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Netherurd Garden House

Nicola* cares for her wife, Diane. Until recently they managed to have a holiday together every year. However, as Diane’s condition has deteriorated, they’ve found themselves unable to get a break as accessible facilities have been too hard to find. After a conversation with Lucy, a Respitality delivery partner, they were delighted to find out about Netherurd Garden House and decided to give it a try through a Respitality break.

Deep in the Scottish Borders, you will find Netherurd Garden House nestled in a two-acre walled garden and estate. Its 18 newly-renovated, accessible apartments were opened in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and offer a flexible and inclusive short break option for everyone. The wheelchair accessible facilities were a perfect fit for Nicola and Diane, who felt welcomed straight away. Nicola said:

“We’ve stayed in all sorts of places, and they will literally sit at the reception desk and look at you struggling with the door and the wheelchair, and yet straight away [Netherurd] couldn’t do enough for us.”

On being shown to their room, Nicola and Diane were met with a bright space, complete with a fitted kitchen, level entry wet room, and views of the nearby Henderson Hills. But it was “the small things that made the difference”, like the underfloor heating and amble pillows, Nicola said.   

Two of Netherurd’s apartments interconnect, ideal for carers who are taking a break with their cared-for person. These same rooms have ceiling hoists, electric profile beds and PAC3 fixtures in the wet rooms. 

Nicola, who stayed in one of the studio apartments, said:

“We had our studio apartment, and it was really spacious. Plenty of room for taking in the wheelchair and the casters and still being able to move about the room, which was quite a refreshing feeling.”

Going through the grounds of Netherurd, one could be forgiven you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. The gardens are patrolled by chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs; the estate is flanked by hills and burns. Guests can experience sensory gardens, silent discos, and bread making experiences. Every single area, including the grounds, is wheelchair accessible, something which is something of a rarity, even in the most accessible locations.

During their stay with Netherurd, Nicola and Diane went on day trips to both Peebles and Biggar, where they visited local arts and crafts shops. Netherurd staff were happy to provide recommendations for wheelchair accessible cafes, restaurants, and pubs.

Often, a common barrier to a successful short break is hidden expenses such as travel, food, and outings. However, as Ami McKnight, Short Breaks Development Worker for Falkirk and Clackmannanshire Carer Centre explains, Time to Live funding can be combined with Respitality breaks to ensure all costs are covered:

“We layered this break up with the Time to Live funding. The carer was from a low-income household that was identified in her adult care support plan, so we supported her to fast track an application to cover the costs of travel because she was reliant on public transport to get to the break and for food costs while she was there.

After their three-day break at Netherurd, Nicola said:

“The two of us felt relaxed. We worked out the kinks and I was able to get myself ready for Christmas and just relax… It felt like there was a weight off the shoulders. We spent some time just sitting in the countryside, which we love, or being near water.

“You’ve not got all the noises of the city going on around you. Diane was able to feel kind of refreshed as well. She was brighter and more herself than she had been for a while.”

Ellie, PA for Netherurd Garden House, emphasised the simplicity of booking a Respitality break:

“This is our first time doing Respitality, which I think personally think went quite well as well. With Respitality it's pretty straightforward because the care centre can get in contact with this family or this couple that want to come away.

“Definitely straightforward. No hassle. And speaking to the guys that came away on a Respitality break, they said the carers centre did everything for them, so there was no hassle from them and no hassle from our end and everyone was calm and relaxed.

Ami McKnight, who regularly organises Respitality breaks, explains that removing stress for the carer can start when first booking a break. She said:

“This break really highlights that having something all organised for the cared-for person also takes the stress off of the carer.

“One of the carers I worked with said that they having a worker book the break on their behalf meant not having to double check everything with the provider. We cover everything and just knowing that Netherurd was going to be fully accessible was just an amazing opportunity.”

Ellie often notices a positive change in a carer’s wellbeing after taking a break. She said:

“It's amazing to see the change in people when they've had the break... You can see them take a step back from being in the caring role and just be a husband again or a wife again.

“It was just so lovely to see everyone have a break and recharge their batteries which is really rewarding.”

The benefits of a short break can be more than physical or mental. As Ami explains, the fact that businesses are willing to donate Respitality breaks makes carers feel they are recognised for their caring role:

“The carers always report back feeling so overwhelmed at the generosity of the provider being able to give this and it really does make them feel valued by other people in the community.”

Respite from caring roles and breaks from routine are vital to unpaid carers’ mental and physical health. Three in five of us will become an unpaid carer during our lifetimes in Scotland. Through Respitality tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses are making a real difference to the lives of unpaid carers across Scotland by donating free breaks. You can join them by donating a Respitality break today.

If you are an unpaid carer interested in taking a Respitality break, you can read more on our website about Respitality and how to apply.

As for Nicola and Diane, they will definitely go back: “We wouldn't hesitate to go down again… we’d like to next year if we can.”

*All names have been anonymised to ensure privacy.