Here at Accomable, we know you love browsing our listings to find the accessible holiday destination that’s right for you. We also know that when it comes to choosing the perfect accessible property, the devil really is in the detail - so we’re bringing you more of it.
Meet The Vendors is a series of interviews designed to take you behind closed (fully accessible) doors and give a more in-depth look at some of the properties we feature. Our guest blogger, Rob from The Bimblers takes you behind the scenes with Andrew and Katherine of Wallops Wood Cottages in Hampshire.
Hello Andrew and Katherine, can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourselves and introduce us to your accessible property?
We are Andrew and Katherine Graham and we own Wallops Wood Cottages in South Downs National Park. We opened in May 2014 and now have 6 cottages (sleeping 6-8 people, a maximum of 42), five of which are in a converted farm building and most recently we added the former farm manager’s house which has been completely refurbished.
Andrew and Katherine at Wallops Wood Cottages
Andrew and Katherine at Wallops Wood Cottages
Each has an enclosed garden, is safe for children and dogs, and has a private hot tub. Wallops Wood cottages are perched on a hillside and offer spectacular views over the South Downs National Park.
That’s great, is there an interesting story behind Wallops Wood Cottages?
Katherine’s family have farmed here since 1938. The cottages are in a converted farm building which was originally built in the 1950’s on the site of the old Hambledon steeplechase horse-racing course.
Wow, cottages built on an old racecourse, that's definitely unique! How did you adapt the cottages to enable people with disabilities to stay?
The existing buildings are single storey, so it was an obvious choice to maximise accessibility for mobility, hearing and vision impaired guests without compromising on the aesthetic appeal of the cottages.
There are two designated block-paved disabled parking spaces and a level block-paved path to all cottages.
The cottages have Oak floors, non-slip surfaces in the kitchens and bathrooms and a paved patio in the garden make it easy to move around. All furniture can be moved to suit guest requirements and our floor plans and Access Statement ensure guests know what to expect before they arrive.
Hedgehunter and Teal cottages have wet rooms with a height-adjustable hand basin and removable grab-rails and Teal’s kitchen has been adapted for wheelchair use. There’s a sink set into the work surface and the under-sink cabinets can be removed to enable wheelchair access. Upon request, a convection oven, microwave and a 2 ring electric hob can be placed on the lowered section of the worktop.
There is an electric reclining chair in the sitting area and there is a lower clothes rail in the in the accessible bedroom’s wardrobe. Guests are invited to pre-order our equipment and additional equipment can be hired and installed prior to arrival from a local supplier as required.
We and our staff undertook the ‘Welcome All’ training. We are very proud of our guest reviews which show that our adaptations, equipment and level of service are exceptionally good.
Excellent, sounds like access is definitely a priority at Wallops Wood. Why did you think it was important to have this level of adaptation?
From our market research, we realised good quality accessible self-catering accommodation in the South Downs National Park was hard to come by and decided to do something about it.
Each cottage is individually rated under the National Accessible Scheme (M1, M2, M3, H1, V1) so that we can advise guests on the most appropriate cottage for their requirements.
Our commitment to accessibility has been recognised by the media and we were awarded Gold in the ‘Access for All Tourism’ category at the Beautiful South Awards in both 2015 and 2016; and that Liz Horn, who manages all the bookings, was this year recognised as a Customer Service Superstar!
We also participated in Disabled Access Day where we hosted an open morning so people could visit Wallops Wood and see the facilities first hand.
Excellent achievements, well done! Have you ever had anyone famous stay in your cottages?
As we respect the privacy of our guests, we wouldn’t want to say!
What is your favourite thing to do in the local area?
We’re incredibly lucky to be situated in the beautiful Meon Valley, on a quiet hillside in the South Downs National Park. The area has now been designated as an International Dark Skies Reserve.
South Downs National Park
We are just a few miles from the South Coast, Winchester, Petersfield and the New Forest. It is possible to enjoy a fun-filled day trip or evening out before retreating back to the tranquillity of your luxury cottage.
There really is something for everyone within easy reach of the cottages. Museums, attractions suitable for the whole family, charming medieval villages, market towns to wander through, historic cities to explore, sporting events to attend, cultural performances to enjoy, stunning views to see, excellent walking and cycling, regular farmers markets, shopping opportunities and plenty of local pubs and restaurants to suit any occasion.
What's more, there is always some annual, seasonal or special event nearby. We post lots of links to forthcoming events and activities on our Facebook page.
Are there any exciting activities in the area that are adapted for people with disabilities?
We’ve pulled together quite a lot of information on accessible attractions and activities within easy distance of the cottages so everyone can plan an exciting holiday.
Here are just a few:
- Visit Winchester has produced a Visitor Trail by wheelchair which passes some of the city’s major attractions.
- Tourism South East website provides a comprehensive list of local attractions and their accessibility.
- The wonderful Hampshire countryside is more accessible than you might think. The Accessible Countryside for Everyone website provides a comprehensive list of accessible green spaces including country parks, beaches, nature reserves and National Trust properties.
- There is also accessible cycling in the New Forest, riding in Eastleigh, power boating or sailing on the Solent and an adapted barge on the Basingstoke canal.
Madam Butterfly - adapted canal barge
Have you got any tips for travellers staying with you?
We’d like to think we’ve thought of everything, we have a comprehensive list of equipment available to our guests which are included in our Access Statement.
We forward our equipment list to guests when they book; they can request specific items and have them placed in their cottage ready for their arrival. If guests require specific equipment that we don’t have we can help arrange local hire. We’re always keen to receive feedback on what else may be useful.
Our Access Statement provides details of the cottage’s dimensions and facilities, while floor plans of Teal (M3) and Hedgehunter (M2) give guests as much information as possible about the properties before arriving. But if you have any questions, just ask!
And finally, what sort of a traveller are you?
As a family with young children and older grandparents, we’re a typical multi-generational group and frequently go away to self-catering cottages together. This was very much in the forefront of our minds when we developed the cottages.
So, as well as maximising the accessibility of the cottages and making mobility, hearing and vision impairment aids available for guests to use, we also provide a similar list of equipment for families with young children and provide a basket of age appropriate toys, games, books and DVDs as well as equipment specifically requested.
For us just being on holiday as a family is the most important thing, but we also enjoy day trips to family-friendly attractions when we’re away.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Accomable readers?
We’ve very much enjoyed our first two years as holiday cottage providers and really welcome all feedback on what we can do better to make the experience of booking and staying with us a truly memorable experience.
Wow, thank you so much Andrew and Katherine for this useful information. I have read many reviews from disabled travellers who have stayed with you and every one of them gives your accommodation massive thumbs up. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit you soon and experience Wallops Wood Cottages for ourselves. In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck for the Gold award – fingers crossed!
There are a variety of cottages available at Wallops Wood, each with a different level of accessibility, find out more and book and stay here:
- Teal Cottage, sleeps 6.
- Hedgehunter, sleeps 8.
- Early Mist, sleeps 8.
- Sundew, sleeps 6.
- Glenside, sleeps 6.