When we first started on our journey with our daughter Jossie, who has Down syndrome, we would never have dreamed that we would be such frequent travellers.
We envisaged that it would be too challenging. This was before we realised that our son, Micah, would also have challenges, due to a rare chromosome disorder. Now, four years into our journey with Jossie, we go on regular adventures throughout the UK.
The hubby and I started married life whilst camping in a field in Cornwall, so it seemed only right to continue with this tradition. We initially started our adventures in a little trailer tent, but we are now fortunate enough to venture off in our motorhome. For us, it’s our reset button, a way to bring the daily chaos to a slower pace. You see, Micah doesn’t deal well with unfamiliar places. Hotel rooms bring their own challenges. So a tent, and now the motorhome, have become familiar spaces, and one less challenge. And we all need less of those.
One of our favourite places is the Isle of Wight and in particular the Orchards Holiday Park. We like their accessible bathrooms and family bathrooms. They have plenty of space to manoeuvre. The island itself has many beautiful walks that are wheelchair friendly. You can walk from Appley Beach all the way along the promenade to central Ryde. Although the beach at Appley has no ramp, it does have only a very low step down to the sand. Further down the promenade, in Ryde, there are ramps. The water goes a long way out, but that has its benefits if you worry about the dangers of the sea being close. There is a wonderful café at a place called Fort Victoria. Café Verde is a beautiful spot for a coffee or a bite to eat. The inside is a little small, but the outside is the perfect spot to sit on a nice day. The lovely lady on the till has two children with Autism and is great with the children. A few miles away, Monkey Haven is also great for an accessible day out. There are a few slopes, but overall, they’re manageable. Yet another good trip is to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which is fully accessible to wheelchairs. If, like us, you are picnic-lovers, pick up some delicious goodies at the Scarrots Lane Bakery. They have everything from giant French fancies to tasty pies. Then, why not take a drive to Cowes and park near Egypt Point. Take a walk along the promenade and picnic on the green, and watch the yachts sail by.
The Hartlands, which featured on Escape to the Country, is also located on the Isle of Wight and is a holiday centre for those within the Autistic community.
Another of our favourite destinations is Keswick, Cumbria. It’s an area of outstanding beauty and you can’t help but feel relaxed. There’s something magical about watching the sun set over the peaks in magnificent swathes of colour. We tend to stay at the Camping and Caravan Club Site. For us, it’s the perfect spot. We could happily park up there for a week and not drive anywhere. The site has dedicated, accessible facilities. The town of Keswick is a short accessible walk away, and there are plenty of lovely places to eat. We went at Christmas and it was stunning. We went to a lovely little café called Laura in the Lakes. We sat outside and had a bite to eat. The food was delicious, and the service was some of the friendliest we’ve ever received.
They were keen to respond to Jossie in Makaton and they asked how to sign. This is always a bonus.
Alternatively, if you turn right out of the camping site and walk over a field, along a good, solid wheelchair-friendly path, you’ll come to an ice cream parlour, café/restaurant, and a theatre. From there you can enjoy great views of the lake and surrounding peaks and, in the evenings, look up at the stars.
Yet another of our regular haunts is Golden Valley, Derbyshire. Now, in all honesty, when we go to this site we tend to just stay put and enjoy it.
We go several times a year as well as attending an annual meeting of families from the Down syndrome community.
The campsite has three play areas, a couple of sandpits and an on-site pub. They also have an accessible shower room which is useful. The staff are always very friendly and great with our two little ones. In the local area, there are a variety of places to visit. Midland Railway is nearby, and wheelchair users can travel in the guards’ van, accompanied by a carer.
So, if you fancy a camping adventure why not give it a shot. We’ve found it’s an easier option, and lots of fresh air and freedom is great for a family. Then, when the youngsters are worn out from the day and you can relax, put on the kettle, or open a bottle, and just enjoy. There’s something quite healing about raising a glass under a canopy of stars.
Written by Steph Stone.
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