Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP
Telephone: 01246 565300
Review by John Lea - September 2010
It is a memorable place for me because it was there about 20 years ago, when I was still struggling to walk, my wife booked a scooter for me. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me so much that I bought one soon after.
When you visit Chatsworth you will see hundreds of cars in the car park but the Gardens are so extensive that you wonder where everyone is, that is until you go to the main restaurant for your lunch and they are all there in the queue ahead of you. To enjoy the Gardens, because they are so extensive, you need wheels and if you don't want your spouse to divorce you, they need to be electric wheels. There is a milestone at the far end of the Gardens with a 1 ½ mile sign-on it, that is a long way to walk back. Fortunately you can hire scooters (must be booked in advance) and with them you get a map of the grounds but be prepared to wait for a while. Each time I hired one they were very slow in actually producing the very comfortable scooter.
If you are on your own wheels it is important that you get this map because, although there is a relatively flat and smooth path to the main fountains, this garden is on a slope. Some paths are too steep while some others, although not as steep, can be very greasy under the trees. I have done a bit of skidding when I ignored that map. But with it you can see and enjoy the whole garden. Don't miss the vegetable garden (you can do a circular route avoiding the steps) even in September it was beautiful and there is also a sensory garden. You smell, you touch, you see and you can get round in a wheelchair.
The Big News at Chatsworth is that the house is now fully wheelchair accessible - and it is fantastic! The staff are so helpful in guiding you that they make a visit an absolute pleasure. It took us 2 ½ hours just to go round the house, so if you want to go round the Gardens after wards you could double that. But, but, but if you go round the house and then into the Gardens you end up without that important map. The maps are available at the garden entrance, which is to your left after you leave the gift shop. As usual, you can’t get out of the house without going through that gift shop and remember at Chatsworth everything is larger than you expect. Maps are also available at the gateway that you enter before you go into the house, that is where the hire scooters are collected.
You must ask for that map. Do not go to those gardens without it!
There are no disabled toilets in the house or in the Gardens and I haven't seen one at the top where the restaurant and main shop is. The only one that I have seen is at the bottom close to the gateway where you collect your hire scooter or go through on the way to the house entrance.
For food there is a large restaurant reasonably priced at the top of the bank in the old stable block but the queue is no place for the walking wounded. There is also a small cafeteria there. There are also cafeterias situated both just inside and just outside the lower garden entrance.
The cost of house and gardens for concessions is only the £9 50 and carer goes free, that must make it one of the best days out you could have.
My wife always goes near to Christmas just to see the Christmas decorations in the house, she claims they are fantastic. While she is doing that I go for a scoot round the Gardens and they have always let me in free. Throughout the year they stage a variety of other exhibitions that add interest to any visit.
Hopton, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 4DF
Telephone: 01629 540458
Review by John Lea - 1st March 2013
In 2013 the gardens were open from February 1st to March 3rd for the snowdrops. Later in the summer from June 18th to August 29th the gardens will be a open for the Roses and of course there is 30 acres of gardens and woodland. There will be an accessible toilet throughout the opening periods.
There is a notice at the entrance saying, "Not suitable for wheelchairs" which is a bit offputting. You are welcome but need to think carefully how able you are before you visit.
I was made very welcome in my electric wheelchair but there are problems, it is a sloping site, the paths are loose gravel and many have just been relayed. My wheelchair does not like loose gravel so there were paths that I couldn't follow, but even so, I had a super visit. Arguably the best show of snowdrops I have ever seen.
From the bottom car park you can take a relatively level path around the back of the house and up to the formal gardens. The loose gravel drive up from the front of the house is too steep for wheelchairs.
At snowdrop time the tea rooms are in the house (we had delicious hot soup and cake) but for the later opening period the tea room is at the top of the formal garden. In the summer period they do not do anything hot - just a normal light tea.
The formal gardens are fantastically laid out in preparation for what must be a superb summer show of colour. But they are terraced on a sloping site with a quite steep path up to the tea room. Manual wheelchairs would be an effort or have to accept limited access and even small wheeled scooters would have difficulty on the loose gravel. Medium sized scooters and electric wheelchairs would cope okay but of course you would need to be sensible and choose your route. Obviously the owners can't do anything about the terrain but perhaps a few more garden seats dotted about would be appreciated by the more elderly visitors. Also because it is the sort of garden where just to sit and look is enjoyable.
The gardens are not far from Carsington Water, and of course if you are energetic you could combine both visits. This reservoir has large visitors attractions with scooters and wheelchairs available. There is a circular walk right around the water, which I have yet to do. It is on my list of intentions!