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Clare's Blog

As I review a lot of books, I have been asked to create a list of some recommended books in the categories of horses and the environment. I also regularly take note of visitor attractions featuring excellent, accessible facilities for people with disabilities. I hope to help anyone looking for a great day out in an interesting place with up to date facilities.
I shall recommend one book each week on each topic. These reviews are extracts and my full reviews will be found on Goodreads, Amazon or Fresh Fiction.

10th December 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Our class from Dublin Business School visited and as the day was bitter cold we walked through the grounds of the Botanic Gardens to the Museum entrance, and made a beeline for the café to enjoy a hot lunch. The dramatic installation of a sea of poppies was well worth a look; timed to coincide with Poppy Week, this ceramic flow of flowers was by Paul Cummins Ceramics Ltd.

Inside the Museum occupies five floors and has lifts to all, with some displays that sweep up through the whole building and others that are on themed floors. Among other interesting objects were a cannon from a Spanish Armada shipwreck, a skeleton of an Edmontosaurus dinosaur and a stuffed champion Irish wolfhound. The ground floor presented the Troubles in Northern Ireland and how it affected local people. As we went up we went further back in history, to the post-Ice Age natural environment, with a skeleton of the Irish great deer next to a reconstructed model of the deer, also called Irish Elk. Further back we found meteorites and geology. Not forgetting the wickerwork dragons on the ceiling!

The restrooms are accessible, though all located on the ground floor, and I was pleased to note a sign explaining that not all disabilities are visible. This is especially thoughtful. Seating is provided at intervals through the galleries, but I did not find objects for touch or scent and there was not much in the way of sound effects. I observed a family including a young person with a learning disability enjoying the Ice Age animals. With a lot to explore, plan to spend a day in the Museum, or else to come back!

This week's horse book is Show Stopper by Mary Monica Pulver. ISBN: 9781557739254.
This is a nice story from the point of view of describing an Arabian Horse show, or the early part of it, held in America. A murder occurs overnight and it's wrapped up rather quickly without too much forensic evidence. We get a lot of gossip about people doing bad things to horses in the hope of winning prizes and prestige. I'm pleased that we don't see much of this appalling behaviour.

The series is about a male detective but in this book he is not in the picture and his wife, an amateur sleuth, does the investigating.

This week's nature book is The Edge of Extinction: Travels with Enduring People in Vanishing Lands by Jules Pretty ISBN: 9780801453304.
The author has travelled a considerable amount and made the effort to meet people in marginal areas leading cultural lifestyles out of step with today's world. He mentions having been in China thirty years ago and the changes since. We see nomadic herders, fishermen, mountain dwellers and bird-catchers, everywhere from Mongolia to Finland to Australia.>br>
I commend the author for recording these ways of life, and noting difficulties such as strip mining or industry which encroach on their lands.

However I would have liked to see some suggestions from him as to how modern life can make improvements. Living on the fringe of civilisation would be cold, painful, hungry, physically strenuous, risky and isolating. There would be early deaths, especially for pregnant women, and high infant mortality. The role of women is not considered by the author, but these family-raisers would have unsanitary water and random access to food and clothing. With ever more water supplies being bought up by water-selling companies, how will some of these basic lifestyles persist? And is this a fair way to bring up children?

Options not considered by the author are available. Compromise allows people to live the way they choose, with modern assistance and contact.
The Turkish government gives grants to shepherds for solar panels which are carried on donkeys, in order for them to power up laptops. Cellphones, charged by solar panels worn on a backpack, may carry an app to diagnose eye diseases such as cataract and glaucoma on the spot, so doctors can provide targeted treatment to remote areas. The charity UNICEF uses public transport and local staff to provide vaccines and education in the remotest areas of the world. An origami microscope made of paper with inbuilt lenses and LED light source, can be used to diagnose diseases such as malaria.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, and bought a woman a biometric smartcard so she can open her own bank account. All with

3rd December 2017
Getting in the festive spirit, this week I visited the Christmas Market at Belfast City Hall. Our Dublin Business School group had been booked in for a guided tour, so we were taken around City Hall which was nicely decked out for Christmas. We learnt about the 400-year-old charter of Belfast as a city; a painting showed that it was established in shipbuilding, linen making and farming at that time. The council chamber with opposing benches, journalists' seats and Lord Mayor's seat were all open to us and we saw paintings of Queen Victoria and Edward the Seventh who visited, as well as portraits of past Lord Mayors, and a ballroom which hosts charity and public events.
As we had climbed stairs to reach the upper floor I asked if the building was fully accessible, explaining that I blog about disability access. I had noticed that the upper floor had doors which opened at the push of a button, so I was pleased to learn that a lift is provided to take anyone with mobility issues to the upper floor and the building is accessible. Because I had asked, I was then shown a very handsome platform lift to help visitors get from the ground outside to the raised ground floor of the building.
The market outside was just as easily accessed and was all contained within the stout railings of the grounds. I bought artisan cheeses from a cheesemaker who had come over from Cheshire, and a simnel cake from a local cake maker. Hot foods and drinks, and many kinds of handmade gifts, were on offer as well as the chance for children to play in a snow globe. Well done to Belfast City Hall for putting on such a friendly event.

This week's horse book is A Bit Of Sugar by Deborah Wilson ISBN: 9781457542329.
This is a sweet story about a young girl who wants a pony of her own, and a family of good people who want her to be happy. The read flows easily and introduces various characters and issues.
I am sure the tale will be enjoyed by pre-teen readers. The girl heroine wants a pony and keeps saying so, and is then able to convince her parents to give her one. I was like that, but I was told that ponies cost a lot to keep on an ongoing basis and that when I grew out of the pony it would have to be sold. These points are established through the story later, but should have been explained to a fairly mature young lady.

This week's environment book is To The Poles Without A Beard by Catharine Hartley ISBN: 9780743231527.
This honest memoir is a contradiction in terms. Catharine became, with another woman team mate, the first British woman to walk to the South Pole - a year later they were the first British women to walk to the North Pole, making them the world's first women to walk to both Poles. And she tells us that she did this because she had nothing better to do.
Lacking a direction in life and disliking school, this young woman took stage manager jobs because they were easy and she was shy. She spent time travelling to remote places like deserts and Borneo, taking foolish risks travelling alone, while - this is what annoys me - having no understanding of the natural environment nor asking if she could help anyone. If I spent months living among rainforest people I would be asking the WWF if I could carry out species counts and asking UNICEF if they needed vaccines or school supplies delivered.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, saved a turtle hatchling and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at

26th Nov 2017
This week I recommend a trip to the National Leprechaun Museum in the heart of Dublin. I visited with a young person, probably the best way to go, but all ages will enjoy the variety of themed rooms and settings, from a stone circle to a giant's kitchen. The legends are told by a folklore teller and we found plenty of things to play with or climb on - parental supervision required. A nice little café is called Brambles café and there is a gift shop too. Spooky stories feature in an evening opening event.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and has an accessible restroom. We found quite a bit of moving around is required but seating is provided. Nice for a cold wet day.

This week's horse book is Kimbay by Rose Doyle ISBN: 9780330341929.
Living in the big house at Kimbay after her father's death, a young woman has to decide whether to give the Irish stud farm and racing world two years in a make-or-break effort or to go back to her French boyfriend, a businessman in Brussels. Flora is more of an onlooker and decision maker than a hands-on person, though she does do hands-on work as well. For no reason I can see she lets anyone at all ride the hacking horses and bring strange horses into the yard at breeding season. There is a more experienced manager and she has a filly in training with a reasonable trainer. Flora however resents leaving the decisions to these people and gets their backs up while doing the wrong thing. Naturally there is an element who wants her to fail.

This week's environment book is The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution by Clive Finlayson ISBN: 9780199658794.
This author has spent years studying the Neanderthals, especially the remnant population of Gibraltar, their last home. He's including Neanderthals, whose DNA has been found among modern humans, and Denisovans, the recently found Siberian group with a DNA which has also merged with humans, as humans. To me it is obvious that seashore, river valley, marsh and estuary are a better environment than open plains full of predators, for a small, fragile people. He says we followed water around as the climate dried and got wetter, as we moved around the world or the world changed around us. We were rain-chasers. The Sahara is the prime mover of such changes becoming a barrier to passage when dry but showing that at various times in the past there were rivers and lakes, now arid fossils.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling, fed a rescued seal and other good works with

19th November 2017
This week I recommend a trip to Brú na Bóinne which is the visitor centre for the World Heritage Site holding Newgrange and other prehistoric tombs. When I was young a school trip to Newgrange meant getting off the coach and walking across a field. Now a major visitor centre is the only permitted access. Evidence of habitation and ceremonial burial dating back 6,000 years can be seen in the centre. The famous tomb of Newgrange, which marks winter solstice, is 5000 years old, older than the Pyramids at Giza, and a bus with guide takes visitors from the centre.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and can be used in the centre and site, except that they can't enter the passage tomb - but a reconstruction of the chamber is in the centre. Restroom facilities are in the centre. The spacious café offers various choices including baked potatoes and salads when we visited.

This week's horse book is Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry ISBN: 9780689716010.
Now in Kindle format. Annie Bronn Johnston tells her own story from early childhood in Nevada through a crippling bout with polio which left her trapped in a cast and learning later to walk again. She married a young man who worked on and purchased her parents' ranch. Annie had her own mustang, Hobo, and had grown up around them as working horses, so she was horrified to find that mustangs were being rounded up wholesale from the wild country and sent to petfood plants.
As a part-time office worker Annie embarked on a paper crusade, calling in journalists, editors and schoolchildren as well as prominent local politicians. She could see that the Bureau of Land Management intended to allow profitable exploitation of every last wild horse to protect the interests of sheep and cattle grazers.

This week's nature book is The Burnt Fox by Neil Grimmett ASIN: B01HDBX10E.
Neil Grimmett was a deeply talented writer who used portions of his earlier varied career for material, so here he tells of a man introduced to the work of gamekeeper on a Somerset estate. We'll expect a lot of the tale to be fiction for dramatic's sake but his skill at conveying location, atmosphere and a creeping sense of malevolence will make 'Burnt Fox' linger in your mind long after closing the book. The early part of the story is set in a Council sink estate, rich in its dreadfulness and the main character's desperation to escape. The wood-encircled manor house with ponds, mineshafts, ice house and tied cottage, seems like a way to better the family's fortunes.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, gave a woman a biometric smartcard to open a bank account and funded the Jane Goodall Institute among other good works.

12th November 2017
This week I'm reminding readers to check ahead of visiting a place of interest, as many close or go on shorter days and hours for the winter, or over the Christmas period. The hours will be announced on their websites. The John F Kennedy homestead, which is located at Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, closes for the last week in December. I visited the family farm from which the Kennedy family set off to America, in 2002 and since then a new interpretive centre has been added. Here visitors can see the historic return home of John Kennedy in 1963, to meet his cousins. The history of the farmstead and the family are traced to modern day. This handsome stone farmhouse and outbuildings are wheelchair accessible with plenty of car and coach parking. At present there is no café, but a picnic area is provided.

This week's horse book is In Pursuit of a Horse by Christine Meunier ISBN: 9780987533.
This is a short book for pre-teen girls who want to read about keeping and riding ponies. A few young girls are allowed to spend two weeks with a lady who keeps and deals in ponies, during the hot Australian summer. They may be able to buy or lease ponies if they can find ones to suit them. A good deal of basic information is imparted.
One of the families has recently moved to the area, and while both parents have jobs, they have leased a surprisingly large property and are hoping to make money from it by taking livery horses. A nice touch is consideration of stable management courses and qualifications.

This week's nature book is How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey ASIN: B06XPJPSN6.
This is a very enjoyable read with bright, colourful cheeky photos of chickens. The home flock kept by the author adopted her as one of them because she spent so much time with them, and they clucked and squawked to her in a way which she came to recognise as chicken language. They had separate alarm calls for danger on the ground or danger from the air, they had a greeting and a goodnight, and they even adapted a call to be the lady's name.
As well as behaviour of a free range flock, we get some history and modern science. When you see a few hens on a perch, the ones on the outsides of the row have each got one eye open to watch for predators, but half their brains are asleep.

This week I offset six pounds of carbon, contributed to Oceana, the International Animal Welfare Trust, the American Humane Association and Breast Cancer Research, as well as helping to educate a child through Children International

5th November 2017.
This week I recommend the Wexford Lavender Farm, as advised by my roving reporters Alison and Jimmy. Highly rated by Trip Advisor and seen on RTE, this Gorey, Co Wexford family farm has changed from dairy to organic lavender, barley and woodlands. The farm hosts a café and information centre, as well as a kids' playground and a cheerful train ride pulled by a quad bike around the farm. The main areas are all wheelchair accessible and the café chairs can be moved. The woodland walk is not accessible for wheelchairs and the car park is gravelled. Guide dogs only are welcomed. Check the website before you go - not just for history and information about lavender's uses, but for opening days and times which vary according to the season.

This week's horse book is a free short story on Kindle. Takoda and Horse by Andrew Grey ISBN: 9781627984201.
This won't take long to read, but it's worth making time to enjoy the sense of place and gentle prose. A young Lakota man drives up the mountain for a camp over the weekend, but ends up finding a more reliable way to travel. Is it true that a great man deserves a great horse, but the horse must do the choosing?

This week's nature book is Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table by Langdon Cook ISBN: 9781101882887.
This very enjoyable look at wild salmon, the people who profit from them and threats to them, is a fine reminder that clean environment and wealth go hand in hand.
From restaurant owners to native fishermen, the men who decided to market fresh salmon as opposed to canned, and the legislations they all have to follow, we get a comprehensive view of the topic. We also get recipes, adventure and travel down the west coast of America.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, gave a woman a biometric smartcard so she could have her own bank account, and supported the Jane Goodall Institute.

29th October 2017
This week I'd like to mention a positive step towards getting accessible routes on Google maps. Belinda Bradley posted on "Hello! Exciting news. We've been noticed. You all got #createwheelchairfriendlyroutes trending! And because of this, we have received Google's attention! They're extremely excited to collaborate and be involved. From this, I've been invited to discuss the possibility of these routes at their local guides event… We want disabled users to have the exact same service, mapping of routes and availability as any user." If transport and walking routes are accessible, visitors can enjoy many places of interest that have been made ideal for them. Getting there can be half the effort. You can view a petition and updates on this link.

This week's horse book is Yearling (North Oak #2) by Ann Hunter ASIN: B010S2Y9C4.
This sequel to Born to Run revisits a troubled young teen who has come to live on a stud farm in Kentucky. She has many problems still, from behavioural issues to being illiterate to seeing the breeding process. Just as she is settling in, getting competent at riding and making friends, the daughter of the farm owners tells her that the colt she loves is going to be sold at the fall auctions. The farm is a business, but it's enough to make our heroine resent everyone.

This week's nature book is For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose ISBN: 9780091797065.
I've really enjoyed reading this book every evening. Robert Fortune, head of the Physic Garden in Chelsea, London, was sent out to China to search for and steal the secrets and seeds of tea.
The Scot led a charmed life for at this time, 1840s, China was largely closed to foreign travellers and resented having lost a war to better military technology and being forced to trade on British terms. Once he obtained tea plants, cuttings and seeds, he had to ship them, hoping the glass Ward cases would work. Then Fortune had to find out the trade secrets of making black tea and green tea.
The central theme of the book is the wonderful and finicky tea plants and their cultivation, harvesting and the preparation of tea.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a farm animal humanely and supported the All for no cost at

22nd October 2017.
This week my roving reporters Alison and Jimmy have recommended a visit to Wexford's Irish National Heritage Park. Situated near Ferrycarrig, on the River Slaney, this outdoor adventure recreates 9000 years of Ireland's history. Explore woods, tracks and ways of life then find a home-cooked meal in the café. The park is 30 years old and local naturalists enjoy birdwatching here.
Guide dogs only are welcomed. The Park is mainly wheelchair accessible and any paths not suitable are clearly marked. Mobility scooters can be borrowed for the day with a small charge. A hearing loop is installed, and audio sets are placed in three main points, Crannog, Ringfort and Viking, with particular emphasis on helping visually impaired visitors enjoy the sites.

This week's horse book is Live and Let Growl by Laurien Berenson ISBN: 9781496703385.
Well done to the author on keeping this series fresh. Melanie and her Aunt Peg with their large Poodles are in Kentucky looking into a matter of Peg's having inherited a brood mare. As Peg knows everyone in the dog show world, they meet up with a senior lady who used to be big in showing and take her to a show; a murder inevitably occurs as old wounds are re-opened. Plenty of the scene is set on a stud farm.

This week's nature book is Making Sense of Weather and Climate by Mark Denny ISBN: 9780231174923.
The author starts by saying that you don't need any more than a basic understanding of science and math to grasp his text. He proceeds with copious terms from physics and meteorology, so I'm recommending this book for those who are definitely interested in the science. Weather is the movement of air and water. From the water cycle and carbon cycle, the formation of hurricanes and tornados, and the results of extreme weather in terms of lives and cost, there is plenty to learn and plenty of reason to learn. The text is frequently illustrated with graphs, photos and line drawings. The Coriolis effect, centrifugal force and deep ocean currents are all discussed. Famous storm events such as Hurricane Katrina are cited, along with the drying up of the Aral Sea and the disappearance of California's water and aquifer. Major climate issues are on the world's discussion table.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, fed a rescued seal, saved a turtle hatchling and supported Amnesty International. All at

15th October 2017
Last week we were enjoying Octocon. While there I gained two roving reporters from Hodges Figgis, Ireland's oldest bookshop, which had kindly supported Octocon and had a fine display of SF&F books in its window as well as a stand at the Con filled with tomes.
Hodges Figgis is wheelchair friendly and has a lift to the first floor. The basement is not easily accessible, since this is an older building and there are limits to renovations that may be carried out. Staff are on hand however, friendly and willing to help fetch books either from the basement or from higher shelves. I asked about large print books, but these are sent directly to libraries by the publishers. Hodges Figgis does stock books which are specially created for people with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

This week's horse book is Jackie on Pony Island by Judith M. Berrisford. ISBN: 9780340575468
In this adventure Jackie and her staunch friend Babs go with their ponies to explore nearby Pony Island which has a causeway covered by the high tide. Holiday cottages are available on the popular island and the girls befriend three young people who are giving pony rides on the beach, trying to raise funds to keep their ponies over winter. Many misadventures follow, from colic to near drowning to scoundrels and thieves. This book really has a lot crammed into it and a young reader can learn a great deal whether or not they like riding. Other than not having mobile phones the story doesn't feel too dated.

This week's nature book is The Rights of Nature by David R. Boyd ISBN: 9781770412392.
I heartily recommend this intriguing book about laws and consequences. If at one time enslaved peoples, women and non-landowners did not have legal status as persons with rights, but now they do, what is the logical progression? The author shows how cases have been brought to try to grant rights, legal person status and other issues on behalf of primates, orcas and other creatures, even to the Great Barrier Reef. We get a chapter on the various intelligences of these animals and birds, with fascinating studies and examples.
While much of the book focuses on USA with the snail darter habitat being destroyed by damming and the spotted owl being placed at risk of extermination by logging, moving forward to the corporate bullying of fracking and factory farming, other nations are studied too. India, with the Asiatic lion and the grotesquely polluted sacred river Ganja, Costa Rica and Ecuador with constitutional changes to protect rainforest habitat, and more.

During the past fortnight I offset fourteen pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, raised a farm animal humanely, supported breast cancer research, supported Amnesty International and more. All free at

1st October 2017
This week my roving reporter Allan has recommended the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin. This hotel, which has hosted Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention, for the past several years, is very accessible. Entrance, foyer, bar, restaurant, convention centre are all wheelchair accessible and the hotel can provide fully accessible rooms. Particularly recommended is a swimming pool downstairs which is very accessible too. The hotel is on Dublin Bus routes.

This week's horse book is Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy. ISBN: 9781310122767.
This unsentimental novella follows the tradition of Smoky or Flicka in presenting a horse running loose with mustangs on the mountains, then passing through the hands of owners. The dangers of wild living are certainly shown with several foals not surviving to adulthood and the herd preyed upon by cougars and bears. Humans are not always kind or thoughtful, but the handsome quality of the black colt is recognised, making him valued more than other mustangs.

This week's environment book is A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint. ISBN13: 9780749929756.
Inspector Singh is a Sikh but not, we gather, a wholly devout one, who is quietly married, clean-living but too fond of his food. He isn't the most popular policeman in Singapore and to get rid of him his superiors keep sending him on foreign cases involving Singaporean citizens.
I thought one strong aspect of this otherwise standard murder story with recognisable characters and tensions, was the issue of illegal rainforest logging in Borneo. Forest is being cleared wholesale and oil palm plantations set, because this highly productive crop is edible and can make biofuel.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, fed a rescued seal, saved the Peruvian rainforest and raised a farm animal humanely. All for no cost at

24th September 2017
This week Ireland held Culture Night which is an annual evening of celebrating culture by various places opening doors to visitors, holding talks, tours and parties. One such location was Deaf Village, a centre which exhibited artworks and short films by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. The event was also part of their Irish Sign Language week.

This week's horse book is Rodeo Horse by Sharon Siamon. ISBN: 9781405243100.
A trio of pals are being split up for a few months, two of them being cousins. One girl is from New York and the other two are more into ranches and horses. At this point various adventures have left them with a mustang mare, Shadow, not broken yet, and they are in Canada but not at Mustang Mountain ranch, learning barrel racing with another two young people they meet. I enjoyed the horse scenes and some of the girls' changes in personality were funny, as they gain new interests and grow up a bit more by taking responsibility.

This week's nature book is The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred. ISBN: 9780753545874.
As a tree surgeon, I'm rating this my favourite book of the year. The author shares with us some of his adventures while climbing trees, either for pleasure or while rigging cameras and filming for BBC and National Geographic.
These are no ordinary trees. The tale combines tree knowledge and mountaineering as James shoots a catapult - in extreme cases a crossbow - to carry a fishing line over the first branch, 170 ft in the air. The falling weighted line is then used to pull up a rope, nylon in the early pages, Kevlar by the end. The climber then uses his harness, clamps and karabiners to hoist himself manually. After that he can start to climb. Taking note of bark features, flowers, fruit or nuts, insects, spiders, bird life, iguanas, primates and the rather large harpy eagle who sees him as a threat to her nest.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling and supported Children International. All for no cost at

17th September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat has recommended a visit to Lidl in Sallynoggin. When she parks at the supermarket she can park under cover and take an elevator to the shop floor. This is very helpful to her when planning a shopping trip. I am always glad to get recommendations for places of interest to visit which go further to be accessible.

This week's horse book is Riding Barranca: Finding Freedom and Forgiveness on the Midlife Trail. ISBN: 9781570765780.
Partly autobiography, partly travel writing, this is a horsewoman's tale. Laura Chester had a fraught relationship with her mother and riding was a way to escape from tension and just be herself. Barranca her favourite horse is a Missouri Fox-trotter with a four-footed walking gait and he covers ground in Arizona with her effortlessly. The drawback of her local trail ride however is the possibility of meeting armed smugglers, drug stashes and desperate immigrants. Another concern of Laura's is mining for metals which may be polluting ground water.

This week's environment book is Adventure Cats by Laura J. Moss. ISBN: 9780761193562.
This is a smashing look at cats who share outdoor adventure with their owners. We're advised on harnesses, RFID tagging, vaccinations, warm jackets, travel crates, lifejackets for sailing and more. The photos alone are worth buying the book for in my opinion but the research and advice make it a splendid resource. I also love the travellers' tales, like the hikers who adopted two abandoned kittens while on a hike.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, bought a woman a biometric smartcard so she could have her own bank account and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at

10th September 2017.
This week I'm recommending Odeon Cinemas in Ireland. They are working hard to make the cinema accessible for individuals and families. For people with visual impairment, a headset can be provided for some films which carries a verbal description of scenes and actors' body language. A person with hearing difficulty can avail of a hearing loop, and subtitled performances are listed separately. Someone in a wheelchair can book a wheelchair space and someone needing a carer to help them enjoy the film can bring one free of charge when producing the appropriate card. Assistance dogs are allowed.
Also the cinema holds special screenings which are autism friendly, with no ads or trailers, and hope that in this way people with developmental needs can learn to attend and enjoy regular screenings with family. Great move! Each specific cinema has its facilities listed at the bottom of its page on the Odeon site.

This week's horse book is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Anna Sewell was crippled as a girl, and lay near a window where she could watch the horses in the street. She became acutely aware of their working conditions and wrote 'Black Beauty' to tell it from a horse's point of view. This coincided with compulsory education, so for the first time the working class children could read. This raised awareness of the problems at the time, from overwork to a lack of drinking troughs on the streets, to the cruel bearing reins on carriage horses. The fact that working people were so dependent on their horses was another factor.
Anna Sewell's gravestone was destroyed to make space in the graveyard not many years ago. A cartoon published in a national newspaper showed a child sitting reading 'Black Beauty'. The caption was - "The monument to Anna Sewell that they cannot destroy."

This week's environment book is The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton. ISBN: 9780425208977.
Great mystery. I'd previously read one by this author which was set in and around the Canadian antiques shop owned by the heroine. This book goes to Easter Island for almost all the story, in one of those mysteries involving a closed circle of people who know each other for a reason, in this case propounding rival theories about life and myth and moai on Easter Island.
Moai of course are the giant stone heads. As the heads all represent men, I was pleased to encounter some legends about women in the book.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, raised a farm animal humanely and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest.
All for no cost at

3rd September 2017
This week my roving reporter Pat recommends visiting the Starbucks coffee shop in Blackrock, south Dublin. She tells me a lift is installed to assist patrons to reach the top floor where they can sit and enjoy marvellous sea views. Wonderful to see a business paying attention to the needs of local patrons.

This week's horse book is The Lost Pony of Riverdale by Amanda Wills. ISBN: 1511567112.
Poppy and her dad, stepmother and half-brother aged six, move to Devon. Poppy is sure she'll be unhappy until she is promised the old pony that comes with the house, which brightens her outlook, only to discover that Chester is a donkey. I found this so funny and I could see a lot more humour in the tale, like young Charlie's dedication to tracking a big cat loose on the tors. By involving more of the local community we learn about a tall grey pony which used to live at Riverdale with the donkey, but has not been seen in years. Could he be running wild, and how would he escape the annual roundups?

This week's environment book is The Dreaming by Barbara Wood. ISBN: 9780380715930.
Joanna Drury, daughter of a woman who had missionary parents and lived among Aborigines for a few years, sails from England in 1871 to find out what haunts her dreams.
We meet the colonial sheep farmers, see their rough ways of life and the cycle of shearing and lambing in the outback, though the red heart was unexplored at this time (or explorers had not returned alive) and some thought it possible there was a great sea in the centre of the continent. With the inundation of the land by new animals in great numbers, it wasn't long before pests and diseases caught up and some farmers faced ruin. As did their wives, who had made for themselves a virtual English closed society. And we meet Sarah, a half caste girl living with Joanna and her new family.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, saved a turtle hatchling and helped preserve the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at

27th August 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Culzean Castle in Scotland, on the west coast near Girvan. The handsome National Trust house is full of treasures like the contents of the Royal Armoury which were shipped up when they became outdated. The ground floor is easily accessed by wheelchair and the upper floors are partly in use as a hotel so not generally open to the public, but a lift is available to the rooms you can visit. The outbuildings such as the stable courtyards are converted to shops and a teashop with level entry - I enjoyed the secondhand bookshop. However the castle is not open during winter.
As well as the house you can explore the grounds and park. Wheelchairs and motorised wheelchairs are available and booking in advance is advised. Accessible restrooms are available and accessible parking is provided. The woodlands and strand are not easy to access but the formal gardens are very enjoyable to visit. I saw several different species of lichen on the apple trees, showing that the air is very clean.

This week's horse book is Pony Express Courtship by Rhonda Gibson. ISBN: 9780373283514.
The Pony Express theme caught my eye. We don't have a lot of detail about this postal carrier, but we do know that by riding relays on fast, tough horses, the young men were able to take mail from Missouri to Sacramento in ten days through bandits, native warriors and natural hazards. The author supposes that a home station might have been set up along the route, in this case a small homestead with sons and horses to provide relays. The lady homesteader is a widow with a daughter and several adopted sons, who has to suffer the wagging tongues of townsfolk when an official of the Pony Express arrives to stay with her while he swears in and trains the lads. This is an inspirational story which is a good fit for the times, meaning that the romance which develops is suitable for reading by YA readers as well as adults.

This week's nature book is Timothy The Tortoise by Rory Knight Bruce. ISBN: 9780752868721.
This is a nice look at the resident tortoise at Powderham Castle, best known to me as the location for the film of The Remains Of The Day. The author had first met him while aged four, on a visit to Timothy in the rose garden, and later returned to interview him. Timothy, a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, died at a great age. The tale visits all the people who owned either Timothy - since the Crimean War - or the castle - the earls of Devon and their families. We see how tortoises were used as live food stores aboard ship, how bombing made Timothy dig his own bomb shelter, and his rich diet of strawberries, dandelions and wisteria blossoms.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Children International and Defenders of Wildlife.

20th August 2017
Visiting London recently I was struck by the fact that the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge - called the Harry Potter bridge by a child I heard at the time - has got a lift to take users up to the top of the access to the bridge. This is because the bank rises sharply from the waterside and several steps are provided to get crossers to the access. Well done for fitting this lift which lets everyone enjoy the crossing between St Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern Gallery.

This week's horse book is Diary of a Horse Mad Girl by Katrina Kahler. ISBN: 9781310207068.
This is a lively active tale, following a girl aged nearly nine who is lucky enough to be given her first pony. Sparkle is a calm palomino mare 13 hands high, just right and older now but still keen to jump and have fun.
I wasn't entirely keen on the way that the young girl is given a pony while not knowing much about them or being an advanced rider, but her parents have the land and she was bought a schoolmaster pony. We see a few accidents and escapes during the tale to underline that you can never be prepared enough. I like that the mom in the tale says you will get what you focus on, which is usually the case.

To celebrate International Orangutan Day I'm recommending Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy by Rita Goldner as this week's nature book. ISBN: 9780983633358.
What a beautiful book! I can't express how much I admire the art and writing which has brought this rainforest into my room. We follow young Orangutan as he lives with his mother in the canopy, licking the rain off his fur, finding durian and figs to eat, making comfy nests to sleep in and evading the odd predator.
I especially enjoy that we see the whole colourful habitat, with the other animals and birds that inhabit the forest.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, rescued a turtle hatchling and saved the Peruvian rainforest. All at

13th August 2017
This week my roving reporter Annette has recommended visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden. This feast for all the senses sits on the banks of the Thames, tucked away like a little oasis in the heart of London. Originally this was an apothecary study garden, where medicinal plants were cultivated for teaching purposes and barges would moor conveniently. The garden then became useful for introducing newly discovered plants from around the world into Britain, as it has a mild microclimate and gardeners were keen to propagate new plants and discover their healing properties. This included tea!
A wheelchair is available for visitors, and step free access is provided at one entrance with a non-reservable disability parking bay beside it. Assistance dogs are welcome. The café is open every day but Monday, a great way to explore culinary herbs and aromatic teas. As with many historical buildings however, the Gallery is only accessed by stairs. But with 5,000 varieties of plants you might have enough to explore outdoors.

This week's horse book is A Special Friend by Linda Chapman. ISBN: 9780141313467.
This is an enchanting tale for young readers. Lauren has a pony called Twilight who turns into a unicorn and can talk to her. Lauren meets a small pony called Moonshine at a local riding school. She thinks Moonshine looks so like Twilight that she must be another unicorn. But a different person has to be a unicorn friend for each pony to allow them to change. Then Lauren finds that a boy who is only staying in the area has quietly befriended Moonshine.

This week I recommend nature book Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies by Paul S. Sutter. ISBN: 9780820334011.
I found this an interesting look at the land and its history. The Grand Canyon demonstrates the power of erosion of a mighty river, over aeons; the Providence Canyon however came about swiftly through ill-thought farming practices after homesteaders took over the land from Creek Native people in Georgia. Looking at the craggy, continually eroding gullies of marine sedimentary soil, we have to say that if good farmland was ruined, at least it leaves a pretty and educational attraction. There is also a nature reserve today which includes the plum azalea not found elsewhere.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa and provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, as well as supporting Amnesty International.

6th August 2017 This week I'm praising Dublin's high level of installation of and awareness of AEDs or Automated External Defibrillators. Having just returned from a few days in London during which I did not see a single AED or a sign directing me to one, I appreciate the frequency of this lifesaving first-aid appliance at home. I see AEDs around me in supermarkets, airports and outside banks (as in my photo). I have seen a sign on the building site at Trinity College on Pearse Street saying that, besides the usual safety gear being required, an AED is on site. If you do not know where to find an AED, or the place where it is kept is locked, it may as well not be installed. Think of this gadget as a life buoy; notice it, and respect it.

This week's horse book is The Paint Horse by Trudy Nicholson. ASIN: B00TGZ1P1I.
This is a short story which serves to introduce us to a series of YA books about horses and young people who love them. I found the writing to be enthusiastic but not polished. A girl who has had a paint - pinto to me - horse in the past, gets one final chance to save him from a sad fate.

This week's nature book is Maid for the South Pole by Demelza Carlton. ISBN: 9781370152216.
This is an adult romance which makes excellent use of the remote location of Antarctica.
The eponymous maid is actually a meteorology student who is working as a maid in an Australian resort to keep income coming in. She gets the chance to work as a paid researcher on an Antarctic trip instead and jumps at the chance, later filming a vlog. Also along is a male penguin researcher who contributes quite a lot about king penguins, whose population is increasing now they are not being hunted anymore, but he falls through a lava tube on volcanic Heard Island early on and needs to be evacuated with serious injuries.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely, protected the Peruvian rainforest and aided Breast Cancer Research.

30th July 2017.
Recently I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, which has re-opened after a major refurbishment. I was delighted to see several wheelchair users having a good time getting around and enjoying the Irish and global art. The gallery itself is free admittance but a special exhibition has a charge, which is reduced for seniors and people with disabilities.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow and the doors are accessible. The large lift between floors does not have Braille on the buttons but the numbers on them are raised and the lift speaks the floors. As some galleries are separated by a higher or lower level with just a few steps, small wheelchair lifts have been installed as you see in my photo. Accessible restrooms and dining also feature, with many choices of hot and cold foods. Guide dogs are welcome and large text guides can be provided. The Gallery runs tours for visitors who are hearing impaired or vision impaired, and they state that any courses they run are tailored to the individual.

This week's horse book is Winter of the Crystal Dances by Angela Dorsey ISBN: 9781927100141.
This atmospheric gentle fantasy is highly enjoyable and should be loved by girls who like horses. A girl aged thirteen and her artist mother live in a mountain cabin without electricity. They ride horses and watch the local bands of mustangs. But now the winter has brought deep snow, and this might be good for scenic paintings but it's no help to wild creatures in need of food.
Told by Evy, who has the gift of being able to feel the emotions of the horses, and sometimes communicate with them, this winter's tale is replete with change and responsibility; with friendship.

This weeks' nature book is Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones. ISBN: 9781783961498.
Hunting is now illegal in Britain but drag hunts continue and sometimes they kill foxes. We start by finding the fox in fables, folk tales, furs and rural names like Todhunter. Moving on to a night with a fox shooting professional, which can be distressing. Be prepared for a few days out with hunts, including the saboteurs' point of view. Urban foxes, rescued foxes and foxes in the media conclude the picture.
We're told more foxes are shot than ever, foxes generally do not take live lambs, and foxes may spread wildflower seeds in their scat.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, and bought a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account. All at

23rd July 2017
This week I recommend a visit to Asgard, a yacht owned by Erskine Childers, author of The Riddle of The Sands, and his wife Molly. The couple and friends engaged in a massive gun-running operation to arm the rebels before the 1916 Rising. The story of sailing Asgard to Belgium to collect the rifles and ammunition is told in a daily diary. The yacht was bought by the State, used as a sail training vessel and then retired before being recently restored.
I like that Asgard is housed in a separate building at Collins Barracks Museum, which has been made very accessible. A ramp leads to the door, and the smooth floor has lots of room to wander around the yacht. The upper level is reached by a lift which has Braille and speaks the floors. In case the lift cannot be used to return, I noticed a wheelchair refuge point with a voice alert facility. The nearby Museum has accessible restrooms and cafe, and is near the accessible Luas tram line, while car parking includes wheelchair spaces and electric vehicle charging.

This week's horse book is The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia by Jessie Haas. ISBN: 9781612126784.
I love this book with its many colour photos of breeds and activities. I don't recommend giving it to a young person who just needs a basic pony care book to start. This has so much content that a real horse lover will enjoy looking through the breeds, including recent American breeds like the American Curly and Azteca, or the sports, like barrel racing and four-in-hand carriage driving. We see a few interesting items and some ailments.

This week's environment book is Dolphin in the Deep by Ben M. Baglio. ISBN: 9780439230216.
This well-written book for young readers raises some serious animal welfare issues on a holiday in Florida. When I read this it was written by Lucy Daniels, a pen name. Mandy Hope loves dolphins and while in Florida she visits a dolphinarium. The owner just cares about the money visitors pay to watch the dolphin show but Bob and Bing, the stars, are real live animals. Bob becomes ill and gets good vet care but sadly he dies. After that Bing is depressed and lonely. Rather than forget about it, Mandy wonders if she could return Bing to the open ocean.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, and raised a farm animal humanely as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at

16th July 2017
This week a few people have been recommending beaches in Cornwall, for wheelchair access, so I'm picking a spot called Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Cornwall which comes highly recommended on a site called The council has built a wheelchair friendly car park and restrooms, with level tarmac path to the beach and down the sand. Beach wheelchairs can be hired for a deposit and small daily fee. The natural features include dunes and pools, with a nearby canal. As this is a popular beach it is patrolled by lifeguards. Sounds like a wonderful spot for summer weather!

This week's horse book is The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. ISBN: 9780736957366.
The tale of a young man learning to be a farrier, apprenticed to the Amish blacksmith, is entertaining and gentle. Between his girlfriend and a young lady who returns to the area after some time away, there is plenty of female interest.
This is also a story about horses and we learn that meat buyers throng the country auctions in these towns, but the Amish value horses as work animals. By contrast we meet a show rider on Warmbloods who might spend a thousand dollars on a pair of boots.

For a nature book I have chosen Owls by Matt Sewell. ISBN: 9780091959999.
I love this whimsical, gentle book with its colourful portraits of owl species and just enough text to make each one memorable. We learn that the night hunters have adapted to environments from forest to desert, from snowy tundra to rainforests. There's snippets of classical lore and native folklore, early discoveries and up to date classification of the newly found Omani Owl.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, fed a rescued seal, saved a turtle hatchling and other good works.

9th July 2017
This week I can recommend a visit to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The main museum is in a historic building which is fully wheelchair accessible. This is the largest maritime museum in Britain and possibly in the world. One day won't be enough to see all it holds! An entire gallery is given to Nelson's era while another shows the sad history of slave trading; I saw lighthouses, tea clippers and steamships celebrated and there are always special exhibits - at present one on the Franklin expedition to find a Northwest Passage. Special exhibits have a charge, and carers for people with disabilities can enter free. Wheelchairs are available to borrow and there are large lifts to all floors. The restrooms and baby change rooms are accessible. Food is provided in a large central area with free standing chairs and tables, and room for kids to play at the Great Map of the world's oceans. The staff have been trained in recognising disability and there are cloakrooms, hearing loops and large print guides. Assistance dogs and Guide Dogs are welcome and some tactile exhibits are provided. Recently the Museum trialled driverless cars to help visitors travel between the gates and the building. Accessible transport to the grounds can be by Docklands Light Rail or the Thames river ferries.

This week's horse book is Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby. ISBN: 9781405252256.
Samphire is a part-Arabian grey stallion in the New Forest, England and teenager Jodie falls in love as soon as she sees him. Buying him in an auction seems like her dreams coming true, but then her priorities have to change.
Jodie's father, a pilot in the RAF, was killed in an accident, and her younger brother Ed has a kidney disease requiring dialysis. Their mother writes a gardening column to support the close-knit little family. Jodie has volunteered in a riding stable in exchange for rides, so she is well aware of the work associated with keeping horses. Samphire needs much more careful handling however and has to be broken to ride.

This week's environment book is Our Ice Is Vanishing by Shelley Wright. ISBN: 9780773544628.
I found this an interesting read and recommend it to anyone concerned about climate change or traditional ways of life being lost. The focus is on the Canadian Arctic where the author, a Canadian, went in the past to teach law to students in a Native town. She writes this book from a ship sailing unimpeded through the Northwest Passage.
By comparisons with historical exploration the author shows us that in the 19th century a northwest passage was not feasible, though the Inuit lived on the ice which supported small numbers. As the world has been warming ever more rapidly, a passage was eventually attained by Amundsen who took three years to do it, staying to live with Inuit and learn their skills for 18 months.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in Africa, saved a turtle hatchling and helped protect the Peruvian rainforest, all at

2nd July 2017.
This week my roving reporter Martina has recommended a look at Bitty and Beau's coffee shops. A couple named Ben and Amy Wright in Wilmington, North Carolina, founded this business in January 2016. As they had two children, named Bitty and Beau, with developmental disabilities, they looked into employment for them and found that between 70% and 85% of people with special needs are unemployed in the US. Since coffee shops are popular it seemed like a good move to open one where people with disabilities were not just welcomed but trained and employed.
So enjoying a cup of specialty coffee can help the whole community and you may get the chance to participate in activities like dancing, besides buying merchandise to show your support.

This week's horse book is Dare to Dream by Kate Lattey. ISBN: 9781301911639.
Marley and her two older sisters live on the family farm, but when we meet them, they are all that is left of the family. Van and Kris work hard, breaking and training ponies to sell, competing for money prizes. Marley does her bit but she is getting fed up with having good ponies sold, just to meet mortgage payments. She'll never get to the top of her sport this way. Then a new unbroken pinto pony is brought in, Cruise Control, and her dreams grow.
Show jumping and training for a living is tiring, heavy, expensive and draining, and the courageous girls are up against anyone from weekend riders on pet ponies to wildly expensive mounts for spoiled kids with pushy parents. They don't have time to meet friends or do anything outside the sport; they find that winners are not popular. The New Zealand setting is well brought to life, with a major show requiring a ferry crossing of the Cook Strait.

This week's environment book is Money Logging by Lukas Straumann. ISBN: 9783905252682
This investigative look at the Malaysian logging firms and palm oil plantations on Borneo, shows that greed, corruption and humanitarian nightmares are not confined to the usual suspects in Africa.
A ruling family, by selling timber licences and permits to exploit, became billionaires. They were backed by global banking organisations on the basis that the island's economy should benefit. However the hardwood timbers have been sold to the timber trade, oil palm plantations are filling the land, sterile monocrops by comparison, and the native people have been shunted aside. The soil is eroding away and with no volcanoes, the island loses more earth in every monsoon season. Landslides are common with no major tree roots. Oil palm trees are hugely productive of berries full of edible oil, but again the local people are not profiting from the sales.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with a biometric smartcard to open her own bank account, and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as supporting Amnesty International. All at

25th June 2017.
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is the largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside Leinster, and consists of a large island on a lake, with a country house separate from the wildlife park. Visitors can enjoy the free-roaming animals and birds, such as spider monkeys, ring-tailed lemurs, wallabies, macaws and capybaras. Some animals like giraffes and apes are kept behind minimal barriers or on small islands to maintain the appearance that the visitor is walking alongside them. Other animals are kept in natural habitat enclosures as part of breeding programmes for endangered animals. Fota has a tremendous record for breeding cheetahs and Rothschild giraffes, and recently celebrated the birth of a gorgeous Sumatran Tiger cub. The park is a self-funding charity and part of the Zoological Society of Ireland which includes Dublin Zoo.
Visitors can arrive by car or train with a charge for parking. The paths are level tarmac and a number of wheelchairs are available to borrow. A jeep and carriages runs during summer. A visitor who requires a carer to enjoy the day can bring that carer free of charge, with proper documentation such as a travel pass. One important factor however is that dogs are not allowed, even Guide Dogs or assistance dogs, due to the free-roaming animals. Cafés and accessible toilets in three places, as well as benches and outdoor picnic tables, make this a day-long visit. Feeding the animals is not permitted, but you can watch them being fed wonderful salads and fruits, and if you're not careful the spider monkey will steal your lunch, as happened to us.

This week's horsey read is Heartbreak Cove by Lily Everett. ISBN: 9781250018380.
A female sheriff of an island community is suddenly responsible for a young niece she hadn't known existed. There's a horseman who returns to the island at the same time, bringing his favourite mare, a rescue horse. He's not entirely on the level but the sheriff only knows that his reputation with ladies precedes him and this makes her wary.
Lots of fun, lots of horses and outdoor descriptions, just enough sense of menace to stop us relaxing too much. And a blossoming romance with the child's best interests put firmly to the fore. I found Heartbreak Cove suitable for young adults or adults.

This week's environment book is Once They Were Hats by Frances Backhouse. ISBN: 9781770412071.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - except one part - in which the author went here, there and everywhere connected with beavers past and present, from a British museum to Canadian network of dams and lodges visible from space. She investigated history - beavers lived at the headwater of just about every river on the North American continent and their ancestors spread across Beringia to Asia and to Europe.
We find out about four million year old gnaw marks on wood, and how beaver lakes created a good environment for early peoples. This changed with the 1700s influx of European fur traders; beavers were almost wiped out over 200 years. And of course the 20th century conservation movement which has led to today's return of beavers, amazingly even to New York City.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely, helped save the Peruvian rainforest and other good deeds for no cost.

18th June 2017.
This week I am going to honour a local library to show that not only a giant institution can make a difference. Raheny Library in Dublin has two car parking areas and each one has a dedicated space for vehicles carrying wheelchairs. Recently a revamp has provided two ramps, one at the main door and one at the fire exit. They have a hand rail so a person wheeling themselves can pull the wheelchair up to the door. Inside all the bookshelves are on ground level and the reception counter is an easy height.
When I was growing up, libraries did not have a restroom for the public, but an accessible one has been added to this library. The staff also keep a spare wheelchair in case a visitor would find it easier to browse in one, and there are plenty of seats. Tables and chairs are often in use as a homework club and Wi-Fi, net-connected computers and DVDs are available. There's an induction loop for hearing aids and large print books are available; I also notice a box of reading glasses to borrow. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, facilitating various activities and exhibitions.

This week's horse book is Alex, The West Nile Horse by Kathleen Murray Klosterman. ISBN: 9781939625397.
Alex was a young Saddlebred who had been vaccinated, but still caught the West Nile disease from a mosquito bite. This is fatal in 94% of cases so there was almost no information on recovery from this encephalitis disease. Katie stabled her horses at the same livery barn in Arizona and ended up buying Alex to retrain him. This will mainly be of interest to horse owners and trainers, but it can be amusing and very sad in turns and is inspiring to anyone recovering from illness or helping others to do so.

This week's nature book builds on the difference between city and country. A Walk In The Dark by Joyce Stranger. ISBN: 9780552112109.
This is the story of a farmer who loses his sight, and gains a Guide Dog, from the author of many books about animals and country life. The fictional Labrador in this book has to fit in to farm life with sheep, jealous collies, and other distractions. The author is clearly impressed by the thoroughness of the dog's training and how he enables the farmer to live a full life again.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a biometric smartcard through Opportunity International so a woman can have her own bank account, sponsored ocean research and helped Amnesty International. All for no cost at

11th June 2017.
The Bloom Garden Festival was held in Dublin's Phoenix Park recently and as always some gardens featured wheelchair access, raised beds for easy care, waterfall and wind sounds, seats, scents and touch plants. This year I was interested to note that a garden had been designed to help people with dementia.
Tom Grey is a Research Fellow at TrinityHaus and using the examples of people who had grown up near a meadow and brook, or grey stone walls, he developed a garden with a water feature, birdsong and grey slates. The scents of lavender, camomile and other plants, with more old-fashioned flowers like lupins and daisies, will help older people to recall earlier days, while any garden work can be easily managed due to vertical planters. The garden must be safe and open plan to help the senior person and their carers relax. Plenty of inspiration here for garden designers.

This week my horse book is Shifter's Destiny by Anna Leonard. ISBN: 9780373885541.
This is an original and beautiful take on shape-shifting, where the male character transforms to a unicorn stallion, ready to protect young females and take them into his herd - even if the herd they are leaving is vile and threatening.
Elizabeth and Maggie are close sisters, with young Maggie just thirteen, when life changes at their isolationist commune in New England and they flee the new leader and his sinister plans for them. He sends workers to pull them back but a stray horse knocks down the commune members and the two girls seize their chance to escape. Only as they shelter in a nearby wood do they realise that the horse is in fact a white unicorn. Next morning it has vanished and they are being watched over by a tall, strong fair-haired man. He tells them his name is Joshua Mustang and he will see them to safety.

This week's environment book is Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti by Ralph R. Frerichs. ISBN: 9781501702303.
I had been hoping to go to Haiti as an aid volunteer in the wake of the 7.0 earthquake in January 2010. An outbreak of cholera stopped aid workers from travelling. Consequently I was interested in this account of how the cholera reached an island which had never had a single reported case and the tragedy that unfolded.
A river was the initial source of the outbreak, and then as ill people were moved to a hospital which could not cope, the disease spread to the plentiful rice paddies. As well as the history of cholera, the appalling medical challenge and death toll, we see the case through the eyes of investigative reporters who walked up to the Nepalese army camp and found a disgusting overflowing septic tank and broken sewage pipe.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, raised a farm animal humanely, planted a fruit tree and sponsored breast cancer research.

4th June 2017
Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for finding this wonderful invention to help wheelchair users and others who find steps difficult. This works without ruining the visual integrity of a building frontage. Often a period building is preserved so the construction of a ramp would not be permitted. But with the Sesame Steps, the problem is solved. The building demonstrated is in America and I am sure the work could be carried out in other locations.

This week's horse book is Fire Maiden by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780060886189.
I enjoyed this adventure which explains lots about life and nature on Hawaiian islands, with some legends, earth tremors and a volcano. Why weren't books this dramatic when I was growing up? Of course the main theme is horses and we meet quite a few with very natural behaviour shown.

This week's environment book is Animals of a Bygone Era by Maja Safstrom. ISBN: 9780399578526.
Beginning with the earliest sea creatures and moving forwards, omitting the much publicised dinosaurs in order to give other creatures some exposure, this little book cheerfully displays various extreme, extraordinary and extinct animals.
The cartoon sketches (black and white) in some cases compare modern creatures for size, like the short-faced kangaroo with red kangaroo, and all come with a place and date for the fossils or stuffed specimens as the case may be. For the dodo and thylacine appear here as well; once the humans and large animals co-existed, like the mammoth, matters went downhill for the megafauna and smaller creatures.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored a child's education through Children International, sponsored breast cancer research and rescued a baby turtle. All for no cost at

28th May 2017
This week I recommend a visit to the Chester Beatty Library located at the back of Dublin Castle. This fascinating museum hosts the collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, whose life-size statue greets you at the door and can be touched, ideal for the visually impaired. The Oriental and Asian artworks and books are served by a lift which is large enough for any wheelchair. The buttons feature Braille and the lift speaks in English and Irish.
The display rooms have automatic doors, but are not warm so bring a coat, and the lighting levels are low. This is to preserve the delicate materials. In some of the areas appropriate music or voices are played. English explanations of some legends and beliefs are placed at each cabinet and we also get explanations of how books were made and bound, the various materials used in illustration and the routes travelled by traders.
On the ground floor is the aptly named Silk Road café which provides excellent lunches on the ethnic themes, and a bookshop. Seats are movable in the café and out in the glassed-over corridor. You will find the restrooms here with a button press to open the door for the accessible one. On the top floor is a roof garden for sunny days. This museum has won 'European Museum of the Year' and is highly rated by Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet, and it is free.

This week's horse book is Nobody's Horse by Jane Smiley. ISBN: 9780571253548.
This is the tale of Abby, a schoolgirl in 1960s California, who learns to grow up, strengthen her attitudes and sense of self worth, observe adults, and start taking control of her life. This occurs through the twin media of horse training and schooldays.
Abby's older brother has already been driven away by their father's strict religious refusal to hear anything he doesn't like, from talking back to lessons about evolution. This leaves only Abby to ride the succession of passing-through horses which make the family an income. Training them for sale can be hard work - six at a time - and Abby's dad insists on calling the geldings all George and mares all Jewel.

This week's environment book is Ireland's Burning: How Climate Change Will Affect You by Paul Cunningham. ISBN: 9781842233313.
Journalist Paul Cunningham reports on the environment and this is a roundup of interviews from 2008. Already it feels very dated because of the economic crash and the Paris Cop21 Summit. But it's well worth the read. From the Met Office to professors, all of whom provided reviews of the IPCC's five-yearly reports, we see that Ireland is not on the fringe but in the thick of the conversation about the climate.
From a school kid who runs an anti-waste school committee, to a firm advising big and small business how to reduce waste, use less power and save money, to a farm advisor and a forest planter, all views are interesting, personal and without much influence from the interviewer. Some reflect long on-going issues such as Gavin Harte who spoke against clearing trees at the Wicklow road enlargement and now helps to build and run an eco-village built by homeowners instead of developers.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.

21st May 2017
This week I visited an outdoor accessible location, Dublin Castle Gardens, tucked away in the heart of Dublin City. If you want some peace and quiet in a garden environment, find Dublin Castle just off Dame Street and walk around the imposing structure, following signs to the Chester Beatty Library. Here you will discover a hidden gem; a large round grassed space, doubling as a helipad but studded with bricks laying out a Celtic pattern. Benches and foliage beds surround the Dubh Linn circle, and you are encouraged to walk on the grass.
To the left of the entry gate you will hear water flowing from a gentle fountain in the Garda Memorial Garden. Stone benches allow the traveller to rest and contemplate while the scented foliage includes rosemary, symbolic of remembrance. Stone sculptures and lighting indicate peace and hope. The names of Gardai, Ireland's police officers, killed in the line of duty, are inscribed here and to date there are eighty-eight, all men. Another sculpture is a tribute to all deceased members of An Garda Síochána, the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. An annual memorial service was held on Saturday 20th May. Thanks go to my roving reporter Michael for talking with me about this garden.
Other features of the Dubh Linn space are that the name comes from the Black Pool which gave Dublin its name, where the River Liffey met its tributary the Poddle, now buried under the site; a memorial to Veronica Guerin, a journalist murdered by gangland criminals; and a sculpture to celebrate all those stalwarts who contributed to Ireland's hosting the Special Olympics in 2003. Right beside this are an accessible café and restrooms in the Chester Beatty Library.

This week's horse book is The Connemara Stallion by Ann Henning. ISBN: 9781853711589.
This great fun story set in the West of Ireland can be read alone or as second in the series. In the first part 'The Connemara Whirlwind', we saw how a girl Doreen managed to buy a spirited brown colt Cuaifeach who was born during a whirlwind.
With the approach of spring it's time to break the pony in and the local Wild West type brothers are full of swagger, but don't manage the job. Doreen still wants Cuaifeach gelded but others are seeing his potential as a stud and entreat her to get him certified by the Connemara Pony breeding inspectors.

This week's environment book is Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. ISBN: 9780380728268.
Atmospheric barely begins to describe this crime story set mainly underground in New Mexico's Lechuguilla cavern system. Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is called to join a Search and Rescue party after a ranger is injured underground. They face a few days of trek to the injured woman and a few more days of stretchering her out, filled with climbing, crawling, wading and walking on rough stone. But when Anna reaches her friend, she starts to suspect that the accidental head injury was no accident. Given that all of the original party is now with the rescue party, someone present must be an attempted murderer. And they are days from the entrance - or nights, since there is no natural light.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to support breast cancer research and provided a biometric smartcard so a woman can have her own bank account.

14th May 2017.
This week I recommend a visit to the Science Museum in Kensington, London. This splendid free admission museum is a real treasure trove. One hall is given to transportation including steam engines, and a side display shows dioramas of agricultural machinery. We found a costumed man telling the story of steam. Make sure to see Foucault's Pendulum hanging down through the stairwell, and you can opt to visit a pay-for IMAX screening or special exhibition. Youngsters or those with visual impairments will have fun with the hands-on exhibits.
Adult and child wheelchairs are available to borrow - you may book one in advance. We do recommend these if you have any mobility problems as there is such a lot of ground to cover. The lifts are wheelchair accessible with Braille buttons and voice announcements. We also found a large print floor plan and some galleries have tactile floor plan boards. Accessible toilets are on every floor and there is an accessible baby change room. Cafés are located around the building for snacks but some have a full menu with either self-service or waiter service. And visitors with a disability can get reduced admission prices to the IMAX cinema and exhibitions. The staff are very friendly and helpful.

This week's horse book is Loving Laney by Harmony Evans. ISBN: 9780373863570.
I enjoyed this multicultural romance tale of a world class horsewoman who unexpectedly finds that she's expecting.
Laney Broward has just won gold at the London Olympics as we meet her. She is partying, and may be forgiven for getting carried away when she and friends meet a handsome Texan horse breeder, and he's taken with her too. The young woman thought it was just a one-night stand but a few months later she's having to stop riding and confide in one close friend. As much as anything she's upset at the thought that she may be letting down her strict family.

This week's environment book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. ISBN: 9780060852559.
Barbara and her husband and daughters decided to embark on a year of growing their own food, raising their own poultry and buying local food from farmers. To this end they moved from their Arizona home to their country vacation home in the Appalachian mountains of southwest Virginia. They had prepared, of course, by renovating the house and outbuildings, planting asparagus beds and more. The hopeful and personal start turns rather abruptly into a discourse on why "we don't know beans about beans" as food production and distribution has been largely mechanised and factory swamped in the US. Keep reading.
I enjoyed the lesson learnt from the first farmers' market they attended on a cold early spring morning. Nothing was growing so how would the family survive? They brought home a splendid haul and helped the farmers to stay in business. This continues through the early plantings, the earnest selection and purchasing of heritage breeds of chicken by Lily the youngest girl and entrepreneur in the making, and the home cooking full of aroma, taste and sizzle.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely and helped Rainforest Trust protect the Peruvian forest.

7th May 2017
This week instead of a place I am promoting a video clip on YouTube which demonstrates the raised patterns found on British streets. Tom Scott and the Royal National Institute of Blind People tell us which ones mean a pedestrian crossing ahead, steps, a tram track and other issues, or a sloped kerb which could let a partially sighted person walk out onto the road without realising. If the same standards are applied everywhere the roads and footpaths will be a lot safer. Thanks to my roving reporter Allan for finding this clip.

This week I recommend a romantic suspense horse book, Studs And Stilettos by Bev Pettersen.
ISBN: 9780988115132.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a would-be actress behind the scenes of a film about a famous racehorse.
Emily is still learning the trade when she lands the background work, so she asks all the questions we'd love to ask and pokes her nose into all the wrong tents, to show us what most people don't see. The more experienced extra she meets, Judith, fills her in on the background of the Kentucky house and its owners. The champion racehorse, his girl groom who vanished twenty years ago and was never seen again, and the womanising owner make for an interesting story. The missing groom - we can guess that she was murdered but how to prove it or even be sure who was a suspect?

With spring nesting time in full swing here, let's look at a lovely book called Into The Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds by Marie Read, Laura Erickson.
ISBN: 9781612122298.
I loved this read, with the brilliantly coloured, action-filled photos showing nesting, courtship, egg-sitting, chick feeding and fledgling rearing among many American birds.
Bird lovers anywhere will benefit from learning that eggs laid inside a tree are normally white, unlike those in open nests, while many terms are well explained. For example, precocial chicks follow their mother from the nest shortly after hatching, like ducklings, while altricial chicks are fed in the nest for weeks until they fledge and learn to fly. The cowbird is the American version of Europe's cuckoo, laying in other birds' nests.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and planted a fruit tree. All through

30th April 2017.
This week included National Poetry Day, so what better time to visit an exhibition on William Butler Yeats at the National Library of Ireland. The building is in Kildare Street right next to the Dail which is the Irish Parliament. A ramp leads to the entrance and I found a lift to get down one floor to the exhibition. A wheelchair user should be accompanied by a staff member in the lift. Free lockers are provided for stowing hand baggage or coats.
The exhibition is softly lit because of the original papers and letters on display. To help with reading the items, an interactive screen beside each cabinet shows in good lighting what the cabinet contains. Many museums have at least one screen that doesn't work - when I tested these they all worked. Seats are provided wherever an audiovisual tells about that part of Yeats's life. A hearing loop has been installed. I saw the Nobel Prize medal presented to Yeats and a painting by his brother Jack Yeats. I also heard some of Yeats's poems read by figures like Seamus Heaney and Sinead O'Connor, and WB Yeats himself reading The Lake Isle Of Innisfree. This exhibition is free and open every day. The Library Café right beside it provides a great selection of lunches and snacks, including vegan and gluten free, with seating that can be moved; accessible restrooms are on the ground floor and well signposted. Guide Dogs are welcome. The NLI has an evacuation policy for users with reduced mobility, which can be found on their website.

This week's horse book is Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar by various authors, edited by Mercedes Lackey.
ISBN: 9780756409036.
Mercedes Lackey created the world of Valdemar, which has magic and telepathy as well as random mage storms. Here's another anthology. If you have read one or two earlier books about the Heralds, riders doing the Crown's bidding, you'll enjoy this look at the land, and may recognise some of the authors. If you have not read any, the feel is similar to Anne McCaffrey's early Pern books with white horses instead of dragons. Anyone who enjoys fantasy stories and animals will like this one; there is diversity - which includes a woman half turned into a bird of prey, riding a gryphon which can't see - as well as new characters like a brash yearling colt and a travelling merchant. My favourite tale is by great writer Janny Wurts, author of Stormwarden, who characteristically gives us a blind girl experiencing the world through all her other senses.

This week's environment book is The Mapmaker's Wife by Robert Whitaker.
ISBN: 9780385605205.
I found this an engrossing read, focusing on the exploits of a team of French mapmakers in recently colonised South America, and a woman who took her destiny into her own hands in order to be reunited with her husband.
We get a very good look at the then-impenetrable jungles and broad path of the Amazon through this territory. Just about all travel was by river. An international expedition was sent to discover the shape of the Earth at the Equator, to settle opposing theories about whether it bulged. They were led by Charles Marie de la Condamine and Louis Godin. A nephew of Godin's, Jean Godin, was among them and in the towns of Ecuador he met Isabel Grameson, daughter of a local landowner.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely, with

23rd April 2017.
This week one of my roving reporters has recommended visiting Monkton Elm Garden Centre in Taunton, Somerset. I love checking out garden centres and this one has a plant of the month, tips for keeping a beehive in your garden and more. Their restaurant has spacious surrounds and movable chairs, and a play area next to it. The on-site bakery and local produce mean you are getting fresh tasty foods. The garden centre has disabled-friendly parking spaces, wide access and ramps throughout, as well as toilets for visitors with disabilities. Staff will carry goods to the car, or you can buy online and collect, or the centre will deliver heavier goods to your home. I'm also very pleased that the centre has put their environmental policy on the website, explaining their recycling and insistence on local stock. Sounds like a great destination for the afternoon.

This week's horse book is The Last Horsemen by Charles Bowden. ISBN: 9780233050034.
Sillywrea farm in high country north England is farmed by horse, with horses also used to pull tree trunks out of the woodland. This appears to be the last farm so worked in Britain.
The five horses presently used are Clydesdales, smaller than Shires and intelligent about their work. We see a year in the farm life, from spring ploughing and seeding to lambing, haymaking, cattle sales, then winter for repairs, turnips and so on. One young horse is being broken in and trained gradually. As the farmers do not need to invest in heavy machinery they do not have big debts to service; on the other hand the labour is intense and unending.
I loved the attention to and pride in the big horses. We also meet people involved in this lifestyle, such as the mobile farrier and the harness maker.

This week's environmental book is a romance called The Billionaire's Bid by Kaira Rouda.
ISBN: 9781944925093.
Aubrey has lost her parents and taken on management of their thousand wooded acres on a South Carolina island, plus a cottage and unhappily large debts. She's just passed thirty but hasn't much idea of what to do with the land, before she can get back to her urban life. She has a forest manager, Dirk, who is drawing up plans for cutting some of the timber and inviting bids from interested timber firms.
James is acting CEO of his family's logging firm while his father is in hospital. There are moves against him in the boardroom. His folks' land abuts Aubrey's and he's shocked to be told by Dirk that the lady intends clear-cutting as the fastest way to raise money. His degree in environment science and MBA argue against this, plus his love of the woodlands and wildlife on the island. Local people's sympathies would also be lost. He puts in a bid which is destined to fail.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and saved a turtle hatchling, among other good deeds with

16th April 2017
My roving reporter Diana has recommended a site for wheelchair users, which contains some holiday spot recommendations. One I like is: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, by Sheri and Tony of Happy on Wheels.
They say: My husband and I are both wheelchair users, and we have been vacationing there for years, including our upcoming 10th anniversary celebration. We love it for many reasons; the boardwalk is long, wide and fully wheelchair accessible; there are ramps down to the sand and free beach wheelchairs; you can navigate the boardwalk, surrounding stores and streets without using a vehicle; there is a wide choice of accessible hotels and condominiums in Rehoboth Beach with roll in showers; it is clean and the beach is beautiful; there are many accessible shops, restaurants and bars; and most importantly, the people that live, work and vacation in Rehoboth are friendly and helpful to individuals with disabilities. Traveling with a disability can be frustrating. Rehoboth makes it easy. That is why we love it.
Thanks to Cory Lee for creating her helpful site.

My horse book pick this week is The Painted Pony by Angharad Thompson Rees.
Short and sweet, a fantasy set in France about a carousel horse and a boy. The boy has seen wild horses on the Camargue and he tells the carousel horse about the kind of life it could lead. The wooden horse had been quite happy, or thought it had, but faced with the possibilities of a real horse's wild life, it decides to try to change.

My environment book looks at the realities of living on a farm. Would You Marry A Farmer? by Lorna Sixsmith.
ISBN: 9780992763244.
So, asks Lorna Sixsmith, would you marry a farmer, considering that you would be marrying into a farming household and a small community? You might be living with your in-laws, or one of them, and the farmer's siblings until they can get educated and leave. You won't get foreign holidays or even romantic restaurant dinners very often, and your bank balance will be in the red for months like as not, then when the farm payments cheque arrives it needs to go to a tractor purchase rather than a new kitchen; while there will be a permanent load for the washing machine, a team of silage contractors to be fed unexpectedly and you will be judged by other women on the standard of your baking, not your fashion sense.
We get a look back at the history of marriages on Irish farms and why women fled to towns, cities and the New World. Lorna shows us adverts from past days, stating upfront that a prospective wife must have her own dowry, or that a man trained in farm management would like to meet a woman with a farm. The farmer might need to pay for his parents' pension, or build a cottage for his mother, or educate his siblings, before he could take on the farm or start his own family. He thus often married late and could not afford to carry out improvements.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as supporting breast cancer research. All at

9th April 2017
Thanks go to my roving reporter Debbie who has recommended a visit to Legoland in Florida. This fun destination has a special welcome for visitors with autism, enabling them and their families to skip queues for attractions and enjoy a break in quiet rooms. I love the way that Legoland staff are called Model Citizens! They have received training on how to help visitors with special needs, and their caregivers, enjoy the day's visit. This is a very positive step and their website explains the arrangements.

This week's horse book is Angels Club by Courtney Vail. ISBN: 9781500327804.
Jacinda and her friends help out at a riding stable called Sunnybrook which caters for young people with special needs. Like Emily, who comes along in a wheelchair and tries to pluck up the courage to stroke a horse.
A creamy white mare with much mud and tangles, and in bad shape, is brought to the farm as a rescue horse, to be made healthy and sold on for funds. But Jacinda decides that there is something different about this mare, whom she names Angel. As she and Emily work on the gentle mare they discover that she has curly coat and mane, so they research the traits and learn that she is an American Bakshir Curly Horse, descended from a Native American breed like the Appaloosas.

This week's environment book is The Elements of Power by David S. Abraham. ISBN: 9780300216714.
The rare earth elements and rare metals derived from them are increasingly in all our gadgetry, our jet engines, turbine blades and replacement joints, just as much as in our weaponry and our MRI scanners. Mining, refining, separating, producing, selling, trading, using, recycling and inventing are all covered in this great look at REEs, along with the author's experiences.
Having witnessed first-hand how Japan backed down to China over sea territory, when Chinese merchants stopped trading REEs to Japan, the author is convinced that metals can replace guns in diplomacy. After war in Africa thirty years ago stopped supply of one metal, firms went looking for others, and the generations of work by metallurgists and chemists was put to use. The author also went behind the scenes to a mine in Brazil, which is a long-established big employer, noting that it is very hard to get permits to open a new REE mine. These elements are foul in their mining, production and use. Acids, bases and fouled water add to slag heaps and leachates to cause environmental and worker health hazards.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, provided a woman with her own biometric card to open a bank account and supported a chimpanzee sanctuary with the Jane Goodall Institute. All for no cost at

2nd April 2017
This week I'm delighted to hear that Shannon Airport has opened a Sensory Room for people travelling who have special needs. A family may be travelling with a child who has autism, for instance, and this creates difficulties with queuing, bright lighting and loud announcements. In this new room the lights and sound are muted, which is relaxing. The room is also well provided with items to play with, climb on and watch, to provide stimulation. This should make life easier for the whole family while travelling. Shannon is the first airport in Europe to provide this facility proving we really are Ireland of the Welcomes.

This week's horse book is Selah's Sweet Dream by Susan Count. ISBN: 9780997088304.
I definitely enjoyed this coming of age story about a girl called Selah who loves horses.
Just like every other horse-mad girl, Selah, who lives in America, makes plans for getting a horse someday. But her parents and grandfather are in no hurry for that to happen, even though Grandfather used to keep horses and his late wife won showing and reining classes. Then Selah spots a horse running wild on the open grasslands. Could this black horse be meant for her?

My environment book is Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley. ISBN: 9781137279545.
Michael Buckley, a Canadian, first visited Tibet in 1985 as a truck passenger and saw the constant stream of treetrunks being hauled as China felled Tibetan forests, ongoing since China took over Tibet in 1950. This book lays bare the continuous plundering of the Tibetan plateau and mountains by Chinese settlers and soldiers. By 1980 a fact-finding mission from Tibet's former rulers found that the grasslands, once-rich in natural diversity, were empty of wildlife - all eaten, Buckley believes.
The Himalayan snow and glacier ice is the world's largest store of freshwater outside the Polar regions. Yet this ice which should reflect heat back into space, is sooty and black in many areas, from Chinese and Indian coal emissions and cooking stoves. Dark ice attracts heat so melts faster, and dark rock is exposed in a feedback loop. 95% of glaciers are shrinking faster than they can be replenished. As these glaciers feed some of the world's largest rivers which flow through eight populous countries, problems are foreseeable. These include lack of crop irrigation and drinking water.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree, helped protect the Peruvian rainforest and rescued a baby sea turtle. All for no cost at

26th March 2017
On a nice sunny spring day what could be better than a stroll down the harbour? This year the Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) harbour is celebrating 200 years. A seaside promenade takes the visitor along the coastline with splendid views, while many events are planned for the summer, from a festival to Viking longships recreating an attack. Transport can be by Dart light rail, bus or limited parking with spaces for wheelchair users provided they display a permit. Thanks to my roving reporter Niamh for nominating the Dun Laoghaire harbour as a good place to visit.

This week's horse book is The Island Horse by Susan Hughes. ISBN: 9781554535927.
Ellie is not quite ten when her mother dies and she lives quietly in Nova Scotia with her father. In no position to turn down work, Ellie's father still thinks long and hard about accepting the first offer he gets in months. To encourage Ellie to regard it positively, he tells her that there are wild horses on Sable Island. Ellie is fascinated by the idea of wild horses and draws them in her sketchbook. The job is with the rescue crew on Sable Island, a crescent of sand 25 miles long and a mile across, which is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. A tiny community of rescue workers lives there, saving lives and salvaging ships' cargoes and timbers from the frequent wrecks on the shifting sands and storm-tossed sea.

My environmental book is The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five-Year Perspective by Jeff Henry.
ISBN: 9781589799035.

This is a well written and spectacularly photographed look at the year when fires burned out of control through most of Yellowstone National Park and region.
Wildfires are now considered to be nature's way of using up old dead wood - conifers grow quickly but rot slowly so fires release the nutrients and make room for seedlings. A fire was named after the area where it started and they quickly merged, so immense regions were ablaze at once and only the winter's snows ended them. The rangers just concentrated on saving lives and preserving historic buildings. The author had been with the service for a decade at this time and documented everything. He says it is amazing that nobody was killed that year. Two decades on we can see the new growth sprouting.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a woman with her own biometric card to open a bank account. All for no cost at

19th March 2017
This week my roving reporter Tanya has recommended Dublin Bus for getting around the capital. She did mention problems boarding with a wheelchair, such as the bus not always being able to pull in flush with the paving kerb, and an awkward right angle to negotiate from the door near the driver. On the other hand, buses all have kneeling fronts and a sliding ramp. The drivers have all received instruction on using them. A space for a wheelchair is provided and travellers are asked to leave particular seats for those with walking difficulties or pregnant women. Mobility scooters require a permit to board as some are too large for the bus.
The drivers are also required to halt at a bus stop if they see a person waiting who is in a wheelchair or has a Guide Dog or white cane, as the person might not be able to signal them or might not be able to see the number on the bus. Unlike when I was growing up, buses are all no-smoking. Dublin Bus provides a helpful page on their site, and their public office is fully accessible with a wheelchair level counter and hearing loops.

My horse book this week is Cowboy All Night by Vicki Lewis Thompson. ISBN: 9780373798995.
Some modern dilemmas are faced in this American adult romance. A palomino mare is foaling at the start and her happy owner is on hand. So is a cowboy who tries to educate young people about horses. Also involved is the lady's brother, a disabled war veteran, who seems determined to lead an indoor life and ignore horses.

My nature book this week is Felicity ~ A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans. ISBN: 9780692306918.
I love this small story about a brave small bird. Felicity the sparrow lives in a tree in America, and the wise ivory-billed woodpecker taught her to read before he went missing. Now young Felicity has to put that skill to good use - but only after saving a fairy from a hawk when his wings are torn off by the predatory bird.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village, raised a farm animal humanely and supported the Peruvian rainforest. All for no cost at

12th March 2017.
Greetings from Ireland as we approach St Patrick's Day.
All Irish this week! If you are in Dublin to watch the parade you might like to drop in to the Powerscourt Townhouse shopping centre. My roving reporter Susan has recommended it as an accessible place to visit. The Wingfield family who also owned Powerscourt Estate in Wicklow used this as their townhouse since 1774. Today over 40 shops and restaurants fill the interior. The location is South William Street off Grafton Street, an entrance with steps, and an accessible entrance is at Coppinger Row.

This week's horse book is the splendid modern fantasy Chesca And The Spirit Of Grace by Irish author Lara O'Brien. ISBN: 9780989675208.
A girl, a horse and the magical Irish countryside; what more do you need for a great story? CHESCA AND THE SPIRIT OF GRACE grabs our affection immediately and whisks us off to Howth harbour on the east coast of Ireland, north of Dublin. Chesca O'Brien has learned to understand what her animal friends say - so much so, that she doesn't want human pals.
Malley the lead stallion is fond of Chesca but her dairy-farming father won't let the girl ride such a strong spirited horse. The excellent scene-setting puts us in the mood for excitement. Chesca enjoys trick-riding on her mare Star but Malley is a superb storyteller. He tells the girl that he is descended from a horse owned by the pirate queen Grace O'Malley. Life has hard realities. The O'Briens run pony-trekking and between costs, insurance and loans, the banker puts them on notice. This is clearly a matter for the adults; what could a girl of nearly twelve, who's away with the fairies half the time, possibly do to save her home?

My environment book is Black Harvest by Ann Pilling. ISBN: 9780006754268.
This is a creepy fantasy tale on the lines of Elidor, in which the unreal and scary start to seep into real life. Three young people are staying in a seaside cottage in the west of Ireland. A brother, sister and their cousin. The mother of the siblings is also present and her small baby, and an unfortunate dog. Feelings of foreboding along with heat, mustiness and a horrible smell ruin their plans for a good summer, and the baby frets. The dog goes off her food and the kids don't get along.
As I'm Irish I saw in no time that we were getting references to the potato famine caused by blight during the 1840s. The kids are from England, visiting, so it takes them longer to catch up with history.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and sponsored a biometric smartcard to let a woman have her own bank account. All for no cost at

5th March 2017.
This week a place of interest to visit for lunch is featured; we tested this one ourselves earlier in the year as it came well recommended. Toby Carvery, Blackbrook Inn, Ilminster Rd, Taunton, Somerset. This is located off a motorway and has accessible parking spaces near the door. There are no steps if you enter from the garden side and we found plenty of room for seating around tables. An accessible restroom is available but you have to get a key from staff; if there are no staff in sight, you might be waiting a few minutes as the bar is down some steps. We enjoyed a fine carvery lunch and service came with a smile. We particularly like a menu idea which has a mini pudding with coffee, if you don't have room for a full size option.

My horse book this week is Turning On A Dime by Maggie Dana. ISBN: 9780985150495.
This is a top-class time travel book which brings a girl from modern day face to face with her African-American heritage when she travels to the Civil War times.
The young lady she meets is from a land-owning family and they come together over their love for horses. Remounts are being sought by both sides, and the two girls have a desperate struggle to save their beloved horses - and themselves - from the turmoil.

This week's environmental book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein. ISBN: 9781451697384.
The carbon and methane pushed into the atmosphere is unquestionably warming the planet to a hugely dangerous degree, which changes everything about our economic model. The response of the carbon extractors has been to produce oil and coal from ever fouler sources. Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist and author, spent five years researching, travelling and writing with the help of colleagues. Mainly what she looked at was carbon, corruption and contamination.
The Nature Conservancy is a well-funded American charity which started in Texas with the aim of preserving the Attwater's prairie chicken. But before long had passed, they were drilling for oil and gas on the Texas sanctuary land they had purchased. Numbers of the endangered bird dropped on that land from 36 to 12 to none.
See the rest of my review at Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and sponsored a rescued baby turtle, all for no cost at

I have been in discussion with about declaring my e-books Carbon Neutral. Linda G. Kelly, Business Partnership Manager of Foundation, told me that she had never been asked about this before! I offered to help construct a template for e-books but in the absence of a certification, she suggests that I explain to my readers how I offset carbon on their behalf and minimise my carbon use. During 2016 I bought a new efficient computer and A rated LED monitor, recycling the old equipment, and swapped the lightbulbs I use for LED ones. As my e-books are being read all over the world, on devices which are used to read many other books, I believe e-books are a more efficient way of manufacture and distribution than paper books.
From January 2016 to date, Care2 says I have offset 290 pounds of carbon and planted 86 trees, as well as protecting over 100 square feet of rainforests. In addition through a different system, Care2 say I have offset 199 days of computer use via CarbonFund, protected 50 acres of big cat habitat and 19,900 square feet of ocean habitat, plus 1,473 square feet of rainforest.
Offsetting carbon alone is not enough - to live sustainably we need to minimise our use of carbon and resources as well. For example, this year my 17 year old washing machine broke down, so I have replaced it with an A++ rated efficient washing machine. Normally, Carbonfund works with giant companies which want to offset giant footprints. But to quote Robert Swan, the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. I believe in doing my part.

26th February 2017.

This week I'm diverting from places of interest, to a chocolate ad campaign. I've been enjoying the new Maltesers TV ads, which feature people leading busy social lives while in a wheelchair or using BSL. And now I see a Braille poster was put up at a bus stop using the chocolates to form words. The quote is a joke from a lady in Glasgow and the bus stop was in London.

This week's horse book is The Harlot and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye. ISBN: 9780373299164.
In this series of nineteenth-century adult romances, we meet strong heroines who are ladies of science. I particularly enjoyed the botanist in the previous tale and now we meet a horse vet. Her father is a vet with the British Army which is fighting the Napoleonic wars, so he can't answer a letter summoning him to help a stable in Arabia. Instead the daughter is quite keen to go as she has had her name ruined by a cad.
The prince has a sumptuous palace with beautiful rooms, gardens and fountains. He has lavished just as much attention on his stables, but the racehorses are contracting an unknown disease, which so far has no cure. The prince needs to win an endurance race in order to regain pride and prosperity for his people. But he wasn't expecting a female vet, and his stable staff are unlikely to put up with any such intrusion by a foreign woman.

My environmental book this week is Mason Meets A Mason Bee by Dawn Pape. ISBN: 9780985187750.
This is a cute tale for early readers about a boy who meets a bee and each of them is afraid of the other. The bee explains that it is a mason bee and does not want to sting, but pollinates plants to make food for people. Mason also gets to hear about insecticides and other issues for beneficial insects. There are lovely colourful photos on every page.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree in an African village and rescued a baby turtle. All for no cost at

19th February 2017.
This week I would like to thank roving reporter Mairéad for recommending a Dublin library building called DLR LexIcon. This is a new build feature of Dún Laoghaire in southeast Dublin, and incorporates water features and public spaces which are used for events. The library is fully accessible and includes restrooms and a café called Brambles Café. The Dublin local authority says the library provides theatre space, meeting rooms, local history space and more than sixty computers for public use. Libraries are a vital part of our community so I am delighted that they are being expanded rather than closed, and made even more welcoming and useful. My local library runs a homework and study club. LexIcon has car parking space and is near bus and light rail routes; it also provides wonderful sea views.

This week's horse book is Horse and Pony Colours by Lesley Lodge. ISBN: 9781494338862
While Lesley Lodge stresses that colour is secondary compared to choosing the right size, breed and temperament for your needs, she then looks at some fine examples of horses. The two main coat colours are black and red, with other colours being dilute forms. The skin can also be pink or black. Then there are markings such as blaze, star and sock, as well as the gaudier Appaloosa or paint markings.
Mainly the book focuses on horses of the film world, as these bring handsome horses to the viewer and the British-based author is involved in the film scene. The well-known horses include Trigger, the Black Stallion, Shadowfax and Tornado. Pintos get their star in Hidalgo. Suitable for young adults or adults.

This week's nature book is Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. ISBN: 9780156007818.
This is a charming story of a girl, her father, the outback and the eucalyptus tree.
There are hundreds of different varieties of eucalyptus from tiny shrub to majestic tree, and the girl's father sets a rule that she may only marry a man who has named all of the trees in his carefully planted collection on his land. This unusual romance has won many awards and is suitable for readers of teen age to adults.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and provided a biometric smart card so a woman can have her own bank account. All for no cost at

12th February 2017.
This week I'd like to recommend the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. A few years ago we visited the Burns Cottage where the Scots poet was born - a long low thatched building of a few rooms, which kept the livestock and family under one roof though in separate sections. This would have made it easy to feed sheep and do the milking during bad weather. Next door the Museum has an educational space with a film about Tam O'Shanter, his grey mare and the witch Cutty Sark. As well as learning all about the poet and the history of his time, you can buy a wide and attractive array of gifts. A restaurant is provided, with movable chairs and everything has been designed to be easily accessible. This does not include some of the older features, like the Brig o'Doon which is a small stone arch bridge spanning a stream. Restrooms are accessible and wheelchairs are available for loan, while Guide Dogs are welcome and hearing loops are in place. The staff are willing to lend any help required to get visitors around the site.

This week's horse book is Lucy's Chance by Brittney Joy ISBN: 9781497543461.
Lucy is thrilled to be helping out on a guest ranch when she turns sixteen, and summer stretches ahead of her. Can she cope with getting run over by cattle, and being called the help by a snobby young rodeo queen? A black horse which is seemingly wild bursts out of the brush on a trail ride and another stablehand, Casey, manages to rope him and tug him down to the ranch buildings. If nobody claims the horse and he can't be trained, the ranch owner will sell him at auction. Lucy gets to know the strong black horse, calling him Chance, and she is convinced that he's just scared from ill-use and would make a great riding horse.

The environment book I'm recommending is a romance for St Valentine's Day. Sharp Shootin' Cowboy by Victoria Vane ISBN: 9781492601180.
I'm giving this romance top marks for presenting both sides of the wolf and ranch argument, in detail and with great intensity. Some people are arrogant and unpleasant - on both sides of the debate. Others are principled and willing to take steps towards a compromise. A woman studying wolves in Wyoming meets a marine about to be sent off on a tour, but his predilection for hunting and guiding hunters is too much for her to cope with. After the marine has left the service the pair meet up again, still on opposite sides. Each of them has a past relationship still shadowing them but it's the wolf issue that divides their loyalties. Can there be a meeting in the middle? This is a romance for adult readers.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored raising a baby sea turtle and planting a fruit tree. All for no cost at

5th February 2017.
This week my roving reporter Susan has recommended the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in Dublin, at the top of Grafton Street. One reason this is well suited to be accessible is that the Luas tram runs beside it. The Luas is step-free all along its lines. Inside the Stephen's Green Centre there is plenty of space and a set of lifts is available. Stairs and escalators for other users mean the lifts are not constantly in use. In this way you can reach the shops around the upper levels and browse the displays or home in on something you need.
Signage is in place to help you find the shop you want, while the nice airy central part has a glass roof, so you can shop or relax no matter what the weather.
The Centre has plenty of seating areas, accessible cafés and shops, and fully attended restrooms on the top floor. Visitors can view floor plans on the Centre website.

This week's horse book is Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances by Rachel Anne Ridge. ISBN: 9781414397832.
I like this true tale of an abandoned donkey who showed up in a Texas driveway. The householders had lost their work in the economic crash and didn't want to take on more responsibility. But the kids pestered them to keep the easy-care donkey in the paddock. Rachel saw Flash come back to health, and his attitude and adventures made her feel better about herself. Flash didn't see why he should not run with tall horses.
This is an inspirational story meant for adults, and because Rachel shares personal difficulties, I recommend parental guidance if giving it to a child. See my review on Goodreads.

This week's nature book is a novel for a change. Through the Storm by Rula Sinara. ISBN: 9780373367870. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, which is a romantic adventure in modern Africa. A well-off young mother suddenly starts to suspect that her husband is involved in illegal ivory dealings. The ivory mafia will kill anyone who gets in their way. She can't take chances but takes off with her son and gets on the first bush plane out of Kenya.
As we can expect not all goes smoothly. We see various sides of modern life in the vast country; eco-tourism, a baby elephant rescue camp, plenty of danger.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely.

29th January 2017
This week I am featuring a location which serves people with intellectual disabilities. Thanks to my roving reporter Neil for recommending Cheeverstown House, Templeogue, Dublin. A wide range of activities goes on here from teaching, sheltered workshop, advocacy and evening social activity for students and their families. Transport is provided seven days a week. The location also features a swimming pool adapted for people with disabilities and this is available to the general public.
Cheeverstown has expanded to serve older adults into retirement, and is happy to be involved in the Special Olympics.

This week's horse book is The Long Ride Home by Kari Lynn Dell. ISBN: 9781619228146.
A champion rodeo horse goes missing and with Muddy goes the rider's good fortune. A few years later the horse surfaces at a school rodeo ridden by a lad from a Reservation. While they are a good team, it turns out that the student has behavioural disabilities and his very protective relative doesn't want the horse removed. She's a former soldier and works on the Rez now. The cowboy can't easily remove Muddy from her care and Native police have jurisdiction, so he accepts that he'll have to take some time resolving the issue.

This week's nature book is 100 Plants to Save the Bees by The Xerces Society. ISBN: 9781612127019.
I totally enjoyed this colourful book of facts and figures, copiously illustrated with photos. We first find out what insects are pollinators and learn about honey. A key indicates which plants feed honeybees, other native bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Some plants can be planted in gardens across America and others will thrive in certain regions, indicated on a map of the continental US and Canada.  I am glad that Latin names are provided under the common plant names, as some common names differ in Europe. What enjoyable names too, such as fireweed, goldenrod, meadowfoam, mountain mint, prairie clover, rattlesnake master, wild indigo. Then come the trees; willow which we might not consider as it's wind pollinated, but the bees pick up the pollen; buttonbush, coyote bush, mesquite, ocean spray, manzanita.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, helped to save the Congo Rainforest, and sponsored a biometric smartcard with Opportunity International, so that a woman can have her own bank account. I did this at no cost through

22nd January 2017
This week I am highlighting the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Situated on the banks of Lake Michigan, this huge destination is highly popular with city people who want to get out of the extreme heat of summer. As tourists a few years ago, we took a city tour hop-on-hop-off bus and this was our main destination; the tour buses may stop running before the close of the museum. A ramp was available for wheelchairs and strollers - buggies - so people with these were able to skip some of the long queues. There is also a separate accessible entrance and parking.
Inside the floors are level and the staff have wheelchairs available for use on production of photo ID. A restaurant is on site, with a wide variety of foods and movable chairs. The website offers guided tours for guests with hearing or vision impairment but these need two weeks' notice. If you are interested in aquatic life there is an astonishing amount to see. One room is given over to exhibits changed every year. We saw seahorses and previously there were frogs. Concerns arise over keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. We saw a dolphin show which was respectful and informative, and did not involve hoops or dangerous stunts. The Shedd supports research and conservation and is certified by the American Humane Association.
If you would like to recommend a venue please e-mail me at referring to this blog in the title.

This week's horse book is A Star Is Born by Sable Hamilton ISBN: 9781434297945.
A keen young rodeo competitor has been chosen to train as a stunt rider by a firm which supplies these riders to films. They train her along with other young people on a ranch in Montana. Kami is the girl's name and she is given a trained grey horse called Magic. Each book in the Stardust Stables series will follow a different rider's story, so although there is rivalry it is on a friendly basis. The challenges come from learning the stunts, performing them under examination stress, and coping with homesickness and nerves. This is written by Jenny Oldfield under a pen name. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week's nature book is The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw ISBN: 9780340728963.
I enjoyed this memoir from a swordboat captain who describes herself as a fisherman. The conditions and workload vary from delightful to overwhelming; near the end of the trip her crew is almost ready to mutiny to get back to harbour - but not quite, because they are all there to catch fish. While Greenlaw is rare in being a female captain she says it drives her to work harder, and she appears to get the respect she has earned. Greenlaw tells us there are plenty of swordfish and her industry and fleet are highly regulated. She blames other nations for unregulated catches. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon and planted one tree; I also supported the work of Breast Cancer Research, all through

15th January 2017
This week we visited a fascinating museum; the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, Somerset. Stored in a hangar on a Royal Navy airfield are planes ranging from early 'stringbag' biplanes to the Concorde, with rescue helicopters and military planes carried by Navy vessels in between them. Paintings include the Ark Royal while a gallery displays the work of the WRNS who took on tasks from mechanic to codebreaking during wars. This is a fascinating venue, packed with history and personal memories, which has been adapted to be accessible to wheelchair users. A number of wheelchairs are available for guests.

A ramp between floors was installed, and opened by Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, a courageous fighter pilot who continued flying despite losing both legs. Some of the exhibits would be good for visually impaired people, such as lifting the weight of a mortar dropped by early bombers. Access from the car park, which has wheelchair parking spaces, is across bumpy tarmac and up several steps, so people of reduced mobility go to a side door, ring a bell and wait for a staff member to open the door and bring them to the lower floor and lift, which has Braille on the buttons. Tickets are bought on the floor above, and a carer goes free with a disabled person. Service personnel past and present also do not need to pay. The restrooms include accessible facilities and were sparkling clean.

The only disadvantage we found is that the Swordfish Café next to the museum closes at the same time as the museum. If you have spent a couple of hours walking around a hangar on a coastal airfield, you would appreciate a hot cup of tea.
The photo shows our roving reporter Ellen enjoying an audiovisual presentation about the planes. Ellen comments that the poured concrete floor of the hangar was so smooth, her wheelchair felt as if it was flying.

This week's horse book is The Horse Healer by Gonzalo Giner ISBN: 9781480444607.
This is a novel of turbulent Spain in medieval times, when a young man is forced to leave his simple home and head for the city of Toledo. He brings only his prized mare, and a love of learning. Diego has seen the death of his parents and abduction of his sisters by Saracen forces from North Africa. This is not a tale for the faint-hearted but shows us how ordinary people had to struggle to survive and keep our civilisation alive. Toledo, a walled city, houses three religions side by side, and the Moors, Christians and Jews obey rules such as not sleeping in one another's homes. Diego can't get work but eventually gets taken on by a healer of beasts of burden as apprentice. This early veterinarian has access to documents on horse care stored in Toledo.

My nature book is Eye of the Drone (Suki & Finch #2) ISBN:9780992041380.
This highly imaginative YA series takes off like a rocket in the second book. Our two graphic heroes are set in some beautiful terrain again, and we get to see majestic wild cats like the Amur Tiger and Snow Leopard, as well as smaller ones like Pallas's Cat in Nepal. Suki and Finch are again helped by their bobcat and falcon friends, but someone mysterious has sent a spy drone to see who is trying to protect the trees in these lands. Cats live where trees grow, so Suki and Finch are soon in big trouble.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and raised a farm animal humanely, as well as contributing to Carbon Fund. All for no cost at

8th January 2017.
This week I'm giving credit to Davies Plumbing Centre in Harmonstown, Dublin 5. This is a trade plumbing supplies centre where the public are welcome, and a café is beside the shop. With several steps up to the main door, the folks at Davies have installed a platform lift for wheelchairs instead of a ramp. Inside, plenty of space is left between aisles of goods, so a wheelchair would be able to manoeuvre and reach the counter. Well done for making all the customers so welcome.

My recommended horse book this week is Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal by Tim Hayes.
ISBN: 9781250033512.
I enjoyed this read about horses being used to help people with various issues and emotional problems. The groups observed by the author include one which combines gentling wild mustangs so they can be sold as riding horses, with violent prisoners who want a chance at rehab. The prisoners in this case were a self-selecting group who passed behavioural tests before being let near the horses. Other groups include those helping troubled young people to talk and grow confident; one where an autistic child learned to interpret body language of the horses, especially their ear signals; one where war veterans are helped not just physically, to move on horseback despite missing limbs, but mentally as a female officer with PTSD relates.

My nature book is Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich.
ISBN: 9780060957377.
We wander the north woods in deep winter, observing and studying and carrying out occasional experiments with the author and his students. Just when we think the adaptations of creatures can't get any odder, they do.
Rabbits burrow into the subnivian or under snow layer, tunnelling happily between trees to eat the bark off right up to the snow crust and invisible to predators. Colour-changing creatures turn white in a space of a week or two. Caterpillars thaw to eat for a brief summer, freeze, thaw again and eat, for a dozen or more years before reaching the size needed to pupate. Birds appear to die but can be thawed. Other birds huddle and shiver nightly, burning fat which they must replenish by day.
Flying squirrels huddle in hollow trees to share warmth. Beaver lodges provide safe havens and larders. Bears sleep with lowered metabolic rates, giving birth to cubs which they suckle for three months under the snow before awakening in spring. Insects make communal nests or migrate thousands of miles. The hibernate or migrate option has had to be explored by every species. Frogs don't have this option, so they freeze solid. The measurements given are astounding.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and fed a rescued seal, for no cost at

Sunday 1st January 2017
Happy New Year!
This week I can recommend visiting your local IKEA store. A large furniture and household goods store has a lot to interest anyone, even if you don't plan to spend much money. The Dublin IKEA store has accessible parking close to the large entrance, while a bus stops outside the door. Lifts with Braille on the buttons can get you around, and on the upper level are all the displays of various rooms; so a person with reduced mobility can actually do some good exercising indoors and sit down any time they feel inclined.
The restaurant has plenty of seating with movable chairs. We noticed a nice idea which is a little trolley to carry the meal trays. The trolley can take two laden trays and can be pushed in front of a wheelchair. There is always a vegetarian option, salads and fruit. I was pleased to see that the seafood is all described as coming from sustainable fisheries, while the coffee is from a fair trade provider.
As part of the restaurant there is a discreet area for mothers to feed babies which has the brilliant idea of little toys in case the mother has to bring in a toddler as well. Baby changing and accessible restrooms are available. If you have an IKEA family card, your tea and coffee are free (except on weekends, in Dublin).

This week's horse book is Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley. ISBN: 9780064410854.
This is a very worthwhile read about a girl called Sam who has been raised on a ranch but living away from it for two years. Now she is returning and wonders what life will be like. She had been training a dark grey colt but he ran away, and her family doesn't know where he is. Sam finds a pale grey stallion coming to drink by moonlight near the ranch house, and realises that as grey horses get lighter each year, this could be her colt. But he is wild and running with mustangs. This is the start of a series.

This week's nature book is chosen because New Zealand was first to see in the New Year. Explorations of Aotearoa: A Collection of Wildlife Photography From New Zealand by Max Allen.
These gorgeous nature and landscape photos bring New Zealand right up to our faces. The author studied the wildlife of New Zealand for his PhD and is also a photographer. Accordingly he provides some stunning and colourful photos, mainly of endemic birds (those found nowhere else) as well as some other wildlife such as seals. Nature lovers will definitely want a copy.
The text is little more than extended captions. Some of the photos are accompanied by the story of how the author achieved such a great shot, while others explain the adaptations of a bird, such as the kiwi or kea, or the threats it faces in its normal habitat. Photographers will find this book of interest because the author has noted his techniques and equipment.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and raised a farm animal humanely. All through at no cost.

Sunday 25th December 2016

Kilkenny Design Centre

Happy Christmas or winter festival of your choice! We are all celebrating midwinter when the sun starts to appear for longer each day. This week I'll recommend the Kilkenny Design Centre in Kilkenny City. Located just opposite the gates to Kilkenny Castle, the craft centre and food hall showcases the best of Irish creativity. The beautiful building is the former stable yard.
Allan and I organised an evening's dining for a group here a few years ago, as all the food is prepared on the premises. The casual restaurant is on the floor above the crafts, but there is a lift and the chairs are all free to move, so a wheelchair can easily be accommodated. Lunch, afternoon tea and take out food are available and can be made to dietary specifications. Kilkenny is a medieval small city so not every building can be adapted to be fully accessible. The Kilkenny Design Centre is an excellent venue. This week's horse book is Soldier Sister, Fly Home by Nancy Bo Flood. ISBN: 9781580897020. This is a touching and at times sad account of a young half Navaho girl who looks after her older sister's horse. The elder sister has joined the Army after an injury lost her any chance of completing university on a running scholarship. But being overseas means that her big blue stallion will go crazy from lack of work. Her younger sister nervously accepts the responsibility.

This week's nature book is Future Arctic: Field Notes from a World on the Edge by Edward Struzik. ISBN: 9781610914406.
The book follows major patterns of change now visible and being studied by a wide range of Arctic scientists, from ecologists to fire scientists.
As the continent of North America warms and dries we see more wildfires; these are now spreading to the tundra, and major tundra fires are expected to become frequent. Permafrost is shrinking and shrubs are invading river deltas that dry up from lack of glaciers to feed them. Opportunist species such as coyotes are moving northwards, and some species will bring diseases or outcompete the threatened native Arctic wildlife. Reindeer and caribou are greatly reducing in numbers, so the indigenous people who subsist on them have no choice but to import and buy meats. Carefully managed extraction of fuels or minerals can provide jobs but outsiders frequently bring problems and cause environmental issues, and use industrial methods like factory ships and open-cast mining; besides which the sea level is rising.

I offset 7 pounds of carbon and I provided a woman in a developing country with a biometric smart-card so she can have her own bank account, all through Care2.

Sunday 18th December 2016

Cú Chulainn Roller Coaster
at Tayto Park

This week my roving reporter Una has recommended Tayto Park as a great family friendly accessible place to visit in Ireland. This is an outdoor activity centre and zoo in Ashbourne, Co. Meath. I have yet to visit the park but it is definitely on my must-see list because they offer wildlife and conservation studies as well as zip lines and climbing. I might give the big roller coaster a miss.
Una tells me that some of the rides are specially adapted for people in wheelchairs, so they don't have to get out of the wheelchair to participate. The Tayto Park website assures us that during December, Santa's Grotto is fully wheelchair accessible. Registered assistance dogs are welcome. The staff can also provide help as follows:
"Guests with disabilities can avail of the reduced admissions price of €12 as well as have a carer accompany them for no admission cost.  We understand that some of our Guests may experience difficulty with queueing for extended periods of time. For this reason, we invite you to use the Member's entrance when arriving to the Park. A Ride Assistance Pass may be obtained from the reception desk in the Admissions building. This allows your party to avoid the queue on up to 6 attractions of your choice during the day in conjunction with valid wristbands or tokens. Ride assistance Passes are reserved for guests who do not understand the concept of queuing or may become agitated or distressed when queuing for prolonged periods of time."

Check out the full details on their website as I have shortened the extract. This looks like a smashing day out for everyone and prices are reduced during the winter months... as is daylight of course.

This week's horse book is Reining In Murder by Leigh Hearon ISBN: 9781496700339.
Annie Carson who keeps horses on the Olympic Peninsula is called to a road accident by police; a bay Thoroughbred has been rescued unharmed but the driver of the vehicle and trailer was killed. Annie takes the spooked horse home to care for him until ownership can be established. This starts her involvement in a crime investigation as it turns out the crash was no accident. See my review on Goodreads.

Our nature book is Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores ISBN: 9780465052998.
This enjoyable and easily readable book looks at the coyote, from prehistory when it split with the grey wolf line and trotted across the Bering landbridge to form the jackal tribe, to modern times when, with wolves almost extinguished, it has free rein to reproduce in almost every American state.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted two fruit trees and fed a rescued seal, among other good works free with care2

Sunday 11th December 2016
Last week we were away scouting a location. The city of Denia in the strip of Mediterranean coastline on Spain's south east, is a relatively inexpensive place to stay during the winter months. While some of the footpaths are less than ideal for wheelchairs, a recent redevelopment of the harbour and marina has provided an excellent harbour walk.
Designated parking for wheelchair users is situated both in the harbour grounds, and outside along a path and beach which is a natural preserve. I like that metal rails keep anyone from parking on the spot next to the path where the ramp is located, and the rails can also be used to pull the chair up the ramp.
The top of the harbour wall is decoratively and smoothly tiled, with wooden railings. Strolling along, you can view the fishing harbour, the marina full of yachts and the coastline as far as Cape St. Vincente. Looking back you get a view of the old town and the handsome Castle up on a height. This city used to rule the Balearic Islands off the coast, and you can watch ferries and the commercial harbour which once served the raisin trade.
Even during winter we found a café or two open along the marina, where the ground floor restroom was suitable for wheelchairs. To get down again to this marina level, we followed a long ramp with stout metal railing. Dog walkers are ordered to pick up after their pets, which always helps. Recycling is strongly encouraged and we saw no litter or potential hazards for walkers in this area.

This week's horse book is Boys Don't Ride by Katharina Marcus. ISBN: 9781311664648. A smashing young adult story about earning the right to riding lessons by doing the work of looking after ponies... and helping others. Tull is seventeen and scraping by as his absent father doesn't always live up to his responsibilities. A girl called Liberty has no money either, but she does have access to ponies and horses as her mother runs a riding centre. Tull loves horses but has never had the chance to learn to ride.
Liberty has a cleft palate/ hare lip which required a few operations and still leaves her marked, so she is not easy to make friends with, feeling defensive. But Tull doesn't care because he'll get up at the crack of dawn and help with ponies if that's what it takes, so why would he worry about someone's looks? See the rest of my review and find out more on Goodreads.

This week's environmental book is Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann. ISBN: 9780735842083. This unusual book is good for any age from young readers up, so might make a good Christmas present. Moletown is gorgeous and clever, an art book with fun and a message about our own lives.
The mole comes to live in a green meadow and his family and friends come to join him, but the intricate machines they build for tunnelling and mining coal make their lives more busy. They have a civilisation after enough time has passed, a dense urban underground population where moles hang up their helmets at night after a day in the office or works, all beautifully drawn.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

During the past two weeks I offset ten pounds of carbon, rescued a baby turtle and planted three fruit trees for free among other good works with Care2

Sunday 27th November 2016
This week I would like to draw your attention to accessible London Transport, specifically the Docklands Light Rail. This line mainly serves the east of London including Canary Wharf and Greenwich, and meets the Tube at both north and south stations. If travelling through Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street, you should head for Bank or Stratford to join the DLR routes. If flying in to City Airport in Docklands you are directly on the DLR. The Jubilee Line is an accessible Tube line.
The DLR is driverless and was built to be accessible - no steps, none of the famous 'mind the gap' on Tube lines. The original Tube trains were designed to bring working people to work, and later lines were added piecemeal. This means that you may have a Tube journey that includes changing platform by walking through a tiled tunnel that leads up steps, over the head of a train tunnel, down steps again, and be quite a long walk too. Not every Tube station has elevators, and some have very deep sets of escalators which would be hard to cope with for a wheelchair. Once you get to a DLR station on the other hand, a lot of it is above ground, and all is at an easy accessible level.
To use public transport in London now, you need to buy an Oystercard and tag on and tag off to be debited for the length of your journey and how many zones you use. You can top up the card at stations. Buses do not accept cash. The card is good for buses, Tube, DLR, trains within London, river boat bus and the cable car from Greenwich to the north of the river. On buses, wheelchairs are free. Each bus has a sliding automatic ramp, usually at the middle door. Assistance dogs are welcome.
This link shows the London Transport website page where you can see how to plan and make accessible journeys around London. Four people in wheelchairs are filmed getting river boats, buses, Tube and DLR trains. You can see that the Jubilee Line, being very modern, has step free access to platforms via lifts, and at other stations there is a blue and white wheelchair symbol on the ground for a wheelchair to use this spot to board. A call station can be used to summon a platform assistant to help a person needing a portable ramp. The staff will also help a person through barriers and direct them to the stations and routes they need. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympic gold medallist, is featured in one of the films. Her message is "Give it a go. Come on board."

This week's horse book is Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins. ISBN: 9780993683701 I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of a young competitive rider whose life changes in an instant. She decides to spend the summer doing something different, staying alone in her family's holiday cottage on an island and working in a B&B.
An Appaloosa mare isn't the ideal wage packet.
See my review and learn about the series on Goodreads.

This week's nature read is The Ferocious Summer: Adelie Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica by Meredith Hooper. ISBN: 9781553653691
As a journalist researching for a book, the author spent a summer on the Antarctic coast with the science team which works to study everything that can possibly be studied, including penguin colonies. The small Adelie penguins had to brave leopard seals and foul weather as they strove to collect shrimps to feed their chicks.
As much a portrait of the people and living conditions at Palmer Station as anything, this is a fascinating read. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, sponsored the planting of a fruit tree, raised a farm animal humanely and contributed to Amnesty International among other causes. I did this at no cost through a site called Be careful as with many sites today, the comments may contain spam ads.

Sunday 20th November 2016
This week the place of interest is recommended by my roving reporter Ellen. I love visiting garden centres and these days they have so many additional ways for you to enjoy the afternoon.
"Otter Nurseries, at Ottery St. Mary. Devon, a short way over the border from Somerset and about 8 miles east of Exeter. They have a good collection of wheelchairs at the doorway and you may use them for the day at no cost. This is a garden centre, with a good restaurant, clothes shop, country craft place, sells homemade jams, chutneys etc is huge, really, and has a great Christmas display each year. The only drawback is the small number of designated disabled car places there are. However, even when these are used you can drive to the door, drop off your disabled passenger and settle them in a wheelchair under cover, then go off and park your car."
With flowers, plants and aromatic herbs, a garden centre has plenty of fragrances, and contrasting plants to touch as well. I'm really pleased to hear that this business took the initiative and has made all their customers so welcome. Their restaurant advertises a gluten free option and locally sourced foods, including meats; they suggest that you can ring ahead if you have special dietary requirements.
The photo is from my own garden.

This week's horse book is The Perfect Horse: The Daring American Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts. ISBN: 9780345544803. Ballantine Books.
This history is quite chilling as we follow the horse breeding schemes of the evil Third Reich. Germany is today one of Europe's biggest producers of horses. In 1936, when the tale starts, the Great War had killed millions of horses; exports of horses were demanded under reparations; the Olympic team did everything it had to do to win all the gold medals for Germany. The Second World War despite employing tanks, trains and trucks, used 2,750,000 horses from Germany alone, sixty percent of which were killed according to this book. Poland was invaded and stud Arabians stolen by Russians, then the rest were sequestered by Nazis for breeding in their cause. While breeding was an inexact science, the principle of breeding the best horses for a particular purpose was well understood and the Nazis wanted to breed a purebred race of war horse. The Lipizzaners of Austria, trained in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna under Alois Podhajsky, were a natural target.
I love the photos of the Lipizzaners training. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. As with any factual book on wartime, this contains some distressing scenes so is not suitable for children.

This week's nature book gets into our back gardens. Welcome To Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John M. Marzluff, Jack Delap. ISBN: 9780300197075. Yale University Press. This book mainly focuses on mainland America but also looks at Britain and Hawaii. We see that bird species have had to cope with the spread of urban habitats and some have thrived while others have been lost or reduced. Species are categorised as avoiders, adapters or exploiters of urban habitats. The author lists nine ways to make our home areas more attractive and helpful to birds. These include putting up nest boxes, adding stickers or blinds to high windows and planting berry bushes in the garden. The illustrations are gorgeous, showing birds in their environments. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed this book on Fresh Fiction.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, saved a turtle hatchling and donated to the Jane Goodall Institute, among other good works, for no cost at
I also need to thank Allan, my husband and webmaster, for putting this blog on the web each week.

Sunday 13th November 2016
A good place to visit for disability access and an interesting day out, is the Museum of Transport in Glasgow. This newly built museum is on the Clydeside where the River Kelvin meets the Clyde, and occupies some of the former warehousing, shipyard and dock space. A tall ship which once carried cargoes, the Glenlee, is moored alongside and forms part of the exhibition. Limited parking and buses are transport options and a dedicated phone is provided to call a taxi.

The Riverside Museum building has an interesting design shape and the inside is like a great hangar to fit double decker buses, trams, cars, aeroplanes and more. Very popular areas include a reconstructed 1930s Glasgow street, with a horse and cart, including inside the shops. Sit comfortably inside a subway train where you can hear conversations from the past, or listen in to passengers on a tram. All kinds of transport are included from bicycles to space travel, even a massive train built in Scotland and sent to South Africa, and some you might not think of like traditional prams. These can be viewed from different levels as you rise through the building.

There are lifts and restrooms to suit the less able, while the cafe is on the ground floor and the chairs and tables are not fixed in place. There's so much to see that you'll likely want a lunch, but just because you are in Scotland that doesn't mean you have to eat haggis. We enjoyed a wonderful rich Moroccan chicken soup which was a meal in itself, with tea and coffee. Later we sampled more tea on board the ship, which can be hired as a catering or party venue. When we visited, the lift to lower decks was working but the website suggests ringing in advance. I was pleased to note waterbirds on the river as well as some boating activity. Seats are available and a person using a mobility aid had a good time getting around. The Museum states that it welcomes people with hearing impairment and assistance dogs are permitted.

This week's horse book is La Grulla by John R. Wright.
A grulla, a crane-coloured mare of Spanish descent, is at the centre of the beautiful, carefully crafted tale. Some elements of this Western historical adventure remind me of Max Brand (for a strong and gallant young hero, and girl who can ride and shoot) while the epic journey and search for a safe home remind me of The Outlaw Josey Wales.
I am a horse lover and several horse and mule characters play a great part in the story. The people too are individuals and we see our central hero growing through the journey, ending in a fantastic endurance ride with death at his heels. The tension is gradually introduced and builds through the book until I did not want to put the Kindle down, I was so caught up and entertained.
See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week's nature book is If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems by James P. Lenfestey.
"We are bees then; our honey is language."
- Words Rising by Robert Bly.
Indeed humans are like bees, and we depend upon these industrious little pollinators. Published to highlight the threat to the bees worldwide from colony collapse, insecticide, impoverished landscape and varroa mite, this diligently collected set of poems has something for everyone, young and old. I noticed that some poems were principally about bees, but many more just mentioned bees as part of the scene they were depicting. Whether in an early line or a late one, the bee was shown as an indivisible part of the garden, field, hillside or farm. Coleridge's Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath, manages to mention bees in both the first and last lines. Emily Dickinson describes bumblebees as well as honeybees. See the rest of my review on Goodreads.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, planted a fruit tree and sponsored the rescue of a baby turtle, plus other good works. I did this for no cost through the site

Sunday 6th November 2016
This week I'd like to recommend an accessible visitor site in Ireland: the Dunbrody, a recreated famine emigrant ship. She sits by the quays in New Ross, Co. Wexford. While building the three-masted barque she was prepared for a sea voyage. She sailed across to North America and returned to New Ross from where the ancestors of John F Kennedy had travelled to a better life.

Dunbrody has a lift to make her accessible below decks. The staff are very helpful and are happy to put the lift to use. This is suitable for three or four people or one wheelchair and one or two people. On board, visitors can handle the parts of the ship and furnishings similar to those used by emigrants. Actors will tell their stories and explain the lives of people from various backgrounds. The sounds and scents of the times are provided and this is a really immersive experience.
Close to Dunbrody on the quays is a new Visitor Centre with a first floor café and restrooms. These are fully wheelchair accessible. New Ross is not large so I suggest planning a lunch in the town as well as the shipboard visit. This location is an easy drive from Kilkenny. The Dunbrody Famine Ship received an award at the 2015 CIE Tours Awards of Excellence. These awards are based on an independent evaluation of questionnaires completed by CIE Tours International coach tour customers. Dunbrody is open seven days a week from 9am with the last tour at 5pm. Tours last about an hour.

This week's horse book is Small Town Filly (Sandbar Stables Cozy Mystery #1) by Bethanie Cushman. This is a very enjoyable, not too complex or violent mystery. There are plenty of horses, which is a big plus as far as I'm concerned. The tale follows a young lady in America who mysteriously inherits a riding stable business on the Gulf Coast, a sandy beach in Florida to be precise. Trouble is, various hotel developers want the land, and the next door boating firm wants it too. See the rest of my review, and find out about the author and see other reviews, on Goodreads. The book is suitable for anyone from mid-teens to adults.

This week's nature book is Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront by Heather Wolf.

I love this account of starting to birdwatch from almost no experience, in a brand new park built at Brooklyn Bridge. Heather decided to document each species she found and this meant she had to buy a better camera... and learn to be a better photographer. The results, the photos in the book, are often stunning for their beauty and lively quality. Heather took strolls to the park near her home often so she got to see migrant coastal birds as well as residents and noted their behaviour; nesting, feeding or staking territory. See the rest of my review on Goodreads. I have also reviewed it on Fresh Fiction. This book has a foreword by David Lindo, an urban birdwatcher from London.

This week I offset seven pounds of carbon, bought two trees to be planted and raised a farm animal humanely. I did this for no cost at and supported other good works as well.

Sunday 30th October 2016
Recently my husband and I visited Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool is one of the new museums along the waterside which used to be docklands. The docks were the lifeblood of the city and shipbuilding was carried out here on an enormous scale as well as goods trading. The Museum of Liverpool was one of the best attractions for people with disabilities we'd seen.

No entry fee. Automatic doors. Assistance dogs welcome. Staff are friendly and capable. The building occupies several floors but there is a free locker area on the ground floor, with Braille on the keys and lockers. Wheelchairs are available. A Braille guide is available as are large print versions. Spacious lifts and a central spiralling ramp provide easy access. The lift has Braille markings and each area has its floor plan provided in a raised format near the entrance.

Each floor has its own set of restrooms including a disability access one and nursing mother facilities. Seats are regular features of each floor, especially in front of a short film. These were particularly welcomed by older people. The café, with free-standing tables and chairs, provides hot meals and cold snacks, good fuel. For a hot filling lunch we each paid seven pounds plus tea and coffee.

With differing aspects of the city's history highlighted, from nautical paintings to the Grand National and World War Two, an enormous array of artefacts has been collected. There is too much to see in one day. Many of the exhibits contain sound recordings, like the voices of people who tell their stories, or typical sounds of the time and place, and the Beatles are a highlight. Signing in BSL and some captions are provided as well. I also found scent spots, with cargoes and dock scents. Touch exhibits include stonework, fabrics and dock materials.

We visited a pilot boat which was docked alongside the building. This has stairs, but a visitor with a stick was able to get aboard and see most of the boat with the free guided tour. When we left the museum I thanked the people at reception and told them this was the best museum I had seen for inclusive access. This museum has a policy of being autism friendly.

We stayed in a hotel, part of an inexpensive chain facing the dock area. Basic needs were met and we dined in pubs further up the city; of course, everything is uphill from the sea but there is a lot to look at in a small area. We also visited other museums in the dockside area, which can be easily accessed on foot or in a wheelchair. These were the Merseyside Maritime Museum and International Museum of Slavery. Parking for cars with disability badges is provided. Another item of interest to me was the monument to the Working Horse of the Liverpool docks.

Horse Book: Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker. ISBN13: 9781783444014. Paperback, 352 pages. Published 2016 by Andersen. Sexism and bullying are rife when a girl from a troubled background tries to work her way up from groom to apprentice jockey. A fine grey mare called Manhattan is just as difficult and will be condemned if she doesn't shape up and start winning races, as her Arab owner won't breed from losers. And our young heroine has a dodgy uncle who encroaches on her growing freedom. This is a reminder to all young readers that acting the maggot will get you nowhere but down. Age: YA to adult.

Environment: The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson. ISBN13: 9780465055999. Hardcover, 304 pages. Published 2015 by Basic Books.

The book explores the relationship we have had with seeds over the centuries and how our near relatives gorillas still search them out for food. The oldest seed to have survived and sprouted is a date palm seed found at Masada, two thousand years old. The author spent time with various researchers, in forests, farmland, jungles and in a coal mine. Carboniferous plants which we have found are ferns and horsetails; but only the swampy land preserved plants, and on the uplands, paeleobotanists now believe, grew conifers producing the earliest true seeds. Chapters are devoted to the chemistry of coffee, of chocolate, of chile pepper. Spices coming along the Silk Road and wheat carrying rat flea larvae played immense parts in history.

During the week I offset seven pounds of carbon; bought three trees to be planted; saved a turtle hatchling. And more, all at no cost. See the website for details.