Tiddler Tales, Doodle Dancing and a zoom on a broom…..

A wonderful few days at the Family Arts Weekend at Theatr Clwyd, Mold! I’m ashamed to admit that I hardly ever make trips to this lovely theatre, just a few miles from where we live.

In our never-ending quest to find adventures to compensate for being abandoned by the boys for the world of cricket, it can sometimes be tricky to find activities that I know Emily will be able to access and enjoy. When I spotted the wide variety of events and activities on offer over the weekend I thought we should give it a go.

Emily has a very limited concentration span (unless it’s YouTube videos of other children opening boxes of toys, who uploads these strange things and manages to get 23 million views??!!); so the short duration of the productions and storytelling sessions really appealed.

On our first day we went to see ‘Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales’, a 60 minute show which tells the story of 4 popular Julia Donaldson books cleverly woven together with music, puppets and funny characters. I had booked 2 seats at the end of the row (incase sharp exit required) which also happened to be behind the space reserved for wheelchairs.

This worked out really well for us as it provided a space for Emily to stand, dance or randomly sit down on the floor when she needed a little ‘sensory break’ (aka escape from Mummy’s silly expectation of sitting still in a nice comfy chair). I am getting better all the time at not minding when Emily is the only one standing up or dancing, as long as she’s having a great time who cares!

On Day 2 it was ‘The Doodle Dance Show’, our best theatre experience with children so far (in my humble opinion). A magical story-show, this was a 60 minute interactive session incorporating storytelling, dance, music, combined with audience participation and activities. Even the most inhibited dancers/artists (i.e. grown-ups) were having a great time.

This was in the Clwyd Room which has more of a workshop feel to it. There are steps down into the room with handrails either side, but I did also spot a small wheelchair lift in the corner. We all sat on cushions on the floor around a huge piece of white paper, I’m sure if you were unable to lower onto a cushion wheelchairs would be completely welcome.

Finally Day 3 was a 25 minute showing of ‘Room on the Broom’ in the cinema, another one of Julia Donaldson’s lovely books. We like it so much we accidentally have 2 copies in the house. There is a lift down to the lower level of the cinema and a small area for wheelchairs with 2 companion seats. Booster seats available for the littlies!

The Family Arts Weekend was really affordable, ticket prices ranged between £5 for Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, to a free event in the cinema. There were also lots of free or very low-cost activities, including craft, street dance, costume areas and face painting. Window painting proved very popular (think I’m going to regret encouraging that)…

We would like to catch ‘You’ve Got Dragons’ if it’s back at Theatr Clwyd another time, as this is a fully accessible show with creative captioning, BSL and audio description.

Theatr Clwyd appears to have had adaptations to provide accessibility to all areas, including additional lifts and wheelchair areas; and overall it feels very accessible (other than the tunnel from the car park which is not wheelchair accessible). There are 4 blue badge spaces directly outside the theatre, and some spaces in the main car park. You can exit the car park by the entrance onto the road if the tunnel is inaccessible for you.

There are disabled toilet facilities, but no Changing Places facilities (the nearest ones are at Holywell Leisure Centre approximately 20 mins away, or many more in Chester).

Theatr Clwyd is part of the nationwide HYNT card scheme which provides a free ticket for a PA or carer. The theatre has many additional accessibility features including an induction loop system, captioned and described shows, and relaxed performances.

You cannot fail to find something here to entertain everyone in the family, including cinema, theatre, dance, comedy, art exhibitions or just a cup of tea and a cake. If like me you have a small person with a limited concentration span, who loves to dance, listen to music and all things magical; then the family activities are probably for you! If you (also like me) have a bit extra to think about, take the time to have a look at all the accessibility information. If your littlie has sensory issues, don’t be put off as there are lots of additional options around this, and it’s a really relaxed venue.

If you don’t live near this lovely theatre, take the plunge and google your local one. Many theatres and art centres now really go the extra mile with accessibility.

Happy dancing!

 

Banana Split – an Ice Skating adventure

Emily and I decided to take our life (or at least the possibility of our fingers being sliced off) into our hands, and try out a disability ice-skating session at Deeside Leisure Centre recently. I appreciate you don’t all live in this area, but I wanted to encourage you to search this out locally. It’s not something I would have given a second thought to, presuming that it wouldn’t be something Emily could access and that standing up on blades would be impossible for her. After being encouraged by a friend we decided to give it a go….(beware of the occasional bad ice-related references).

An amazing sight greeted us rink-side, children and adults whizzing around on penguins, bananas, in wheelchairs and Maclaren Majors. At this point I started to relax a bit, although still really unsure how this would work out…Emily usually either launches into something new with gusto or goes into a mini meltdown and can’t be persuaded. Hoping for the former at this stage as it was flipping freezing (!).

Apologies in advance for photo quality, was attempting to remain upright and balanced in uncomfortable, high footwear…

Emily was given some cool (!) bobskates to wear, which were almost flat and meant she could walk in them with help to the side of the rink. At this point in time it wouldn’t be a possibility for her to walk in regular ice-skates, so the bobskates are a fab way to be introduced to the sensation of being on the ice if you haven’t got the balance and co-ordination needed  for ice-skates.

There were lots of coaches and helpers around, and a banana was brought over. We helped Emily onto the ice and straight onto the banana (all going well so far). One of the coaches then took Emily around the rink and luckily her adrenaline junkie side kicked in and she loved it.

2 people can sit on the bananas and be pushed with ease by someone wearing ice-skates. The bobskates meant Emily’s feet moved with ease on the ice. Children or adults who were confident to stand on the ice could use a penguin balance aid.

Unfortunately I eventually had to say goodbye to terra firma and take my turn on the ice. As you may be able to tell I held on with a firm grip and made sure not to stand up too straight or move too quickly. We did get up speed a couple of times but none of the circling and whizzing business Emily enjoyed with the coach. Our only hairy moment was Emily deciding to disembark from the banana mid-whizz but all was rescued from disaster.

I would really urge you to enquire at your local rink or with your local disability sport officer about disability sessions, we can’t wait to go back and have another go at an activity I never in a million years thought would be something Emily could try and love. No matter what your level of ability there will be a way to get you on the ice. The sessions are much quieter than an open skating session and the loud music is turned off. The whole family can join in and enjoy a bit of chilly freedom.

The session was £5 for a 45 minute session, free entry for a carer, and no skate-hire charges. Physical access to Deeside Leisure Centre and the ice  rink is very good and there is a new café which is also accessible. Plenty of disabled spaces close to the entrance, and disabled toilet facilities. The nearest Changing Places facilities are in Holywell Leisure Centre (CH8 7UZ) or venues in Chester including The Storyhouse and Grosvenor Park. Unfortunately both of these venues are at least 15 minutes away.

So whizz on down, and via blades, bobskates, ice-skates, wheels, penguins or even a banana – get yourself onto the ice!!!

 

(B)Loggerheads Country Park

So a trip to the lovely Loggerheads Country Park in the Clwydian Range in North Wales, trialling our first trip out with a car-sick puppy. Luckily the winding Welsh roads didn’t seem to bother her too much and she was too busy rolling wet fur and mud into the boot on the way home to worry about vomiting up the River Alyn…

Loggerheads is one of our favourite local places to visit and it’s lovely to visit at all times of the year. There is a half-mile accessible route you can walk through cool woodland which takes you alongside the river, over a lovely bridge (not needed as the river had completely dried up at this point!) and back towards the visitor centre, spotting the wooden carved animals along the way.

This path follows the route of the old water course built to carry water for the mining operations, and brings you back past the water mill.

You have to be really careful with small people or naughty pups on the return route as there is quite a sharp drop on the left of the path for part of the route, and no fence.

We have walked this route using the Maclaren Major, and it’s fine in dry weather. It can be pretty challenging and muddy for wheels in the winter, and you might need carrier bags for your wheels!

(There are longer and more challenging walks, and a fairly steep but short incline up through the woods will bring you out to some fabulous views at the top of the cliffs. There are lots of steps on the route back down. You can also take part in activities such as abseiling at Devil’s Gorge).

There are disabled parking spaces opposite the entrance walkway to the visitor centre, but it’s not clear from the ticket machine whether blue badge holders have to pay. I will double check next time as we had forgotten about a ticket until we were driving out (too busy wrestling the pup out of the car when we arrived…..). Most councils around here seem to offer free parking for blue badge holders.

The visitor centre/shop and Caffi Florence are very accessible, and there are disabled toilet facilities. The nearest Changing Places facility is at the RDA Centre in Llanfynydd (LL11 5HN).

Loggerheads has a large, flat grassed area opposite the visitor centre where you can eat your picnic, relax or play football.

There is an outdoor window serving local ice-cream, but don’t forget about Gelateria Domingo the Llama which is just up the road if you fancy a 2 stop day out! Don’t make my mistake and be persuaded into buying a soft chocolate brownie in 25 degree heat, then leave the wet wipes in the car…

The pre-brownie face.

The ideal way to finish your trip on a hot day is to have a paddle in a safe and shallow spot. The river has dried out the further it flows down through Loggerheads, so we couldn’t go to the wider shallow area. Rosie pup was the only one brave enough to have a (loud) swim.

Loggerheads Country Park is a lovely trip out, has free entry and has ticked the accessibility and dog-friendly boxes. Go and enjoy a wander round the short route or challenge yourself up to the cliffs or for a spot of abseiling. There are themed activities during the year such as at Christmas and New Year.

Let me know below in the comments box or on FB/Twitter/Instagram if you have been to Loggerheads, or if it is one of your favourites – add some pics! Feel free to ask questions if you are planning a visit x

www.visitclwydianrange.co.uk