Sunday, 26 May 2019

Northumberland Day - Top 3 Accessible Days Out


It's Northumberland Day and I am so blessed to live in such a gorgeous part of the UK. One of the many challenges I face as a wheelchair user however is that the rather hilly countryside isn't always the most accessible. Thankfully, many locations are making adaptations to accommodate people with disabilities so here are my Top 3 accessible days out in the region.

Calvert Trust Kielder

Calvert Trust is an award-winning activity centre which caters for people with disabilities. Whether you're able bodied or not, anyone can join in the activities which range from canoeing to their brand new zipcoaster! The paths around Kielder Water are also accessible and there are lots of nice cafe's which cater for many dietary requirements. One of my favourite trips out! 

Alnwick Gardens

I absolutely love Alnwick Gardens, especially in Spring, with my favourite part being able to visit the famous tree house! Although on a steep hill (so I would recommend a powered wheelchair for this trip) most parts are accessible and their new children's playground which is also getting built I've been told will have an accessible section too. Being able to weave in and out of water fountains, get nose to nose with flowers grown at heights to suit all abilities and even go through their maze shows they put a lot of work into making the venue as accessible as possible. 

Wallington Hall

Owned by the National Trust, Wallington Hall is somewhere we used to visit regularly when I was younger. With a mansion, walled garden and lots of walks there's plenty to see. You can hire scooters from the National Trust including a very sturdy off-road scooter which can tackle the woods & surrounding paths with ease. Not all of Wallington is accessible, but it is so big that you can still make a good day out from it!

So, there you have it. I'd be really interested if anyone has any other recommendations for accessible days out in Northumberland, as I still think it's quite hard to find (and hear about!) them. 

Happy Northumberland Day!
Kate x

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 - The Lone Wolf Pack


Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 - The Lone Wolf Pack

With 1 in 4 people in the UK currently experiencing some form of mental health problem, awareness and support for the condition is vital, which is the main aim for Mental Health Awareness Week.

My background 
I, myself, have a long history of mental health problems which includes a long stay in a psychiatric unit when things were at their worst. I have been campaigning for increased support to be provided for people who have mental health issues and through getting to know people who are making a difference in my area, I reconnected with Georgia, from The Lone Wolf Pack.

Georgia with her dog, Burton, and my assistance dog Spencer. Both of whom have helped us during difficult spells.

Introducing The Lone Wolf Pack
Georgia used to attend Prudhoe High School, which is where I first met her; in art class actually. Now, she has set up her own clothing company for the mind. Set up to raise awareness and start a conversation, The Lone Wolf Pack designs products with mental health as it's inspiration. Each design tells it's own story and 10% of all sales go to the charity, Mind.

Georgia has suffered with years of anxiety, depression and PTSD, setting up The Lone Wolf Pack to create something productive from the experience. After realising she had both a passion and a talent for Computer Aided Design, she combined her knowledge of mental health and creativity to start making t-shirts.

Georgia working at her home office

This year's campaign; body positivity
Body positivity is now a huge topic, especially with campaigns such as I WEIGH hitting the news. This year's MHAW is focused around body image so I asked Georgia how she felt about her own and how her brand reflects body positivity.
'I have always struggled with body image, which only heightened once I started self harming. It took me a long time to accept my scars as part of my body and be willing to show them too. In the end, I got them covered with a tattoo and that gave me some level of self confidence back.' 'As a company we hope to appeal to as many people as possible.' 'I'm happy to have the design printed into a different shape tee for my customer if they want. I also sell other products which aren't clothing like prints or notebooks for those who don't want to wear a t-shirt'.

'You are enough' tee

What I love about The Lone Wolf Pack
The fact Georgia has not only set up her own brand, but raised nearly £300 for Mind, is absolutely incredible; especially for someone with their own mental health battles. The designs have had a lot of thought put into them and have been executed so well, with a clear style throughout meaning they work well as a collection. I can't wait to get my hands on some tee's when I go to see the new range next week and I really would encourage you to support The Lone Wolf Pack, I think it's one to watch!

The Lone Wolf Pack at Tynemouth Markets

Where to find The Lone Wolf Pack
The Lone Wolf Pack can be found here or on social media at @thelonewolfpackco. They currently have a weekly stall at Tynemouth Market but would love to attend more events, markets & festivals in the future - so keep an eye on their media for where they are!

Help Information
Mind - 0300 123 3393
Samaritans - 116 112
Young Minds - text 85258

Kate x

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

3 Reasons Why You Should Save The Haven - Accessibility


Save The Haven

The Haven is made up of ten accessible bungalow in Prudhoe, owned by Karbon Homes. Karbon plan to demolish it, with no clear plans of where to house the elderly/disabled residents and replace the buildings with 'family homes'. I have been campaigning behind the scenes and have contemplated whether to keep it this way or publicise some of the reports I've presented. There are many, passionate people who are campaigning to keep the bungalows which is fantastic news, but we need as much support as possible. I have gone down the accessibility route, since this is my area, but others have campaigned for different reasons so please do check out the latest posts available on social media!

93% of homes don't meet accessibility standards. The Haven provides accessible homes for the elderly and disabled.

Over 11 million people have lifelong illnesses, impairmaints or disabilities which now affects 16% of working aged adults and 45% of adults over state pension age. Yet, 1 in 3 people still live in non-decent accomodation. (

The English Housing Survey showed that 93% of homes don't meet accessibility standards and many developers are not building for people as they age. With nearly three quarters (72%) of UK adults thinking all homes should be built to be suitable for all ages and abilities, the lack of accessible housing being built & maintained is astonishing.

Karbon Homes stated 'There is less need for older, one bedroom bungalows'. Currently, they are all occupied which proves there is clearly a need for the housing. Because of the lack of accessible housing not only in the area, but nationwide, finding 10 accessible houses in close proximity will be almost an impossible task. Karbon say it might take a year to move residents out and my greatest concern is that they will be moved to inappropriate accommodation.
Because of the extreme shortage for accessible housing not only in the area but nationwide, I do not think there would be an issue filling a vacancy if someone was to ever leave The Haven, which could be a concern of Karbon's, and in the report above it shows that younger home owners are also willing to look at accessible homes.

The impact of not having a suitable accessible home includes poor mental health, social isolation, mobility problems and the indignity of not being able to live independently. 

The impact of not having a suitable accessible home includes social isolation and anxiety, poorer mental health, mobility problems, indignity of not being able to live independently and being 4 times less likely to work. Having an accessible home means that older relatives or disabled people can visit, so there is still a need for these homes even if it's not directly for the buyer.

Currently, the locations for The Haven is important to all residents for accessibility and is close to a bus stop, doctors, pharmacy, local amenities and socialisation. Moving the residents to a different location could have a dramatic effect on health, socialisation and general happiness of residents. It is also important to note that many of the occupants are elderly or have health problems, the stress caused by this and the move could be detrimental to their health.

Many residents have just had refurbishments and adaptations made on their house

Residents have recently refurbished housing to a high standard and have been offered a sum of £6,100 for their home loss. Speaking to one resident who had decorated including laying carpets, lino & blinds it seems a small sum for the amount of work put into the house but also a waste of the love & effort put into the property. Others have had work done such as ramps and wet rooms which the council only provide a contribution towards (usually £1,000) and the rest comes from your own funds. Will this be paid back to the residents and will they get the same facilities in their new home if The Haven is demolished?

The residents of The Haven want to stay, the town is backing them, will Karbon agree? Let me know your thoughts! 

Sign the petition here

Kate x

Monday, 13 May 2019

5 Favourite Dog Enrichment Treats


 Food enrichment is a fun way to make feeding a slightly more challenging & productive activity. Since the weather has suddenly got hot again (I know, what?!) I thought I'd share 5 of my favourite food enrichment products (and how to use them) as many can be frozen & are brilliant for using when it's too hot to go out. 

So, here are 5 easy-peasy enrichment treats to make up. 

Frozen Kong
  1. In a cup, line the outside of the kong with kitchen foil
  2. 'Plug' the bottom of the kong with food and then stuff 
  3. Pour boiling water in and leave to expand and cool
  4. Finish off with (dog friendly) peanut butter and freeze overnight

Kong Wobbler
  1. Open up kong wobbler and fill with size appropriate treats
  2. Leave on floor and tilt to treat

 B&M Snake Treat Toy

  1. Fill snake with treats
  2. Top up with (dog friendly) peanut butter to seal


  1. Spread your favourite treat on the mat and serve

 Slow Feeders

  1. Add food to slow feeders
  2. Add water and serve 

Product Links
Kong & Kong Wobbler - Pets At Home
Snake - b&m
Lickimat & Slow Feeder - Amazon

Kate and Spencer x

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Spring Cleaning Guide for Dog Owners


Spring Cleaning Guide for Dog Owners 

It’s that time of year where everyone loves a good spring clean. With the nation obsessed with ‘hinching’, I have a few added challenges which impact a normal cleaning routine; the first being I have a chronic illness which majorly limits my activity levels and the next being my new(ish), hairy, assistance dog.

I devised a list, mainly to help me pace through my spring clean, and wanted to share with you some tips. I was kindly gifted a box of Sweetpee products a few months ago which I have been trialing with great success so you’ll hear me talk about related items on this post - it’s not sponsored but because I liked the products so much (and they’re a local company, my followers know I love supporting local!) I’ve put links at the bottom of this page if you’d like to check them out.

So, here are 7 steps for your spring clean!

1 - Wash soft toys, blankets & bedding:

It’s time for a wash! Put your soft items in the washing machine, (spray with Safesol Multipurpose Disinfectant & leave for 15 minutes before washing to kill the bacteria, germs & viruses, I do this before I put it in the washing basket!) and add 50ml of Sweetpee ‘Pet Stain and Odour Eliminator’ to the drum to get rid of any lingering smells. I've also heard rave reviews of Vamoosh which dissolves pet hair in your washing machine which I'm desperate to try! Also, whilst you’re stuffing those mountain of animals in the washer, have a sort out and discard of any unsafe toys.
Note: Many of you will be saying 'Kate, why aren't you using Zoflora?'. My dog has sensitive skin and I couldn't use Zoflora (no matter how good it smelt) on any of his items, but I recently found out you're not supposed to use it on fabrics anyways - so a little note for those with sensitive skin!

2 - Hoover or steam floors:
This is a task which is particularly difficult with a chronic condition, but I’ve realised sit-down-hoovering is a thing. Handheld pet hoovers are your lifeline on this occasion and I bought a second-hand steam cleaner for £15 off a local selling site. Don’t worry about asking for help or doing it in sections, it’s a big task! 

3 - Disinfect food bowls, hard toys & assistance items:
For dog bowls I use Pet Multipurpose Spray which I spray on, wash off and leave to dry. I also use the same product to clean the feeding area, treats bag and storage tubs I use to keep food in. Spencer fetches a lot of items for me like phones, remotes & medication bags so I give them a good old wipe down too.

4 - Valet your car
My wheelchair accessible vehicle is something which I cannot clean by myself, so unless I bribe a family member to help out, I pay for a local business to come clean it for me. Getting a car seat cover, like this example from petplanet, has been a game changer for not needing my car valeted as often (simply wipe down or pop that through the wash) and I always have a travel sized bottle of Sweetpee Odour Eliminator handy as it’s been incredible at getting the smell of wet dog out the car after our walks!

5 - Hose down the toilet area
Assistance dogs have a specific toilet area and mine is an enclosed pebble section. To clean this, I dilute Pet Multipurpose Spray with warm water and put into a watering can. I then pour over the stones and give the area a good hose down before leaving to dry. To get a thorough clean, I also rake over the stones and spray the bottom of the posts too.

6 - Clean the dog:
Lets not forget a vital role in all of this, the dog itself. To wash Spencer I use hypoallergenic shampoo and let him dry naturally. I then spray with Mucky Pups no-wash shampoo before using this deferminator brush, a silicone brush and finally a bristle brush. I clean his ears by diluting the pet disinfectant spray and using a cotton pad. I brush his teeth regularly with toothpaste and a brush but also add Sweetpee gumdrops to his water. Finally, if his nails need doing I get them trimmed at a salon, as with him being black this is particularly difficult!

7 - Enjoy spring!
Spring is such a fun time for dogs (and humans!) and with the warmer weather approaching there’s plenty to do. From beach trips, to making doggy ice-lollies, there’s plenty to explore so go out and have fun! For those with assistance dogs who'd like to treat their dog for helping out with the Spring cleaning (or y'know, if you just want to treat your dog anyways!) I can 100% reccomend The Snack Pawtal and Puppy Sue's K9 Kitchen which both have a range of grain free (and normal!) treats! 

Like our dog posts? Let us know!
Kate & Spencer x

Products mainly used: 
 - eco friendly, combats 99.999% of bacteria & fungi, safe around pets
  • used to disinfect pet equipment, kennels, remove tick/mites, wash folds of bulldogs or similar, disinfecting wounds & cleaning ears.

  • use on furnishings (hard or soft), outside areas, cars & washing machines
  • breaksdown enzymes instead of masking them
  • tackles animal urine, vomit and “wet dog”
  • more effective on car and dog urine than leading competitors

  • added to pets water to improve dental hygeine
  • cleaner, plaque-free teeth with healthier gums
  • prevents bad breath and gingivitis
  • eco friendly 

Thursday, 2 May 2019

North East Expo - An Honest Experience


Today, I visited North East Expo Expedition; the biggest business event in the region. I attended mainly to network, as running a non-profit we are always looking for business backing, but also the fact there was lost of local stands there and seminars really excited me as I love to 'support local'.

Background: I run projectparent which is a non-profit providing gift boxes for parents of children who stay in hospital over Christmas. I am also working on a new project, 'Sponsor a Stay', which funds respite breaks for disabled adults & their carers through business sponsorship schemes - hence why I was eager to network! Finally, I am also a freelance blogger and public speaker, avidly into disability/accessibility & helping others. 

There were minor bumps throughout the day, but there's two things I really want to talk about here.

I arrived and went over to my first stall, which thankfully was my good friends Joe and Alexandra. As we were chatting, a man approached from behind and started started stroking Spencer (we'll get onto that in a minute) and came out with something which honestly shocked me. He saw a picture of me modelling on the stand whilst I was stood up, alongside a photo of me in my wheelchair (and my physical self being in a chair), turned to me and said 'so your in a wheelchair because your lazy then?'. Once I told him how offensive that was, he continued to say 'well I bet everyone says that about you'. The worst thing about it was none of us knew this man, he didn't introduce himself and I'd already explained I'm an ambulatory wheelchair user.

The fact that this was the first event I attended myself was a huge step for me and to be knocked at the first hurdle was hard. I wasn't dressed for people to take me seriously (note: it does still matter what you look like at events like this, ditch the jeans Kate and buy your first suit!). I'm young and many underestimate the power of young people. And most importantly, I got judged on a set of wheels instantly and that is not okay.

The next thing that happened was a general thing, people stroking my assistance dog. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't the best at saying 'no' but most people didn't even ask; I was still nervous about what people would say after my first encounter so just rolled with it. But what was so difficult was people would either stroke my dog, or ask to stroke my dog, then completely ignore me. My dog, as fabulous as he is, isn't here to provide entertainment and he is an ice-breaker but the conversation needs to continue. If you were one of the people who either just stroked Spencer and left, or only asked questions about the dog & not a single thing about what I do, think about how that makes me feel. I work extremely hard in what I do and for people to treat me equally, and quite frankly, I deserve it.

So yes, today has been difficult to say the least. I'm so grateful I had some friends there, some friends at the end of the phone to rant to and my family to cry to tonight. I'm not done yet, I'll be going back in a pink power suit with more confidence and a charity bucket charging £10 to stroke Spencer, it's all a learning curve...

Note: Thank you to the people who were genuine and took the time to talk to me today - I appreciate your time and the fact I wasn't all with it. 

Kate & Spencer

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Sage Gateshead - Accessibility Review


The Sage is one of Newcastle Quayside's iconic venues & I was lucky enough to attend a concert there last week. I have visited the Sage a number of times and I have to say it's one of the best venues for accessibility which is why I was eager to share with you this post.

 image by 

Getting there:
The Sage is across the river from Newcastle station, which although isn't the longest of walks does require you to tackle 2 pretty steep hills. If you are going to the Sage from Newcastle station, I'd recommend getting a taxi from the station if you have walking difficulties or a wheelchair. I, however, got a lift in and there is parking around the back if you have a blue badge (although it is not signposted very well, it is near the drop-off point). They are often full though when a concert is on so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to park.

Booking tickets:
You can book tickets online, on the phone, in person, via email and by post. They also have an access requirement register which means that once completed, you are on a list which will help with everything from selecting the correct seats to specific access requirements. You can find more info on this here including eligibility and how to apply. The Sage allow a free PA ticket once you are registered with this scheme so it's definitely worthwhile!

Toilets and changing facilities:
The Sage has 34 (award-winning... ooh!) disabled toilets on every level and includes a WC facility with tracking hoist, changing table & shower. The toilets are large and have plenty of manoeuvrability for electric wheelchairs, assistance dogs and carers.

The venue:
The Sage is split into a number of halls but the main one's used are Sage One and Sage Two. Sage One accommodates 20 wheelchair spaces over all floor levels which means that there is a variety of seat prices available - something which rarely happens in many other venues. I personally love going in either a box which is slightly raised from the floor, or, the circle near the back where there is plenty of space for myself and my assistance dog. Sage 2 is smaller with 4 wheelchair spaces but can accommodate more if needed. The cafe at the Sage has a good range of food, which includes gluten-free options, but is often busy and has limited seating.

The staff:
The staff were the reason I wanted to blog about this venue. As per usual, Mum & I were running late but were escorted to our seats by 2 lovely men who introduced themselves and checked we were both ok. The bit which really got me was near the end of our concert the whole of the stalls got up on their feet to dance along to Michael Ball. I spotted a women in a wheelchair at the back get up and then get approached by a member of staff, my first thoughts were that it was going to be a health & safety problem as that's how it usually goes. But no. The member of staff recognised that even though she could stand up, standing for another 3/4 songs could cause her pain/payback and offered (then pushed) her to the very front of the stage where Michael Ball was singing. And honestly, I cried. It's what should happen but in over a decade being in a wheelchair I've never seen it happen, so thank you to all the staff for making it accessible to all. I must note too they were fantastic with my assistance dog, Spencer, by asking questions but respecting the fact he was working and I had such a smooth night I was over the moon.

Overall: A fantastically accessible venue with staff which are trained to a high standard in disability awareness. I wish they had a slightly wider range of music attending the Sage because of how easy this experience was for us, but, I'm glad I've had the opportunity to attend a number of concerts and talks hosted at the venue already.

Kate (and Spencer of course) x