Haven Does it Again

Its been holiday time in our house, and again we decided to take a short
break (4 nights) at Haven Haggerston Castle in Northumberland, just south
of Berwick. Part of the reason we’ve gone there for the fourth time now is
tha its far enough away to seem like a proper break, but is close enough
that with breaking the journey up for the essential (with 2 ASD boys, this
is a big part of their holiday routine!) breakfast at Ikea Edinburgh, the
trip south seems relatively short. The boys had been looking forward to it
for ages, and after an up and down start to the year with Jane & Daniel’s
respective hospital stays for surgery, we were all ready for the time away.

The trip down was as it should be as far as the boys were concerned. We
arrived at Ikea just after 10am for breakfast. Jane & I wanted a quick look
round the store, and fortunately with Easter being upon us, there was an
Easter egg hunt for kids going on. It kept their attention walking through
the store, and they were rewarded with a freebie ice cream for finding the
eggs. We stayed long enough to have a decent stop, but short enough to make
sure we got to Haggerston Castle in plenty of time to get a trip to the
pool. Our check-in wasn’t until 4pm, so whiling away the time in the pool
was just the perfect way to relax after the journey down. Naturally,
playing some of the games in the amusement arcade was a must! A lot of the
machines give out tickets that can be exchanged for prizes, and the boys
love collecting them before their trip to the prize kiosk. For Daniel, it
started superbly with one of his favourite games, Doodle Jump. You get a
ticket for every 200 points scored, but if you can make it to the top,
there’s a jackpot of 1,000 tickets. Well this time – with onlookers too –
Daniel pulled it off and bagged his 1,000 tickets. I was so proud of him!

The caravan this time round was – as usual – very comfortable. We were
again lucky to be upgraded (last time we were upgraded to one of their
luxury lodges) to more luxurious accommodation. It was only 2 minutes walk
from the entertainment centre, so it meant that we could easily go back
without any real inconvenience if we’d forgotten anything. We were soon
settled in, and after a bit of winding down time, it was off to the
entertainment centre for games and the kids’ shows. The boys love the shows
put on by the Haven characters – the Seaside Squad (Rory the Tiger, Bradley
Bear, Anxious Elephant, Greedy the Gorilla, Polly and DJ Ned,) They’re
captivated during them, and Daniel always rushes to line up for the chance
to have his photo taken with the characters. Matthew hangs back, but
instead likes to take the picture of Daniel. The shows are long enough for
the boys, and finish about 730 – 745pm, which then allows them a chance to
play in the arcade afterwards before returning to the caravan with takeaway
for a late tea (there’s Pappa Johns, Burger King and fish & chips on site.)
Usually we fund the boys play, but this year, they’d saved their pocket
money for the holiday. We allowed them £10 a day to spend as they pleased,
and they had little purses with their change for games. Ok, I still put my
hand in my pocket for them, but it worked really well, and I think they
enjoyed the responsibility.

The routine of swim, show, games, takeaway, caravan was surprisingly broken
on the Tuesday. Matthew had spotted that their was a magician on in the
show bar at 930pm. In the end Matthew wasn’t keen. We weren’t bothered at
not having to go out again, but Daniel was keen, so off we went. The
magician in question was comic magician Martyn James. Going back out was
well rewarded with a hilarious half hour or so. It was a superb show that
had two ASD boys in fits of laughter. When you hear Matthew laugh out loud
– a sound not heard that often – you know he’s enjoying himself. They were
both buzzing!

The kids entertainments though were up to scratch. They boys still enjoy
some of the toddlers daytime activities, but they loved the traditional
morning arts and crafts, the punch & judy show, and a character “party”.
But what did catch their imagination was a new activity entitled “Nature
Rockz” – it was led by the park ranger, “Ranger Steve.” It focussed on
woodland nature, and to cap the week off, safely building a camp fire
before toasting marshmallows! I enjoyed that one too!

The week just flew in, and we all enjoyed it although with the Scottish and
English school hols seemingly coinciding, it was incredibly busy – a good
buzz really – with the pool being mobbed on occasion, and the show bar
being very busy. I think it maybe got to Daniel a bit, and he had several
little meltdowns. It gave us the opportunity to talk about time outs with
him when he felt things were getting to him. The noise and bright lights of
the amusements, along with the daily swimming in a noisy pool, and the
character shows (all led by the fabulous Funstars) was just sensory
overload for our little guy – and Matthew. But, they coped with it
reasonably well, and yet again it seemed that Haven is just the perfect
destination for them still.

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