It was officially opened by KCC Chair Lesley Game, who said:
"It is a big priority for us to make our country parks as accessible as we can for all our visitors to get into nature and enjoy what our wonderful parks have to offer. Being in nature brings so many benefits to our physical and mental health and it is important that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from them."
She was accompanied at the opening by Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, who said it was the third Changing Places facility to be installed in one of KCC’s country parks. He added:
“I think it is enormously important to provide the ability for disabled people to make use of our country parks by the provision of this facility, together with improved pathways for wheelchair users.”
KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, Mike Hill said:
"I think it is enormously important to provide the ability for disabled people to make use of our country parks by the provision of this facility, together with improved pathways for wheelchair users."
The Changing Places toilet has been funded by Interreg – a series of programmes from the European Regional development Fund – and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Experience project.
Fiona Jarrett, Project Support Officer for the Experience project said:
"The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is delighted to have worked with KCC’s Country Parks team on the installation of the Changing Places at Lullingstone Country Park. Our project funds investments in sustainable rural tourism including accessibility improvements in the Kent Downs and along the North Downs Way to enable everyone access to our beautiful countryside."
Children from the Valence School in Westerham attended as part of a school trip and enjoyed an autumnal craft event before joining the official opening.
Beverley Rodwell, Simmonds 3 Class Teacher at Valence School said:
"The new Changing Place facility at Lullingstone Park provides an essential care resource for all disabled users who are looking for a relaxed and all-inclusive day out. The wonderful countryside at Lullingstone can now be enjoyed free of time restriction and extra care considerations. The Changing Place facility offers a fantastic opportunity for groups or families to enjoy a more relaxed and successful day out."
Kent Country Parks were also joined by members of the Kent AONB, Kent PACT and Need2Change. Katrina from Need2Change commented:
"The provision of a Changing Places toilet which includes a hoist, a height adjustable changing bench, a toilet with space either side for support and plenty of room for manoeuvrability makes such a difference to families. A Changing Places toilet is not just about dignity and safety for the user and anyone who is there to assist them. It is also about supporting health and wellbeing, reducing stress, frustration and isolation and providing equity and opportunity for people."
"Additionally, we see the creation of a Changing Places toilet as a very tangible demonstration that organisations care about people, whether that is residents, visitors, customers, clients or employees. It says to disabled people and families such as ours, ‘You are welcome here’. It says ‘This place is for you too’."
"We look forward to enjoying this beautiful part of the Kent countryside and we know that next year’s exciting river path enhancements to Lullingstone Castle and beyond will open up so many more opportunities for disabled visitors and families such as ours. Thank you."
KCC Chair Lesley Game said:
"The Changing Places toilet here at Lullingstone Country Park is the first step in our work to ensure the Darent valley is accessible for all. With Lullingstone as the base with car parking, café and Changing Places, a new accessible path is planned to be installed next summer along the River Darent providing access from Castle Farm next door all the way along the river past Lullingstone Castle and Lullingstone Roman Villa to Eynsford Village."
"We have an off-road mobility scooter called a tramper available to hire from the Visitor Centre and we have applied for funding for a second tramper so a couple or two friends can enjoy as much of the country park as possible together."
Kent Country Parks had already installed Changing Places toilets at Shorne Woods and Brockhill Country Park in Hythe.
Note for editors
About Lullingstone Country Park
Lullingstone Country Park is internationally important for its collection of ancient trees, with over 300 veteran oak, beech, ash, hornbeam and sweet chestnut, some of which are thought to be 800 years old. The park also has areas of chalk grassland that fill with spectacular displays of orchids and other wild flowers in spring and summer.
Lullingstone Country Park is one of nine parks managed by Kent Country Parks. The park has been given the Green Flag award every year since 2009. The park has also been awarded a Gold Medal in the Country Parks category of the South and Southeast in Bloom campaign every year since 2010.
To find out more about KCC’s award-winning Country Parks go to the Kent Country Parks website.
About the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Kent Downs AONB is one of 46 AONBs across England, Wales and Northern Ireland which cover one fifth of the UK. The National Association of Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (NAAONB) is the voice of the AONB partnerships and conservation boards and represents the AONB network on national issues including policy and advocacy, communications, training and securing resources. AONBs have the same legal landscape protection status as National Parks.
The Kent Downs AONB offers dramatic views, vibrant communities, a rich historic and cultural heritage and diverse wildlife and habitats making it a worthy landscape for national protection. It is the eighth largest AONB and, along with the High Weald AONB, covers 33% of Kent’s land area providing a wealth of opportunities for people to explore, enjoy and benefit from this outstanding landscape.
In celebration of the chalk and the channel, the Kent Downs AONB are working to secure Cross-Channel UNESCO Global Geopark status for the Kent Downs together with our neighbouring protected landscape in France; the Parc Naturel Regional des Caps et Marais d’Opale.
The North Downs Way is one of only 15 designated National Trails in England and Wales and has a diverse appeal for many unique reasons. Passing through 153 miles of stunning and diverse landscapes and through the protected landscapes of Kent Downs AONB and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
For further information visit the Kent Downs AONB website.
About the EXPERIENCE Project
EXPERIENCE is a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€16 million) through the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme and designed to develop the experiential off-season economy in the future in a safe and sustainable way. The project is a 4-year scheme that runs from 1st September 2019 to 30th June 2023, involving 14 partners in France and England. Led by Norfolk County Council, both Visit Kent and the Kent Downs AONB are core partners with distinctive roles underpinned by budgets of €1.6 and €3.1 million respectively. Experience aims to capitalise on the emerging global trend for personalised and local tourism experiences which increasingly provide the all-important reasons to visit pilot locations.
For further information about the Kent Downs AONB or the EXPERIENCE project please contact Marketing and Communications Manager Kathryn.Hearnden@kentdowns.org.uk or Communications Manager Kate.Hickey@kentdowns.org.uk.