Gittisham Hill Park provides ideal retirement property for wheelchair user

After Irene Heckle fell ill and is now permanently in a wheelchair, her husband, Desmond, knew their three-bedroom detached bungalow was no longer going to work for them.

Desmond, 85, and Irene Heckle, 89, originally from Yorkshire, have been living in Honiton, in Devon, since 1992.

The search

The Heckles found themselves in a situation where their current bungalow needed to be completely modified to fulfil Irene’s needs.

Desmond explained: “Our property wasn’t at all wheelchair friendly; the doorways and corridors would never fit a wheelchair through. There were steps, we didn’t have a wet room and the garden was too much to maintain.”

He knew exactly what the couple wanted: “We didn’t really want to be moving very far, especially as all our friends are here. We didn’t want a garden, but we didn’t want to be shut in either. And we needed somewhere wheelchair friendly, that could offer us the extra support we need.”

The Heckles’ former property is just a mile and half from Gittisham Hill Park and after hearing about the range of bungalows on offer, they decided to have a look.

A rural outlook

Desmond recalled: “Many of the other retirement properties we looked at, like McCarthy & Stone, looked too much like a large hotel and we didn’t want to feel shut in. But that wasn’t the case at Gittisham Hill Park, there’s a lovely rural outlook here and you really feel like you’re out in the country.”

And after finding a beautiful semi-detached two-bedroom bungalow at Gittisham Hill Park, the decision was made.

Downsizing to two bedrooms, Desmond said: “The main bedroom is actually much larger and there are little extras that make all the difference. There’s a telephone system where you can ring for emergencies. It’s things like that you just don’t think about when you’re younger but as you grow older you realise that they’re so important.

He added: “We spend a lot of time in our dining area because it faces south, meaning we get a lot of sunshine – it’s just like having our own conservatory! All in all, it’s a great situation. There are no steps, we have a wet-room and get to see lots of wildlife – we even have blue tits nesting in a box outside our window!”

Support throughout

For the Heckles, the comfort of knowing there’s a specialist 39-bed care home onsite as well as domiciliary care that can be arranged, offers an enormity of reassurance.

Desmond said: “My wife was in the care home for roughly six months and they did an excellent job. Especially from a peace of mind point of view, I’d recommend this village to anybody. I do most of the domestic duties, but we also use RV extra care, where two nurses will come in twice a day to help my wife. Overall, it’s just nice to know there’s people available if you need them.”

A worthwhile service charge

All residents pay a service charge which goes towards overall administration, maintenance and emergency responses.

Desmond explained: “People can be put off because of the service charge but when you learn what it includes, it’ll change your mind. It means that the grass is cut, building insurance is sorted, window cleaners come around periodically and there’s a minibus service too – which is handy when you want to go shopping!”

Excellent location

The couple didn’t want to move too far away for many reasons – including the brilliant offerings Honiton can bring.

Desmond said: “There are great local garden centres, farms shops, cafés – and a great pub up the road who do a brilliant carvery!”

Irene and Desmond both enjoy the wealth of options in the area, whether they’re venturing out of the village or just knowing that there are plenty of facilities available within the village.

Plenty of choice

The Heckles explained they’re not particularly sociable – but that’s the beauty of the retirement village concept. All the activities and facilities are available if you want to use them but there’s no pressure to decide either way.

Desmond said: “There’s lots of services and facilities available at the village. We’re likely to use the clubhouse and minibus service more when I decide to stop driving. It’s great to know that we can still be independent when we don’t have the car anymore.”

Excellent staff

The Heckles have found the village’s staff second to none.

They explained: “The staff at the village are so helpful; you only have to mention it and they’ll sort it. The Village Manager, Gaynor, is always there if you need extra back up and the maintenance manager, Paul, is always on hand whenever you need him too. They’re great.

Highly recommend

Irene and Desmond have no hesitations about recommending the village to others.

Desmond said: “I’m very happy here and we’ve settled in very well – our friends are always impressed when they visit too! I would recommend this retirement village to anybody, it’s an ideal lifestyle when you get to your later stage in life and we actually wish we done it a few years sooner.”