‘A Special School’ is a BBC Wales documentary series that stars the students and teachers of Ysgol Y Deri, the UK’s largest special education school.
Included in episode 1 of this series is the school’s visit to Calvert Trust Exmoor, which is available to watch on iPlayer.
59 students and teachers from Ysgol Y Deri, near Cardiff, visited between 30th September and 4th October 2019 to enjoy a residential break.
With them came a production company, filming the observational documentary series about the school. Slam Media were commissioned by BBC Wales to make the series, ‘A Special School’ and they were eager to include the annual visit to the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre.
The television series captures the reality of life in Britain’s biggest special needs school and is an experience that will leave viewers smiling, laughing and crying.
During their stay, the staff and pupils took part in canoeing, biking, horse riding, archery, crate stacking, abseiling and zip wiring. These fun and exciting activities helped to improve physical and mental wellbeing, created wonderful memories and helped the Ysgol Y Deri students accomplish far more than they ever knew possible. By taking on personal challenges with help and encouragement, the pupils developed new skills, built self-confidence and gained greater independence.
The school were also filmed enjoying the on-site facilities including accommodation, swimming pool, dining room and social areas.
The programme is a joy to watch and it is an honour to be included in their lives, even for just a short period. We wish everyone at the school all the best for the future.
A question often asked during the booking process is “can we really do activities like abseiling, even with disabilities?” – and the answer is always a big YES. We’ve seen time and time again that a disability doesn’t stop anyone from doing accessible abseiling.
Abseiling may traditionally be seen as a ‘daredevil’ stunt down tall buildings or cliffs, but in reality it’s a fun outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The Calvert Trust Exmoor facilities
We have a wide range of exciting accessible activities, and abseiling is one of the most popular.
Abseiling takes place outside on a specially designed outdoor wall, whatever the weather.
We use and maintain our rope and safety equipment every day, and the expert instructors provide a safe activity for everyone to experience, adapting to all disabilities.
Anyone can do abseiling
Instructors will work with each individual to find a way for them to have a go, using harnesses, safety equipment and ropes to walk down the wall – or a manual wheelchair can be used if needed.
Any doubts and worries quickly disappear as the group cheer each other on and the instructors provide advice, guidance, and reassurance throughout.
How accessible abseiling sessions work
At the start of a session, the activity instructor will lead the group to be fitted out with harnesses and helmets and any other equipment needed. They will then go to the viewing area at the top of the wall for a full safety briefing, before taking it in turns abseiling.
Instructors ensure each person is secure and that they understand how to travel down the wall. Two people can abseil side by side, or individuals can go down on their own.
There are several variations on how the activity can be adapted for disabilities. We haven’t listed disabilities here but aim to provide some information on what you can expect in most circumstances.
Abseiling support for wheelchair users
We use the term “abseiling wall” but describing it as a steep “ramp” is also appropriate. The ground at the start is a level surface, then the top and the bottom are curved to allow a wheelchair to easily roll over it.
We have a specialist wheelchair that is designed for abseiling, and most guests choose to transfer into it manually or with a hoist. Other manual wheelchairs may be suitable depending on a decision from the instructor. Sadly, electric wheelchairs cannot be used for accessible abseiling. Instead, participants will be hoisted into our abseiling chair.
Guests in a wheelchair can control their speed down the wall with their hands, using the rope system. Anyone unable to hold or use the ropes will be controlled by the instructor.
Anyone using a wheelchair to abseil will have someone beside them throughout for additional encouragement.
Abseiling support for those with sensory disabilities
For those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, instructors can create a system which encompasses rope tugs as a means of communication. The instructor will be in sight of the guest 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 instructor 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 on the task at hand or to fully understand what they are being asked to do.
With abseiling, we find the process of putting on harnesses and helmets before going to the top of the wall breaks the session into several stages, so not to overwhelm. This gives guests time to adapt and allows instructors to constantly talk and repeat what will happen.
The group will see the wall from the bottom before walking to the top, so everyone has time to process what is taking place. Instructors will patiently repeat what needs to be done as many times as needed to see the whole group abseiling successfully. Children or adults with learning or behavioural disabilities can also abseil first if they wish before focus is lost.
What are the benefits of abseiling?
Abseiling is excellent for developing problem-solving skills, motor skills and coordination – due to the process of travelling backwards whilst using the hands to control speed.
It gives the feeling of accomplishment and boosts confidence
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 Trust Exmoor, our expert team is always on hand to make sure everyone feels their best, especially when abseiling for the first time.
It helps build trust and communication
Guests will be with their group and their instructor throughout their stay. Everyone bonds to ensure that individuals are comfortable and that each person knows what they are doing in activities. So guests will inevitably build up a good rapport with those around them.
When abseiling individually, the group will watch and provide support. Or if abseiling in pairs, talking to each other is essential to abseil side by side. The activity encourages friendships and builds relationships, whether abseiling with friends, family or other members of the group.
Having a disability should never hold anyone back from doing accessible abseiling, or any outdoor adventure activities – which is why Calvert Trust Exmoor is a fully accessible site where everyone can enjoy themselves during a stay and do a full range of fun activities.
We would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Richard, who has been volunteering to give our courtyard garden a makeover.
Richard is a gardener at the popular RHS Garden Rosemoor in Great Torrington, near our centre in North Devon. Whilst on furlough leave due to Covid-19, he decided to put his green fingers to good use and gave our courtyard the love and attention it so thoroughly needed.
Our thanks, therefore, go to Richard for his time and effort. We look forward to welcoming him back again soon, possibly on a monthly bases – so we also thank RHS Rosemoor for allowing him to do so.
Other people deserve a ‘thank you’ as well.
Fresh mulch was supplied by Wedgewood Buildings Ltd in Devon. It was delivered to the centre by Pip from nearby Quince Honey Farm, using their vehicle and trailer. So our thanks to owners Paddy and Ian for arranging the delivery.
How’s the garden looking now?
With the sensory garden left to do its own thing recently, the courtyard was looking ‘wild’ and overgrown.
But now the stinging nettles and weeds have gone, with colourful flowers and bushes remaining!
Here’s Richard making a start on the first of the flower beds…
They were was all stripped back ready for new plants to grow and flourish…
The bushes behind the benches were overgrown…
But once again they’re a pleasant place to sit…
Can you spot the pots amongst the green?
With the overgrown plants removed, you can see the pots and water feature again…
With the area cleared, Richard can continue working on it in the future…
There are some more images of the courtyard garden in the gallery below. Our accommodation is based around this courtyard, so it’s easy to spend time looking at the flowers and plants during an accessible break.
We can be reached on 01598 763221 if you have any questions about the accommodation or booking a break at Calvert Trust Exmoor.
In July 2020, Sam and Tyler (Calvert Trust Exmoor activity instructors), walked around Exmoor National Park looking for 26 markers spread out across the remote moors. It took them 5 days and almost 200km of walking to complete their Trig Trek.
Orienteering played a big part in their adventure, as the pair had to understand where to find the markers, how to navigate the terrain and which routes to take across the moor.
Without knowledge of orienteering plus a map and compass, finding the markers simply wouldn’t have been possible.
But what exactly is orienteering and how can anyone have a go, including those with disabilities?
This news piece takes a general look at how orienteering is more than simply hiking over remote places, but can be an exciting activity for all.
What is orienteering?
Orienteering is the term used for finding specific locations or points using a map and compass.
The aim is to travel between checkpoints marked on an orienteering map, working out the best routes to take.
As orienteering usually takes place over open ground (such as moors) or through wooded areas, there is no set route, so getting from A to B however you decide is a fun challenge that takes concentration, practice and skill.
Orienteering can also be a competitive sport, with runners racing to find the markers first. The marker in competitive orienteering is a square with white and orange/red triangles.
People who have experience in orienteering can use a standard map and compass to plan their routes and find their markers, like Sam and Tyler did with their trek across Exmoor.
But competitive orienteerers or orienteering groups will use a special map highlighting where the set markers are. Orienteering maps are also very good for beginners, as they include colour co-ordinated information about the terrain with different symbols to guide you.
The benefits of orienteering for people with disabilities
Orienteering can be an activity enjoyed alongside friends or family, at a leisurely pace.
It involves travelling over longer distances, either by foot or with a suitable wheelchair or scooter, and can be enjoyed by all abilities – as long as individuals are able to travel over uneven ground and rough terrains such as pebbles, rocks, grass, mud or water.
Benefits naturally include being outside and exercising. It is well known that there is a positive relationship between outdoor exercise and the improvement of physical and mental wellbeing.
For people with physical disabilities, travelling over rough terrain helps improve fitness, co-ordination and stamina. The task of map reading also takes the mind off exercising, providing a set goal to focus on.
Map reading and using a compass to find markers also takes a lot of mental concentration. Which may benefit anyone with behavioural or learning disabilities.
We wouldn’t recommend individuals orienteer by themselves for safety reasons, instead see it as a fun group activity. Benefits include social interactions and working together as a team to find the markers.
People with disabilities can be involved in any number of ways, such as: recognising map colours and remembering what they mean, helping to hold the compass and find north, watching the surroundings and looking out for buildings or land features, or shouting out the numbers on markers.
How orienteering is adapted for people with disabilities – TrailO
TrailO – or Trail Orienteering – a competitive form of accessible orienteering where all levels of physical ability can compete on equal terms. TrailO is designed to reduce the physical elements of orienteering, with more focus on puzzle-solving.
Unlike normal orienteering, there is a set route to follow, as shown on a map. The challenge is to find the right markers, among many.
Participants use map reading and navigational skills to complete the course and find the correct markers as they go along. Several markers can be found at a site but only one will exactly match the required description and position.
In TrailO competitions, individuals have to find markers and decide which to record on their own, with no help in the decision processes. But they are allowed as much physical help as they require to move around.
5 top tips from our instructor
We asked Sam to provide his top 5 tips for orienteering so that others can enjoy walking through the great outdoors – including people with disabilities.
1. Use your tools, the map and compass!
“Figure out where on the map you are before going anywhere. Often the starting point is identified on an orienteering map, but if not you can do this by looking around you.
Roads or paths marked on the map that lead north are a great way to identify your location, perhaps things like a split in the path with one route going north. Check your compass to make sure.
I like to orientate the map so the path I am currently on is in line with where I am going, this might mean turning the map so the path points in the same direction of travel. Make sure to keep north in mind and to turn the map northwards are regular intervals.”
2. Plan your route!
“Pick the first point you have been tasked to find and before moving off, plan where you are going. It is a good idea to visualise where you will be going at all times. I find identifying a shape useful. For example, if you know the overall route is a rough circle then most of the turnings will bear in the same direction.
Say to yourself and the other people in your group things like ‘OK so we take this path, then a left and after some distance we should see a gate’ as you go along.”
3. Keep locating yourself on the map!
“A control point or marker is great for confirming your location. Once you have found and confirmed it you will be able to say with certainty where you are on the map. You can then use your compass to orientate yourself in the direction of the next control point and plan the next leg accordingly.
However, it’s very important to check that the point you have found is the correct one. It’s easy to see a marker on the way to another and to then assume your position, which could cause navigation errors or to lose your place on the map.
Relocation – finding your position on the map if lost – is not simple and can seem scary. Often there is no single way to relocate your position on the map straight away, so continue onwards until you can find features which you can relate to on the map.”
4. Use your surroundings to your advantage!
“Landmarks; buildings, roads, hills, lakes are obvious features both on the map and when looking around that can help guide you in the right direction.
‘Line’ features (paths or fences) visible on the map can be followed or used to orientate yourself in a direction
This is useful in relocating yourself if you have gone wrong and are lost.
Again communicate with each other and ensure you have shared goals as you travel: ‘We need to keep this hill on our left-hand side as we cross this field’ -‘the next marker should be on the other side of that stream’ and so on.”
5. Figure out distances, and don’t rush!
“It is very easy to overshoot and miss a set point or marker, especially early on when excitement and energy levels are high.
If you know the next point is say, 100m along the path, then keep this in mind and if you feel you have gone farther then you might well have missed it and gone too far. Time to turn around and relocate!”
“Orienteering is a great sport. It is accessible to everyone who can read a map, and even those who can’t still enjoy the journey and finding points of interest. It’s a great way to make a simple walk more engaging for kids and adults alike!”
How to get started with orienteering
For complete beginners or those wishing to do orienteering for fun, the first step is to find a course or club near you. They will provide maps, compasses and details of the markers.
We recommend starting with the British Orienteering website, which has lots more information on orienteering, including updates on clubs and events around the UK.
By attending events and doing courses, it gets easier to read maps and gain confidence. Competitive orienteering is then an option for those who feel they have advanced enough and wish to give it a go.
Orienteering at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Alternatively, give basic orienteering a go during a stay at Calvert Trust Exmoor during an accessibility break in North Devon!
We have Disney and cartoon character markers around the sight for guests to find. Guests will partake in a range of activities and orienteering may be one of them depending on the type of group and the disabilities included.
Learning to navigate and read maps on our trails around the centre is a great way to develop teamwork while learning new life-skills, such as problem solving and self-confidence.
Guests are also welcome to ask reception staff or instructors to do orienteering in their own time.
Or perhaps young children can bring their own compasses, with walks around the reservoir to learn about directions.
Discover the full Calvert Experience to learn more about what our disability breaks include.
You may know Sam and Tyler, two of the activity instructors at Calvert Trust Exmoor.
Their Trig Trek has so far raised more than £400 for the charity, which we are very thankful for! Anyone wishing to add to the fundraising total can do so by visiting this Trig Trek Just Giving page.
Take a look at the gallery below to see some highlights of their adventures.
Trig markers, points, or pillars are positioned on the high peaks of Exmoor National Park and were used by the Ordnance Survey to determine the shape of the land.
Sam and Tyler walked to each of the 26 remote trigs, only using a car to reach the moors from the Calvet Trust Exmoor centre where they have been living on furlough since March.
Before starting the Trig Trek, Sam said…
“We’re helping to raise money for Calvert Trust Exmoor, that brings outdoor adventure activities to people with special needs and disabilities. Any donations would be for the best of causes, keeping the wonderful place open as they have struggled during the lockdown.”
Over the five days of walking, they experienced both high temperatures and torrential rain, bumped into snakes, and endured lots of blisters.
Yet Sam and Tyler are proud of what they have accomplished. Sam says…
“It was a lot harder than we thought it was going to be.
“We hoped to do the walk in five consecutive days and had the route all planned out. But a combination of sore blistered feet and unpredictable weather meant we needed to take a couple of days off. Plus some of the trig points could not be easily found or reached which threw the planning out the window a bit. Yet it was a brilliant experience and I’m glad we’ve done it.”
Whilst Tyler added…
“It was really nice to explore Exmoor and discover the areas most people don’t usually visit. We were knackered afterwards, but the walks were worth doing to test ourselves and to raise money for the charity.”
Andrew Laming, Centre Director at Calvert Trust Exmoor, has high praise for the activity instructors.
“It’s wonderful that Sam and Tyler have gone above and beyond to raise money for the centre. I would like to thank them for their fundraising efforts and say ‘well done’ from the whole team.
“All the money raised will contribute to the running of the centre once we re-open on the 21st August.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Sam, Tyler and the other centre instructors leading guests through activities once again.”
The Calvert Exmoor Challenge was created to encourage fundraisers for Calvert Trust Exmoor during the lockdown and beyond.
Fancy doing your own challenge? There’s still plenty of time.
We invite you to create a unique challenge that best fits your current lifestyle and conditions. Sign-up today.
We discussed what autism is in a previous news piece: Understanding Autism.
This is a follow-up guide on how to improve communication with autistic people.
Everyone is different, and we all talk and behave in unique ways. It’s what makes us, us! Which is a wonderful thing, but it can also make communication confusing, especially for autistic people.
Understanding how autistic people typically communicate is one of the most helpful ways to reduce confusion for everyone.
By having a general knowledge of autism and communication, it’s a lot easier to discover the joy of good conversation with someone who’s simply talking in a ‘different’ way – whether they’re a family member, friend, work colleague or somebody else.
Understanding autism and communication
It is widely perceived that people with autism struggle with social skills, that they are shy or unfriendly, or that they cannot feel or express emotions.
These are unfair and untrue myths.
Instead, an autistic person 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.
Autistic people cannot quickly adapt to conversations or respond to words in the same way neurotypical people do. Instead, they are simply communicating in their own way.
Because autism is a spectrum, there is always variety in the way autistic individuals will behave. Autistic people are not deliberately being strange or unsociable, but they are constantly finding the best ways to express themselves.
How autistic people may communicate
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder can use several different techniques to communicate and learn how to converse…
- 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 phases ‘fit’ the current situation
- Picking out keywords or phrases – then focusing on the literal meanings and responding accordingly to those words only
For an autistic person, 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. The analysing of words and not tones is why people with autism can have trouble understanding sarcastic language, metaphors, and humour.
They may also…
- Change topics quickly – it can be difficult for individuals 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 round, as the mind moves quickly to deal with each input as they come in.
- Make no eye contact – autistic people can talk with you but may struggle to talk to you, often not making eye contact. Again this is not an unfriendly action.
Avoiding eye contact may help an autistic person talk clearly as it takes away all the stimuli that come with looking into the eyes which can cause an overload of information. Some people with Autism Spectrum Disorder may prefer to speak with their eyes shut, to focus purely on the words of the conversation.
Children with ASD may have their unique mannerisms such as…
- Using made-up words, which are called 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 attempt 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 talk to an autistic person
By looking at how people with autism may communicate, we know that their understanding of conversations relies heavily on language and words (or lack of words) and not the use of others facial expressions, body language or subtle tones.
One of the best ways to accommodate this is to speak with clear and concise words, saying simple and plain sentences that cannot have more than one meaning.
For autistic children
This is especially true for children, who have not yet learnt about metaphors, double meanings and sarcasm.
Language is often simplified for all children, but it is perhaps more important that autistic children are spoken to…
- Using short sentences and blunt instructions
- With less mature language, using sounds like ‘yuck’ and physical actions
- Alongside visual cards or tablets with pictures
- With an exaggerated tone of voice to make a point and highlight important words
- With gaps in sentences for them to fill in and finish
- Using prompts and questions to encourage responses
- With patience and time to respond
- At the right moments when they are not engaged with something else and are calm
For autistic people of all ages
Several things can be done whilst talking…
- Say their name at the beginning of a conversation, question or important statement
This makes sure they are paying attention instead of blocking out background noise. If you don’t know their name, take a moment to find out (which is also polite and makes a connection). The signs that someone is paying attention will be different for different people.
- Make gentle eye contact if they will allow it
This encourages nonverbal communication and helps autistic people develop their skills in understanding facial expressions and emotion.
- Say what you mean and be direct
As previously mentioned, autistic people can be literal when it comes to wording, so using figures of speech can be confusing.
Instead, speak plainly with no unnecessary details. Be clear and concise with no slang, nuance or sarcasm. Don’t dumb down the language for adults but keep in mind they may analyse every word and work out the best response.
- Don’t use open-ended questions
“Did you have a good day?” is an open-ended question we all hear and ask regularly. But it can be difficult or impossible for someone with autism to answer open-ended questions like this and they should be avoided.
Questions which are necessary and require a specific answer are much better. It is also good to include options or choices to allow them to come to a sensible answer.
- Avoid ‘information overload’
An autistic person can struggle to filter out less important information which can lead to them being overloaded and nothing is processed.
If it seems like this is happening, or the person is anxious, say very little. If something must be said, use minimal words very slowly with pauses and no questions. This allows them to catch up and deal with stimuli.
- Be patient
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 they need more time to absorb and process the information.
- Accept the unexpected
We know that autistic people may use gestures, sounds, echolalia or that they may process and respond to specific words. They may communicate with some or all of these.
So 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 may mean. Keep being patient, go with the flow of the conversation and allow the individual to communicate in their way.
- If speaking doesn’t work, try writing or getting visual
People with autism are often happy to restart the conversation again on paper, using written words or perhaps drawing fun pictures to keep the situation light-hearted. Big movements can also help.
Provide support and help with communication
It’s always good to provide meaningful feedback, at the right time in the right way. Such as when teaching children how to communicate or helping an adult after they unknowingly communicate inappropriately.
Autistic people, generally, welcome feedback and would rather receive direct, honest help instead of working out what negative facial expressions or body language mean.
Providing support that is non-judgmental and clear can help someone with ASD learn to safely navigate social interactions and develop their communication skills.
More tips for communicating with autistic people
- Avoid using terms of endearment
For example, “honey” or “love” or “mate” as they can be confusing like sarcasm and slang. Although the speaker may mean nothing by these terms, an autistic person may be uncomfortable or may take them literally.
- Talk about what they want to talk about
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 is obsession, which means talking a lot about one particular thing. Sticking to the topic they want to discuss keeps the conversation going and helps them develop.
- Keep ‘information overload’ in mind
As we have already mentioned, an autistic person deals with stimuli as it arrives and can find it difficult to filter out the less important information, causing overload which may result in any number of outcomes.
We discussed speaking slowly with pauses if needed, but if it seems like a conversation is becoming distressful it can also be helpful to remove visual communications. Whilst eye contact and movements are usually a good thing, during an overload they become an unwanted stimulus.
It is also good to be wary 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.
- Address him or her as you would any other adult
An autistic person 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 – they should be treated the same way a neurotypical person would be. It’s also important to remember not to speak as if the person is not in the room when in a group setting.
As everyone is different, we can use these points only as a guide and should get to know a person to fully understand how to communicate with them.
This is something we keep in mind at Calvert Trust Exmoor during our accessible breaks. Guests have the same instructor throughout their stay which allows a bond to build, which helps autistic people enjoy the activities.
We have many examples of people with autism enjoying a break with us over on our Guest Stories page.
If you’d like more information about how we are autism-friendly, please call 01598 763221.
The benefits of cycling are well known and documented: it’s fun, gives independence, and is good for physical fitness and mental well-being. It’s an activity everyone can enjoy.
Yet cycling is especially beneficial for people with disabilities. Cycling for the disabled has grown in popularity in recent years, and at Calvert Trust Exmoor we’ve been using adaptive bikes for almost 25 years.
But what are the advantages of accessible cycling? Let’s discuss how bikes have been made adaptive and the benefits of cycling for the disabled.
What is accessible cycling?
Simply put, accessible cycling is using an adaptive bike, tricycle or tandem bike to pedal – similar to standard two-wheeled bikes, but with a twist.
Accessible cycling provides a way for everyone to cycle or ride a bike in one way or another, regardless of disability.
People with disabilities can use a standard two-wheel bike or an adaptive bike depending on their individual needs.
What types of adaptive bikes are available?
Adaptive bikes suit almost all requirements. We all have our strengths, weaknesses and challenges when it comes to cycling, so often a little bit of trial and error is needed to find the perfect bike.
Low step and electric bikes
These are standard bikes with some slight changes to assist with pedalling or getting on and off the bike.
Low step bicycles have a low dipped frame, benefiting anyone who does not have the movement to get their leg over a regular frame. This makes mounting and dismounting easier for anyone with loss of fixability and mobility. Additional cranks and extensions can be added to accommodate people with impaired limbs or hands.
Electric bikes have also grown in popularity in recent years. They help disabled and older people to cover further distances with greater comfort, by reducing the physical effort required to cycle.
Tricycles also look like standard bikes but have three wheels for good stability. They are useful for people who have trouble balancing plus those with learning disabilities such as dyspraxia, as the third wheel keeps it upright and reduces the chances of tipping over.
Tricycles can be adapted as needed for individual needs and can have pedals or handcycles.
Handcycles have handles and pedals that are moved by the hands to both power and steer the bike. They can have three or four wheels to help with balance. They are popular with people who have little to no lower body mobility and those who need to increase upper body strength.
Bikes with handcycles can come in a variety of styles and designs, and handcycles can be added to other bikes like recumbents.
A recumbent bike allows the user to sit backwards in a chair, rather than leaning forward over the handles.
This cycling position provides a level of comfort, putting less strain on the rider’s back, knees, and hip joints.
Recumbents bikes can be similar to a standard 2-wheeled bike, with a large chair seat instead of a traditional saddle. But they can also be close to the ground so the user leans back with the pedals at the front and a third wheel to enhance stability.
Tandems (or side-by-side bikes)
The term ‘tandem bike’ is often portrayed as a romantic couple’s activity, but these accessible bikes are so much more.
Tandem bikes are especially good for people with visual, sensory, or emotional disabilities who may need help and guidance from another who can take over or support the steering or pedalling at any point.
Tandem bikes can have two, three or four wheels with the two riders next to each other or in a line.
These adaptive bikes have handles, saddles, and pedals at the back for one or two people to cycle and steer. Then at the front, there will usually be either a seat for a wheelchair user to transfer into or a platform for a wheelchair to ride on to.
Wheelchair bikes allow anyone with little or no mobility to experience the thrill of cycling, enjoying the ride with a friend or family member behind them.
The advantages of accessible cycling
In everyday life, people with disabilities may have limited opportunities for exercise, contributing to the recognised issues associated with prolonged wheelchair use or an inactive lifestyle.
They may also feel isolated due to lack of travel opportunities, which will affect mental health as well as physical.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we see the advantages of accessible cycling first-hand and are often amazed by how people positively react to doing it for the first time.
Luckily cycling is a fairly simple activity to pick up, so there are many advantages to it…
Focus and repetition – learning and practising
For some, the process of simply getting on and off a bike will be a challenge due to physical disabilities. Others may struggle to concentrate on the task of cycling.
Which is why people with disabilities, or those recovering from a stroke, often have to learn how to use their accessible bike.
Whether learning to ride for the first time or re-learning how to cycle on a new bike, it can be a worthwhile challenge.
The movements and concentration needed to cycle can encourage focus and using a bike can help develop new skills – which is both rewarding and motivational.
After learning how to use a specific bike, cycling becomes therapeutic and relaxing.
All the health benefits associated with general exercise are perhaps even more essential for people with disabilities.
- Gently exercises the body
- Improves physical fitness and strength
- Helps with weight loss
- Builds muscles and circulars the blood
- Delays the onset of many conditions
It is also documented that cycling:
- Provides freedom and empowerment to travel further
- Reduces social isolation
- Releases feel-good hormones for a natural buzz
- Improves mental wellbeing
Using tandem or wheelchair bikes can be more of a social activity than traditional two-wheel single bikes.
Cycling becomes even more enjoyable when done with a family member, carer or friend. Cycling together shares the physical work whilst encouraging social interactions, teamwork and trust.
Further benefits include the freedom to travel with less use of taxis or private car hire, reducing congestion and pollution.
Cycling at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Cycling is one of the most popular activities we provide. The path around Wistlandpound Reservoir is mildly challenging but rewarding for all abilities, with spectacular views of the water and surrounding woodland.
We use tricycles, handcycles, recumbents, wheelchair bikes and tandems to accommodate all disabilities and abilities. Sessions generally last two to three hours with a break, which ensures everyone gets the best of the session without it being too tiring.
Lizzie Trench – a British Paratriathlon – started cycling after a visit to Calvert Trust Exmoor
In 2012, Lizzie Tench was out cycling with her partner when she was struck by a trailer. She suffered spinal cord damage which left her paralysed from the waist down.
A few months later, when at her lowest both mentally and physically, Lizzie visited Calvert Trust Exmoor.
“My stay at Calvert Trust Exmoor was the turning point. I realised that life wasn’t over and there was still so much I could do.”
Lizzie went on to become the British Paratriathlon champion in 2016, won Silver at the ‘Worlds’ and competed for England at the Commonwealth Games.
Nick Cole – a stroke survivor – re-found his love for cycling at the centre
After suffering a severe stroke in 2009, Nick’s life changed forever.
Nick visited Calvert Trust Exmoor so he could try new activities whilst recovering, because “my stroke severely limited my mobility and I work on my recovery on a daily basis.”
He thoroughly enjoyed his cycling session which brought back proud memories of his father who was a keen cyclist, and it reminded him of his new motto to never give up.
The visit inspired Nick to start accessible cycling full time, and after trailing several types of trikes, he now uses a recumbent bike to cycle around London.
Would you or someone you know like to get into accessible cycling?
We fully encourage anyone to do adaptive cycling if possible from their own home, but if you would like to do it as an activity during a visit to Calvert Trust Exmoor, call 01598 763221 to enquire further.
The Calvert Trust Exmoor centre is right in the heart of North Devon, surrounded by green fields, forests, and the best that nature has to offer.
But if you look around the north of Devon, there is so much more to enjoy alongside our activities and the views of Wistlandpound Reservoir.
Here’s why we love North Devon, showcasing how an accessible break at Calvert Trust Exmoor could feature so much more…
The obvious place to start, North Devon beaches are known to be some of the best in the UK for families, sunbathers and surfers.
Woolacombe beach regularly sits in Trip Advisor’s list of top 10 UK beaches, Croyde beach is well known to surfers, and Saunton Sands is popular for its long golden stretch of sand. These three beaches are each just a 30 to 40-minute drive from the centre.
There are many more hidden gems along the coastline too. The nearest beach to Calvert Trust Exmoor is at Combe Martin, 10 minutes away, and Lynmouth’s pebbled beach is 20 minutes away with spectacular views.
What makes the beaches in North Devon so popular is the fact that many are fully accessible for wheelchair users. There are ramps to the sand rather than steps, and specialist beach wheelchairs are available to hire: Tips for Hiring a Beach Wheelchair in North Devon.
In 2019, Calvert Trust Exmoor guests enjoyed surfing as an activity for the first time! Thanks to specialist surf instructors from Surf South West and The Wave Project, our disabled guests had fun catching some waves at Croyde.
Exmoor National Park
Exmoor is a National Park that’s shared between North Devon and Somerset. Anyone who spends time here will understand why Exmoor is our namesake, it’s one of the main reasons why we love North Devon and it’s right on our doorstep!
The Exmoor Ponies
Ponies, roaming free, what’s not to love?
The quiet, remote roads
If you love driving through the countryside and don’t mind winding roads, we certainly recommend driving through Exmoor when travelling to and from the centre. And if you’re not afraid to go off the beaten track, there are many quiet spots to take in the views. Find a perfect place to stop, relax and enjoy the moment.
You might even spot the abundance of Exmoor wildlife.
The unique Exmoor locations
If you’d like to visit a specific place, there are a few places to mention. The villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are a focal point of Exmoor, connected by a 130-year-old Cliff Railway – the world’s highest and steepest water-powered railway. Lynmouth, as mentioned, has a stone beach with a dramatic coastline and seaside town feel.
Valley of Rocks
Just outside Lynton is the Valley of Rocks, a dry valley that is a popular tourist destination, with feral goats and stunning views. The main path is easy to walk as it is flat and tarmacked, despite being narrow on the side of the cliff. It can be suitable for people with impaired mobility looking for a walk but is not recommended for wheelchairs due to lack of passing places.
Porlock is a quaint village in Exmoor that is popular with visitors, whilst Porlock Weir is a small but beautiful place by the water’s edge.
Inland, Simonsbath sits high on the moors, ideally located for walks and sightseeing. The tiny village is remote but is only a 15-minute drive from Calvert Trust Exmoor.
Meanwhile, the historic Tarr Steps are found 30 minutes from the centre. The walks around Tarr Steps are beautiful, walking alongside the river through the woods. Sadly the site is not that accommodating for wheelchair users due to its location and natural paths, but a visit would suit those looking for fresh clean air and to lose themselves in nature.
A wide range of attractions and days out
We’ve already spoken about Lynton and Lynmouth, but there are many towns and villages in North Devon to visit.
Barnstaple is the unofficial ‘capital’ of North Devon and is the place to shop popular high-street brands and independent retailers.
The seaside town of Ilfracombe is popular with guests who want to explore rockpools, see striking coastal views, enjoy an ice-cream and pick up some souvenirs. It’s also home of Verity, by Damien Hurst – the second tallest statue in the UK.
Both Barnstaple and Ilfracombe are a 20-minute drive from the centre.
Woolacombe and Croyde, aside from having their beaches, are also quaint little seaside towns. Plus, Saunton Sands is not far from Braunton, home of award-winning fish and chips.
Looking for an accessible day out for all the family? Not a problem in North Devon…
Exmoor Zoo – a small but complete zoo, just down the road from the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre. Home of wolves, cheetahs, African wild dogs, and many varieties of big cats including the famous Exmoor Beast – black leopards!
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park – another family-friendly zoo with the added twist of electronic dinosaurs around the park. There is also an indoor soft play area for younger children. Animals include lions, penguins, and sea lions who take part in a daily show.
Quince Honey Farm – a unique attraction where visitors can discover more about bees, honey, and beekeeping. A visit can include beekeeping experiences, talks and tours, honey tasting, family crafts, activities critter encounters, and indoor play.
Arlington Court – a historic house and gardens, also found around the corner from the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre. Our guests choose to visit Arlington for walks through the grounds and to see the house and carriage museum. Trampers and shuttle buses are available for those who need them.
Please speak to a member of the Calvert Trust Exmoor team about visiting any of the places mentioned here, either over the phone or at reception, and we’ll do our best to provide more advice.
When visiting Calvert Trust Exmoor for an adventure break, there are several opportunities to explore North Devon…
Check-in is from 4pm, giving most of the day to see the views and attractions on the journey to us. Then on your final day, check-out is 10am, which frees up the rest of the day to do as you wish before heading home.
Many of our guests staying for a week-long break choose to take a day away from the centre, in between activities, to see more of North Devon and to have a wonderful day out.
For more information about how an accessible break in North Devon at Calvert Trust Exmoor, call 01598 763221.
Do you love North Devon as much as we do? Leave a comment on our social channels telling us what you love about the area…
Outdoor activities and exercise are something that can benefit everybody. They allow us to immerse ourselves in a natural setting, offering us experiences beyond our usual routine.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we believe adventure breaks are something that should be encouraged by all, and for all. Opportunities to try new experiences should be seen as a possibility for everyone, no matter their age or ability. We have been fortunate to witness many positive outcomes in the mental wellbeing of people who attend our residential trips, whether that be for a week or a short break.
It is believed that 1 in 4 people in the UK experiences a mental health problem each year, but disabled people report lower wellbeing levels than non-disabled people (according to these statistics).
It’s only natural that people may see dips in their mental wellbeing. So in this article, we will be focusing on the positive effects of outdoor adventures, and how this type of break can improve mental health, regardless of age or disability.
What Happens During an Adventure Break?
It is important to clarify what an adventure break with us involves. Calvert Trust Exmoor, in particular, is an accessible site which provides a variety of activities, for a range of abilities.
Canoeing, abseiling, cycling, horse-riding and archery are just a few of the activities which are accessible to our residence. We have specialist equipment which may not be commonly available elsewhere, allowing residents the opportunity to experience completely new activities.
Our five-star, fully accessible accommodation is tailored to each visitor, ensuring each guest only has to focus on making the most out of the exciting activities available. With all accessibility needs managed, visitors have the freedom to make friends in a safe environment which encourages them to try new experiences. Our dedicated and qualified instructors remain with the same group of residents throughout the week, forming trusted relationships and building self-confidence.
But how does this help improve mental health?
The Connection Between Physical Health and Mental Happiness
As most of us are aware, there is a positive relationship between the completion of exercise and the improvement of mental wellbeing. Physical activity merged with the outdoors is especially relevant in terms of de-stressing and feeling calm. Adventure breaks combine physical exertion, a safe outdoor environment and specialised support all in one place.
In 2015, the campaign ‘Learning Away’ completed a review on the impact of an adventure residential for children with disabilities. It was reported many children felt the residential helped to improve their confidence. Around 80% of both Key Stage Two and Secondary school children felt they were more self-assured to attempt new things as a consequence of the adventure break. It is understood this was a result of positive feelings when completing activities which challenged social, leadership and learning skills.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on any number of elements that contribute to mental health issues. Research additionally shows that modest amounts of exercise on occasion also lifts our mental wellbeing – especially when done outdoors. We found a HelpGuide article that goes into this topic further.
The activities at Calvert Trust Exmoor naturally contain an element of physical exercise. When exercise is combined with fresh air, teamwork, friendships and a sense of accomplishment we start to understand how adventure breaks can improve mental health.
Feelings of Liberation When Completing Activities
It seems like a basic concept, but if you complete an exercise or activity, it demonstrates to yourself that you are competent. This feeling of competency is an inspiration to attempt other goals because dictating feelings of self-doubt have been overcome and replaced with the feeling of perseverance.
As a result of accomplishing adventure activities, many feel a sense of independence. This could be because we become open to doing activities and exercises that we may not regularly do. An effect of this is a freshly engaged mind and a fresh test of determination.
New activities encourage our guests, especially children, to practise communication and co-ordination skills, which in turn, reassures them to learn and be proud of what they are completing.
The Role of Sportsmanship and Inclusion During Activities
In many sports, and forms of exercise, sportsmanship plays a vital role. When trying new activities on your own, or as a team, adapting your competitive behaviour is a must.
Team events practised at adventure centres encourage participants to work together. The only way to succeed is to communicate efficiently and support other team members, considering each other’s ability and role in the group.
As a result, we see guests form lasting friendships which take into account one another’s diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This social networking is essential to create a sense of belonging, as well as educating them about social inclusion. Completing activities acts as a valuable reminder of effective socialisation and community building to refer back to.
The feeling of social inclusion is another important element in building up our mental wellbeing and health.
Attending an adventure break is an opportunity for us all to experience something beyond what we are familiar with.
For some, it is an avenue to demonstrate they have other talents and skills beyond everyday life, and sparks inspiration or motivation to do other things. For others, the physical exercise of activities provides a physical and mental boost.
Adventure breaks can improve confidence as they validate the success of new activities in a friendly social group. It also acts as a reassurance that learning something new affects everybody, no matter who you are.
It all adds up to contribute to and improve mental wellbeing. Especially when visits to Calvert Trust Exmoor include everything needed for a wonderful break, removing the worries of taking a holiday.
Read our Guest Stories for real-life examples of how adventure breaks have helped improve general wellbeing
See the full Calvert Experience for all the details on accessible adventure breaks at Calvert Trust Exmoor. You can book a stay today by calling 01598 763221.
It is not unusual to feel anxious when you are in an unfamiliar setting and situation. It is an entirely acceptable feeling, no matter what your age or who you are.
It is important to remember, if you do feel these emotions, they do not have to remain with you throughout your adventure break. There are small but helpful things you can do to improve how you perceive your new situation.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to providing accessible breaks for everyone to enjoy, from school residentials to holidays for people with disabilities. We want to make sure that every one of our guests has the best experience possible, so have created this blog to help you.
Who Can Benefit From This Advice?
We have created these tips for everyone to try if they are ever feeling anxious when they are away from home.
If you are an independent adult on an accessible adventure break, we hope you can refer to this blog to help you if you are feeling unsure.
If you are a carer or a parent with a child of any age, who is about to embark on a residential adventure, we hope we can help you with ideas on how to alleviate their feelings of anxiety.
Accept How You Are Feeling
It is ok to feel a bit on edge when you are away from home, even if you are only down the road! It is a feeling that can primarily occur when your usual daily routines have had to change for the duration of your trip.
Begin by identifying the feelings of unease and accepting them for what they are. It is important to remind yourself that it is completely fine and natural to feel this way when you are away from what you know.
Talk To Someone About How you Feel
Once you have accepted how you currently feel, let someone else know. Whether they are:
• A staff member, such as an instructor
• A family member
• A friend you have gone on the adventure break with
• A teacher
• A carer
You never know, they may feel similar and appreciate that you have confided in them! You can talk about what you love back at home and how they might also like it if they ever come to visit.
It may break the ice for those you do not know so well too.
Remember You Can Call Home
Living in the 21st-century means you are never too far from home! With mobile phones, social media, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, staying in touch couldn’t be easier.
If you would like to ring home and talk about things, go for it! There is no shame in letting your nearest and dearest know about how you are doing. They will be able to see the situation from the outside and remind you of all the amazing reasons you wanted to go in the first place.
Talking to your family members will reassure your anxiety that everything back home is ok and you aren’t missing out on anything. Their jolly voices will let you know they are happy and healthy.
Put Things Into Perspective
Once you have accepted and communicated how you feel, it is time to try and gently shift your perspective on the experience.
You feel anxious, and that is completely acceptable. And it is also ok to feel worried but still want to make the most of your opportunity away from home.
Think about the initial reasons why you wanted to come. What activities did you want to try? Were they as you expected them to be? How did it feel to do them? What highlights will you share when you get back home?
Record Your Feelings
Noting down your feelings can be as effective as talking for some people.
You could think about:
• What were the highlights of the day? You could break down the day into morning, afternoon and evening and reflect what you enjoyed the most at each point.
• What challenges did you face today?
• How could the situation be different next time?
Good or bad, it is all acceptable to note down!
Perhaps you will revisit your thoughts in your journal, or perhaps you won’t, it doesn’t matter! Similar to talking, it is just good to get the feelings out in the open so you can move forward and take each day as it comes.
Try to Be Social, Even If You May Not Feel Like It
When you feel uncomfortable, the idea of talking with new people can feel incredibly daunting.
If you are on a trip without company from home, or with people you do not know so well, it is essential to ensure you do not isolate yourself, especially if you are not in the most positive of mind frames.
By socialising, it will feel like a massive achievement in itself and may instantly lift your mood. Many adventure breaks have social areas for guests to interact with. Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have numerous social areas for our guests to relax in including, The Barn bar, the games room and our stunning courtyard for warmer weather.
You never know who you are going to meet, so try your best to keep an open mind even though this is easier said than done. You may make a friend for life, all starting with a simple hello!
Keep Social Goals Attainable
If you are a shy person, keep your social goals small and achievable, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Try meeting one person, to begin with. Listening is an admirable trait in people, so try this at first and see where you go!
Get Out Your Comfort Zone
When you feel like you miss home, try and reflect back to why you wanted to go on your adventure break and the activities you envisioned yourself trying. Speak to your instructor about your feelings, so they can encourage and reassure you to try all the experiences you thought you would try before you felt anxious on the trip.
Bring Familiar Things With You
Bringing something special to you from home is a popular thing to do.
It could be a much-loved photo, a cuddly toy, some sweet treats or a cushion. Anything that brings you comfort, don’t be afraid to take it with you.
For parent or carers whose children are going on a residential trip away, why not ask your child what they would like to take with them? Take a look at our blog on how to get your child excited for a residential trip for some other handy hints and tips!
Have you ever felt homesick when you were on an adventure break? What helped you? We would love to know! Why not let us know on our social media channels?