Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EH
Review by Mark Lane - May 2016
Despite having lived in Canterbury for 9 years, not once have I visited the gardens at Canterbury Cathedral. They are only open once a year, last Spring Bank Holiday weekend, but what a thing to wait for.
There are 6 main gardens: (1) The Archdeaconry, (2) No 22, (3) The Deanery, (4) No 19, (5) The Memorial Garden and (6) No 15. All of the gardens were advertised as being accessible for wheelchair users and I have to say they did not disappoint. There are also flat entry positions for people requiring such. It was a very hot day and by the time we reached the Green Court we certainly did need a drink, and refreshments were provided.
As soon as we arrived we started to queue, but a Cathedral volunteer came over to us, showed us the disabled access route, handed us a map and was extremely helpful. She suggested that we did the 'circuit' in reverse, so we started at Garden (6).
Although 2 of the gardens had gravel paths, I was able (in an electric wheelchair) to get around; however, it was noticeable that in places the gravel was deep and a number of people pushing someone in a wheelchair had difficulty making their way round. The Memorial Garden had a ramp up to it, and the volunteer explained at the start that it was a steep ramp, but the Cathedral gardeners had done everything they possibly could to make the spaces accessible. The flagstone pathways in the Memorial Garden were level, firm and wide with a good turning point in each corner. The only downside was that benches were squeezed in between plants so I could not position myself next to my partner and friend. Instead, I had to face them or be side onto them so that I could look at the gardens.
Garden (3) The Deanery had firm paths, and where there were cracks in the paving another volunteer carefully drew my attention to them. This garden is large, but in order to get to the rear garden you have to go through a narrow passage, with large bushes overhanging. Again, this was easy for me, despite having to hold back some planting, but it would be difficult for people on scooters and in manual wheelchairs.
Garden (1) The Archdeaconry was mainly laid to lawn and there are steps down to a smaller garden off to the side, which is completely inaccessible for people in wheelchairs and for people who have difficulties with stairs, but because you have to go though another door (which is only used for disabled visitors) to get in to the main garden you do get to see a secret garden with a covered walkway.
All in all, despite the gardens being private gardens access needs have been carefully thought about. I would recommend them to all - alas, you just have to wait until next year.
Hever, Nr Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NG
Telephone: 01732 865224
Review by Bella D'Arcy Reed - February 2011
Photographs by Chris Beedall
The gardens at Hever were a revelation to me - I had not realised there was such a collection of Roman artefacts or the grand, theatrical arcade overlooking a lake (I recognised it from a fashion advertisement I once saw in a magazine at the hairdresser - with a model in a gorgeous dress blowing in the wind - the dress not the model...).
For me, on a scooter, it was so easy to get round. There was only one hitch - one step without a ramp, but it had a notice on it apologising, and the scooter was lifted up (without me on it) by helpful gentlemen around me. The ramps up to the arcade and down again were exciting - quite steep and I had to 'rev up' and ascend to encouraging calls by other visitors (and an ice cream cone in one hand) and be very careful with the brake on the way down.
I mooched past seemingly endless little gardens with a statue or a pillar and different planting - some rather explosive in colour. I enjoyed circling (twice) a big statue on a plinth in a circular alcove. I loved looking over the lake - there are steps down to the water which I couldn't negotiate as I had forgotten my stick, but I could sit for a while, enjoy the view, and imagine myself in the gorgeous dress...
I poodled through a pergola, past water creeping down stones through ferns, and chatted to several topiary animals.. I had a cup of tea and a cake - it was a lovely day.
I did not try the castle. The website says:
"Castle: The steps into the Inner Courtyard make access into the castle difficult as there are no ramps and unfortunately impossible for electric chairs. The ground floor only is accessible to wheelchairs as there are spiral staircases to other floors."
So you are warned. The gardens though are four-star accessible. I didn't try the toilets, but hopefully they are as accessible and cared-for as the rest of the garden. I'll check next time.