There is an abundance of things to do in North Devon no matter the time of year.
Here at Calvert Exmoor in Devon, we provide a wide range of activities for people with disabilities, ensuring everyone can make some wonderful memories and enjoy the local area.
Whether you’re in the area for a day, are looking for holiday inspiration, or are planning on staying at Calvert Exmoor for a residential activity break, there are some great things you can get up to.
Browse our guide to discover what to do in North Devon and Exmoor.
Exmoor National Park
Exmoor National Park is a stunning place to spend time. The picturesque landscape consists of rolling moorland and wooded areas and is home to roaming ponies, red deer and postcard-worthy beauty spots.
Exmoor is one of the smallest national parks in the UK, so the area is easy to explore on foot and by car.
Whilst exploring, it is likely Exmoor ponies will make an appearance. Sadly, these adorable animals are endangered, so though they roam free, they are well looked after. These ponies can be seen on the moors, often crossing the roads as they please.
If a pony sighting inspires you to try horse riding, discover the horse riding activities available at Calvert Exmoor.
Visit these places to experience what Exmoor has to offer:
Wistlandpound Reservoir is located right beside our activity centre and although it may be just outside the national park, it is a popular attraction for those who enjoy walking through nature.
The paths zig-zag their way around the water and through the woods. Whatever the time of year or weather, this is a beautiful place to escape the real world for a few hours.
If you want a more exhilarating way of exploring these paths, take a look at our cycling activities which also take place on the routes around the reservoir.
In the middle of a valley lies a historic clapper bridge made of large stone slabs and boulders. At 55 metres long, Tarr Steps is the longest bridge of its type in Britain, possibly dating back to the Bronze Age.
Technically, Tarr Steps is in Somerset, but seeing as it’s not far from North Devon we’ll include it in our list of sights to see!
The bridge forms a part of a short circular walk through the wooded valley and along the riverbanks – it’s a popular location for a reason. Taking a stroll across such a distinctive landscape is a must.
Similar to Tarr Steps, Watersmeet is a spot where you can see rapid rivers at the bottom of a valley. Named after its confluence, Watersmeet features waterfalls and paths along the sides of the river, plus routes around the surrounding area.
Regarding local fauna, the river is home to otters and salmon. Look inland for red deer, herons, wood warblers and jays. There is also a National Trust tearoom, providing a place to relax amongst the surrounding vista.
Valley of Rocks
Found near the village of Lynton along the Exmoor coastline, the Valley of Rocks is a prominent tourist destination for families and walkers to enjoy the stunning views. Wild goats roam the steep hills and stone towers that rise sharply into the sky in this dry valley.
Paths loop around the area, providing views of the sea and cliffs that make for stunning photographs.
Great Hangman – England’s Highest Cliff
Near the small seaside resort of Combe Martin in North Devon lies the Great Hangman, the highest cliff in England.
Combe Martin is just 10 minutes from Calvert Trust Exmoor and has parking spaces available for you to begin your venture. Then you can walk along the coast and ascend to a height of 1,044 feet.
The incline may be tricky, but the views of the surrounding moors and cliffs are worth the hike.
The highest point on Exmoor and the second-highest point in southern England, Dunkery Beacon is 1,704 feet above sea level.
On a sunny day, it’s possible to get vast views of the Bristol and English Channels, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Dartmoor in Devon and even Cleeve Hill — which is nearly 90 miles away in Gloucestershire.
The beacon is found in the remote heart of Exmoor, surrounded by barren but beautiful moors — luckily the car park is just half a mile away from the peak!
As you can see, Devon has some of the most incredible countryside scenery in the UK, but some of these spots might be slightly trickier to access for some people.
There are still plenty of ways for everyone to enjoy the natural wonders of the area. Make the most of your holiday by taking a look at all the wheelchair-friendly trails in North Devon in our blog below.
Popular North Devon Tourist Attractions
North Devon is home to many family-friendly attractions which are perfect for quick visits or complete days out.
Here are some top North Devon places that are worth a visit:
Quince Honey Farm
The home of honey and bees, Quince Honey Farm is around 20 minutes from the Calvert Exmoor centre in South Molton.
This quaint family attraction provides beekeeping courses and experiences, guided tours, honey tasting, candle rolling, critter encounters for children and more. There’s also a play area and a restaurant to round your visit off.
This conservation zoo is home to a wide range of animals such as wolves, cheetahs, African wild dogs, bugs, snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, and many varieties of cats — including the famous ‘Exmoor Beast’: black leopards!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park
This is another family-friendly zoo — with the added twist of electronic dinosaurs! These animatronic displays provide an opportunity for both an educational and exciting experience.
Regarding the real animals, they include lions, penguins, wolves, monkeys, Amur leopards, sea lions (who do daily shows), and more! In addition, the site features an indoor soft play area for younger children.
Built in the early 19th century, Arlington Court is a National Trust property with a neoclassical country house, formal gardens, a carriage museum and acres of land to explore.
The grounds are open all year round for walkers — excellent for dog owners — with paths that go past lakes, through forests, and fields where deer are known to forage.
The Big Sheep and The Milky Way Adventure Parks
These two theme-park attractions are each a day out for all ages. They both have indoor and outdoor play areas, rides, live shows, games, and family entertainment.
A visit to The Big Sheep includes cuddly animals and fun sheep racing.
Meanwhile, The Milky Way has a space theme with bumper cars and a fun ninja family area.
The village of Clovelly is a unique landmark as a working fishing village with no cars and old-fashioned cobbled streets that tumble down the hill to the harbour.
A trip here starts at the visitor centre where the main path will take you to a bygone era of old houses, shops and museums which will then lead to the sea below. Donkeys once pulled carts up the hill, but these days, donkeys enjoy the easy life, living in the stables and meeting passers-by.
Retreat to an idyllic haven at some of the most beautiful gardens North Devon has to offer.
Marwood Hill Garden
Tucked away in a quiet valley near Barnstaple, the 20-acre land at Marwood Hill Gardens is made up of three ponds surrounded by a collection of plants and trees. It features a cafe for the family to retreat to at the end of their walk. Marwood is a lovely haven to relax and enjoy nature.
Just outside Torrington is the RHS Garden Rosemoor, a year-round attraction for the whole family. There are beautiful formal and informal flower beds and plantings, separated into many different gardens, alongside woodlands and meadows.
Castle Hill Gardens
Home to the 15th generation of the same family, Castle Hill is a grand building that dominates the hill it sits on. The 50 acres of gardens and parklands that surround it are open to the public, made up of woodland and formal gardens maintained by the family since 1730.
Villages and Towns to Explore and Shops in North Devon
From cosy, quaint villages to large bustling towns, you’ll find a friendly place to spend time wherever you go in North Devon. We’ve listed just a few of the most popular here, but there are many more to be found, and some hidden gems tucked away:
Lynton and Lynmouth
Lynton is perched at the top of a hill whilst Lynmouth sits below. They are connected by a 130-year-old Cliff Railway — the world’s highest and steepest water-powered railway. Lynmouth has a stone beach with a dramatic coastline and a pleasant seaside town feel.
Known as the gateway to Exmoor, South Molton is a small, historic market town. Dog friendly and laid back, this is a perfect family getaway location.
The unofficial ‘capital’ of North Devon, Barnstaple is the place to be if you miss the creature comforts of urban life and want to peruse popular high-street brands and independent retailers.
The seaside town of Ilfracombe has a little bit of everything; shops and restaurants, family attractions, striking coastal views, rock pools and beaches. The picturesque harbour is the focal point of the town where the iconic St. Nicholas chapel overlooks the modern statue of Verity by Damien Hurst — the second tallest statue in the UK.
Beaches in North Devon
Looking for a long sunny day on the beach? Or want to blow the cobwebs away with a walk by the sea during the winter months?
If you want to know how accessible beaches in North Devon are, check out our blog below:
North Devon beaches are always worth a visit, whatever the time of year. They are popular because of good surfing conditions, long golden sandy beaches and the stunning surrounding countryside.
Some dominate the landscape whilst others are small, secret and hidden away. These are some of the seaside areas you could visit:
Saunton Sands is a classic beach, with blue seas, scenic dunes, and three and a half miles of sand that disappear into the horizon. Facilities include a large car park, café and beach shop for a full day out.
Lifeguards are on duty for most of the year, making it a safe place to swim, surf or play on the beach.
Woolacombe beach is a multi-award winning location for holiday destinations. Like Saunton Sands, there is a long expanse of sand and sea, with lifeguards, shops and facilities.
The beach is backed by the village of Woolacombe which has additional shops and restaurants.
Croyde is another sandy beach, popular with surfers and sunbathers alike.
This spot is perfect for rock-pooling as it’s set in a small bay with rocks on either side of the sand. Facilities are on-site with lifeguards in summer. There are coastal walks to the nearby Croye village and around the bay.
Speaking of surfing, Calvert Exmoor gives everyone the chance to have some fun with watersports. If you’re not convinced, discover the benefits of surfing for people with disabilities to enhance your break.
For something different, discover Broad Sands beach. This beach is not a well-known one, it’s a secret gem that many locals wish to keep to themselves.
Broad Sands is a small cove hidden on the coast of Exmoor — and it’s an adventure to get to. This place can’t be reached by road; instead, you have to park at the top of the cliff and take a 200 step path down to the sand.
The path winds through the woods and offers spectacular views. Once on the sand, the beach is quiet, remote, picturesque, and perfect for a swim.
Ilfracombe Tunnels Beaches
Found in the town of Ilfracombe, the Tunnels Beaches are a unique area.
Originally a Regency-era bathing bath, the shingle beach has a ringed rock formation that creates a natural swimming pool with the rocks separating the still water from the sea.
Getting to the beach requires walking through the large hand-carved tunnels of the cliff. There you can find calming pools to swim in.
Tunnels Beaches has Blue Flag beach status and the Quality Coast Award. There’s no need to worry about safety as Tunnels Beaches has a lifeguard on duty and is listed as the safest beach in North Devon.
Accessible Activities in North Devon
At Calvert Exmoor, we’re passionate about delivering accessible activities for people of all abilities. There are wonderful areas to explore in North Devon, but not everywhere is adapted for the needs of people with disabilities.
We provide a range of activities for disabled people with specialist equipment to make your holiday both safe and fun! Take a look below at some of the opportunities we provide:
Our archery sessions have a wide range of bows, techniques, and targets to discover! This popular activity is a relaxed way of developing self-esteem and is great for group bonding.
A challenge course is a fantastic way of encouraging people with disabilities to overcome obstacles in new ways. The challenge course activity is cleverly designed to not be too demanding but still provide just enough difficulty and fun for a real sense of achievement.
Many people with disabilities don’t get to feel involved in daring activities. Giving them the chance to glide through the air on our giant swing will be a delightful sensory experience.
Each activity has adapted equipment for various needs and qualified instructors will supervise these sessions to maximise enjoyment and safety. Seize your chance to experience thrilling adventures with the whole family!
We’ve touched on just some of the many things to do in North Devon, there are plenty more places and attractions to discover!
A break with us provides the perfect opportunity for you to visit all these remarkable locations. Our fully accessible accommodation is the ideal place to stay for an activity break, designed with accessibility in mind for people of all abilities.
Stay for a weekend, Monday to Friday, or for seven days and you’ll have time to visit some of the places we’ve mentioned, in between doing exciting inclusive activities.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team! We look forward to welcoming you for a North Devon break soon.
Short breaks and accessible adventure holidays can help provide exciting new opportunities for people with disabilities, encouraging independence, self-belief, improved social skills and much more, while also allowing families and carers to rest and participate in activities too.
However, despite all these great benefits, accessing short breaks can come with some financial concerns. Many may worry they won’t be able to afford this time away or will have questions about funding such a trip. Here we consider what is deemed a short break and what kind of financial help is often available for those that need it.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we provide inclusive residential breaks for people with disabilities and their families. What we do is made possible with our adaptive equipment and the help of our devoted team, ensuring our fantastic range of outdoor adventure activities is accessible to all!
What is a Short Break?
Short breaks come in all different shapes and sizes – our action-packed adventure breaks are just one option. Primarily, short breaks are designed to give families and people with disabilities an opportunity to rest and take some time away from the difficulties faced in daily life.
Some families will access their short break through a centre, others may take part in a placement scheme, and some might organise an accessible break themselves.
Things that fall under the umbrella of ‘short break’ that you may be able to receive funding for include:
- Holiday leisure and activity programmes
- Overnight care in approved care homes
- After-school and Saturday clubs
- Care at home
- Family link schemes
- Daycare away from home
If you are a parent or carer of someone with disabilities, you may be eligible for various other kinds of support. Read our blog exploring potential financial support options for parents and carers to find out more.
The Importance of Short Breaks For Families
Taking a short break as a family can be especially beneficial as this time away from everyday challenges supports carers’ wellbeing while maintaining a positive family relationship.
Short breaks provide opportunities for respite, quality time with others and the chance to pursue an array of interests, often within the community.
Thanks to several avenues to access short break funding, opportunities like this are made possible for more people.
Who is Entitled to Short Break Funding?
Eligibility will depend on your county of residence and chosen organisation, so it’s important to double-check your local area. For the most part, families with children aged 18 or under with disabilities may be entitled to short break funding.
To be eligible, they will need to be affected throughout their everyday living by one or more of the following:
- Severe physical disability
- Learning disability
- Sensory impairment
Who Provides Funding for Short Breaks?
These incredible opportunities can be made available through grants, some of which will need to assess children or young people with disabilities to confirm eligibility. Here is a list of some short break providers that may help with funding:
- Family Fund grants
- Happy Days Children’s Charity
- Barnardo’s Short Breaks
- National Autistic Society
- Keen 2 Go
However, it is worth looking into your area of residence to find local providers and grants. We also recommend checking GOV.UK for your local county to see how they may be able to support you and your short break.
If your family is after adventure and adrenaline, an accessible holiday with us at Calvert Exmoor is the ideal solution! Please take a look at our blog to find out more about the Calvert experience, and when you’re ready to book your trip, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our wonderful team.
Cycling is an enjoyable and rewarding activity for people of all ages and abilities. It encourages you to spend more time outdoors, boosts mental and physical fitness and is loads of fun, to name just a few of the benefits!
Thanks to these benefits, cycling is a particularly good activity for people with disabilities. As the interest in inclusive cycling grows, so too does the availability of adaptive bikes and accessible cycling activities.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we offer a range of exciting adventure activities for people with disabilities, and cycling is among just one of the experiences our guests can get stuck into.
Find out everything you need to know about accessible bike riding.
What is Accessible Cycling?
This form of cycling allows people with a range of disabilities to experience the activity to the fullest extent and on their own terms.
Any kind of accessible activity is about ensuring everyone, no matter their ability or circumstance, feels comfortable and able to participate. This is often achieved with adaptive equipment like the adaptive bikes used for accessible cycling.
There are several kinds of adaptive bicycles that help cater to the needs of different individuals.
What Types of Accessible Bikes are Available?
The range of different adaptive bikes means that anyone can find something to fit their requirements.
Adaptive Low Step & Electric Bikes
These are standard pedal bikes with some modifications that help the user with pedalling or getting on and off the bike.
Low step bicycles have a low frame, which can be helpful for people who have limited movement and find it challenging to get their leg over a regular frame. This makes mounting and dismounting easier for anyone with reduced flexibility or mobility. Additional cranks and extensions can be added to accommodate different individuals.
Electric bikes have also grown in popularity in recent years. While we don’t currently have any in the fleet here at Calvert Exmoor, they can be used to help people who cannot comfortably do physical exercise for sustained periods, supporting them as they cycle further distances.
Accessible Trikes & Tricycles for People with Disabilities
Tricycles function like a standard bike but have three wheels rather than two for a heightened sense of stability.
This makes them especially useful for people who need more support when it comes to balance and coordination, as the third wheel reduces the chance of wobbling and falling over.
Regular pedal tricycles can also be adapted to become handcycles to suit the needs of each individual.
Handcycles for People with Disabilities
Accessible handcycle bikes are powered by pedals that are moved by the hands rather than the feet. These pedals power and steer the bike. You can find three or four-wheeled models to help with balance.
These kinds of accessible bicycles are popular choices for people with little to no lower body mobility and those that want to work on increasing upper body strength.
Handcycles are often recumbent bikes but are also available in a range of styles.
Recumbent Bikes for People with Disabilities
An accessible recumbent bike allows the user to recline slightly in the chair, sitting further back rather than leaning forward over the handles.
This offers further support to the back and puts less strain on the rider’s knees and hip joints, offering a more comfortable experience.
Some recumbent bikes are much like standard two-wheel bicycles, just with larger reclined seats and a higher pedal position setting them apart. However, you can also get accessible recumbent bikes that are closer to the ground, which allows for even greater accessibility and support with balance.
Tandem Bicycles & Side-By-Side Bikes for People with Disabilities
As the name suggests, bikes that have a larger frame and multiple seats allow two (or more) people to cycle together.
These bikes can be especially useful for people with visual impairments and sensory or emotional disabilities who may need support or guidance when it comes to steering or pedalling.
Side-by-side bikes are available with three and four wheels and allow users to ride alongside each other.
Wheelchair Accessible Bikes
Wheelchair users may feel that riding a bike is not possible for them, but this is just not the case with the help of wheelchair cycles.
These adaptive bikes have handles, saddles and pedals at the back, allowing one of two people to cycle and steer, while the front houses a seat for wheelchair users to sit in or a platform that their wheelchair can sit on.
Wheelchair bikes allow anyone with little or no mobility to experience the thrill of cycling, enjoying the ride with a friend or family member on the cycle behind them.
The Benefits of Accessible Cycling
Because of the perceived and real barriers in society, many people with disabilities may feel like they cannot go bike riding or may have limited opportunities to exercise, especially when doing adventure activities.
This lack of opportunities can lead to feelings of isolation and other issues with mental health as well as physical health.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’ve seen the advantages of accessible cycling first-hand and know what a positive impact it can have. Discover how cycling can be beneficial for children and adults with disabilities.
Focus & Repetition
For some, the process of simply getting on and off a bike may pose a challenge. Others may struggle to concentrate fully on the task of cycling.
Trying something new or challenging offers a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop. And if you don’t know how to ride a bike or are having to re-learn, there are some great skills you’ll pick up along the way, notably, determination.
Developing new skills can be incredibly rewarding and motivational. Once you’ve got to grips with your bike of choice, cycling can become a therapeutic and relaxing experience.
If you’re interested in building on your new outdoorsy skills, why not find out more about orienteering with a disability? It’s another activity that will encourage you to develop concentration and appreciation of the natural world.
Supporting Physical Health
As cycling encourages you to move and get energetic, there are a host of physical benefits to be enjoyed, including:
- Improving balance
- Providing gentle exercise without strain
- Supporting strength and overall fitness
- Helping regulate weight and stabilise blood sugar levels
- Building muscle and circulating the blood
- Helping people stay active for longer and delays the onset of various conditions
Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being
Along with the physical benefits, cycling can also offer a wealth of mental benefits, including:
- Providing feelings of empowerment
- Giving a sense of independence
- Boosting self-esteem and positive self-belief
- Reducing social isolation
- Provides an opportunity to spend time in nature
Providing Social Benefits
Joining a cycling club or going to an accessible activity centre can be a great way for people who typically feel isolated to meet new, like-minded people and broaden their social horizons.
Using tandem or wheelchair bikes offers a more social bike riding activity, allowing riders to work together and build a connection.
Cycling can be even more enjoyable when done with a family member, carer or friend – you’ll share the physical work while still encouraging social interactions, teamwork and trust.
Accessible Cycling at Calvert Exmoor
Cycling is an incredibly popular activity with our guests – and for good reason!
The cycling path around the picturesque Wistlandpound Reservoir can be challenging, but that makes it all the more rewarding. The hallmark Exmoor views offering tranquil water and woodland scenes certainly don’t hurt either.
Our range of bikes includes tricycles, handcycles, recumbent bikes, wheelchair bicycles and tandems to ensure that you can find the right equipment to suit your needs, no matter who you are or your ability.
An instructor will help everyone find a suitable bike before you’re free to whizz around the route or take things at a more leisurely pace.
The bike riding sessions tend to last between two and three hours, with plenty of opportunity for a break halfway through, ensuring everyone can get the most out of the activity without becoming worn out.
Don’t just take our word for it! Head over to our guest stories to find out what people liked most about the cycling activities and their time with us.
With access to different kinds of adaptive bikes, there are plenty of ways for anyone to get involved in accessible cycling at home. However, if you cannot get your hands on a suitable bike or want to try cycling alongside a plethora of other inclusive adventure activities, an accessible activity holiday might be for you!
Can’t wait to get in on the action? To find out more about booking a stay with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.
Initially, spending time away from home on an overnight residential trip can feel daunting – for both parent and child.
However, trips like this can provide invaluable experiences as they encourage children to become more independent, boost their confidence and offer exciting new opportunities for learning outside of the classroom.
Not to mention, a residential packed with activities and adventure is loads of fun, and somewhere kids are bound to make loads of fantastic memories!
As an accessible holiday site, we’ve seen the positive impact that our outdoor activity school residential trips can have for children of all ages and abilities.
Hopefully, some of our tips below will help clear some of those activity break nerves, leaving your child with plenty of excitement for their upcoming trip.
Talk About the Residential Trip
Begin by asking your child how they feel about the trip. They might be nervous because they are unsure about what to expect or are worried about a particular aspect of their break away.
Expressing worries can do a lot to release those initial anxieties. Take the time to go through each concern and give reassurance by creating solutions together.
If your child is nervous about a visit to us at Calvert Exmoor, take a look at our website together so they can see our array of photos, get an idea of what to expect, and learn about how their trip will work once they arrive.
Create a List of Positives
Even if your child is feeling nervous, there may be some aspects of the trip they are especially looking forward to.
Discuss these positive feelings with your child and create a list of all the accessible adventure activities they are excited to try. This can help them become more open to embracing the experience and replace feelings of anxiety with anticipation.
Turn the Positives into a Poster
After creating a list of all the exciting opportunities coming their way, try turning these ideas into a visual.
Creating something like some simple doodles, a poster or scrapbook helps your child visualise the activities they’ll be doing, making them more of a reality and less of a scary unknown.
Flip the Fear
Instead of using words like nervous, anxious or worried when talking about the overall experience of the residential trip, encourage your child to reframe these thoughts more positively and replace the word with ‘excited’.
With the understanding that nervousness and excitement have incredibly similar physical responses, transforming nervous energy with positive energy can be an effective solution.
Get to Know the Location
Familiarising yourself with an unknown situation or location can be one of the best ways to temper fears.
Look up your child’s destination with them and explore the area together. Have a look at pictures of the surrounding sites to help your child build up a picture of where they’re going and what they’ll be doing.
This process can also uncover facts about the place that might be of special interest to your child, helping them feel more excited about visiting someone or somewhere they want to find out more about.
Arrange a Sleepover or Mini Trip Away
Easing your child into the idea of a residential with a smaller trip helps them acclimatise to the idea of spending time away from home.
A trip to a friend’s or grandparent’s house means your child can get used to you not being there while still being in a familiar and comfortable environment.
Create a List of Things to Take
When the trip gets nearer, compile a list of things to take. Write this list together, so your child feels they have some ownership of the experience and are involved in every step.
Having a physical list to check can also ensure that your child doesn’t leave anything behind when it’s time to return home.
Take a look at our essential things to pack for an accessible activity holiday to ensure your child has a comfortable time away.
Pack for the Trip Together
Packing for a trip can build up a sense of excitement and anticipation. Ensuring they’ve got everything they need will also help your child feel more involved and will encourage a sense of independence.
This might be your child’s first trip away without you – which can be a big step. Explore this idea of independence with them and discuss all the things they will be able to accomplish on their own.
When it comes to saying goodbye, remind them that you’ll see them soon and can’t wait to hear about all the adventures they have.
Making the Most of a Residential Trip
Residentials often provide exciting and memorable experiences, so encourage your child to appreciate this and make the most of their adventure holiday.
You could give them a special journal or even a camera to document their break and remember all the wonderful experiences they had.
The Benefits of Residential Trips for Children with Disabilities
Ensuring everyone can take part in exciting adventure activities is at the heart of what we do at Calvert Exmoor.
When your child visits our accessible activity centre, they will be well looked after and have the opportunity to participate in an array of activities – whether they can’t wait to have a go at climbing, cycling or bushcraft, there are loads of things for them to look forward to.
A residential trip full of activities can offer many benefits to children of all abilities. It can:
- Encourage independence and resilience
- Boost confidence and self-belief
- Reduce feelings of anxiety and stress
- Provide new experiences and opportunities
- Provide the chance to make new friends.
Many of our guests have experienced ongoing benefits from their time with us as they get the chance to grow and develop at their own pace.
Hopefully, we have inspired some confidence and excitement in you and your child as you prepare for their adventure break.
As well as running school residential trips, Calvert Exmoor also welcomes adult guests with disabilities, encouraging the mindset that no matter who you are and no matter your circumstance, it’s what you can do that counts.
To find out more about what we do and the exciting opportunities available, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our wonderful team.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’re firm believers in the restorative powers of the natural world for those both young and old!
There are numerous benefits of spending time in nature, which we’re keen to embrace when offering our activity holidays for disabled people and their families.
Just being outdoors and enjoying activities in nature can improve general health and wellbeing, helping to ease feelings of anxiety. Find out just how beneficial outdoor activities can be below.
The Mental Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
The positive effects of spending time in nature have now been well documented. Being in green spaces can help boost your mood, reduce feelings of stress, make you feel more relaxed and even improve confidence.
Bringing nature into child’s life as well as your own can be greatly beneficial, whether they experience anxiety or not – doing things like gardening, going for walks or taking part in outdoor adventure activities can improve general wellbeing and open the door to new experiences!
10 Ways Outdoor Activities Help a Child with Anxiety
So how do these benefits of spending time outdoors take shape for children with anxiety?
1. Improved Sense of Wellbeing
Accessible outdoor adventure activities usually take place in quiet places, surrounded by the natural world and away from the hustle of everyday life. Here at Calvert Exmoor, we’re located in the countryside next to a national park and love the tranquillity that it can bring!
Just being in an environment surrounded by nature like this can improve wellbeing and make children more relaxed, reducing anxiety in general. Fresh air, trees and serene views can put the mind at ease, even at a young age.
2. Encouraging Acceptance of New Experiences
Structured outdoor activities can encourage an openness to new experiences. Doing new activities helps children learn that they can do things they didn’t think possible, which reduces fears, worries and anxieties.
Having support and encouragement from those around them can also improve their experience, help them overcome phobias, boost social confidence and build positive memories.
3. A New Way of Thinking
By participating in new experiences, children can develop a new way of thinking.
For example, a child abseiling for the first time has probably never thought about how to abseil before. In the build-up, they may be nervous and worried about falling. Yet, with the help of activity instructors and those around them, the child will learn about the equipment, how the ropes work, and will take on important information.
This makes them focus on how to abseil rather than worrying about whether they can or not, reducing anxiety.
4. Increased Confidence & Independence
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement during outdoor activities, which improves confidence and self-belief.
Completing an activity teaches a child that they are good enough to do it, which can inspire them to tackle other challenges with new enthusiasm. Feelings of self-doubt are overcome and replaced with perseverance – improving confidence and reducing anxiety levels.
5. Different Stimulation
Doing outdoor activities provides different and new stimuli. By embracing these differences, children learn to confront unfamiliar places more confidently. Seeing, smelling, hearing and doing new things becomes less overwhelming, and the idea of somewhere ‘new’ becomes less daunting.
6. Connecting with Others
A sense of belonging and community can form between children when in an unfamiliar environment. The process of doing new activities together connects children, especially when several of the group are anxious.
The shared feelings of uncertainty are often what bonds children who have just met, and they can quickly form a team or friendship.
7. Acquiring New Skills
By doing inclusive outdoor activities, children can learn skills while improving general coordination and motor skills. In the long run, this improves self-confidence and allows them to see themselves in a positive light.
Feelings of anxiety can be reduced as they build confidence and experience different ways to learn and succeed.
8. Reduced Stress
It is well documented that stress and fatigue, caused by any number of things, can contribute to anxiety. A stressed child could struggle to deal with their feelings, increasing anxiety.
Outdoor activities help overcome phobias such as heights, encourage socialising and offer positive life experiences, reducing stress and lowering anxiety levels.
9. Feelings of Responsibility & Control
Children can have anxiety because of what they are going through at a particular moment in time. Giving them the responsibility and control over the situation helps reduce fears.
During outdoor activity sessions, the children always feel in control of their own actions. A child may be encouraged to take part, but it is ultimately their decision if they do or not. Subconsciously this can reduce anxiety as they always feel in control and are able to make their own decisions.
10. Improved General Mental Health
Feelings of anxiety impact a child’s general mental health, and prolonged anxiety can greatly affect them. All of the above benefits combine to help encourage positive feelings and healthier habits.
Read more about how an adventure break can improve mental health for people of all ages and abilities.
What is Anxiety?
Everyone may feel anxious at some point, with feelings of worry, stress and uncertainty being common manifestations of the emotion. It’s perfectly normal to feel these things at various points in your life but can be cause for concern when these feelings are more severe.
Anxiety starts to become more serious when negative feelings last for longer periods of time, and they begin having a detrimental effect on your everyday life. For example, people with anxiety may avoid situations they worry about. This is when normal feelings of anxiety turn into varying degrees of anxiety-based disorders.
How you deal with anxiety largely influences your mental health and general wellbeing. While facing anxiety can be challenging, there are numerous ways to help reduce negative feelings and give you the necessary tools you need to cope, as shown with the benefits of outdoor activities above.
Why Would a Child Have Anxiety?
Anyone of any age can experience anxiety, whether to a healthy degree or to the point of developing an anxiety disorder.
There are various reasons your child might start feeling anxious. Some common causes of anxiety in children include:
- Separation – younger children often experience separation anxiety from parents or other loved ones and feel panicked or scared when away from them.
- Phobias – irrational fears of things like bugs or the dark.
- Social settings – feeling nervous, embarrassed or shy around others, especially new people.
- Life experiences – reflecting on negative feelings or bad experiences.
- Life changes – changes to the everyday routine, new settings, unfamiliar situations, moving to a new house or school or the loss of a close relative or friends can all cause anxiety.
What are the Signs of Anxiety in Children?
Every child will display anxiety differently, but some common signs might include:
- Becoming irritable
- Having difficulty sleeping or having bad dreams
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Losing appetite or not eating properly
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- Asking lots of questions or needing reassurance
- Feeling tense and fidgety
- Complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
- Lack of confidence to do everyday things
- Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, such as seeing friends, going out or going to school
If you think your child might be dealing with a more severe anxiety disorder, consult a healthcare professional.
How Can Disability Contribute to Anxiety?
Depending on the disability or condition, a child might have additional difficulties in social settings and may face further struggles with change.
It’s also likely that their life experiences are unique to them and different to those without disabilities; they may feel that no one else understands what they have gone through and that they can’t do what others can.
At Calvert Exmoor, we believe it’s what you can do that counts and ensures that everyone can enjoy the many benefits of participating in accessible adventure activities.
At Calvert Exmoor, we often meet anxious children who do not think they will enjoy their stay or are worried about doing certain outdoor activities. Once they begin their adventure, they have a wonderful time and love every activity, conquering their fears and leaving with a positive mindset.
If nothing else, children spending time with family or friends in a safe environment helps them relax and enjoy the experience, meaning they can start to understand anxiety and develop skills to get past their worries in other settings.
If you think your child would enjoy the wide range of outdoor activities we have to offer, please do get in touch to learn more or book an accessible adventure break today!
Abseiling involves repelling down a vertical drop, whether from an artificial abseiling wall or cliffside, supported by a rope. There’s no denying that this is an extreme activity (not to mention loads of fun) that pushes people out of their comfort zones.
One question we get asked when guests start booking an accessible activity holiday with us is ‘can we really do activities like abseiling, even with disabilities?’
The answer to this is yes, absolutely! Ensuring everyone, no matter their ability, can participate in exciting activities that may traditionally be seen as more exclusive daredevil activities is at the very heart of what we do at Calvert Exmoor.
Abseiling Facilities at Calvert Exmoor in Devon
Accessible abseiling is one of our most popular activities, with many guests excited to rise to the challenge of taking on our abseiling wall when they visit.
The outdoor abseiling wall is suitable to use in all weather conditions, so come rain or shine, you’ll be able to have a go at making the descent!
We use and maintain the ropes and safety equipment every day to ensure our expert instructors can provide a safe and adaptable activity to make sure everyone feels comfortable.
Can Anyone do Abseiling?
Yes, anyone can try abseiling! Abseiling can be adapted to the individual participating, and our instructors will work with you to find the most comfortable way for you to have a go at this exciting activity.
We use harnessing, safety equipment and ropes to ensure everyone can make their way down the wall at their own pace. Manual wheelchairs can also be used if needed.
Everything You Need to Know About Accessible Abseiling Sessions
At the start of a session, the activity instructor will lead the group to be fitted out with harnesses, helmets and any other necessary equipment.
Once everyone is appropriately kitted-out, groups will be taken to the viewing area at the top of the wall for a full safety briefing before taking it in turns to abseil down.
Before starting this activity, our instructors ensure each person is secure and understands how to travel down the wall. Two people can abseil side by side, or individuals can go down on their own, depending on how they prefer to tackle the wall!
How Can Abseiling be Adapted?
There are several variations on how the activity can be adapted for different disabilities. Below, we explore what you can expect from all our adaptations.
There is nothing stopping wheelchair users from abseiling – in fact, we think it’s a must-have experience to include on a wheelchair-friendly activity break!
We may use the term ‘abseiling wall’, but it would also be accurate to describe the wall as a steep ramp. The top and the bottom of the wall/ramp are curved, allowing wheelchairs to easily roll over it.
Abseiling Support for Wheelchair Users
To ensure this activity is as accessible as possible, we have a specialist wheelchair that is specifically designed for abseiling. Most guests choose to transfer into it manually or with a hoist. Other manual wheelchairs may be suitable depending on whether the instructor deems them appropriate.
Please note that if you use an electric wheelchair, you will not be able to use it when abseiling and can instead use our abseiling chair.
Once comfortably in the chair and navigating down the abseiling wall, guests can control their speed using the rope system with their hands. Anyone unable to hold or use the ropes will be supported by the instructor.
Wheelchair users on the abseiling wall will have another person abseiling down beside them to provide support if needed and ensure the descent goes completely smoothly.
Abseiling Support for Those with Sensory Disabilities
For those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, instructors can create a system that encompasses rope tugs as a means of communication. The instructor will be in sight of guests who require this at all times for constant visual cues.
Guests who are blind or have a visual impairment will be guided down by the voices of the instructors and the person abseiling beside them.
Abseiling Support for Those with Learning or Behavioural Disabilities
We understand that it can be difficult for people with learning or behavioural disabilities to concentrate and focus or fully understand what they are being asked to do. This, of course, does not mean abseiling is off-limits.
With abseiling, we find that the process of putting on harnesses and helmets before going to the top of the wall breaks the session into several stages and ensures the experience doesn’t feel too overwhelming. This also gives guests time to adapt and allows instructors to go over how the activity will happen once again.
The group will see the wall from the bottom before walking to the top, so everyone has time to process the activity. Instructors will patiently repeat what needs to be done as many times as needed to see the whole group abseiling successfully and confidently.
If they wish, children or adults with learning or behavioural disabilities can also abseil first before focus is lost.
What are the Benefits of Abseiling?
So now you know you can do it, but what about the why?
Aside from abseiling being a thrilling adventure, it can also support participants to develop problem-solving skills, motor skills and coordination – you will be travelling backwards after all!
Abseiling Boosts Confidence & a Sense of Accomplishment
After abseiling, there is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement after guests have achieved something they may not have thought possible. This improves confidence and self-belief.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, our expert team is always on hand to make sure everyone feels their best and most accomplished, especially when abseiling for the first time.
When you succeed at abseiling, it can boost your confidence to try other activities that might have seemed challenging initially. Accessible climbing is another favourite with our guests!
Abseiling Helps You Face Your Fears
Abseiling can push you far out of your comfort zone, especially if it’s something you’ve never thought about trying before. Facing one fear can often create the determination to tackle other challenges with the same enthusiasm.
While abseiling may seem daunting, once you’ve done it, that rush of feeling like you can do anything is next to none!
Abseiling Helps Build Trust & Communication
Guests will be with their group and instructor throughout the duration of their stay, so there is always a social element to our activities and holidays.
All members of the group bond as they get to know what they are doing and become more comfortable. During this shared experience, guests will inevitably build up a good rapport with those around them.
When abseiling individually, the group will watch and provide support. When abseiling in pairs, talking to each other is essential as you descend side by side. The activity encourages friendships and builds relationships, whether you’re enjoying it with friends, family or other members of the group.
Having a disability should never hold anyone back from doing exciting outdoor activities, especially something as enjoyable as accessible abseiling!
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we are dedicated to ensuring adults and children can participate in numerous inclusive adventure activities and enjoy their stay with us to the fullest. If abseiling or any of our other activities sounds like something you or someone you know would love, get in touch with the Calvert Exmoor team today.
Going away on an adventure is always exciting no matter your age – whether your child is venturing on a school residential trip or you and your family are planning an accessible holiday, there’s a lot to look forward to.
But before the excitement can begin, you’ll need to think about preparing for the trip and organising everything that needs to be packed.
Preparing for an Accessible Activity Holiday
The accessible adventure breaks we offer here at Calvert Exmoor are designed to be enjoyed by everyone; we are dedicated to ensuring all our guests can take part in a diverse range of exciting, accessible activities and, most importantly, have a brilliant time!
While a stay with us is all about having a go at things you might never have done before (and having loads of fun), we understand that some guests may be anxious about their stay and unsure what to expect.
Making sure you have everything you need for your journey and holiday is a practical way to temper some of this wariness to ensure you can focus on making memories and trying out new activities.
We’ve provided a basic holiday packing list and some additional preparation tips to help you stay organised for your time away.
To get more of a sense of what to expect from a break with us, you can read our guide to weekend breaks at Calvert Exmoor.
Packing List for Accessible Adventure Holidays
Many of our activities take place in the great outdoors, so it’s important to take this into account when deciding what to bring along.
There might be a couple of essential everyday items that you’ll need to pack, but it isn’t necessary to go out and get a whole new wardrobe for the different activities you’ll be doing!
So, what will you need?
Appropriate Shoes & Footwear
You’ll likely need a couple of pairs of shoes to suit the different activities you’ll be taking part in. We recommend considering:
- Durable shoes: Walking boots or Wellington boots are ideal for exploring outside, especially where it’s wet or muddy.
- Trainers: You may need a couple of pairs, including backup trainers, for when you do water-based activities.
- Sturdy shoes: Boots or shoes with a small heel are necessary when horse riding, so consider this if you’re looking to participate in the activity.
- Waterproof jacket or coat: This will keep you dry and warm throughout your adventure.
- Waterproof trousers: These might not be absolutely essential but will come in very handy if the weather takes a turn, or you just want to feel more prepared.
- Trousers: Tracksuit bottoms or comfortable trousers are ideal – jeans will be less comfortable when taking part in activities. You may also want to bring shorts if that’s what you prefer but note that full-length trousers are mandatory if you’re horse riding.
- Jumpers and T-shirts: You’ll likely want a couple of thin layers, so you can bundle up when cold but easily take off layers when you get warmer.
- Casual clothes and sleepwear: Practical clothing is best for when you’re out and about doing activities, but when you relax in the evenings, you may want to change into more comfortable clothes.
- Socks and underwear: Remember to bring plenty to last for the duration of your trip!
- Swimwear: You’ll need this for swimming in the pool and for any other water-based activities. Goggles can also be useful, and you’ll need a couple of towels too.
The British weather can be more than a little temperamental, so it’s often best to pack for a couple of eventualities.
Before you set out on your trip, looking up the weather forecast will give you an idea on which items to prioritise. Weather-specific items that you’ll need to consider include:
- Waterproofs: These will keep you dry and comfortable.
- Sun protection: If the sun makes an appearance, you’ll probably want a hat or cap, sunglasses and plenty of sun cream.
- Cold weather clothing: If the weather’s going to be a little chiller, you might want to bring along a woolly hat, scarf and gloves.
Remember to Pack Toiletries
Aside from clothing, you’ll need to pack a bag of everyday hygiene items and toiletries, including things like:
- Soap or shower gel
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Towels & flannels
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Hair ties & clips
- Comb or hairbrush
- Feminine hygiene products
Specialist Personal Equipment
While we have a wide range of accessible equipment here at Calvert Exmoor, to make your stay as comfortable as possible, you may want to bring along any specialist personal equipment in order to ensure that you have everything you need to feel relaxed during your stay.
This could include items such as wheelchairs, hearing aids or any specific medical equipment; whatever you need to feel at ease, we’d encourage you to pack it.
Holiday Packing Advice
If you’re worried about forgetting anything, making a physical packing list to tick off the items can be helpful – this will also help ensure you or your child don’t forget anything when returning home.
Adding labels to your personal items and clothing may also be useful, especially for younger adventurers.
If you’re packing things like phones or cameras, remember to take their chargers and perhaps a secure bag to ensure they’re kept safe over your stay. Books and journals can also be great things to bring along for when you have a quiet moment in the evenings and you want to reflect on the adventures and activities you’ve enjoyed during your stay.
If there’s anything else that you can’t go without during your day-to-day routine, remember to pack this too – there’s no reason why you can’t be as comfortable as possible when you book an accessible trip away.
Once you’ve packed your bags, you’re all set to enjoy your break with us!
If you’d like to find out more about our accessible outdoor activity holidays, whether for families, schools or other groups, please get in touch with the Calvert Exmoor team.
How to Promote Disability Awareness
There are roughly 14.1 million disabled people in the UK. This number may surprise some as disabilities are not always visible or openly discussed.
Although many charities and disability advocates have worked tirelessly over the years to bring more visibility to various disabilities and help give disabled people a voice, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the mainstream promotion of disability awareness.
As providers of adventure holidays for people with disabilities, creating an inclusive, welcoming environment and supporting equality is at the heart of what we do.
To that end, we share some ideas on how to promote and encourage disability awareness in your community! Our list is certainly not exhaustive, but we hope to inspire and motivate those who may not know where to begin.
Why is Disability Awareness Important?
If you are not disabled, chances are you know someone or numerous people who are, yet there is still much misinformation and ignorance surrounding disability. Because so much of the non-disabled population is unaware of the barriers disabled people face, the flaws of society can go unaddressed.
Promoting disability awareness is about considering how we can work together to recognise and remove social and workplace barriers to create more inclusive environments for all who have dealt with discrimination because of disability.
Creating Equality Through Education
Learning more about disability is essential in improving equal opportunities for disabled people. Accessible education helps more people understand the reality of having a disability compared to how it is commonly perceived.
Some believe that disability itself is the sole reason why someone faces barriers in their life. However, it is not an impairment that hinders a person but a discriminatory environment that doesn’t accommodate diversity.
With more awareness comes the opportunity for a more accessible and equal world. This would transform the day-to-day lives of disabled people by improving things that many non-disabled people may take for granted, such as access to buildings or other facilities.
The general assumption that disabled people are unable to do certain things can also be challenged through increased awareness. Assumptions like this can include the belief that a disabled person is unable to:
- Live independently
- Have children
- Be employed
These types of assumptions need to be addressed and changed.
Using the Correct Language to Talk About Disability
Awareness campaigns often begin by starting a conversation. The kind of language we use in these conversations can have a significant impact on others’ perceptions of disability.
Educating yourself on current and preferred disability terminology is essential. If you hear others using hurtful or outdated terms, do your best to inform them about inclusive language in a productive manner.
Words and their definitions will change and evolve over time, so make sure to keep informed about the most up-to-date language.
You can learn more about how to talk about disability in our guide to acceptable and unacceptable disability terminology.
Becoming informed doesn’t stop at the correct language usage. To develop a deeper understanding of disability, you need to appreciate the impact that a prejudiced society can have on people with disabilities, understand how many people it affects and how you can support changing it.
There are many organisations out there to help inform people, including:
If you are hoping to spread awareness on a large scale, such as through a social media campaign, it is integral you know the facts and present them properly, so make sure to get educated by recognised sources.
Lead By Example
It is important to model the correct behaviour, so others can take your lead when they themselves are not informed – this might be within your friendship group, family, workplace or wider community.
If you witness anything that undermines a disabled person, it is important to speak up. Ensure that everyone interacts with respect and genuine support, especially in public situations where others may copy your behaviour.
Don’t act out of pity, but instead strive for equality and meaningful change.
Disability Awareness and Inclusion in the Workplace
There are many ways workplaces can become more inclusive, with training and workplace initiatives becoming more common over recent years.
Places to start when opening up the conversation about inclusion in the workplace include:
- Encouraging volunteering opportunities
- Facilitating fundraising events
- Hosting training sessions on unconscious bias or barriers in the workplace.
Engage With Inclusive Media
Media, whether this means books, TV shows or movies, can at times offer a narrow view of the world, often not representing disabled people or doing so poorly. Seeking inclusive media can be a great way to bring disability awareness into the everyday life of people of all ages.
Positive portrayals of a disabled person help remove harmful stereotypes about disabled people not being able to do certain things or living their life in a certain way.
Look for media that uplifts disabled voices; stories and the media can do wonders for changing perceptions and societal norms, challenging views that disabled people are defined by their disability.
Support Charities & Donate
Change cannot be made through awareness alone; you also need to take direct action. Supporting charities and donating where you can is one great way to further the cause of disability awareness and support other disability campaigns.
Even if you cannot donate, offering your time as a volunteer can be another effective way to support your local charities.
It may not seem like it, but signing petitions for things that you care about can make a difference.
If there are petitions that you feel can change the lives of disabled people, whether national or local, you should support the cause that is close to your heart and your beliefs.
Follow Disability Awareness Groups on Social Media
Social media is a great way to stay up to date with key information and events, so make sure to follow groups and organisations that promote disability awareness!
This also allows you to share relevant information on your own social media channels to help spread awareness to your followers and beyond.
Disability Awareness Months & Days
Numerous organisations host awareness months for various disabilities throughout the year. These kinds of campaigns generate public awareness and prompt more people to get involved through donating and volunteering.
UK Disability History Month is an annual event that aims to discuss the oppression of disabled people in the past and present and provides education to ensure individuals can work towards equality and become agents of change. In 2021, the campaign takes place from the 18th of November to the 18th of December.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is another awareness campaign held every year on December 3rd. This campaign focuses on highlighting disability issues and discussing the changes that can be made to promote equality and inclusivity in all societies.
We have only touched on a few useful ways to promote disability awareness here; there are plenty more ways to get creative and show your support. If you have any further advice, please share it with us on our Facebook page; we’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to find out more about our accessible adventure holidays and the inclusive activities we offer, please get in touch.
Beaches are beautiful examples of the grandeur of the natural world and are spaces that everyone should be able to enjoy. As an accessible outdoor adventure centre in Devon, we are committed to ensuring everyone can experience the joys of the countryside, especially the stunning beaches dotted around the North Devon coastline.
When you visit us at Calvert Trust Exmoor, you’re never too far from numerous picturesque seaside locations, many of which offer accessible facilities, including the ability to hire beach wheelchairs or carriages.
We cover everything you need to know about renting a beach wheelchair to ensure your next coastal adventure is the best it can be.
How Accessible is the North Devon Coastline?
In recent years, our glorious county has been a part of some great projects designed to make rural areas more accessible and inclusive spaces.
The Countryside Mobility Scheme is a non-profit organisation that aims to ensure the South West countryside is made accessible for all visitors.
With their influence and the impact of other dedicated companies, many areas now have on-site beach wheelchairs and carriages, with both manual and electrical options available to hire.
Schemes like this not only cater to beach locations but also aim to make woodland spaces and National Trust properties wheelchair accessible.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair
Whenever you’re on holiday and want to find out more about the local facilities, your first port of call should be the relevant tourist information centre. Here, you will be able to find out about the accessible opportunities in the area as well as how to hire any available equipment.
From there, hiring your beach wheelchair is a relatively simple process; you’ll just have to get in touch with the local beach shop or information centre, who will be able to give you more information about availability and any hiring prices.
The Best Accessible Beaches in North Devon
The list of beautiful local beaches is a long one, with plenty of locations offering access to all-terrain wheelchairs and trampers. Here are some of our favourite accessible beaches that make must-visit spots!
To find out more about these stunning destinations and more, read our blog below.
Is Croyde Bay Accessible?
Croyde Bay is a surfers paradise with various schools offering surfing lessons to anyone willing to have a go!
Calvert Trust Exmoor are currently partnered with the Wave Project and Surf South West to provide surf lessons to our guests in Croyde, with surfing as our only off-site activity.
If surfing isn’t your thing, and you’re just after a meander along the sands, there’s plenty of opportunity for that too. Croyde Bay is recognised as having disability access with short slopes down to the beach. It should be noted that the sand at the entrance is soft, which can make it more challenging to manoeuvre around for users of mobility aids.
We have provided two of our own beach wheelchairs for the Wave Project and Surf Southwest, which contribute to the accessibility of guests and students learning to surf at Croyde beach.
Is Saunton Sands Beach Accessible?
Saunton Sands is made up of three and a half miles of warm, golden sands, backed by the rolling dunes known as the Braunton Burrows.
The beach features numerous amenities, including two accessible toilets and accessible parking spaces.
The entrance to the beach consists of very soft sand and a steep slope, which can prove to be challenging for wheelchairs. However, the Saunton Sands Beach Shop holds five wheelchairs suitable for both adults and children, including:
- Three Landeez beach wheelchairs
- Two NOMAD all-terrain carriages
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair at Saunton Sands
Advanced booking is recommended, especially during the summer months. You can call 01271 890771 to rent a chair for:
- Half a day
- A full day
- Or on a weekly basis
Two of the wheelchairs at Saunton Sands have been provided by the Calvert Trust Exmoor site.
Is Woolacombe Bay Accessible?
Woolacombe Bay is another dreamy coastal location and home to a glorious landscape of golden sands.
Accessible toilets are available in the village, and the beach is recognised as having easy access, with a ramp that leads to the beach. Again, sands can be soft and more difficult to navigate.
An electric beach wheelchair is available to hire from the Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair at Woolacombe Bay
Due to the popularity of Woolacombe, booking ahead of time is thoroughly recommended. You can either call 01271 870553 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To hire the beach wheelchair, you automatically become a member of the Countryside Mobility, which has an annual fee of £10.00. Alternatively, you can try a £2.50 two week ‘Taster Membership’.
Once a member of Countryside Mobility, you are allowed to use the available trampers at any of the 36 sites in the South West.
A donation of £5 per session is also encouraged.
Is Lundy Island Accessible?
Situated just 12 miles off the North Devon coast, Lundy Island is a brilliant day out for anyone visiting the area. The raw and natural landscape of the island is immense, and the wildlife is spectacular. Though rare to see, both deer and puffin inhabit the island.
On the island, there are two electric wheelchairs available for hire. Because of its more remote location, travelling to and staying on Lundy can prove tricky for some, so make sure to consider these elements too.
How to Hire a Beach Wheelchair on Lundy Island
Booking in advance is essential to ensure someone is available to assist once the boat has docked on the island.
The electric wheelchairs are available for day hire. However, you will already need to be a Countryside Mobility member due to the reduced staffing on the island and the requirement of tramper induction for new members.
Hire will cost £20 for a full day and £50 for a week.
Other Accessible Places to Visit in North Devon
Once you’ve had your fill of sea and sand, head to one of the county’s fantastic National Trust properties to delve into the historic homes and striking landscapes. You can find some of our top accessible National Trust sites below.
Hiring a Wheelchair at the National Trust
If you are interested in visiting a National Trust site and require wheelchair hire, we recommend getting in touch with the location in advance to check for wheelchair availability – some locations may only provide seasonal wheelchair hire.
Wheelchair hire from the National Trust is usually part of the Countryside Mobility Scheme, which means you will need to be a member.
Hopefully, you can make the most of your next North Devon beach holiday with this bit of insight! If we missed something, or you want to tell us about your experience hiring beach wheelchairs, we’d love to hear from you – leave a comment on our Facebook page to get involved.
If you or someone you know could benefit from an accessible activity break with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out more about the Calvert Experience.
Communication is an integral part of how we understand and relate to one another. Everyone talks and behaves in unique ways, with many of us having personal verbal or body language quirks that are part of what make us, us!
The subtleties of these different methods of communicating can make understanding others confusing, especially for people autism.
Educating yourself on how a person with autism might communicate is one of the most helpful ways to reduce confusion for everyone. It’s important to note that no two people with autism will communicate in the same way; there are, however, some general things to consider.
By having a good general knowledge of autism and communication, you open the door to more effective communication between all, rediscovering the joy of good conversation whether it’s with a family member, friend, work colleague or stranger!
We hope this will prove a useful resource for those endeavouring to improve their understanding of autism and the role of communication.
Understanding Autism and Communication
When considering how to improve the way you communicate, it can be helpful to first appreciate how communication might be more difficult for people with autism.
Historically, wider society has perpetuated assumptions that people with autism struggle with social skills, are shy or unfriendly, or cannot feel or express emotions.
These assumed traits are unfair, untrue and should be dismissed as ignorance.
Instead, someone with autism may be unable to find the right words to start a conversation, they may not understand body language and social cues, and they may deal with emotion internally rather than expressing it outwards.
Some people with autism cannot quickly adapt to conversations or respond to words in the same way neurotypical people might. This is not because they cannot communicate ‘correctly’; they may simply communicate in their own way.
Because the autism spectrum is vastly different for each person, there is always variety in the way people with autism will behave and talk. People with autism are not deliberately being strange or unsociable but are seeking the best ways to express themselves.
The Benefits of Improving Your Communication Skills
Learning how to best converse with people who may not communicate in a way you’re familiar with can help you appreciate how people experience the world differently.
When improving your communication skills, you’ll also learn how to better express yourself and your own ideas in various ways.
You’ll also, of course, be able to connect with more people, build relationships and help cultivate a more understanding environment, making discussions an enjoyable and productive experience for everyone.
How Do People With Autism Communicate?
As mentioned, there is no one size fits all – people with autism are not a homogeneous group. That being said, many individuals might use some of the following communication techniques.
- Non-verbal communication – pointing, gesturing, physically moving someone to the thing they need, writing words.
- Sounds and crying – due to not understanding, feeling frustrated or being unable to use the right words.
- Echolalia – the term given to repeating phrases and words they have heard in the past, hoping these phrases ‘fit’ the current situation.
- Picking out keywords or phrases – then focusing on the literal meanings and responding accordingly to those words only.
For a person with autism, focusing on the literal meaning of specific words creates a reply that makes sense to them, but it may seem out of place in the conversation to a neurotypical person.
Analysing words and not tones is why a person with autism might have trouble understanding sarcasm, metaphors, and humorous language.
While talking to someone, an individual with autism might also:
- Change topics quickly – it can be difficult for some people to stay on topic as they deal with incoming stimuli. It may seem like they are avoiding something or are unfocused, yet it is usually the other way around, as the mind moves quickly to deal with each input.
- Make no eye contact – people with autism can talk with you but may struggle to talk to you, often not making eye contact. Again, this is not an unfriendly action.
Eye Contact and Communication for People With Autism
Avoiding eye contact may help someone with autism talk clearly as it takes away all the stimuli that come with looking into someone’s eyes, which can often cause an overload of information. Some people may prefer to speak with their eyes shut, to focus purely on the words of the conversation.
You should never force people with autism to make eye contact with you during a conversation as, for many individuals, this might cause undue stress and discomfort.
How to Talk to a Person With Autism
By looking at how people with autism may communicate, we can see that their understanding of conversations relies heavily on language and words (or lack of words) and not the use of other people’s facial expressions, body language or subtle infections.
Below, we provide some common tips to use when speaking to someone who may have difficulty communicating.
Speak With Clarity
One of the best things you can do is speak with clear and concise words, saying simple and plain sentences that cannot have more than one meaning.
Be direct and avoid using figures of speech as non-literal language can be confusing. Slang, nuance, or sarcasm can cause confusion and double-meaning.
Avoid Terms of Endearment
Like sarcasm or slang, terms of endearment, including things like ‘honey’, ‘love’ or ‘mate’, can cause confusion and should be avoided.
The speaker may mean nothing by these terms or use them offhandedly, but a person with autism may take them literally or find them uncomfortable.
Address the Individual By Name
Say the person’s name at the beginning of a conversation, question or important statement.
This ensures they are paying attention instead of blocking out background noise. If you don’t know their name, take a moment to ask and find out (which is also just polite and helps make a connection).
Make Gentle Eye Contact If Possible
This encourages non-verbal communication and helps people with autism develop their skills in understanding facial expressions and emotion.
Again, don’t try to force this, as it can make talking even more difficult for some.
Avoid Open-Ended Questions
Something like ‘did you have a good day?’ is an open-ended question that many neurotypical people will answer without hesitation. However, questions with so many possible answers and interpretations can be challenging for people with autism to answer.
Questions that are necessary and require a specific answer are much better. It can also help to offer options or choices to help guide but not control the conversation.
Talk About What They Want to Discuss
This is especially true for children.
Trying to force the conversation in a certain direction is not a successful approach. Instead, talk about what they are doing and let them lead the subject.
Another trait of autism includes obsessive tendencies, which might lead to them talking a lot about one particular thing. Sticking to the topic they want to discuss keeps the conversation going and helps them develop their communication skills.
Avoid Overloading Information
People with autism can struggle to filter out less important information, which can lead to them being overloaded, meaning they struggle to process new information.
If it seems like they’re being overloaded, or are anxious, begin to slow your pace or halt the conversation. If something must be said, use minimal words and avoid questions. This break allows the individual to catch up and deal with stimuli.
If it seems like a conversation is becoming distressing, it can also be helpful to remove visual communications. While eye contact and movements are usually a good thing, during an overload, they can become unwanted stimulus.
You should also be aware of the surrounding environment – could background noise be causing overload? Are too many people talking at once? Finding a quiet place reduces sensory input and will help avoid overload.
If it’s necessary to wait for a response to a question, then give them time. If someone does not respond straight away, it could be that they need more time to absorb and process the information.
Expect the Unexpected
We know that people with autism may use gestures, sounds and echolalia to process and respond to specific words. Someone may use all or a few of these communication methods.
If an individual does or says something unexpected or changes the subject, do not be alarmed or try to fight it. It’s important to listen and work out what they’re trying to say. Keep being patient, go with the flow of the conversation and allow the individual to communicate in their way.
Try Written or Visual Communication
If verbal communication is less effective, try writing or getting visual. Someone who struggles to talk may be happy to restart the conversation on paper, using written words or pictures.
Sensory or receptive toys may also help some people feel more comfortable when in a situation where they have to talk or get their point across.
How to Communicate With Adults With Autism
Most of the tips above will apply to conversing with people with autism of all ages. However, one of the most important things to do when talking with an adult with autism is to address and converse with them as you would any other adult, and not as a child.
A person with autism may understand every word said but then may have difficulty responding verbally. It is therefore important not to assume the person has limited skills or abilities.
You should also never speak as if the person is not in the room when in a group setting. By modelling appropriate behaviour, you also help show others in the group how they can best communicate with others.
How Do Children With Autism Communicate?
Children with autism may have different mannerisms as they are still developing and learning to react to the world around them.
These may include:
- Using made-up words (known as neologisms) instead of words they don’t know or when they are unsure how to express themselves.
- Using the same words over and over.
- Muddling up words and pronouns, for example, referring to themselves as ‘you’ and other people as ‘I’.
These are often a child’s attempts to make some communication happen, but an adult may not understand. This may lead to tantrums, aggression or self-harming behaviour because they are misunderstood, confused or frightened.
How to Communicate With Children With Autism
Language is often simplified for all children but is especially important for children with autism as they are still learning about metaphors, double meanings and sarcasm.
When speaking to a child with autism, you should be very conscious of doing the following to support their communication skills.
- Using short sentences and blunt instructions.
- Using sounds like ‘yuck’ and physical actions.
- Combining verbal communication alongside visual cards or tablets with pictures.
- Speaking with an exaggerated tone of voice to make a point and highlight important words.
- Talking with gaps in sentences for them to fill in and finish.
- Using prompts and questions to encourage responses.
- Speaking with patience and giving time to respond.
- Attempting communication at the right moments when they are not engaged with something else and are calm.
Autism-Friendly Holidays at Calvert Trust Exmoor
As everyone is different, we understand that these points can only be used as a general guide – one of the best ways to improve communication with people with autism is to build a rapport and connection with the individual.
This is something we keep in mind here at Calvert Trust Exmoor when organising our accessible holidays in Devon.
Our breaks are designed to support those with a range of abilities, providing specialised activities and autism-friendly accommodation, facilities and adventures.
When on one of our autism-friendly holidays, our trained instructors will create a tailored experience, guiding guests through a variety of exciting activities. We ensure that guests will have the same instructor throughout their stay, helping guests with autism build a stronger bond with them.
Our accessible breaks cater to both adults and children, ensuring that everyone enjoys the activities and is encouraged to reach their full potential!
To find out more about the autism-friendly Calvert Experience, you can read our guest stories, where you’ll find numerous examples of how various people with autism have enjoyed their time with us.
For more information about booking an autism-friendly holiday, please get in touch.