My name is Chris Cusack, I work for Accomable recruiting new properties, and I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This has resulted in me being a full-time electric wheelchair user and relying on 24-hour care. Myself and my wife Amy recently enjoyed a short break at one of the Accomable properties, Teal Cottage, and we wanted to share our experience.
Right from the stage of arranging the trip I found the staff very helpful. They sent me a list of equipment that they have on site that I could borrow, and a list that they could arrange for me to hire.
With the aid of our trusty satnav, we found the cottage quite easily and pulled in to the driveway to find ourselves the only ones in the car park. The car park was largely covered with deep gravel. I know this can be troublesome for some people, but they have built a paved area right next to Teal cottage with reserved disabled parking as well as a paved pathway around the cottage. If you disembark your vehicle from the side, you will have no problems at all. If you exit your vehicle down a ramp at the rear like me, it is a short trip across the gravel until you're on firm ground.
After finding the key in the safe, we explored the property. There was level access through the large front door which led you down a corridor with the first of three bedrooms on your left. At the end of the corridor the space opened out into a very large open plan living room/dining room/kitchen space. The kitchen had a lowered workspace with a convection oven on it. The sink also had long handled taps and space underneath, so anyone in a wheelchair could do the dishes. I very sneakily directed my wife's attention away from this as fast as I could! Greeting us in the kitchen was a welcome package that contained freshly baked bread, a Victoria sponge, milk, a bottle of fresh pressed apple juice and even a bottle of beer from the local microbrewery, which we made sure we visited to stock up on essential supplies. Amy hastily set about opening every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen, to find a myriad of dishes, plates, pots and pans. The only drawback I can see in the kitchen was that the fridge portion of the fridge freezer was quite high up. If your party only includes people in wheelchairs this could be a problem. We discussed this with the staff later and they pointed out that there was a low-level fridge that they could place in the kitchen if it was needed.
In the centre of this space next to a large dining table, is a wood-burning stove. It has a safety rail around it as well as a large basket full of timber to burn if the evenings get chilly. We did notice however that the entire cottage has thermostatically controlled underfloor heating, making it toasty warm anyway.
Moving down to the lounge area we found a flatscreen TV with a Blu-ray DVD player and plenty of sofas and armchairs. Amongst these we found an electronic stand assist armchair which you may find useful if any in your party have trouble getting up out of their seat (perhaps after visiting the microbrewery!).
Through the lounge there were large patio doors, which provide level access to a back garden area. In the back garden we found a hot tub to the right, and on the left a barbecue and seating area. As my wife suffers from back problems, the hot tub was a welcome sight and the first thing on the agenda if she had any energy left after unpacking. It is worth noting that Teal Cottage does allow dogs, so if you would like to bring any four-legged members of your family, then speak to the staff when booking. At the bottom of the small garden is a gate that leads out onto a very large fenced-in field. If we had brought our own dog, she would have been a very tired and happy pooch by the end of the day with all that space to run.
Across the lounge from the front door was the largest of the three bedrooms and a very large highly adapted wet room with two shower heads, one fixed and one movable to a lower level. The toilet is placed at a transferable height and has room on both sides. The sink height can be adjusted if needed. There are also removable grab rails that can be placed where needed, again talk to the staff and they will arrange it. The bathroom has a door from the bedroom making it en suite, but also a door onto the living room. We thought this was a fantastic idea if your party had more than one member needing access to the wet room. Even the two smaller bedrooms are both double bedrooms with plenty of floor space. They both have their own bathrooms with toilet wash basin and shower. These bathrooms are not adapted so any people with mobility issues using these would simply have to come across the living room in order to shower.
We had been at Teal Cottage for less than an hour when there was a knock at the front door. On opening it we discovered Katherine, the owner, had come to check we had everything we needed. She directed us to the list of loan equipment and pointed out that there were bed blocks on the list that I had missed when booking. She very kindly went and fetched them and set about placing them under the wheels of the bed so that my portable hoist could be used more easily. She also made us aware that if there was anything else we needed, that we could contact her or her staff using the phone in the lounge.
That night we had a wonderful meal and watched the sunset over the beautiful Hampshire countryside. Maybe it was the clean country air or the long drive but we were both fast asleep far earlier than we are at home.
In the morning we arose early and after a hasty breakfast we decided to set off for Winchester. The town is situated only a 25-minute drive from Teal cottage and today's adventure was to be Winchester Cathedral. We found parking very centrally located that gave us free unlimited time whilst displaying our blue parking badge.
The cathedral has a ramped entrance to the left of the main door and inside it should be noted that the flooring is mostly very old flag stones which some may find difficult. On entry we were informed that a memorial service for fallen soldiers was due to be held whilst we were there. We were told we were allowed to attend and in fact it was our honour to witness the touching service that included current and old soldiers in full dress uniform. When the service had ended we walked around and discovered that the cathedral was the resting place for Jane Austen. We were also able to view the Winchester Bible which is one of the world's oldest and most valuable volumes. To the rear of the cathedral there is a change in level beside the altar. This however is not a problem as they have a platform lift to take anyone with mobility issues up the stairs. The platform lift does have a weight limit so if you consider visiting, it may be worth phoning ahead. After the cathedral visit we had a walk around the pedestrianised town centre of Winchester itself. The town is full of interesting architecture, shops and restaurants and was well worth exploring.
That brought us to our last night which Amy spent largely in the hot tub with myself sat beside her, once more watching the amazing sunset. We both discussed what we had liked about the property and the trip itself. For Amy, her highlights of the property were all the aspects of the kitchen that she would like us to put in our own home. She also loved the level of equipment and open design of the property that allowed her to look after me with ease. As for myself, the star of the show had to be the Hampshire countryside, with the local microbrewery coming in second. Lastly I would like to say that the facilities and layout of Wallops Wood were to such a high standard, that it allowed me to concentrate on enjoying the holiday rather than stressing about my care and needs, and we’re already planning our next trip!
Note on the property:
Wallops Wood has 5 cottages in total, each sleeping either 6 or 8 people, all with a hot tub and log burner and with different accessibility ratings. Chris stayed in Teal Cottage with has the highest accessibility rating. Multiple cottages can be hired together to suit larger groups.
Book here: Teal Cottage, Early Mist, Sundew, Hedgehunter, Glenside.