Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs – The Review

After an amazing time at Winter Wonderland recently, I often get asked what is Center Parcs like as we have visited a few times now? Therefore I thought I would share my honest opinion and write a review.
Here is my review of Center Parcs, Whinfell forest’s Winter Wonderland.

First as stated, this is not the first time we, as a family have visited Winter Wonderland, this theme is usually available from month end November until December. Full details can be found on the website here https://www.centerparcs.co.uk/discover-center-parcs/holiday-locations/whinfell-forest.html

The Journey

Previously we went when the children were in a double buggy and as it was my husband’s birthday we thought we would give it another go. The journey from our location (Bury) is an easy one, straight up the M6 and it takes approx 1 hour 50 on a good run. The check in is always friendly with a map given in your welcome pack to guide you to your lodge. Initially if not been before it can be a little daunting as the park is a one way system, but driving through the grounds at a slow rate and following the signs will get you to your lodge . After driving to the lodge and unpacking, it’s time to dump the car in the car park ready to explore the rest of the weekend on foot or bikes as cars are not allowed.

The Lodge

The lodges themselves are ideal for us,as a family; we regularly choose a new style wooden lodge with 2 or 3 bedrooms and it’s all on one floor so no stairs for Ellie to worry about. If additional accessibility is required this can be arranged. Clean linen, comfy beds, wifi, and a log fire what more could you ask for? I often get asked about the price and yes it’s not the cheapest for a weekend away, but I honestly believe it’s worth it and that’s why we always come back.

The Wreath

The Activities

To help with the expense of the weekend, we often take up plenty of food and alcohol and it is rare we pay for any of the amazing activities as the free swimming paradise is enough. Slides, rapids, wave pool and food all available as well as free lockers in the swimming paradise. There is an option for plenty of cycling and walking in the natural landscapes and you will often see squirrels running past you. For the last few years we have used a bike carriage for Ellie to travel around and whilst she has now outgrown it I’ll keep you posted of what we use next.

Ellie’s carriage

Winter Wonderland

So let’s get to the point; the Winter Wonderland. Many of the forest areas are lit up with Christmas lights and decorations, each lodge has a holly wreath attached to the outside front door, Santa;s Woodland Village is available to visit with a festive atmosphere complete with snow machine to make it all the more magical.The walk through was fantastic for both photographs and creating memories. In addition to Woodland Village, every Sunday (weather depending) you get to see a truly awesome firework display (https://youtu.be/g-NcIYSRq3w) which really is magical and moving.

Winter Wonderland – The Village

Would I go again, without a doubt?
Would I recommend, strongly?
Would I say this is one of the best Winter Wonderlands to visit; damn right?It has fun, family and festivities; the staff are friendly and favourable and the place is just fascinating and a favourite.

I would love to know have you been? Has this review helped in anyway? Please do leave a comment and share. If you would like to see other places recommended this year, check out our summer holiday in Greece https://t21hub.com/a-review-of-gouves-water-park-greece/

Until Next Time
Sharon x

Disney Character; who is Ellie's favourite?

When Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, little did he know what a Disney Empire he would be creating and who would have thought it would capture the hearts of so many children years after. The first Monday of every December is International Walt Disney Day and to celebrate I thought I would talk about who is Ellie’s favourite Disney character and see if you can guess.

Describing the Character
First and what will become blindingly obvious is that this Disney character is female and a major player in a Disney film. The film itself was a huge box office success in 2013. The soundtrack to the film featured 10 original songs and one song in particular won an Academy Award, Grammy Award and Golden Globe Award. Are you close? This female in my opinion, leads the film and is both strong, sexy and sassy,
In addition she is quite different to other Disney Princesses that you may have seen in previous films. For me, she steps all over the stereotype of what a princess should and shouldn’t do and anything that steps away from the stereotypes I share.

Guessed Yet?
If not, here are some other clues; this Disney Princess has a sister and lives in Arendelle!
Yes, that’s right it’s Elsa; Princess Elsa.

Disney Princess Elsa

Now that we know which female Disney Princess we are discussing to celebrate Walt Disney Day, why does Ellie choose her as her favourite?
I personally found Elsa’s character in the film very strong and determined. The film itself (incase you haven’t actually seen it) begins with Elsa’s powers, which is freezing items and she struggles to control them. Due to an unfortunate accident where she hurts her sister, Elsa chooses to avoid her for the rest of her life, even if this means isolation for herself.

During the film and due to a turn of events, Elsa chooses, as a strong independent woman to live alone for fear of hurting others. During this phase of a life alone the Disney Princess has internal struggles believing she cannot be her true self. The change in character throughout the film is inspiring to watch; from a frightened child, to a runaway teenager into a fierce woman as she takes on many men in the bid to not be imprisoned.As you can read the film shows an evolving character who has many emotions, which can all be identified as a child; self belief, loneliness, being afraid.

Whilst adoring the amazing power of Elsa’s character through her transformation, her freezing powers cannot go unnoticed to another strong Disney character; a Disney Queen that could also freeze people; The Snow Queen. It is this film in which the Frozen film was built upon. However whilst Elsa’s freezing powers could and do hurt people they can also do good, once controlled as you will find out as you watch the film

What is a Princess Stereotype?
Many Princesses in Disney fall in love with a man and live happily ever after; whilst Frozen did have a happy ending it wasn’t from a love interest as Elsa had none. She didn’t need one! Elsa’s character literally carried the film with another strong female, her sister Anna. Therefore both Elsa and Anna have become amazing role models for girls globally; girls you can be free, girls you can be yourself and girls you don’t need a love interest to be considered successful and strong.

Since Elsa’s character was that of a strong woman and with the unforgettable soundtrack of the film, Frozen has become a firm favourite in our house; even more so that for my daughter Ellie. Frozen was the first full film that has kept her attention and enjoyment and as Ellie has Down Syndrome, usually 20 minutes is enough for her and that memory of her watching the film is one I’ll never forget.

Conclusion
In addition to the film’s soundtrack and storyline, Princess Elsa is Ellie’s favourite Disney character becasue she doesn’t fit the stereotype; she is her unique self

Ellie and Olaf

Thank you, as always for taking the time to read. Is Princess Elsa your childs favourite Disney character too, do let me know?
If you would like to follow Ellie’s journey, follow her here
https://www.facebook.com/ElliesSecrets/
or you can see what Ellie thought of her recent make over here
https://t21hub.com/2019/09/16/a-review-of-ellies-inclusive-pamper/

Until Next Time
Sharon x
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An Interview With…..Empathy Holistics

I met with Emmy King aka Empathy Holistics at Boomerang in Bury. The meeting was arranged to see how we could support one another business. As we got chatting I chose to interview her to understand more about the business and then see how we could collaborate. Here the interview unfolds.

The Beginning!

In 2006, yes that’s correct that is how long Empathy Holistics has been going, Emmy set up the business with the help of The Princess Trust. Emmy had always wanted to help people through relaxation and with treatments that were handmade products within a group session.

Emmy had previously worked with Neals Yards remedies in Manchester and had studies at the University of Salford with ‘Complimentary Medicine and Counselling. At a very young age of 24, Emmy suffered with an odd migraine attack and this was her turning point, why was she so stressed? Hence the beginning of relaxation sessions as an aromatherapist using oils was born, aka Empathy Holistics

Relaxation Sessions for babies with Empathy Holistics

Why is Empathy Holistics Unique?

It was mentioned that there are many relaxation sessions around these days for babies and toddlers but Emmy assured me that is no franchise, there is no branding rights as this business was built by her for her customers. Emmy personally tailors each session to suit the individuals and will adapt it at any point during, before or after the session for next time. Emmy asks her customers what is it they actually want and this is her unique selling point as the feedback from her customers has informed her she is on the right track. Her customers have told her that with some other relaxation sessions they were made to feel that they were “doing things all wrong with their child” or they were actually reduced to tears.

A tailored session for Empathy Holistics

What is the Future for Empathy Holistics?

As of today Empathy Holistics has been running successfully for over 13 years and classes can currently be found at
– Boomerang in Bury
– Eddy Bears in Farnworth
– Chetham Farm Retreat on a Monday

Emmy wants to continue to provide a need for mums and whilst she won’t initially consider a franchise she realises how much this business has helped her and how it can help so many other mums with confidence, getting out of the house and of course extra income; so may consider offering training.

Enjoying some quality relaxing time with babies

If you would like to get in touch with Emmy please visit https://www.facebook.com/empathyholistics2017/

I hope you have enjoyed this interview and I will keep you posted about our collaboration. We are currently considering offering a relaxation session to teenagers and their parent with Down Syndrome. If you would like to hear more about events like this and you are a parent to a child in the North Manchester area with Down Syndrome, please do join our group https://t21hub.com/community/

If you like seeing our inclusive reviews please ensure you have read https://t21hub.com/2019/09/16/a-review-of-ellies-inclusive-pamper/
Do let us both know in the comments, did you attend baby relaxing sessions with your child and did you enjoy it?
Until Next Time
Sharon x

A Review of Mahdlo Youth Club in Oldham

Welcome to our review series, this time we get to review a youth club based in Oldham. When I say we, I mean myself and my daughter Ellie who has Down Syndrome. Therefore we try to see how inclusive and accessible these places are. Why Mahdlo, read on?

I recently saw Mahdlo advertise an activity for children with additional needs on a Down Syndrome community page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=dswestpennine%20registered%20charity%201140539&epa=SEARCH_BOXand began to investigate immediately as I still can’t decide whether more facilities are needed or if they are out there and simply not being shared. Thus I went along for a visit with Ellie to get a feel for the place and here is our review.

The Building Review

The building is currently undergoing some work with extra space being added for more facilities which is brilliant. However there is no parking outside, which needs to be addressed but if you hold a blue badge you can park on near by streets and the main road. The building itself is over two floors with lots of rooms for various activities and has a cafe on site. The cafe is ideal for parents to grab a coffee or a quick lunch when the children are accessing the activities. It is a spacious building and the ground floor was extremely wide with enough room for several people to walk through at once.

The Activities Review

There are lots of activities at the centre for both children with and without additional needs and all be accessed via the website
https://www.mahdloyz.org/
The one that caught my attention was the family afternoon which is every week on a Sunday for families with additional needs. Check out these pictures as I was openly in awe of everything that was going on, from climbing, to trampolining to cooking. There was nothing missing.

The Staff Review

The staff were both welcoming and friendly which is what you would like to see when visiting new places with a child with additional needs. There were several staff available in all the different areas at all times so you could easily get advice, support and the children were fully supported. There was a lovely lady called Amy who was due to have a baby within days and actually got on the trampoline with Ellie to guide her so she was safe.
We even had a chat about atlanto-axial instability which showed their knowledge and I shared this link with them for further guidance https://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/for-families-and-carers/health-and-well-being/neck-instability/
Amy Taylor, the Ability Co-Ordinator met myself and Ellie on the day and gave us the guided tour. I appreciated that she spoke to Ellie and not over her, she included her when she could and even asked for a high five at the end.

Conclusion

I cannot wait to go back to this centre and get Ellie fully involved. The membership is £5 annually plus 50p a visit or you can pay as you go for as little as £1.00. It’s only 20 minutes outside of Bury and I really wish every council had one of these sites available to allow access for those that cannot drive.
Please do message myself or Amy if you would like any further questions answering and keep me posted if you go for a visit.

If you have enjoyed this review and would like to see our review of our caravan holiday this year, check out https://t21hub.com/2019/08/14/a-trip-to-wild-rose-caravan-park-with-ellie/

My goal is to get as many inclusive events and activities shared on social media to help other parents with children with additional needs stay informed. If you would like me to come and offer a review of your place, please contact me by email at sharonc3966@hotmail.co.uk

Recently I found out I was listed in the Top 100 bloggers about Down Syndrome https://blog.feedspot.com/down_syndrome_blogs/ so there will be plenty more blogs coming from me. To stay tuned, follow the blog.

Until Next Time and as always thanks for reading.
Feel free to tweet, share or pin
Sharon x

A Review of Ellie’s Inclusive Pamper

We love to review places to give others an opportunity to see if the setting would be inclusive especially if, like Ellie, my daughter, you have a disability such as Down Syndrome.
So let’s have a look at Ellie’s inclsuive pamper with Flawless UK based in Manchester.

How The Inclusive Pamper Began

One of the community groups that we attend regularly was gifted a voucher
http://dswestpennine registered charity 1140539
and one Saturday evening I chose to purchase it for myself and Ellie. We have very little mummy daughter time as she is a daddy’s girl and once purchased I wondered whether she would even enjoy it. However when Ellie turned 10 I realised that she didn’t experience a lot of activities that others her age would and I wanted to rectify that and share how many places are actually inclusive.

The night before we went, I told her we had a surprise adventure happening the next day and in basic terms explained our pamper session. She sounded excited by it all which was a great start. The next morning getting ready, Ellie said, ‘I am nervous mummy’ Bless.

The Inclusive Review

After a stressful morning driving into Manchester and locating a parking spot given half the streets were cordoned off for a police investigation, I suddenly realised Ellie had never been into Manchester (another one to rectify but maybe when it was quiet). Arriving late and apologetically the staff were very welcoming and friendly and actually let me leave Ellie with them for five minutes whilst I returned to the car to park right out side their building (please note it had double yellow lines and I was using our Blue Badge)

We were offered drinks and the morning was explained to us both. Ellie was then given her own make-up artist, Natalie who began to talk to Ellie like she was an individual. Natalie asked Ellie questions, rather than me and whatever Ellie wanted in relation to her make-up and hair, she got. This was one of the main reasons I chose to write this blog and share; Natalie treated Ellie like a young lady that she is and I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the morning as it was a pleasure to see. Many people are not sure how to talk to Ellie and often think she wont answer so ask me questions instead.
They both talked music and films throughout the experience. Whilst pictures should not have been taken inside the studio, I did manage to get this one.

Ellie let Natalie curl her hair even though she gets head sore

What Did the Voucher Consist Of?

The voucher itself consisted of
– Complimentary Drinks
– A Make Over including nail polish
– Your hair styled
– Photo session with 3/4 outfits
– A printed photograph to take home, additional can be purchased

All in it can take about 3 to 4 hours.

The Photography Session

The settings and tools for this part were outstanding from beds, to chairs to feather boa’s and once again the ladies were very flexible. If Ellie didn’t want to do something she was adamant she wouldn’t do it. I personally had no idea what we wanted so I let the professionals lead the way.
As we were heading into the final part, Ellie did begin to have had enough so I called it and asked could we finish.

Conclusion

Over all the morning was fantastic and I would definitely recommend doing something like this with your children to help them experience what other children do. As for the staff, I couldn’t fault them with their friendly, welcoming and inclusive manner.
Speaking of inclusion, the only thing I would adapt would be the stairs going down to the building, maybe have a ramp to help anyone with mobility issues access the studio.
The only downside, if there was one to mention was the cost of the additional photographs; whilst I appreciated their quality it was difficult to say no, once you had seen them as you always want to hold onto memories of a day like that and thus the credit card sneaked out of my purse.

If you would like to purchase a voucher with Flawless UK, here is their link
https://flawlessstudios.net/

The Model

So there you have it, thank you so much for reading. I would love to know have you had an experience like this with your child, please do comment and if you would like to read more reviews from me then do press follow. You can also check out our inclusive review of our summer holiday here
https://t.co/RJ7vcbk31i?amp=1

Until Next Time
Sharon x

A Review of Gouves Water Park Greece

After 10 whole nights and days I felt I had to review our family summer trip to Gouves, giving an honest account of whether it is an inclusive complex for a child with Down Syndrome.

August 2019, our summer trip back to Gouves which we know is quiet but that’s what we love, as a family we don’t do hustle and bustle but this holiday was going to be slightly different to what we were used to. Why? Usually we book a small family villa with one pool so we can get to know the other the staff and other families. This year as we had left it a little late to book we had a water park…..would we enjoy it, would it be inclusive? Read on to here my review.

Arriving very late we were greeted by a porter who helped us with our luggage and advised by reception that there was a cold buffet awaiting for us. The bar was open and we could purchase drinks as the all inclusive finished at 11. I thought this was very courteous after a long day travelling and immediately could tell the difference between a 3 and 4 star accomodation.

Reviewing The Hotel

The next morning we were greeted with sunshine and right outside our 2 bedroomed appartment (much needed as Ellie, my daughter who has Down Syndrome, needed here a bedtime routine) was our view.

Mini Pool

On the first day we had a good look around, isn’t that what most families do, ‘find their feet’. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the hotel was huge, with different areas and was immediately concerned about how Ellie would cope. In fact we didn’t even find two of the bars advertised or one of the restaurants and thought it was a shame that a mini map wasn’t issued at arrival.

On the second day we found a part of the water park, which I thought the kids would love but they never wanted to go back after one afternoon 🙁 I’m guessing a few scrapes and burns from the slides didn’t help but it was small enough for Ellie to access the steps independently and we had eyes on at all times.

Gouves Splash Park

The larger slides were a hit with my son Billy but Ellie wasn’t that keen after the first go. Maybe it was the waiting in turn that put her off as normally she is a water baby. However I did find the lifeguards and the queuing system a reassurance.

The food was incredible and I have to say one of the best we’ve ever tasted, different themes and often cooked whilst you waited. My only concern during August was how busy it was. Some days you felt like you were packed like a tin of sardines and often was left waiting to get items or banging into people. To give the hotel credit it did say what times were quieter for those that needed it. However I couldn’t trust Ellie to get her food by herself.

Reviewing The Staff

Once we had settled into holiday life it was nice to begin to get to know the staff and the animation team. The kids club which was open every day (am & pm), and whilst at first I was worried at leaving Ellie, the team were amazing and got to know her and what she enjoyed. Billy, her younger brother really enjoyed the club especially learning his new card game Uno and wanted to visit most days. This is a great facility when you want some shade for your children or just some me time. The entertainment was provided daily in the main pool, which we didn’t join in (we preferred it quieter) and having several pools helped. The mini disco at night, again was too hustle and bustle for Ellie and I have to point out though that on our last night, one of the ladies actually stood with Ellie so she could have a dance without being jostled proving just how much the staff wanted everyone to join in; inclusion.

Conclusion of the Review

Apart from the hustle and bustle at dining and some of the rude people we encountered I would definitely recommend this hotel. Overall the staff were helpful, the hotel was kept clean with regular maid service. However I wish I had known beforehand that two of the restaurants you actually had to pay for drinks (Smile on the beach and the Asian A La Carte ). The shop was fully equipped and there was plenty to spend your money on (yes I know it was AI) including arcade games, additional drinks, and extra’s for the kids such as slush and named ice-creams.
All in all it was worth the money, it deserves it’s four stars and if you like water parks this is a hotel for you and for me and Ellie it was a thumbs up on inclusion.

We booked with Jet 2, here’s the link
https://www.jet2holidays.com/
or you can book direct with the hotel here if you would like to visit
https://www.gouvespark.gr/

Thanks for reading this review and I hope it has helped you to make a decision about this holiday. Please feel free to ask me any further questions in the comments and keep tuned for more reviews coming. If you are looking for a carvan holiday in the UK, check this review out
https://t21hub.com/2019/08/14/a-trip-to-wild-rose-caravan-park-with-ellie/

Until Next Time
Sharon x

A Trip to Wild Rose Caravan park with Ellie

I thought what a better way to continue to write about inclusion was to begin sharing our trips, good or bad as they may be able to help other parents that have children with Down Syndrome. So here is our first blog in the series…. A trip to Wild Rose Caravan Park in Appleby-in-Westmorland.

This is our second trip to the park, the first was subsidised by a local support group DS West Peninne back in May 2019. I won’t deny I was a caravan snob until I began this trip, but the comfort and luxury of these caravans were brilliant and therefore we returned in July 2019.

 

What Amenities Does The Park Have?

Amenities are important to us because even though we have a car, our family holidays are for rest and quality family time and this park had the lot.
A shop
A restaurant and pub in one
An arcade
A park
Grass verge to play other sports i.e. football and
An outdoor swimming pool

They even have regular entertainment come in however I’m not sure if this is all year round.

Why Do We Recommend?

For me I can pretty much hack most things if the staff are polite and inviting and the other members of the public are polite as Ellie is frightened of dogs and there are many here. See previous post
https://t21hub.com/2019/06/25/dog-free-zones/

This site has both, the staff were so friendly with the kids and even helped with a birthday surprise for Ellie. They made us feel welcome and everything was no bother for them.

The other guests were friendly and whilst the first time we did go with other families with Down Syndrome it was great to see many families there with children with additional needs on both occasions; suggesting that others also feel this is an ideal family get away

What Is Near By?

There are not many local places and a car is definitely needed but we did visit this castle on our first trip which was amazingly beautiful and you could spend all day there. 

The shop and reception have leaflets of nearby attractions.

Appleby Castle

So there you have it, our first trip and events blog that Ellie recommends. Have you visited the site, please do let me know and if you recommend any caravan sites and/or have written a review I would love to see them in the comments. Stay tuned as many more will be on there way and we will definitely go back to this site.

As always thanks for reading
Sharon x

Secret Summer Holidays to Enjoy with Down Syndrome

Summer holidays are something to look forward too, aren’t they?
When you have a child with Down Syndrome you may just wish to consider a few other things before booking. If you are anything like me your holiday choices come with a list as long as your arm in addition to sunshine and cost from

  • Daytime flights (Ellie will not fall asleep on a plane)
  • Not to far from the airport (as my children are young the quicker we get there the better)
  • No hills to climb (this would just cause a lot more energy)
  • 2 bedroomed accomodation (Ellie fights her sleep unless she realises it’s bedtime)

The Lanyard Explained
Have you got yours?
I only found out about this recently and I think it is a fabulous service offered. The lanyard helps all airport staff assist a child with a disability (including unseen ones) and the family with extra support including reduced queuing times. This is perfect for children with Down Syndrome who just don’t comprehend the reason for queuing or have little patience to do so. I have since heard that Manchester Airport has now opened The Sunflower Room which helps those families that need to avoid noise and crowds because of their disability.

The Lanyard

Holiday Secrets
Each child and family are unique in what they are looking for from a holiday but you may find that when one destination fits you revisit it time and time again. I personally have found that Greece is ideal for us a family. Usually a family run hotel in a quiet area with the sea nearby and it must have a pool. Other places highly recommended by other parents include

  • Orchard Holiday Park in the Isle of Wight
  • Golden Valley in Derbyshire for camping
  • Butlins in Skegness
  • Centre Parcs
  • Lake District
  • Loch Lomond in Scotland
  • Florida
  • Newquay Wales
  • Menorca
  • Ribby Hall in St. Anne’s
  • Haven and Park Dean holidays camps in Dorset
  • EuroDisney
  • Canaries
  • Portugal

If you would like to see where you can get free admission as a carer, please refer to my previous blog
https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/sharoncrowley.wordpress.com/907

Your Journey
What I love about children with Down Syndrome is that their likes and dislikes are all different so what will work for one child might not another. This is my own experience when we’re travelling, first I like to pre-warn Ellie of what we are doing and what is going to happen. When she was younger I would show her pictures of a plane or a video of a campsite so that she knew what to expect. Her Ipad is like her right arm as Ellie doesn’t enjoy crafts, so I will download as many video’s/games/educational apps as possible and ensure it is fully charged. We often carry a charge pack and ear phones too. Ellie amused me early on with plane journeys as she absolutely loved the butterflies we all experience with turbulence, I on the other hand do not!
I also ensure there are plenty of treats/food and drinks to hand.

Finally
I always take plenty of relevant medicine on our family holidays including Calpol and Piriton which have come in handy with bites and high temperatures and whilst it is no longer needed, in previous years I have had to inform our travel insurance where we were going as Ellie has a VSD.
Now there is no talk of surgery and no medication, this is no longer relevant so always find out with your travel insurance what do they need to be aware of.

I hope you have found this article useful. I would love to know if you holiday regularly to the same destination so I can add it to my list or if you are an inclusive holiday that would like to share your destination.

As always, thank you for reading and until next time
Sharon x