Having just spent a lovely week in the gorgeous north east of England it felt like a good time to sing the praises of one of the best attractions we visited while there. As luck would have it, we had some good weather so decided that we’d take advantage of this to visit Beamish, a large open-air museum located in County Durham.
The first thing we noted was just how big the site actually is, and more to the point given that the Dude’s wheelchair cannot be described as lightweight, the site is on a rather large hill. This is County Durham after all, and we had remembered to bring his wheelchair battery pack, so this didn’t pose a huge issue. The situation was made even easier by the provision of a regular tram/bus service that runs around the entire site – for those who are wheelchair users there is a specially adapted, vintage, bus that comes on demand.
Our absolute favourite was the 1900’s street with its pharmacy, bank and Hardware store (where we lost my Mum for a pretty long time as she chatted to the volunteer about products she remembered from HER grandparents’ home!). The volunteers could not have been more helpful with the wheelchair, each taking the time to chat with visitors about their own particular part of the museum.
The site itself is pretty easy to move around, although its worth being aware that there are some limitations.
The dentists in the 1900s area for example is located, as it would have been, in a small terraced house which was absolutely not wheelchair accessible – at this point the Dude was having an afternoon nap, so the more mobile of us took turns to go inside and cringe!
Beamish has really taken accessibility to heart, the wheelchair adapted bus was fantastic (and very welcome) but the biggest impact is made by the Changing Places located fairly centrally in the 1950’s area of the site.
While it's not going to be everyone’s attraction of choice it is definitely somewhere we will return to; as a family it had enough to entertain everyone from the Dude (12) up to Nana (who is a bit older than 21 shall we say). As an educational day out it really is superb, and it definitely gets top marks from us for the changing places and accessible bus. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in that part of the country.