The Ashdown Centre’s Outdoor Adventure

The Ashdown Centre’s Outdoor Adventure

By Hati Whiteley

We all remember the excitement of piling into the school mini-van, our mum’s car, or the bus, ready and raring to go to nice places and to do good things. Those were the days that shaped us, the days that helped us find a new passion or discover an unknown skill. They were days that we probably took for granted at the time, but without them we wouldn’t be the swashbuckling adventurers we are today.

What we didn’t tend to think about is the money part. That was something for our parents, our teachers, or our youth leaders to think about. It’s actually something that teachers and parents of young people with special needs and disabilities have to think about quite a lot as it costs 3 times more than the national average to raise a child with special needs or a disability.

Earlier in the year, the Alpkit Foundation received a funding application from Guild Care, the organisation behind the Ashdown Centre, which provides stimulating respite for the families of children and young people with special needs and disabilities.

The centre was raising funds to take 12 young people with disabilities and special needs to the Lodge Hill Centre, an activity centre with the capacity and expertise to run activities such as Zip Wires, Snow Tubing, Crate Stacking, and Terrain Hoppers with young people with disabilities. (We didn’t know what Snow Tubing was either, so we looked on the Lodge Hill website. We were delighted to offer our support, and we've been catching up with Guild Care 's Ann Barlow to find out how the trip went.

Ann aims to offer young people challenging, fun, and adventurous days out to help build their confidence, encourage communication with their peers, and introduce them to team building skills. Lodge Hill is the ideal venue: it offers the expertise and one-to-one support necessary to enable young people with special needs to enjoy a realistically challenging and adventurous day out. Ann explains how the venue was key to the trip 's success:

The Lodge Hill instructors are all skilled in supporting children and young people with all types of disabilities to ensure they can all access and get the most from every activity. The children experienced a fun day out in a guided and safe environment.

15-year-old Darcy has attended the Ashdown Centre every week for 10 years and during trips to Lodge Hill you 'll usually find her whizzing down the zip wire (we don't blame her, it looks awesome!). She explains the importance of the Ashdown clubs and activity days for her personal development:

I know that, at nearly 16, I am almost an adult; Ashdown staff have helped me learn some new skills and have also given me some empowerment lessons to build my confidence! I don 't feel lonely anymore as I have made new friends to talk to... The two activities I love to do at Ashdown are trips to Lodge Hill to use the terrain hoppers, and trips out to trampoline places. It 's all wheelchair accessible, so I feel normal.

For one of the children on the day out, the trip was his first experience of an outdoor adventure activity. Trips to centres such as Lodge Hill are invaluable for the personal development and confidence of many young people. However, the cost, effort, and work involved in running such trips for young people with disabilities and special needs makes it unfeasible for many families to do so. As a result, the Ashdown Centre relies on the generosity of organisations and individuals to facilitate trips to venues like Lodge Hill at low or no cost to the families.

For some of the young people, this was their first outdoor adventure experience... It looks like they more than rose to the challenge!

The Alpkit Foundation supports projects that enable people to overcome the obstacles preventing them from Going Nice Places and Doing Good Things.

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