Our first visit group today - Highwood Womens club, unusually is in the morning arriving at 10am. This means an early start for me, so I'm up cleaning the kitchen at 6:30am. I am soon outside watering and trying to clear up any obstructions, rolling up hosepipes etc. We are aware that some of our visitors will be using mobility scooters today, which is a new experience for us and we are hoping that the garden will be accessible for them. Highwood Womens club arrive with two mobility scooters and some other people using walking aids, and one man! I am always slightly apprehensive for our less able-bodied visitors, we have done our best to cater for people with limited mobility, by providing ample parking close to the house and also notifying people with wheelchairs etc. that they can be 'dropped off' outside the house. However, we are a private garden and nothing is ever perfect. We have a fairly basic gravel parking area outside the house and although the mobility scooters can access the garden through our top gate, they have to pass through another area of thicker gravel which is not ideal. This issue is something we hope to address over the winter to provide a smoother access to the garden. I deployed Aideen and Diane to assist these visitors as much as possible and I asked them to be available to help if needed during the tour. The majority of the tour is held in the kitchen garden where the paths are excellent and perfectly wide enough for the scooters. The way I conduct the tour is at a very gentle pace, with long pauses whilst I chat and there are often seats available in the spots where we stop. I believe this makes the tour ideal for our less mobile visitors. The last part of the tour is around the orchard and some of our visitors decide to abstain from this part and collect some early refreshments instead. I hope as they will have already had an hour of guided time that they don't feel disappointed. I actually believe that we provide a good inclusive experience for all of our visitors, whatever their mobility and we intend to improve our facilities in the future.
In the afternoon, we had a visit from the Harefield Fellowship group. This visit has been in the diary for a long time, but we were a little unsure what to expect. Thirty people came in the end and I gave them a guided tour and they organised their own refreshments at the church. There were many people well known to us in the group which was lovely, and several had been before, so it was great to see people returning to see how we are getting on - there does seem to be a lot of local support and encouragement which we appreciate hugely. Our visitors left literally as my first pupil arrived.