New SEN farm experience and holiday lodges in County Durham needs your support... — Scope | Disability forum
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New SEN farm experience and holiday lodges in County Durham needs your support...

DawnAd24haystax Member Posts: 1 Listener

We have submitted a planning application to open a farm experience centre which will be open to all but designed specifically for families who have a family member with some special needs

If you would like to support us please e mail [email protected] by 15th June

And quote ref DM/20/01201/FPA

Our inspiration for this project was in observing our youngest daughter Dawns stepson Shayne, who had very challenging behaviours when he first joined our family and how interaction with our animals had such a calming effect. We would like to offer this opportunity to other families who have similar issues.

Although there are a number of centres for disabled children, these tend to be somewhat institutional, usually requiring advance booking and they don’t really provide for siblings who are not disabled, leaving them largely on the side-lines. On the other hand, most mainstream visitor attractions (theme parks, zoos, farm parks) do their best to accommodate disabled children but are generally not fully accessible, leaving the disabled child on the side-line, there seems to be no provision in this middle ground – an attraction that the whole family can enjoy together, whether disabled or not.

The farm experience centre will include a “ play barn” but in addition to traditional soft play we will also have some sensory rooms and other suitable equipment as well as a café and a specific “ changing places” WC. We will create a nature trail and Forest school in the existing woodland adjoining the site. There will be opportunities to have therapy sessions with animals as well as a pets corner and other farm animals grazing nearby

Suitable holiday accommodation can also be an issue for families who have someone with special needs. We are hoping to develop a lodge park with some lodges sited close to the farm experience centre. These have been designed to take into account mobility and sensory issues. Families renting these lodges will have open access to the farm experience centre.

The lodges will be designed so that they are highly accessible for people with mobility issues, in particular for those with special educational needs and disabilities but also individuals with a defined need or diagnosis, for adults and children with learning disabilities, for people with mental ill health, dementia, children and adults with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including ex-services personnel.

We plan to start with 3 rental units, one of which for sensory needs which will be dog friendly to accommodate a service dog. We intend to carry out exit surveys to find out what we could do better before we commission the next lodge build and gradually increase our fleet as more funds become available and we understand more the varying needs so eventually we will have a variety of accessible lodges to accommodate all issues.

Initially at the booking stage we will discuss what equipment is needed for their stay and provide a range of mobile aids such as hoists and click in/out support rails etc.


There will also be lodges available for sale from premium lodge manufacturers such as Prestige and Aspire as well as bespoke lodges from Retreat who have worked very closely with us to design the accessible units. ( we need to sell some asap to help finance the farm experience bit!).


In addition, we plan to be able to provide some work experience for young adults with SEN so they can gain confidence and experience to allow them to apply for positions in mainstream employment. We have joined an organisation called Social Farms and Gardens which is a charity to guide us through this process

Below are some links to newspaper articles which appeared soon after the planning application was submitted.

Your help would be very much appreciated

Very best wishes



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