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See England as It Was

I cannot help wondering how many of the thousands of American visitors who come to our country never get beyond the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London. Don't get me wrong, if I was an American visiting Britain I would want to see some of these places too. But should my interest be for instance, social history, and why my great grandfather emigrated to the U.S. in the first place, these places would not tell me much.

If you want to learn about 19th and 20th century England, think about an excursion to Wallington House and Gardens.

After the war, many families, unable to afford to maintain their estates, gave their houses to a charity called The National Trust, complete with the contents. Some, like Blenheim Palace, are well known; most, like Wallington House, are not.

The area around Newcastle upon Tyne, still has examples not only of stately homes but miner's cottages, the sort of place granddad would have been familiar with. Secondly, Wallington and many similar places can be visited by wheelchair.

If you have a car, from Newcastle upon Tyne take the A696 out past the airport and pass though the very old town of Ponteland and Belsay (Belsay Castle is not wheelchair friendly, but the gardens are). Three miles farther on you will follow a brown "local place of interest" sign to Wallington House and Gardens.

Electric and manual wheelchairs are available on loan at the ticket office. The price of entry is £5.50, about $9 per person, and includes entry to both the house and gardens. Along with your ticket you will get a map telling you which paths are suitable for wheelchairs and which are not. A visit to the walled garden is a must even if you are not particularly interested in flowers; it is one of the best examples of its type in the country.

Wallington hosts local country events throughout the year and is not always open, so I would advise telephoning 011-44-1670 773939 the day before. If you need a wheelchair, it can be booked at the same time.

Since not all National Trust properties are wheelchair friendly, check with the local tourist office before going. For disabled accommodations and further information please feel free to contact me directly though the charity of which I am national secretary, The Disabled Motorists Federation. We are based in the Northeast of England at Chester-le-Street and I can best be reached at my home address in Washington (the original one): 145 Knoulberry Rd., Blackfell, Washington, Tyne and Wear, England NE37 1JN; 011-44-0191-4163172. The charity has been set up to help disabled people no matter where they come from and the information is free except for postage.