Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 4BH
Telephone: 01582 548600
Review by Janet Elliston - 2011
Sign-posted after you exit Junction 10 of M1. Travel up towards airport and take first exit on the round-about, which is sign-posted.
This is an unexpected, delightful oasis not far from Luton airport. Entry is FREE and in view of what lies before you this is a real surprise.
Near the entrance is a children’s play area and beautiful borders displaying herbs and seasonal flowers. You are allowed to picnic in this area. Nearby are a selection of gardens through the ages with magnificent, colourful planting - a real treat to encounter. Here is also a Dutch, Italianate and Dig for Victory garden. As you leave this area follow the pathway along the outside wall which will bring you to a Museum of Carriages. This is an exceptional collection of carriages and transport vehicles often used for films and special occasions; from the Wild West films to Postal carriages, old fashioned wheelchairs, vehicles used for weddings and funerals, and at the end there is often a new display of some sort, such as patchwork creations, costumes, or something topical. There is also a Roman relics museum which I didn’t have time to visit.
The restaurant is accessible and serves a good meal.
Silsoe, Luton, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR
Telephone: 01525 860000
Review by Bella D'Arcy - July 2012
Wrest Park is undergoing restoration in a 20 year project and this June, 2012, it unveiled its restored parterre. It has been very careful to ensure accessibility as far as possible. As you enter on the long drive. watch out for the accessible parking sign to a car park on the right, a park adjacent to the entrance, not attached to the main car park.
The accessible loo there has a very heavy door - (they always do - can something be done about this for the independent traveller?)
There is just one thing - the archway from the shop area to the house has a step and a tiny, tiny ramp just a sloped brick really.. as you approach it you think there is no way down. which is rather alarming, but there is. OK for a scooter - though a bit of a bump - but really too much for a wheelchair.
The house has an exterior lift for wheelchairs and scooters, and when I asked about the seemingly new carpets and muddy wheels, the answer was 'we don't worry - we just clean them'! The accessible loo in the house is directly off a corridor so while scooters can leave the vehicle in that corridor, wheelchairs have to do a tight 90 degrees turn. Unfortunately the upper floors are not accessible.
There are steps down on to the terrace so you have to go back to the lift , turn left and up the ramp. This is worth it as you will get a good view down onto the parterre with its patterns, flowers and statues, and towards the far-off pavilion at the end of the Long Water. There is a good dog sculpture on the terrace!
The paths are all wide and easy for a scooter, perhaps a bit of a push for wheelchairs but at least they are not deep gravel.... As you do you go from the terrace and pass between the parterre and the rose beds, you have to take a detour to the right over the grass and past the balustrade to avoid steps. This does need a hard path, as it is a hard push for wheelchairs as the grass is a bit lumpy and when wet would be difficult. The same applies to getting to the pavilion. A good path up to it and then on the grass again to the ramp at the back. Again a hard path is needed here. It is a doddle down to the pavilion- and then - you can only get into this lovely building on legs. A case of heritage over accessibility - we have to accept these things.
It is easy to get to the sculpture gallery in the old dairy from the garden - but to get back to the house an terrace, you have to go all the way round the parterre back to the ramp.
English Heritage will be restoring more and more, so do make sure you battery is fully charged before you come here...(I went to an Olympic event week or so ago on my own and the battery ran out after five hours of going round the performances and stalls - I was pushed to the performance by two security men and a policeman to the audience area for the evening show and the fireworks and then they came back to push me to the car park!)
The shop and cafe are fine but the plant area took a bit of negotiating - this I hope will be enlarged anyway as the current number of plants is not high. I meet the gardeners and staff here and they are all very aware of accessibility, and are very happy to help if you need it. a nice place to go.
Dedicated disabled parking attached to the main car park is in its final stages and will open within the next few weeks.
The archway from the Walled Garden does have a slight slope which is used safely by many wheelchairs and scooters every day. The Central Bedfordshire Access Group who supported Wrest Park during the regeneration project never raised this as a problem. (It's the psychology as you approach... Bella.)
Scooters for those who have limited ability are very welcome in the mansion. Wrest Park does ask those who are able if they could leave them outside.
The upper floors aren't accessible as only the ground floor of Wrest Park is open to the public.