“Usually outdoor activities become a spectator event for our residents who have complex, multiple disabilities. Our work means we need intense communication and focused concentration. This with our residents’ communication difficulties, means we appear to be a closed unit. Others don’t wish to join us or include us. We expected to be outside of the main group.
We read that Calvert Trust Exmoor could offer holidays where they would be able to actively participate – and we were not disappointed.
We arrived at the stable block to groom horses. The ponies and staff put Simon at ease. He felt confident enough to stroke and brush Lucky. It was a true delight to see.
Steve does not have the same dexterity. He was unable to hold a grooming brush but could feel the horse’s body heat, coat and breathing.
Calvert’s Carolyn and Olivia realised that they could do more for Steve and fetched miniature Pilgrim, a Shetland Pony. Pilgrim was not afraid of Steve, he rubbed against his chair, he nuzzled his face, rubbed his lap and all but climbed on Steve’s knee.
Simon brushed Pilgrim who in return very gently cleaned Steve with his teeth. A sensation Steve had never felt before.
Olivia brought out the driving harness and spent time showing them the different parts, and encouraged them to touch, smell and hold the leatherwork to feel its weight. It was a very thoughtful gesture.
The staff harnessed up and got Simon on the carriage beside the driver and set off for a drive. Half an hour later, a very happy and chatty Simon returned, full of excitement from holding extra reins and steering the horse.
Then Steve took a turn on the carriage. Olivia, the driver, spoke to him the whole time. I must have taken 30 photographs and she has eyes on him in every shot. Olivia explained the road surfaces, the turns, the speed, every upcoming obstacle. Equally importantly, she chatted in general to a man who does not speak and therefore does not have many strangers hold a conversation with him. It was incredibly moving to see their interaction.
Meanwhile, Simon was inside the arena. The riders were playing games – all of the group waved and called to Simon as they went past. Carolyn asked Simon to set the races off, he felt fully included and proud to be a part of the action.
We ran a treasure hunt, in little teams. One of the other guests asked if she could team up with us, which melted my heart. She did not need to be asked to include Steve, each item we found she placed on his wheelchair for him to carry.
In the evening, we met in the Barn for a disco. The other guests would not have us sit alone, they danced and sang with us. Despite the physical barrier of wheelchairs and communication differences, we were one giant group, having an absolute ball.
I have never seen other guests wrap us up with such enthusiasm and love. Surely this must stem from the way the Calvert staff conduct themselves.
Day 2; at breakfast we arrived to find a family waiting, asking if THEY might join US, just because they wanted to. That has never happened before and it meant the world.
Again, Simon and Steve played with Pilgrim then took turns on the carriage on longer drives into the park and for faster runs in the outdoor arena.
We had difficulty operating our Go-Pro. A Calvert instructor, Tyler, came to our aid and very patiently got it running. Had it not been for Tyler, we would have had no footage.
All the group had a go at running Pilgrim around an agility course in the afternoon – even us with our wheelchairs. What an amazing setup and a phenomenal pony. Every member of the group cheered each other on spontaneously, it generated a beautiful atmosphere.
For the first time ever, Steve won. A genuine win. That is something that cannot normally happen for him, to compete against more abled-bodied people and have an equal chance.
The centre itself had every conceivable piece of equipment available; from ceiling track hoists, profiling beds, interconnecting doors, adjustable shower chairs, huge room sizes, call alarms, to a quiet room – even a high dependency bathroom/changing room. This made our stay more comfortable, easier and infinitely more relaxing.
We have many great holidays to compare to, but none come close to the wonder of Calvert Trust Exmoor. The facilities, space, views and activities are extraordinary, dazzling even. But what really makes this place is your staff.
Your staff are simply amazing, outstripping anywhere I have ever stayed in 21 years of this line of work. I cried with happiness over and over. Thank you.”