Opening Up The Creative Space

The recent fires within Rivington were featured heavily in the national headlines and brought the community together working alongside the firefighters and other emergency services and volunteers to save the historic Terraced Gardens.

This prompted vivid memories of my time as a child where many hours were spent in the Terraced Gardens within The Leverhulme Estate at Rivington, it transported me to a magical place filled with intricate pathways where beams of sunshine reflected off the still waters of the lake.

I can still smell the heady scent of the exotic flowers that filled the air as my little legs clambered up the seemingly endless steps, archways and intricate pathways where we played endless games of hide and seek.

The succulent glistening fruits which came with war wounds as the best were always deep within the brambles were quickly forgotten, made their way into blackberry pies which I can still taste if I close my eyes.

I hadn’t been up to the gardens for such a long time, in part because I have quite complex health conditions which now made the route up to the gardens impossible.

I had however started to volunteer within the Research Group looking specifically at renovating the Japanese Garden as part of the Lottery Funded renovation and as part of developing inclusive experiences within the overall renovation.

As a sign of their appreciation the Emergency Services who worked so hard to save the gardens from the fire at Rivington Heritage Trust put on “The Big Thank You “

This really was a truly spectacular event made all the more special by the inclusive nature of the event and the practical responses both prior to and at the event itself.

I have to admit to overcoming a last minute wobble and nearly didnt attend but I am so glad that I took that leap of faith.

On arrival at the designated parking area there were friendly faces who were well informed about where to go and how I would be transported to the event on The Great Lawn in what at the time sounded a rather daunting journey in a mountain rescue vehicle.

I needn’t have worried as I was again met with a group of volunteers who escorted me to what I now know to be mountain goats disguised as motor vehicles which navigated the route up to the gardens with ease and it was actually really exciting to see the gardens emerging on the incredibly smooth ride considering the Terrain.

Once at the gardens the usual apprehension kicked in about how far was it now, needing to be careful I didnt fall (wanting to avoid a third 6 week spell in a cast on crutches), would there be somewhere to sit, how do you navigate crutches and a Carrs pastie never mind trying to carry a drink.

All of these fears just melted away as the Team had thought of everything, a pathway had been laid from the entrance leading to a viewing platform with seating positioned just right, not too close to the stage, not hidden away out of sight but right in the heart of the activities and for those who needed it an “ Accessible Loo “ close by.

It wasn’t too long before another volunteer popped up asking if they could help me with anything.

It was all so refreshing and great to see the responses which had been promised, put into action in such a positive way.

I spent the next 2 hours taking it all in (yes I know, when your whole world revolves around creating Inclusive experiences its hard to switch off and just enjoy it) it was an intimate event with just the right balance of food, drinks and activities for the families of the firefighters and others who had literally battled to save this magical place from the raging fires that threatened to engulf it.

The entertainment was great a mix of bands, thank you speeches and entertainers.

I met some lovely people and the universe works in mysterious ways when in particular the Nan of one of the performers, who is definitely his biggest fan, started chatting to me about her grandson who was performing at the event, who is from the deaf community and will now be taking part in an event I am hosting in November which I can tell you all about another time.

I didn’t manage to see it out till the end when in true Cinderella fashion, as those of you reading this who experience chronic pain and fatigue will relate to, I made a timely exit where I was once again introduced to the delights of the motorised mountain goats, which really did hang onto the hill at times to see me to my car.

Did the perfectionist in me pick up on a few things that could have been added to make it a more inclusive experience, yes of course and there is still a way to go to get wheelchair users, which could not transfer into the Land-rovers up to the gardens (I can feel some type if zip wire lift in the future or trailer contraption) and to make this response available at all times, but you know what , hand on heart it won me over purely on the efforts made and continuity of response, from first point of contact till the end of my time within the gardens that day.

Out of sight I have to admit to being quite emotional and shedding a few tears as it brought back so many magical memories alongside the overwhelming sense of honour to be part of such a wonderful renovation project which truly has inclusion at the heart of it.

If you want to find out more about the project or become a volunteer contact

Jacqueline Winstanley
Founder and CEO Universal Inclusion
Chair Disability Today Advisory Board

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