We want our places to be as accessible as possible, to as many people as possible – in some cases the setting and design can cause barriers for some, but we’re on a journey towards providing greater access to our collection. This starts with overcoming physical barriers for those with limited mobility. So, we borrowed the expertise of the editor of Disability Review Magazine and guest editor of Not Your Monolith – Chloe Johnson. A books and arts journalist, editor, and writer, who’s written for the likes of The Grammys, Wonderland, The Bookseller, and The Independent. Chloe headed out to try a stay in The Wonham Oak, and explore what it’s like to grab a digital detox on the edge of an abandoned quarry on Exmoor’s border.
If you’re looking for a detox, Wonham Oak is the place to go. Devoid of mobile signal (but with wifi, don’t panic), this accessible treehouse is in the quiet countryside, perfect for anyone who needs a calm getaway, or for avid walkers. Whilst the location isn’t completely tucked away, with a small village nearby, if you’re an anxious person, or somebody who struggles with directions, – or both — it’s definitely worth using the What Three Words, provided by the owners, to make sure that you’re going to the right place. Thankfully, we’d arrived just before dark, and the treehouse was easy to get to; we’d been provided with ample instructions on how to access everything we needed. If you never wanted to communicate with the owners at all, maybe you’re just sick of people, you easily could — although they were quickly on hand to answer any queries we had on Whatsapp.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the treehouse almost blends into the surrounding area. The little cabin isn’t too far from where you park your car, although it may be a bit of a struggle for those with limited mobility, or manual wheelchair users, as it’s up a slight incline. This didn’t pose many issues for us, as it was just a case of taking it slowly, and wheelbarrows were provided which was really useful for carrying stuff into the cabin, but it may be useful to ask for videos of the incline before you book just to see if it’s possible for you. It should work fairly well for an electric wheelchair user, however, and was absolutely not a far trek — just not possible in certain cases. Once our stuff was in the treehouse, which was really easy to manoeuvre around and to get in, with lowered sills on entry points, we were ready to explore.
When you get into the cabin, you’ll see the balcony which, if I’m honest, was what I was looking forward to the most. It’s hard to miss the huge glass windows which look out onto treetops, making you feel like you’re up in the trees yourself. The rest of the space is catered to enhance the view, with the gorgeous bright orange sofa right next to a cosy log fire for when you want to stay in. The bi-fold doors were a great feature, although admittedly might be a little tricky for those with chronic pain or without much muscle strength, but the instructions left were extremely detailed. Once the doors are open, you really do get a sense of how relaxing the space feels, with complete silence other than birds and the occasional rustle of a tree from a friendly squirrel. Stargazing is excellent here, and the heating is really quick and easy to use, so if you get a bit too cold hanging out on the balcony enjoying the Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve…you’ll be able to warm up quickly.
Whilst there's a fair amount to do if you’re looking for day trips, we found ourselves quite content with the surrounding area. There’s plenty of ground to cover if you want to explore the local quarry, and with fresh eggs, bread, milk and butter, you’re really set to not need to leave the treehouse often if you came with some food to get you by. If you do want to go outside, there are plenty or lovely walks through the woods and fields. The owners ask that you leave the gates shut behind you in case of wandering sheep, and, though we didn’t see any, there was plenty of other wildlife to spot, as well as an overgrown limestone quarry. The balcony really was the best part of the whole experience, however, with electric blinds that you could open from the bed to get a really great view in the mornings. This, and the really comfy bed, means it’s perfectly set for a relaxing weekend away with nothing but a good book and the occasional board game.
The jacuzzi bath is worth a whole afternoon by itself. I was a little worried it wouldn’t match the scolding hot temperature needed to counteract the freezing February air and very windy days, but it was perfectly warm, and would be very romantic under the stars. The lack of hoist might be an issue here for some people, but the rainfall shower is just as decadent, with handles and a chair available.
Overall, the Wonham Oak was a perfect outlet to recharge — you felt well catered for and looked after, but with enough space you could enjoy without bother. If you’re staying for longer than a few days, definitely get out and explore the local area, but you won’t feel cheated if you just stay tucked up in your cosy little cabin, away from all the hustle of everyday life. Although it won’t work for everyone accessibility wise, as it depends on what your needs are, the Wonham Oak definitely goes out of its way to make sure that it’s providing as many access requirements as possible and is perfect for those who want a treehouse experience without the bother of stairs.