Slimbridge Wetland Centre | 21st August 2018
Location: WWT Slimbridge
Gloucestershire, GL2 7BT
Date of initial visit: 29th March 2017
Date of revisit: 21st August 2018
There is a large car park with 17 disabled spaces, the spaces are located close to the ramped entrance and the car park toilets which has one disabled toilet.
I would very much recommend a visit to Slimbridge Wetland Centre, there is something there for everybody. Majority of the park is accessible for a wheelchair due to the ramps and clear, wide pathways, the wildlife can be appreciated by children and adults making it fully inclusive.
You can hire an electric scooter or a manual wheelchair from the park, it is advised to call in advance to book one of these. Electric scooters are £6 for the day and they ask for a donation towards manual chairs to go towards maintenance costs.
For people with visual impairments there are volunteers on offer, they will aid you around the park whilst giving you some interesting facts about the fabulous surrounding wildlife. This is work in progress and training is still being given but has been greatly received. Due to this being offered by volunteers you will need to contact the park to organise this ahead of time and be flexible to work around them. The centre will also print out a large print map on request if you need one.
Slimbridge also have dates where they hire out Mobiloo to have on site, who provide extra toileting facilities including an electric hoist, adult size changing table and an assistant available. The upcoming dates are as follows:
- Wednesday 22nd August 2018
- Tuesday 18th September 2018
- Wednesday 24th October 2018
Please visit the website to keep up to date with any other news.
You can read about the Slimbridge 2020 project here. Within this project are some exciting things on the horizon regarding accessibility such as a fully functioning lift at the new Holden Tower (from Autumn 2019) with a stunning view over the Estuary, current access is up two flights of stairs. The summer walkway is going to be made accessible (opening summer 2020) and they are also building a new accessible Avery and outdoor theatre which will have disabled toilet facilities inside.
During wet winter months you are required to disinfect your shoes and wheels going round certain parts of the park, there is a mat and wheel wash provided.
There is a Land Rover Safari which takes you along the banks of the River Severn with a expert warden to point out the surrounding wildlife, a lift has recently been installed which can accommodate 2 wheelchairs per journey. However, we didn’t get chance to experience this.
The centre itself is very big and you could easily spend a full day here, on entrance there is a large double automatic door leading into the venue, with a button for disabled users to press this will open the door and there is a lowered reception point on the right for disabled customers. You can collect a token from the reception for the observatory which is a viewing platform up high where you can see a 360-degree view of the Wetlands. This is accessible via the lift.
You then lead from the visitor centre directly out to Swan Lake, there is a flat, wide decking type bridge which leads over the lake with birds either side, you can get close to the water and feed the birds with grain which can be purchased at the visitor centre for £1.50
Welly boot land is just around the corner from Swan Lake, this is a great area for children, I was able to get in here and could sit comfortably around a bench but the activities are very interactive and would be no good for a child in a wheelchair. There are small bridges over water streams, roundabouts, climbing frames etc.
You can then work your way around the park in a loop, I would recommend from the left and then looping around to the right (e.g from swan lake, welly boot land, south discovery hide, Asia, otter pool, Hogarth hide, tropical guide, Kingfisher hide, playpark/toilets, North America, duck decoy, pond zone, garden of reflection, Knott hide (this pathway has some less accessible areas so you may want to end your trip before), gift shop, home!) there are lots of gates which are required to be kept shut, this is to keep certain birds in their home environment but also to keep other animals out such as foxes. Some less able-bodied people would not be able to open these gates, if you were visiting alone without any assistance then the staff are happy to help with this as much as possible.
The South Lake discovery was fantastic hide with a great view for a wheelchair user and lots of space to manoeuvre inside, there were lots of low windows I could get to and binoculars available. This was one of the best Hides for accessibility.
The otter pool has flat decking all around and a glass wall to separate so you get a good view, the otters sleep quite a bit in their cave during the day, you can also go through the cave where there is a small window to look through, this would be difficult for someone with limited sight due to the height of the windows and it was quite dark. They also do talks about the otters at 11.30am and 3.00pm.
The flamingo lagoon is also a superb hide for accessibility, there is a ramp leading down and a very large window. You are slightly underground here so the flamingos are at eyeline which is easier to see for somebody with a sight impairment. There is also a video screen in here with an audio information headset about the conservation work the WWT are doing for flamingos.
The park outlines on their map that the Stephen Kirk hide, the Holden Tower and the Summer walkway have restricted wheelchair access which is correct (no access at all) you can view some of the other hides along this route although we didn’t see much wildlife along this track so for a wheelchair user I personally avoid going any further than the pond zone.
When I visited in November I was also not able to access the Kingfisher hide as they required you to clean your feet/wheels before entering but there was no facility to do this for my wheelchair.
There are two Kiosks around the park where you can buy drinks and confectionary, there was no lowered counter here.
The Kingfisher Kitchen is located by the entrance and had very good accessibility, there were benches outside I could comfortably fit my wheelchair underneath and lots of tables inside too. The walkways were nice and wide, and it was easy to navigate around. The menu was light but they do not offer a large print or braille menu, the PDF screen readable online menu is available here. You are required to go to the counter to place your order, the counter is at a low height.
There are vegetarian and gluten free options on the menu and they offer take away food in 100% compostable boxes.
There are 6 disabled toilets located around the park, all four of the toilets I had time to look at had good facilities inside, with all necessary adjusting hand rails and lowered sinks etc, none of them required RADAR keys. The 6 disabled toilets are located:
- Car park
- Foyer by main reception x2
- Visitor centre, downstairs
- Near restaurant, located outside the building
- To the side of the kiosk by the play area
Most toilets are near the entrance to the park apart from the toilets by the play area so I would advise making this your half way break point.
The lift takes you up to the observatory and is located in the visitor centre, it isn’t large enough to turn around in but it is large enough for somebody to assist a wheelchair user inside. The buttons are easy to reach and the lighting is quite dim.
Project Manager, Jackie Harris met with us to show us around the wetland centre. Jackie very kindly gave up her day to provide us with a taster of a guided tour around some areas of the park and was able to give us some great insight about the wildlife. She took all of our comments about areas for improvement on board and was very keen to make the park as accessible as possible. The volunteers we spoke to at the reception were also very helpful and friendly.
Visit Slimbridge Wetland Centre website for more information including ticket and membership prices.
(image – five out of five stars)