Nature is for everyone and always has been. That’s why we’re on a mission to make our spaces as accessible to as many people as we possibly can. This month, we asked Gem Hubbard (@wheelsnoheels) to let us know what she thought of our two new accessible spaces, Flora & Fauna.
Paralysed by heart surgery at age nine, Gem is on a mission to cure ableism and ignorance. Gem provides content that helps those newly experiencing disabilities and/or the need for a wheelchair – by sharing her story, and her tips and tricks to live life to the fullest. We borrowed her expertise to see what a couple of days at Flora is like!
Our long weekend in Exmoor started as soon as we arrived at Flora & Fauna, two gorgeous fully wheelchair accessible safari tents nestled away on the Somerset/Devon border. It was from the first second I caught sight of our tent (Flora) that I knew accessibility wasn’t going to be an issue. With a wide accessible ramp leading up to the decking, to entering the spacious open-plan living area complete with fully accessible kitchen, I knew everything had been meticulously thought out. For once I could forget about access and enjoy my time.
Our first night was extremely comfortable - enjoying the hot tub, then cosying up around the log burner playing family games, before heading off to bed as toasty as a marshmallow, sandwiched between a comfy duvet and electric blanket, like human s'mores.
In the morning, we headed off to the West Somerset Railway, which is about a 20-minute drive from the tent to the station at Bishops Lydeard. There was plenty of parking, accessible toilets, and ramps onto the wheelchair accessible carriages. Even dogs are welcome too! The staff were extremely friendly and helpful. Top tip, if you meet the right criteria, your carer goes free.
After boarding, the historic steam locomotive will take you through ten unique stations linked by 20 miles of scenic countryside, all the way to Minehead on the coast, a quaint seaside fishing village. When you arrive, you can have fish and chips, and ice cream, or even a pint at one of the many pubs. We joined the start of the long-distance South West Coast Path, and followed it round the picturesque harbour and North Hill, before heading back. Very usefully, the stations have accessible toilets locked with RADAR keys.
That evening we decided to have a family pub dinner, and were recommended the Notley Arms, which is dog friendly and fully wheelchair accessible. It has recently been refurbished back to a traditional country inn, with open fires and a beautiful beer garden. Behind is a charming church, where it’s believed Sir Frances Drake said his wedding vows! We had a lovely meal, which was made up of local produce and prepared by award-winning chefs.
The next day we were very sad to be leaving, the time passed far too quickly. We checked out of our safari tent and said our goodbyes to the wonderful owners Dan and Rachel, who were on hand to answer any questions we had throughout our stay. Not wanting our holiday to end too soon, we decided to visit the Quince Honey Farm, which was about 40mins by car from the tents.
The honey farm is fully wheelchair accessible, and dog friendly, though it’s worth noting the pathways are compacted gravel. First, we visited the café which serves local produce, and showcases the honey, with a honey cream tea on offer. Then we explored the nectar gardens, which is in the shape of a hexagon, with pathways to follow, and English country garden flowers in bloom during the spring/summer months.
We then entered the honey factory to see how the honey is made and enjoyed a family-friendly candle making session. There was so much to see and do there, with indoor and outdoor playgrounds, workshops, and even a beekeeping experience for the day.
The weather gods were not on our side during our trip, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our time. If you are lucky enough to visit during a dry spell, there are a range of short, wheelchair accessible walks in Exmoor that enable people with a range of abilities, and ages to experience the moors, valleys, and coast.
We’re dedicated to helping everyone access our spaces and enjoy the outdoors. Visit our Disability Inclusive page for more information on our journey.