Britain’s Most Accessible Gardens
15th May 2023
Britain is renowned for being home to various spectacular gardens, which offer a fantastic day out for all ages. From acres and acres of wide-open spaces to intricate flower beds in neat and pretty gardens, they’re a great way to appreciate both the green-fingered skills of those behind them and the beauty of nature.
However, gardens can often have restricted accessibility due to their design, especially those in stately homes built many years ago. So, to help, here is a guide to showcase a selection of gardens that should be more accessible for stairlift users.
What are Britain's most accessible gardens?
- Kew Royal Botanic Gardens – London
- Lost Gardens of Heligan – Cornwall
- RHS Garden Wisley – Surrey
- Arley Hall & Gardens – Cheshire
- Trentham Estate and Gardens - Staffordshire
- Helmsley Walled Garden - North Yorkshire
- Sezincote House & Garden - Gloucestershire
- National Botanic Garden of Wales – Carmarthenshire
- Stourhead – Wiltshire
- Sissinghurst Castle Garden – Kent
- Savill Garden - Surrey
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens - London
Founded in 1840 from the exotic garden at Kew, this attraction has some of the most spectacular collections in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site has over 50,000 living plants growing across its site, and it has become one of the most visited attractions in the UK.
The Temperate House at Kew Gardens allows you to travel the world. It is home to 1,500 species of plants from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Visitors can also explore the Mediterranean Garden and King William's Temple, created in 2007 to depict a typical Mediterranean natural habitat.
The garden has continued to adapt to its ever-changing audience, and as a result, Kew Gardens offers disabled access to all its visitors. All the cafés and restaurants have access ramps, lifts situated within the buildings for access to the upper levels, fully accessible toilets, and disabled parking is available. In addition, the flat nature of the gardens and fully tarmacked paths lend themselves to being wheelchair and buggy accessible, while the well-situated benches and cafés allow resting places for tired legs.
So, if you are a wheelchair user or struggle with your mobility, you will be pleased to hear that Kew Gardens’ accessibility is rated highly, and visitors can see all of the gardens.
Read more about Kew Gardens’ disabled access and accessibility here.
Lost Gardens of Heligan - Cornwall
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of Britain’s most iconic gardens, and it is home to woodland walks, moss-covered giants, and its iconic rope bridge.
It doesn’t matter what season you visit; there is always something to see in one of the three garden areas at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. These garden areas are:
- Jungle – the only outdoor jungle in Britain. Here you can pass through tropical gardens on a raised boardwalk that snakes around four ponds, past giant rhubarb, banana plantations, palm avenues, and towering bamboo.
- Pleasure Grounds - first laid out over 200 years ago, visitors will today see ancient rhododendron boughs of Sikkim, walk beside Maori-carved tree ferns from New Zealand, and relax amongst the Mediterranean-inspired setting of an Italian Garden.
- Productive Garden – this is a working memorial to Heligan’s Lost Gardeners. Today, over 300 varieties of mostly heritage fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs are tended to supply the Heligan Kitchen with fresh, seasonal produce throughout the year
The Lost Gardens of Heligan offers disabled access to its visitors, and it is accessible to visitors who have mobility issues. There are accessible entrances, toilets, and parking available, and you can hire wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Read more about the Lost Gardens of Heligan’s disabled access and accessibility here.
RHS Garden Wisley – Surrey
RHS Garden Wisley was created by George Fergusson Wilson back in 1878 with the intent to cultivate difficult plants within the Oakwood Experimental Garden. Since then, the garden has gained a reputation for the extraordinary primulas, lilies and Japanese irises that thrived there. After the death of Wilson, and the acquisition of more land, the estate was gifted to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1903. Despite the focus being an ornamental garden, it has always retained an element of experimental roots.
The gardens are accessible to all, and there are even recommended wheelchair routes through the garden. Wheelchair and mobility scooter hire are available at RSH Garden Wisley, as are accessible toilets, accessible parking, and wheelchair-friendly entrances. Up to two carers can get free entry into the gardens as well.
Read more about RHS Garden Wisley’s disabled access and accessibility here.
Arley Hall & Gardens - Cheshire
The gardens at Arley Hall have been carefully crafted over the last 270 years, and its herbaceous border has received well-deserved fame, as they are thought to be the first border of its kind in England; it is spectacular up until late September and well worth a visit.
You can easily lose a day in the eight acres of formal gardens and seven acres of woodland gardens. The Grove, a well-established arboretum and a Woodland Walk, are beautiful in spring with the arrival of bulbs and the flowering of the Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
Despite the history of this garden, which has been designed and maintained by the same family for hundreds of years, it has made incredible efforts to offer a more accessible and inclusive experience. Andrew Moores said that despite some steep inclines, the majority of the garden is accessible: “A designated wheelchair route has been waymarked, however as this includes some steepish inclines in the Victorian Rootery and gravelled/grassed surfaces in other parts of the garden, manual wheelchair users will need the assistance of an able companion.”
With accessible toilets, café, and parking, this garden includes all the facilities while guaranteeing an interesting day out. In addition, the multitude of benches are ideal places to stop and rest while appreciating the incredible planting that has brought this garden so much attention.
Read more about Arley Hall & Gardens’ disabled access and accessibility here.
Trentham Estate and Gardens - Staffordshire
Described by gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh as ‘one of the UK’s must-see gardens’, you can rest assured that a visit to the Trentham Estate will be a true highlight for those with a passion for horticulture. Boasting gardens that look stunning at any time of year and with an impressive level of accessibility, those with mobility issues will no doubt enjoy exploring all there is to see.
Michael Walker, Head of Garden and Estate, talks about how the estate welcomes visitors with varying levels of mobility:
“We welcome thousands of visitors of all abilities and levels of mobility every year. Trentham is really accessible because everything is on one level, and we have low-ramped access to most facilities and wide doorways.
“Wheelchairs with tough terrain tyres are available from the Gardens Entrance and can be used over the whole estate. Visitors with limited mobility often comment on the smooth terrain and the fact that we have plenty of benches.
“We also have regular visits from Bench-2-Bench, a group of walkers who are recovering from strokes. When they last came, they commented on what a lovely place Trentham is to visit and how much they look forward to seeing the gardens in the different seasons.”
Read more about Trentham Estate and Gardens’ disabled access and accessibility here.
Helmsley Walled Garden - North Yorkshire
This garden was originally built to fulfil the needs of the Feversham family at Duncombe Park, providing fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers back in 1758. It became a commercial enterprise after the First World War but fell into disarray in the early 80s. Since 1994, Alice Ticehurst has restored the garden to its former glory with a focus on horticultural therapy. Believing that many can gain physical and mental well-being through gardening and gardens, the atmosphere of inclusivity at Helmsley is key to the garden’s success.
Mike L’Anson, the Garden Manager, believes Helmsley offers more than just plants: “Besides the obvious reasons for someone with less mobility visiting the garden, because it is on level ground and all areas are accessible, we actually pride ourselves on presenting a garden that is peaceful and reflective. As a social enterprise, we use the income we earn from tourism to provide social care for those with disabilities, and I think it is this aspect of ourselves that passes on to our visitors.
“Here all are equal. Mobility problems or disability, you are a valued visitor treated on equal terms as all others. But it can go further; there are times when families have arrived with a member who is starting to suffer from mobility issues and may not yet be ready to accept that or accept that chairs or walkers may help them. We make the gentle suggestion that here away from the public streets, they could maybe give them a try. If the family or we can persuade them, it is usually successful.”
The gardens also portray a gentle atmosphere that balances relaxation and reflection. According to Mike, this is important to many of their visitors: “We maintain the garden as a place of peace, and every year we have within our repeat visitors those who are either coming to terms with a critical illness for themselves or having time away from a partner or parent who may be coming to terms. Sadly, for some, they also find solace here following bereavement. But it is also a place of joy, with our supported volunteers fully engaged in delivering a quality garden that contains over 250 fruit trees, a 150m double border of hot-coloured perennials and a vegetable plot that fills our café with produce throughout the year.”
With disabled parking, step-free gardens, wheelchairs available to hire, and a unisex accessible toilet, the gardens are accessible to wheelchair users and visitors with mobility problems.
Read more about Helmsley Walled Garden’s disabled access and accessibility here.
Sezincote House & Garden - Gloucestershire
Set in the heart of the Cotswold countryside, Sezincote House & Garden is not what you’d expect to find among the quintessential cottages for which the area is renowned. Instead, a 200-year-old Indian palace sits in a landscape of temples, grottoes and waterfalls, similar to the Taj Mahal. Although the gardens were neglected throughout the Second World War, they have since been restored, and a selection of these can be viewed by those in wheelchairs.
Sezincote spoke about the access around their garden: “Most of the garden can be viewed looking uphill and downhill from the Indian Bridge, just inside the garden entrance. The rest of the garden (except the Orangery, which cannot be entered without negotiating steps) can be seen by continuing up the drive past the house. The assistance of a strong companion or carer will greatly increase the enjoyment of wheelchair users.”
Read more about Sezincote’s disabled access and accessibility here.
National Botanic Garden of Wales - Carmarthenshire
The National Botanic Garden of Wales has received many awards since it opened its doors in the Millennium year. Not only is it the most visited garden in Wales, but it has also been recognised as the most romantic and the number one ‘Wonder of Wales’. The garden incorporates more than 560 acres of countryside, which is a joy to wander around, but it has a much more educational element as well, running classes year-round on everything from evolution to the role of plants in scientific research.
On the subject of accessibility, Steffan John, who works at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, believes the success of the garden is within the original plans as well as the variety of services the garden offers to their visitors with limited mobility: “The garden has been designed to be accessible to all visitors whatever their ability.
“The garden offers a daily shuttle buggy service where our volunteer buggy drivers transport those with limited mobility from the garden’s main entrance (Gatehouse) to either the Great Glasshouse, the Stable Block where our Seasons Restaurant, gift shop and gallery are located, or other areas of the garden.
“Visitors with limited mobility can also hire mobility scooters, which enable them to drive themselves around the garden; these are available to hire for £15 for the day from the main entrance. We also have manual wheelchairs available to borrow from the main entrance, which are free of charge to use.
“The garden was one of Wales’ main Millennium projects, and accessibility was a key factor in its design, with all paths within the formal garden area being wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly.”
Read more about the National Botanic Garden of Wales’ disabled access and accessibility here.
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Stourhead – Wiltshire
When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, a magazine described it as a ‘living work of art’, and since then, it has only gone from strength to strength. The world-famous landscape garden has at its centrepiece a magnificent lake surrounded by classical temples, mystical grottoes, and rare and exotic trees, and it offers a day of fresh air and discovery.
Talking about their accessibility, Stourhead said: “Whilst there are steps and some steep sections of the garden, we have ensured that those with mobility difficulties are still able to do a full circuit of the lake by taking a different path.
“We have complimentary wheelchairs available for our visitors to use as well as a volunteer-driven buggy service that offers those less mobile a guided tour around the garden.
“There is level access to our shop and restaurant, and we have accessible toilets on the property.”
Read more about Stourhead’s disabled access and accessibility here.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden - Kent
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens has a history of both romance and literature. The garden was created by Vita Sackville-West, a poet and gardening writer who had a weekly column in The Observer.
The garden is laid out in a series of rooms that each have a different theme or feeling. The privacy of tall hedges continues the secluded feeling while also allowing vistas into the next room that draws you on a tantalising journey through the grounds.
Vicky Bray from Sissinghurst’s business support team divulged: “A lot of the estate is accessible, without steps or steep slopes. Designated disabled parking is within the main car park, and drop-off points for the mobility buggy are from the car park to visitor reception and the shop. An adapted toilet is accessible on level ground at visitor reception and via a ramp at the restaurant Assistance dogs are welcome, and should a visitor require additional help, a member of the team will be happy to assist.”
Read more about Sissinghurst Castle Garden’s disabled access and accessibility here.
Savill Garden - Surrey
Discover the plant world as you explore the thirty-five acres of world-class ornamental gardens, flowering woodland and National Plant Collections. Highlights at Savill Garden include the Rose Garden, the herbaceous borders echoing times gone by and the Dry Garden, which showcases plants from the USA and Mediterranean and is the first of its kind in Britain.
Savill Garden spoke about the access of the attraction: “The Savill Garden provides good accessibility for less able visitors, providing access for wheelchair users along all-weather paths. Non-motorised wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and Carers accompanying disabled visitors enjoy free entry into The Savill Garden. There are some slight inclines and dips, therefore, there may be some sections of the Garden that may require an able-bodied carer to assist when using a non-motorised wheelchair. Assistance dogs are welcome to all parts of The Savill Garden, restaurant and shop.”
Read more about Savill Garden’s disabled access and accessibility here.
This guide has highlighted some of Britain’s most accessible gardens and revealed what facilities each attraction has available.
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This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.