin interior into a small space, we did end up a very small shower. If we put grab rails on both sides, it would reduce the space considerably. We could put rails on the side where the shower controls are without losing too much space. Would that be useful? We realise this depends on the abilities of the individual.

    We would be happy to buy a one of those support frames that goes around the toilet if it was needed by a future guest. We have added a line to the “thank you for booking” email to ask for information about people’s accessibility requirements.
    We’ve got another longer mirror. We need to make a frame to go around it before putting it up.
    We’re toying with the idea of a low platform that slides under the bed with a ramp at one end. This would allow a wheelchair to be level with the bed. The whole thing seems a bit Heath Robinson, but could be made to work.

    We hadn’t thought at all about the accessibility of the wardrobe (doh!). It will be really easy to make it so that we can move the hangers down as required. We’ll also move the books onto the window ledge, so they’re in reach (sorry!)
    We’re sorry about the steps down to the grass, but we can’t really put another ramp at the front of the cabin without losing a lot of space where the barbecue is. We are widening the entrance to that area at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp, by the parking space.

    When we first bought the woods, there were no tracks at all. We’re in the process of making it more accessible, but this is a long and costly process. It’s unlikely that we can ever make it completely accessible, but we should in time be able to make at least one mud-free track around the woods.
    We’re looking at options for charging a wheelchair. Because we run entirely on solar, charging at night is difficult, but we should be able to do something.

    We’ve found, shaped and oiled a nice bit of oak to use as a backplate for some hooks so that we can put more towel hooks and coat hooks at a lower height. What a great excuse to fit another beautiful piece of wood in the cabin. We do like our wooden features.
    Thanks again for your feedback. It’s been really useful and we look forward to seeing you again.

    Anna and Pete

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    Replies
    1. It was such a lovely place to stay! And I can't get over how fabulously accommodating you are! Don't worry about the steps - they don't need replacing because the ramp already gives access to the same area. Also, did you know you can get suction-based, removable grab rails that will stick to tiles? A pair of these would mean that it could usually have none, then put them in exactly where a disabled user needs them :) - I'll email you a link to some. Regarding the bed height, it might be best to wait and see if anyone needs it raising. Some people find a higher bed easier, it's just something that is useful for people to know in advance so they go prepared. Thanks again for having the best attitude towards accessibility that I have probably ever come across in a company :)

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    2. Thanks for the top tip about the suction grab rails. We got some in case they're needed in the future.

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    3. We thought that we should let you know, we've removed the top section of the threshold and profiled the bottom section. This means that there is now a threshold 10mm above floor level which is slightly sloped on either side to make it more wheelchair accessible. Thanks for highlighting this issue in the blog. It was easy to remedy once we thought it through.

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