County Durham, a beautiful place.
We left Halifax at 645am heading for the motorway and County Durham on Tuesday 30th October 2018. We had only been driving for 20 mins when there was a sign on the M62 letting us know that the A1 was closed at Junctions 47 to 49. Ugh. The glorious Sat Nav re-directed us through Leeds and towards Harrogate passing various tourist attractions and venues such as Leeds Direct, the stunning Harewood House, Ripley Castle and on the road to Ripon to pick up the A1 we drove past the sign to Fountains Abbey, Lightwater Valley, Ripon Racecourse and Ripon Cathedral.
This was actually the first day of work for our new co-ordinator Lorraine who got a guided tour of North Yorkshire which she was not expecting. We were definitely going the scenic route and both cheered a sigh of relief when we finally got onto the A1.
Why were we in County Durham?
Visits Unlimited had been asked by Visit County Durham to speak at their annual Autumn Conference and to run a workshop session on Access for All alongside Michelle Gorman, Managing Director of Visit County Durham and Jane Shaw from Durham Creatives.
Lorraine and I arrived in plenty of time at the Redworth Hall Hotel for me to meet the team and the Chair Ivor Stolliday, to check over my powerpoint, enjoyed a coffee and croissant and to do a bit of networking before the event started.
We learn as much as we give.
Watching the excellent film of the City of Culture which showed the range of beautiful countryside and visitor attractions in the area sold County Durham to me! I loved the idea of Star Gazing and taking disabled people out into the open at night. In 2019 I am booking into one of the many small hotels and BnBs in the region and heading to Durham Cathedral to meet Ivor who has promised me my own guided tour whilst going to one of the many wonderful events planned for the Durham Year of Culture!
My talk on Access for All included an overview of the numbers of disabled people in the UK, the Purple Pound and some interesting statistics from Visit England as well as some inspiring stories of good practice around the country. The message of the importance of training and good customer service came across strongly. After a delicious lunch I ran one of three workshops each delivered 3 times to a total of 90 people. I told a story of the ups and downs of living with disability and the benefits of a day out, a short break and a night away. The participants were very proactive and there was some great ideas of how to improve their accessible and inclusive offer. The importance of good customer service and a warm welcome was highlighted again.