Today I’ve been to Kielder to visit The Calvert Trust which is the charity that I did a zip slide for a couple of weeks ago. I met a couple of the fundraisers at a networking meeting and immediately felt a link to the charity and what they are doing and promoting. Their motto is “challenging disability through outdoor adventure” and focusing on what their guests “can do” rather than their disabilities or limitations, which I just love as a value and vision of inclusion. You can visit the centre and take part in activities like archery, rock climbing, clay pigeon shooting and outdoor skills, as well as challenging yourself to complete their zip slide, high ropes course, or the giant swing!
The facilities are fantastic with beautiful cabins for family or group self catering stays ranging from the nice, to the amazing! The newer cabins have telescopes for stargazing, fancy modern decor with exciting little details like automatic lights in the cupboards and hot tubs on the patios. All of the accommodation is fully accessible with adjustable benches, spacious wet rooms, hoists to get in and out of bed and into the bathrooms, as well as ramps and spacious living areas to accommodate all abilities and accessories. What blew me away was the design details in the newer cabins as the adapted areas had been cleverly merged into the furniture. The toilet “frames” were sleek fold away arms, the hoists were built into overbed cupboards and the height adjusters were cleverly hidden, all to make disability normal. It struck me that the accommodation was accessible whilst also being inclusive. I often feel that my house looks “adapted” and today reassured me that if I do need more adaptations and adjustments made in the future, then I’ll be able to merge it into the house seamlessly to minimise the “otherness” of my needs and make it part of the normality of everyday for me and my family (I know I’ll have to save up as it didn’t look cheap, but well worth it for the mental support of having a house that doesn’t scream “disabled” along with the age preconception of adaptations, and the NHS look of the equipment that I currently have making me feel as if I’m 90 and living in a hospital) this means that the whole family or group of friends can stay together without it being a big deal that someone needs adaptations. The respite care facilities are just as good! These rooms are housed in the main building and each person or couple has their own room with on suite facilities, fully adapted and all meals, care and light activities are included in the cost of the stay.
There is a dining room for meals (lunch was plentiful and tasty, sausage baguette and chips for me, but there was also salad and soup available along with desserts and cheese and crackers), a games room for pool and other activities, a TV room and a lounge and computer area for guests to use as they want. There is also a pool area (not big enough for swimming, but shallow enough for local mother and baby groups as well as hydrotherapy sessions which you can book to use during your stay, there is also a sensory room with different lights, sounds and textures to calm, relax or stimulate. This is all inside the main centre and once you step outside you see the activities areas. Driving in I came past the high ropes course to my left and a big building on the other side of the driveway. This is the indoor climbing wall which has been built inside an old stables and arena. There is a “mountain” at the front of the wall which I assumed was just something I’d not seen before, but was told that it had been specifically designed and built for the centre so that people with limited lower body strength could still use the wall using their upper body. There is also a rope climb piece of equipment that you can do with only upper body involvement. There are varying routes and holds on the wall that can all be adjusted depending on the requirements of the people taking part. It is huge and takes over the entire width of the barn with an inflatable obstacle course at the other side of the room that they use on site as well as at off site events which sounds brilliant fun as you are in an inflatable costume and have to complete the course! I didn’t spot the clay pigeon shooting range as I drove in, but when we got to it in the golf buggy I was impressed with the adaptations that had been put in place for people with disabilities. The obvious one of a rest, alongside a rope with a hoop in it to help take the weight of the rifle as you shoot, which I would never have thought of! It’s laser shooting, so no bullets and danger, and there are static targets as well as the moving discs so that everyone can achieve on the course. They also have an archery area with similar adaptations. I was told that lots of the adjustments come from feedback from guests as they use the equipment and realise that something would make it easier, so the team figure out how to make this work safely. They have a range of harnesses and equipment for the high ropes, giant swing and zip slide and they even have a low ropes course to help build confidence before the high course, all showing their goal of enabling people and ensuring that the activities are accessible to everyone. I wanted to have a go on everything! Except the obstacle course, not my thing crawling through tunnels and getting mucky!
If you want something a bit more sedate there is a path that leads down to the lakeside way which surrounds Kielder and you can walk, scoot or ride around it. The team also run activities including arts and crafts, geocaching, bird watching and games including the giant chess board near reception, (or you can use the board games that are in your cabins) The pool and sensory room are close to the bathroom which has a huge jacuzzi bath and is often used by guests who don’t usually get to have a bath in their own homes so it’s nice and relaxing.
I was amazed by the facilities and thoroughly impressed with how the team explain what they do and the effect that it has on the guests. Everyone that I encountered had a smile on their faces, were friendly and had the energy of people who are truly happy in their jobs, this gives the place such a positive energy and atmosphere that I can imagine a holiday or corporate retreat would be a fantastic experience. At lunch we were joined by Peter the CEO who told me about why he works there and the joy that he gets from seeing how the Trust has such a positive impact on the people who visit them. It’s an inspiring place and I am thrilled to be able to support them however I can! I can’t wait to get back up there to have a go on all of the activities!
The Trust needs about £1.5 million to run the centre and I was told that 80% of that comes from the charges for stays, which I thought would be a lot lower when I was told the prices of stays. So to make up the deficit they have a fundraising team who do events such as the zip slide that I took part in, marathons, comedy evenings and lots of marketing and promotions to raise awareness of the charity and what it does so that people want to use the facilities as well as donate money and help out through volunteering. The facilities can also be used for meetings, events and they even hosted a wedding reception once!
Have a look at the website which has all the information of how to book a stay, drop in activity days, respite care or corporate events.
and if you live nearby then come with me to the comedy night at RGS on 13th May as I have no-one to go with at the minute. It’s at 7pm and costs £35 for a drinks reception and Q&A with Rory Bremner as well as seeing him do his stand up!
let me know if you fancy it!