By VICTA Intern, Harriet Smith
With Spring on the way, it might be time to start thinking about some places to visit to enjoy a day out. If you’re visually impaired, there’s plenty to choose from, whether you like spending time in gardens or learning about history at a National Trust property. So read on for some excellent places to visit this Spring!
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
Top of the list of accessible days out is the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Touching is highly encouraged, especially the big furry bears on the ground floor. There are braille labels next to most of the objects too. There are many animals to examine, including a stuffed fox and a badger. For those who live in the area, there are monthly touch tours at each of the Oxford University museums, including the Pitt Rivers. Previous subjects have included learning about the history of time, storytelling and a talk about fossils. I live near Oxford and have visited the Pitt Rivers museum several times myself, and can highly recommend it. It’s great for children as well, and entry is free.
Another excellent place to visit which is also near Oxford is Blenheim Palace. This is good to visit for educational purposes, as it is where former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born. There is a 5-mile walk round the parkland called Churchill’s walk where visitors can learn more about Churchill and his life. I have done this walk myself, and it takes around 45 minutes to an hour. There is plenty to do in the grounds of the palace without needing to go in the house. The Pleasure Gardens are fun to explore and it’s possible to get to them via a mini train.
Once in the Pleasure Gardens, you can enjoy spending time in the Marlborough Maze which is made up of two miles of yew trees and its design is inspired by the history of Blenheim. It’s also easy for visually impaired children to navigate. The amount of time you spend in here depends on how long it takes you to get out! You can also explore the butterfly house, with a variety of butterflies from countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. If you’re lucky you might even feel one land on your shoulder! If you are interested in exploring the inside of the house, you can book a touch tour for visually impaired visitors in advance. When booking tickets, a carer is admitted free of charge to the palace.
Cutty Sark, London
If you live in or around London, a place that might be interesting to visit is the Cutty Sark, an old ship that dates back to 1869. It has recently been restored which has significantly improved its accessibility. There is braille information and signage throughout the ship and also a model which you can touch. There are a wide range of games to play on the upper deck which can be enjoyed by visually impaired children. As well as this, on the top deck there’s the chance to see the ship’s ropes and masts and excellent views. There’s also a cafe down below which serves delicious food and provides a fantastic view of the haul.
Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
Another interesting place to visit if you live around the Milton Keynes area is Bletchley Park. This is home to codebreakers in the second world war, as well as being the birth of computer technology. There are many different huts to examine, as well as a museum and the National Radio centre where you have the opportunity to learn about the first radio communications. In fact, there is so much to see that it might not be possible to do it all in one day, so annual passes are included with the entry ticket.
Bletchley Park is a fantastic place for visually impaired visitors, with audio guides and guided tours available upon request. Guide dogs are also welcome, with water bowls provided in the visitor centre. A carer is admitted free into the park, with the visually impaired person paying full price.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
If you live in the Yorkshire area, a brilliant place to visit is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield. This is the only sculpture park in Britain, and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. It is located in Bretton Hall Estate, a 500 acre, 18th-century parkland with beautiful grounds to explore. Parking for blue badge holders is available in the sculpture car park, but blue badge recipients are required to pay. There is a large collection of sculptures to examine, including bronze statues by a wide variety of artists. The Park also run regular well-being programmes with the opportunity to make your own sculpture. Entry is free into the park, which is open daily all year round.
If you enjoy visiting National Trust properties there are plenty to explore around the UK, including Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire. Even if you’re not a National Trust member, you can still enjoy these special places by paying a small amount on entry which goes towards the charity’s important work. Having visited Stowe several times myself, I can highly recommend it for a lovely walk at any time of the year. A walk that is particularly enjoyable is the one round the Grecian Valley. However there’s such a wide range of walks that you can do that it’s possible to do a different one each time you visit.
There is so much to see, including two magnificent lakes and temples, including the Temple of Friendship, the Temple of Venus and the Temple of Worthies. This temple in particular has 17 busts of famous people that can be touched, including William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. Another wonderful temple which is worth examining is the shell house. It has lots of pictures on the walls made of pebbles which are very tactile and smooth to feel. If you would like to go in the house on your visit, this is possible. However, it is not owned by the National Trust so additional fees apply. Dogs are welcome on leads throughout the gardens, including assistance dogs.
I hope this article has inspired you to get out and about and enjoy a few different places this Spring. If you have had a memorable day out with your child somewhere, please share it with us! The more recommendations for accessible days out, the better!
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