With lockdown easing and a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult year, the upcoming Bank Holiday presents an ideal opportunity to get outdoors and explore Essex with friends and family...
We understand that getting out and about isn’t always straightforward if you have limited mobility, but a bit of fresh air can do wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing so we’ve rounded-up some of the county’s more accessible outdoor destinations for you to enjoy this weekend. Of course, you needn’t go far or spend big to experience a little of the ‘new normal’ – if you’re lucky enough to have a garden you could always fire up the barbeque at home, meet a friend for a coffee outside your favourite café, or cool down in your local pub garden with a glass of something chilled. If you are feeling more adventurous, there a whole host of places just waiting to welcome you back.
When you’ve had your fill of the amusements, grab some fish and chips from one of the many takeaways to keep you fuelled on the free to access, wheelchair friendly Clacton Seafront and Garden walk or hop on the adapted carriage of Southend’s train to take you the 1.3 miles to the end of the longest pleasure pier in the world.
If you’d prefer to feel the sand between your toes, Clacton also offers easy beach access on the Martello Tower side of the pier, while Chalkwell Beach in Southend also has easy access from a series of ramps straight off the promenade. Both spots are completely free to use and feature in the Beach Guide’s list of Essex seasides with disabled facilities. Changing Places are available at West Greensward on Clacton seafront or at the Chalkwell Shelter in Southend should you require them.
Elsewhere on the coast, Bath House Meadow at Walton-on-the-Naze is home to a fantastic inclusive playground which young people of all abilities will love. Free to the public, there’s an accessible ramp onto its central pirate ship, wheelchair accessible equipment, and interactive stories for children who are blind or hard of sight. After some serious play time, the seafront is just over the road with its generous walkways and frequent spots to stop for an ice cream.
Away from the water, Essex boasts some beautiful stately homes, gardens and nature reserves, all of which are beginning to open back up to visitors. While the interiors remain off limits, the Capability Brown designed gardens and acres of accessible parkland at Audley End in Saffron Walden more than make up for it. Rest points are dotted throughout, and paths are mostly tarmac or smooth grass. The adjoining miniature railway offers carers free entry, and the wheelchair friendly carriage means everyone can enjoy the 1.5 mile trip through spectacular woodland.
In Chelmsford, RHS Hyde Hall comprises a variety of fabulous spaces, including its glorious Hilltop Garden. As the name suggests, getting to the top to appreciate the views may be a struggle for those with a manual wheelchair or walking aids and unfortunately, restrictions mean mobility vehicles are not currently available to hire. However, with well-kept paths and seating areas throughout there is still plenty to see. If gardens are your thing, Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens in Colchester is another stunning space to spend a sunny afternoon. Benches are plentiful so walkers can regularly recharge, and its 7.5 acres are fully wheelchair accessible, although mobility equipment may struggle in places on a soggy day. Carers are admitted here for free.
Competition for booking is fierce but if you are able to secure yourself a slot, Colchester’s Zoo is a great day out. The sloping paths may suggest otherwise at first sight, but the park is wheelchair accessible via dedicated routes. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are available to hire, and assistant’s tickets are free. There is a sensory explanation trail and a visual social story for visitors with conditions such as autism, while for the visually impaired audio tours are available.
This is just a snapshot of what’s on offer in Essex this weekend, so if nothing here tickles your fancy there are plenty more opportunities to get out and about! Don’t forget that ECL Care Solutions is always on hand with support and practical ideas to help you overcome everyday problems, like our range of eating, drinking, and mobility aids. Visit our store or contact the team on 03330 135 438 for more information and let us help you make the most of the great outdoors…
*If you require Changing Places toilets, please check the local process for registering for key access. Due to social distancing requirements, many sites require time slots be booked in advance*