Recently, I took a ten hour flight from Rio De Janeiro, where I had been working on accessibility for the 2016 Games, and landed in Heathrow to start the long drive to Abercych, Pembrokeshire. As the jet lag hit me and the sky got gradually darker, I really wondered what I had let myself in for. But now I’ve seen what was on offer once my journey finished – a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – I would happily do it all over again.
On arriving at Clynfyw in the evening, I was greeted by Jim, the owner and ‘number one’ of the farm. His family have been at Clynfyw since the 1750s, and from the 1980s onwards, his aim has been access, particularly focusing on respite and day care farming activities after being motivated when working on sporting projects in Kenya. My accommodation for the first night was to be the Granary (three twin rooms), with Saddleback cottage for the second (two twin rooms) – both spacious buildings boasting easy to use bathrooms alongside every bedroom, with a mixture of showers and baths. All equipment in the Granary and Saddleback was at a perfect height for wheelchairs users, including lowered basins, kitchen units and mirrors. Some of the beds were electrically adjustable with profilers on the sides, and Jim and his colleagues had even gone to the trouble of placing visibility strips over the light switches in each room. It is always the little things that add up to a great experience!
Clynfyw Care Farm has a few rather impressive awards under its belt. The farm was a double winner at the Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards 2013, and is one of the BIHR Human Rights Champions 2013. Clynfyw has also been a Green Tourism Gold Standard award winner since 2012, so is inclusive and accessible in many more ways than one!
After a cosy night’s sleep, the next day was national Disabled Access Day, and the day that I was to discover that Clynfyw offers much more than inclusive accommodation. Jim had ensured that Clynfyw was to be a hub for disabled-friendly charities and organisations to showcase what they offer in the local area, and I spent most of the day talking to eager members of the public about my accessibility consultancy and hearing accounts of the wonderful work done by the Harriet Davis Trust, Celtic Quest Coasteering, and the local Pembrokeshire tourism companies, to name a few.
After the stalls and speeches, however, the real education began. Jim told us that, alongside inclusive accommodation for all in the form of two holiday cottages, Clynfyw has also started to offer supported housing, community gardening services, wheelchair yoga sessions, craft workshops, cookery classes, a sensory garden and sculpture trail, and even apple pressing workshops leading to a profitable juice selling business! The farm also holds monthly coffee mornings in aid of various charities, and has been running the international ‘Wheelie Good Idea’ project for a number of years in which old and unwanted mobility aids are refurbished and sent out to Africa. Many of these projects and sessions are supported with accredited training and course certificates, ensuring that all members feel a huge sense of achievement when at the farm.
I have visited many inclusive accommodation sites, but rarely have I been as inspired as when I was talking to Jim. When asked why and how all these differing projects work so well, he told me that ‘everyone does their bit, and brings something to the table’. This was especially highlighted when he told me about another new initiative on the farm; encouraging healthy eating and exercise by creating a bike that would churn ingredients into butter once pedalled. ‘Obviously butter isn’t healthy, but everyone will want to have a go at making it, and will be getting exercise along the way!’ Jim told me, still in amazement. This fun, inventive atmosphere follows one around at Clynfyw, and a sense of freedom enveloped me as I stayed there. All of a sudden, all the ideas that popped into my head seemed like excellent ones, and I was, and still am, desperate to have a go at a similar venture in Glasgow, where I now live. Imagine waking up to that atmosphere daily, or being absorbed in it once a week at craft workshops or fitness sessions. This is the sense of belonging and accomplishment that Clynfyw provides for its community, and long may it continue.