Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A haven for those with life-threatening conditions

For the past few years, holidays have become something of a challenge for my wife and I. I should explain that five years ago, my wife was diagnosed with a spinal tumour. The good news was that it was benign; the bad news was that it was inoperable, and was a regressive condition.

Five years on and my wife is now confined to an electric wheelchair and has to sleep in an electric profiling bed.

As a result, any hotels or holiday cottages we stay in must have ample space, accessibility, cavernous wet-rooms and, of course, a profiling bed. Finding suitable accommodation that can tick all these boxes is by no means an easy task. To date, we have only discovered one self-catering location that works well and is one we like. Disabled-friendly Cottages in Norfolk have a number of wheelchair-friendly cottages situated in a pretty location with good views over the rolling Norfolk countryside. We have stayed in the Little Workshop several times. It's spacious, comfortable and works well for us. You can view the website here.  

There are plenty of properties in the UK that advertise themselves as wheelchair-friendly, but from our experience, many aren't really as spacious as you'd like them to be, and the vast majority aren't in the most salubrious surroundings. Indeed, one cottage we stayed in a year ago was very cramped and located on a particularly soulless and unattractive housing estate.  

As far as hotels go, there really is only one that works for us.

On first learning about The Grove in Bournemouth, I was admittedly somewhat sceptical. The Grove is, after all, run by MacMillan as a special hotel for people with life-threatening conditions. So I had visions of a nursing home with vinyl flooring, the smell of disinfectant and an air of deep depression about it. So having packed our specially adapted Citroen Belingo with all the paraphernalia such a holiday requires, I set off full of trepidation and dread.

On arriving at The Grove, my preconceived ideas were dispelled in the twinkling of an eye. The Grove has the air of a quality country house hotel, and its staff are attentive and friendly. Indeed, on climbing out of the car, someone immediately appeared and insisted on taking all our bags.

We had booked room 7, which is a very large well furnished room with plenty of wardrobe and desk space and a concealed fridge. Needless to say, there is a TV and tea, coffee and biscuits. There are also two comfortable electric operated armchairs. The wet-room is vast and comes equipped with a drying machine that effectively dries you after a shower. There is even an attractive view over the well manicured garden.

The meals prepared by the chef are also of an equally high standard. I always judge the culinary standards of such establishments by the quality of the breakfast. The Grove scored top marks in this respect. My scrambled eggs were cooked to perfection; both light and fluffy; and my sausage, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes were also beautifully cooked and served, and not the least bit greasy. So I wasn't surprised by the high quality of the evening meals, which were delicious and beautifully served.

The staff couldn't be nicer if they tried.

Leaving this place is a bit like leaving good friends who have done their utmost to make your stay an incredibly pleasant and relaxing one. The Grove is more than a hotel; it is a very special place indeed.

Alex Pearl is author of Sleeping with the Blackbirds

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