Mystery Visit – Cragside, Morpeth.
Matt paid a visit to Cragside, home of Lord Armstrong. Victorian inventor, industrialist and landscape genius, Law educated William Armstrong developed hydroelectric power and utilised Joseph Swan’s invention – the incandescent light bulb, to establish Cragside as the first home to use electric lighting.
Here are Matt’s comments on accessibility on the estate.
Parking and Transport
Disabled parking bays in the main car park are on a rising bend in a woodland setting. The floor covering is bark and gravel. If visiting the house I would recommend parking up outside the cafe or property itself and disembarking there. There are several parking areas for disabled visitors so I didn’t see the provision for parking elsewhere on the site.
There is ‘disabled’ toilet (prefer to use the word accessible) in the visitor centre area but it isn’t a Changing Places facility with provision for changing an adult with complex needs or learning difficulties. Information on the website doesn’t specify the equipment in the toilet sadly. Visitors therefore need to ring up and check if provision will be adequate for their needs.
I was delighted to see a wheelchair user in the house on the upper floors. Checking with reception I was informed there is a Victorian lift in the house and wheelchairs that can be hired at time of booking.
The home’s appeal is the abundance of original furnishings. Armstrong would recognise his home as it is today. There are stairs up to the gallery but the lift enables access around most of the house and corridors and entry into the rooms are no barrier for wheelchairs.
A flagship National Trust property for the North East – Cragside’s wonderful woodland paths are well signed posted with distance and advice on the terrain. A disabled person with mobility issues would be aware of the challenges in getting around areas of the site.
The front desk staff were fabulous – cheery, knowledgable of the site and activities going on that day and supportive of us in making our visit enjoyable. Reception staff operate a ticketing service for our belongings to be stored as we went round the house – really useful for those disabled visitors needing to bring the kitchen sink! Volunteers in most rooms knew their stuff and provided an educational experience second to none. The service matched the surroundings – immaculate. Serving staff in the cafe knew all food ingredients used including gluten free produce. The menu didn’t symbolise allergy advice however.
Parking in disabled bays was tricky but there is space to drop off on level ground. There is a shuttle bus to transport around the site but steps into the bus. The cafe was attended by well informed caterers who knew their stuff in allergy. Very friendly too and the produce was beautifully prepared. Service from all staff was consistently high across all areas of the site. Finally, facilities included a lift and bookable wheelchairs.
Matt will discuss the areas for development in the access offer directly with Cragside in the near future.