Elmstead Market, Essex, C07 7DB
Telephone: 01206 822 007
Review by Bella D'Arcy Reed - November 2010
Photographs by BDR
The gardens at Beth Chatto's used to be accessed via a gate in the plant centre, which wasn't much of a problem, but now there is a ramp into the gardens at the entrance. To get to this you have to cross the dry garden, which is a gravel garden, which for a mobility scooter is fine, but a bit tricky for a wheelchair with a person heavier than 12 stone in it. However you can see the planting in the garden quite adequately for one or two stopping spots - and you don't want to stir the gravel too much...
Once you get into the main garden, then you are on grass or paths. On a very wet day, not often an occurrence in Essex!, you will leave wheel marks in the grass, but if is a very wet day you probably won't be there!
The atmosphere in the gardens is of peace and tranquillity, even with other people there. The day I last went, it was misty, in the Autumn, with very few others - but there was a cat: a silver tabby who accompanied me all round the garden until I was within distance of the exit - then she disappeared... (thank you, Charlie, for looking after me...)
The garden is small enough for me to use a stick rather than a mobility scooter, and in this atmosphere, it was good to walk and rest, walk and rest. I had forgotten my seatstick, but there are seats around the garden to contemplate the planting - which is the reason why one comes to this garden. (see a Review on our sister-website, www.gardensandpeople.co.uk: Garden Reviews, Beth Chatto.
In the woodland area, where I wanted to stay, they wasn't a seat - I mentioned this afterwards and was told the request would be passed on (* see response below the review). This would be good - although if I had taken my scooter, this would not have been a problem.
The cafe is accessible, and someone will carry your tray to the table for you. the Plant centre is accessible on foot with a stick and a trolley - on a scooter you have to pile stuff on the machine and carefully wheel back to the pay desk. Or you can ask for help, which you will get. Someone will carry the plants out to the car for you.
“We have one seat in the little grassy wood and 2 others in the Wood Garden, but have passed on that perhaps a few more might be beneficial for all our visitors. It is a lovely part of the garden to sit and listen to the birds.”
RHS Hyde Hall, Westerns Approach, Rettendon, Nr Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 8AT
Telephone: 01245 400256
Review by Bella D'Arcy Reed - February 2011
Photographs by C Reed
There is a short journey from the blue badge spaces to the visitor centre, but you need someone else to hold the door for you to enter and leave. Staff cheerfully let any carer in for free - and the plant centre is accessible as well - just if you want more than your scooter can hold you need a friend!
There is a track up to the gardens where the gradient has been made accessible for scooters, a bit of a push for wheelchairs - rough you can get on a 'train' with the chair. Moving up the track you can see over the slopes to the rides, and feel as if you are in Greece under the pine trees... (well, when the sun shines!) The Dry garden, which is a triumph, is difficult to negotiate with wheels , in places impossible - with a stick it is fine with low gradients and low steps.
You can wheel just into it to get a bit of the sensation of grasses and flowers. Bit of a push up the slope to the main gardens.
You need to follow the wheelchair signs to make your way round - I of course didn't, and came to a step at the end of the pool after travelling through the shrubs. A gardener very kindly helped me over - but don't count on this. The way down through the roses beds to the pool, over the bridge and round the beds to the herbaceous and formal rose beds is easy. Though there is a bit of puff needed for chairs pushers, it has to said, in some places.
The restaurant, as long as you have help with the doors, is possible, but it is not possible to take a chair or a scooter round the counter - difficult to get to the specials board as well - it would be nice to read the menu oneself *... If there is a queue and you are on your own, you have to rely on people allowing you to talk to the server over the metal barrier - although this is slightly irritating as you cannot see the food. You will need someone to carry to tray for you to the tables inside and outside, and hold the door if you are going out to the courtyard.
With a stick, perhaps there are not enough seats as you stagger round the garden - could be a perch or two nearer ot the herbaceous border as this is delicious just to gaze at. At the lower end of the garden you can wheel alongside the wonderful beds and some find yourself at the entrance again.
“We will have volunteers to help people in the gardens, and will try make the menu board more accessible in the cafe.”