SEN Family on Holiday at Moonfleet Manor

When we decided to go back to Moonfleet Manor this September, I was not only really looking forward to it (we had such a great time when we went two years ago) but I was super interested to see how the hotel would cope with us as an SEN family. Could they accommodate the needs Oscar, as an autistic child has, and give us as parents (and adults) a decent break too?

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Moonfleet Manor in Weymouth

Preparation

I started to get a feeling that they just might, even before we arrived. Weeks before our stay I phoned the hotel to book Oscar into the onsite creche, sessions of which are included in the room price. I spoke to the Ofsted registered creche manager and explained about Oscar’s Autism and asked whether they would be able to cope if he came to spend time with them. She couldn’t have been any clearer that he would be welcomed with open arms, and explained they regularly have guests with disabilities including those on the Spectrum. Without prompting she asked whether we would like them to assign a member of creche staff to be Oscar’s one to one during his sessions. I was blown away by this as it was exactly what he needed, but was something I’d never thought they’d be able to provide. They continued to outdo themselves when, several days later, they emailed me a picture of the staff member who would be his one to one, so I could prepare Oscar beforehand. Again, above and beyond and highly appreciated.

I tried to prepare Oscar as best I could for the upcoming holiday, by talking about the hotel, showing him videos from Moonfleet’s website and making him a visual board which we stuck to the lounge door for a week beforehand. He looked at it every time he went past and was soon telling me he needed to go swimming. By the time we left he was pretty excited I think.

Oscar's Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

Oscar’s Moonfleet Manor Holiday visual board

The journey to Weymouth, in Dorset was easy (and made all the easier by Thomas the Tank Engine films on the iPad!). We arrived too early to get access to our room, but the staff happily checked us in and gave us our room name so we could order lunch. Oscar had a little wander round the gorgeous hotel lounges, looking at the vintage pieces on the walls, before finding the garden. We thought he’d be drawn to the trampoline, having been sat in the car for two hours, and he might have been had he not seen the giant sandpit. He happily installed himself and his trains in the sand, leaving us to have a coffee and a biscuit, bought out to us in the garden. Aaaaaand relax. The fact that the sandpit was in a gated enclosure was a nice touch and the huge garden itself was fairly secure, although this did rely heavily on other guests closing the gate to the car park, which not all did.

boy in sandpit

Oscar adored the giant sand pit at Moonfleet Manor

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more secuirty

The sandpit at Moonfleet Manor was in a gated enclosure, great for small children or those who need a little more security. Plus, look at that view!

Coffee cup

When someone brings you coffee and a cookie almost as soon as you arrive, you know its going to be a good holiday!

Creche

At 3pm, we took him to his first creche session. We had booked him in for four sessions over the two days so were hopeful that would give us (and particularly me 😉 ) some time and space to be alone. We were introduced to his one to one, Tara, who we chatted to about Oscar’s likes and dislikes etc. She asked some really relevant questions that kind of took me aback a little, until she told me she was also the mother of a SEN child herself and spoke Makaton at home. As any SEN parent knows, our children take a special kind of patience and knowing Tara had real life experience of this gave me even more confidence in his time at the creche. As I expected he would, Oscar ran straight in, excited to play with all the new toys (including of course the trains and track) and we were free for two hours.

Room

We checked into our room without Oscar, which allowed us both to lay out his things ready for him (making the unfamiliar a bit more friendly) but also to look round our accommodation. I was thrilled with the room. We had a Deluxe Two Bed Family room and couldn’t get over the space this afforded the three of us. As well as our huge (ridiculously comfy) bed and the generously proportioned bathroom (with bath, shower and double sinks), the room also had two twin beds, which were cleverly separated from the main room, giving the feel of two rooms. And each room had its own window, meaning that although this was a large space it didn’t feel too dark. Plus, what a view!

img_5742

The lounge area of the room. Behind those doors was a real surprise!

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I'm sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Double sinks! As the room could sleep a family of up to five I’m sure this detail would be most appreciated.

Moonfleet Fleet

View from our room at Moonfleet Manor. Across the gardens and down to the Fleet.

This was a wonderful and unexpected touch as we were worried how Oscar would cope with sleeping in the same room as us. As it happened he had a generously proportioned ‘room’ all to himself, with twin beds, it’s own storage and own TV. This room could have slept up to three, with a camping style bed being included at the foot of the twin beds. This had been made up despite us not needing it, and blow me, if Oscar didn’t insist on sleeping in it (very well I might add!) both nights! Funny child 😉

beds

Oscar’s room was separated from us, which gave him his own space and a choice of beds!

When we bought Oscar up to the room after his creche session (and our relaxed Cream Tea in the lounge in our favourite chairs in the bay window!) he ran around giggling, jumping on the beds and then proceeded to get his trains out and play with them on the coffee table in the living room area. It was so nice to have that extra room and it gave him the space to regulate himself in peace after busy sessions in the creche/pool/garden etc.

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way ;)

We booked our cream tea before we arrived. Happiness in a scone. PS this jam cream combo is THE only way 😉

Food

One of the things we loved about Moonfleet last time was their ability to feed all age ranges so thoughtfully. Despite Oscar being a rather anxious eater, we knew there would probably be a few things he would eat on the menu and we were right. However, we hadn’t considered how difficult the dining room might be for him. The first night he managed it, just about. Although he didn’t get upset, there was just waaaaay too much going on for him to concentrate on eating. Or sitting. Add to that a new(ish) food and it just all got a bit much and we left before things spiralled. The next night, after a busy day in the creche and the pool, we just figured he’d be more comfortable and eat more if we ordered room service. It couldn’t have been easier and they bought up his naan bread pizza and fries with the requested squash in minutes. It was a genius plan and I was just so grateful that it’s a service the hotel are happy to provide. It made such a difference and he ate the whole meal. It was also another time we were so grateful for the extra space the room provided.

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

He loved the naan bread pizza at Moonfleet Manor, but struggled with the dining room

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled it arrived with a 'hat'. I told him not to get used to it ;)

Deciding to order him room service was an inspired plan. Oscar was thrilled when it arrived with a ‘hat’. I told him not to get used to it 😉

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

He ate much more in our room and was much more comfortable.

Breakfast was equally good with a menu to chose from or a running buffet of cooked breakfast items, along with the usual cereals, pastries etc. Again Oscar struggled a little with the dining room, although being tempted with Nutella on toast and the pastry basket was enough to get him to eat something and give us time to do the same. However, not before he insisted 8am was time for the sand pit! And who were we to argue? It was after all his holiday too!

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

Prebreakfast sand pit action.

There were healthyier options thank pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasnt going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

There were healthier options than pain au chocolat and chocolate muffins on offer for breakfast at Moonfleet Manor, but I wasn’t going to argue. It was his holiday too after all!

Baby Listening

The excellent food continued into the evening and due Moonfleet Manor’s wonderful baby listening service, we were able to thoroughly enjoy it! Each night we kept Oscar’s bedtime routine the same as home, meaning when he got into this new bed he was ready for sleep. We called down to the reception to turn the baby listening service on and left him, with fingers crossed. And bless him if he wasn’t out like a light both nights! It was just so nice to have that time, sans child, to eat a delicious meal together, all the while knowing he was safe and monitored. We did see the receptionist come and find several families over the course of the two evenings. The majority of our fellow guests had young toddlers and babies, so that didn’t surprise me, but it did comfort me to know someone was actually listening!

Evenings

Our evenings, just the two of us, were wonderful. So relaxed and so much fun. It really did feel like ‘going out’ for dinner both nights. We dressed up, although you totally didn’t need to. We started the evening with drinks and nibbles in the lounge, where we were bought the menu to order from. We were then called to our table when our food was imminent. And the food itself was delicious. We played a game of who won each course both nights and disagreed over the outcome of most, as everything was so good. Plus Ben had goats cheese and who can ever win with goats cheese!

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier

Wine and nibbles before dinner. I can highly recommend a bottle of the the Preignes le Vieux Viognier!

My winning dinner

My winning dinner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner

Although Ben was adamant his choice was the winner. He was wrong though!

Spa

Our opportunity to relax while Oscar was looked after in the creche continued in the onsite spa. Both Ben and I booked treatments for our second day. I had a body wrap and a pedicure and Ben a facial and massage. The fact that the hotel has a fully functioning spa onsite, would be a draw for any stressed out parent. We made our appointments at opposite ends of the day so neither one of us would be left to look after the boy alone.

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

Heated bootees in the Moonfleet Manor Spa! Stylish!

I love a good pedi!

I love a good pedi!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap!

While Ben went to have his treatments in the afternoon I had a nap! A nap! Imagine that!

Pool

As it happened my nap was disturbed half way through as Oscar had managed to wet every pair of trousers I had taken down to the creche for him (toilet training is a new and ongoing process for us). I took some more down to him, however once he saw me it became apparent he didn’t want to stay. I didn’t mind and chose instead to take him to the pool next door.

Moonfleet Manor has a three small pools onsite, a baby pool, a small learning pool and a larger swimming pool. While it may not be as fancy looking as some other spa hotel pools I’ve seen, it certainly worked for us.

pool

I was unable to take my own photos in the pool and this is an old one taken before this year’s renovation. Those pillars are no longer there.

Having not been swimming for a long time I wasn’t sure how Oscar would react. I needn’t have worried. He was most interested in the swimming lessons taking place in the learning pool (all babies or young children) and happily snaffled a couple of pool noodles to play with from the teacher. I still don’t know where he found a pair of Peppa Pig armbands, but find them he did. Once he put them on there was literally no stopping him. We were in the pool for two hours and in the end I had to practically drag him out, he was having so much fun. So much in fact that we decided not to put him into the creche the morning of our departure and instead both took him to the pool. He just loved being in the water so much! I am definitely going to have to look into one to one swimming lessons for him.

As the pool wasn’t too large I could relax about him getting lost and it never got busy enough to be too much for him. The only thing that could have been better for me were the changing rooms. The facilities were unisex and yet there were very few cubicles. On days busy with guests or swimming students this would mean you could end up changing in front of the opposite sex. Not ideal to say the least. However, there were decent baby changing facilities, free lockers, towels and toilets within the changing rooms. I would recommend changing into your swimwear in your room, meaning you only have to use the facilities at one end of your swim. Unless, unlike me, you have no body image issues!

The Verandah

One of Moonfleet Manor’s other assets is it’s enormous, and I mean enormous, play barn The Verandah. As we were only there for two days, we barely had time to fit it in, but did pop in for a quick run around before departing the hotel. Anything to let him burn off a bit of energy before getting in the car! He LOVED it, just as much as last time, and we actually ended up having this giant space, filled with soft play, trampolines, climbing equipment, football pitch, piano, ride on toys and air hockey tables to ourselves!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days!

The Verandah. More fun than you could shake a stick at in one enormous room. Perfect for wet days! Includes giant clambering beanbag bunny!

Oscar and daddy having a go at the highrope

Oscar and daddy having a go at the slackline

The boy's first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

The boy’s first game of air hockey. He thought it was hilarious every time he let a goal in!

Again the room was fairly secure and was a great place for Oscar to get some vestibular and propreoceptive sensory feedback! It also had a nice array of comfy seats for the adults, not that we got to use them!

Impressions

Moonfleet Manor remains a beautiful place to go. The amount of facilities available to all ages are more than you’d find at most other holiday resorts let alone other hotels and I’m so glad we went. Oscar’s issues with the dining room did make me realise how differently we manage food and it’s consumption at home. I came away feeling like self catering would have been much easier. For him and for us in terms of his behaviour. However, he’s since started school and is slowly learning to eat in a room with lots of others, which makes me think actually this wouldn’t be an issue again. But if it is for you I would highly recommend the room service option!

The staff couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. Not once were ever made to feel we were any different to any other family. When, during his first session in the creche, Oscar needed a change of clothes. The hotel manager came to find us and once we’d grabbed the clothes insisted he take them over himself so we could resume our sitting/schlomping in the chairs by the window! A gesture that was most appreciated. Those two hours sure do fly by!

All the facilities aside, my favourite thing about Moonfleet Manor is it’s location. The views from the hotel and gardens down to the Fleet and Chesil Beach were just what I needed after a very stressful summer. Peaceful and calming, they breathed new life into all of us as a family.

Evening explore

Evening explore

Boats on the Fleet

Boats on the Fleet

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

The field of horses next to the garden were a great hit with Oscar!

Just like when we visited with a toddler, we came to Moonfleet Manor with our autistic son, looking for a chance to rest. We did just that.

img_5799

A beautiful day begins at Moonfleet Manor.

 

 

 

We would like to thank Moonfleet Manor for supporting us on our visit to their hotel. We paid for our room and treatments ourselves, however were gifted a complimentary room upgrade for this review.

As always all opinions are honest and my own.

You can find out more about Moonfleet Manor and the Luxury Family Hotel chain on their websites.

 

 

 

I have learnt

A week. I’ve been a school boy’s mum for a week. Or in fact over a week. And I can’t quite believe it.

Maybe I should write a ’10 things I have learnt about school age children/having an SEN child in a mainstream school/the school gate’ post. They seem to be popular. But to be honest I’m not sure I’ve learnt very much about any of those things.

I know I’ve learnt that sending my child off to school in tears breaks my heart in ways I was absolutely not expecting.

I’ve learnt I can hold my tears back when he really needs me to. And that they will engulf me when I let them go.

I’ve learnt that having a child beg to stay home while hiding under the duvet, a thing he has NEVER done before, and yet staying calm and collected and kind but firm is ridiculously hard.

I’ve learnt I don’t care about what he’s actually doing in the day, as long as I hear he’s OK.

I’ve learnt how proud a silly little sticker can make me.

img_5964

I’ve learnt my capacity to stay on message is immense and, for Oscar, the very kindest thing I could possibly do.

I’ve learnt that when he’s ready to ‘tell’ me things he will.

I’ve learnt how amazing my son’s capacity for communication actually is, even if that includes play acting with his very favourite soft toys.

I’ve learnt that when Oscar asks to take a bear to school with him, I will secretly squeeze and whisper to that bear to please look after him.

I’ve learnt about my son’s capacity to find coping mechanisms quickly and appropriately.

I’ve learnt how quickly I can turn around a load of dirty uniform.

I’ve learnt that I was ready to let him go. And to have him come back.

I’ve learnt the joys of time.

I’ve learnt that my mind will still automatically jump to how to manage a situation for Oscar, even if he’s not there.

I’ve learnt how much people are rooting for Oscar.

I’ve learnt how supportive my community is. And how much I truly appreciate that.

OK, so maybe I have learnt a few things. Unexpected things, learnt through painful lessons. But learnt none the less.  I cried every day last week. But only one day so far this week. I didn’t cry yesterday. I didn’t cry today.

I’ve learnt that he will cope.

I’ve learnt that I will cope.

boy on path

On his way

When Summer isn’t all about making memories

The consensus across the sentiments I see expressed on social media, is that parents have spent a lot of energy this summer, relishing the time they have with their children, and working really hard to make it as special as they can, so that they never look back and say they wasted these young days. That when these days are over they will miss the chaos and the muddy knees and the laughing and trips to the beach. And I don’t doubt it. But while you may have adored the summer holidays, being with your children and making wonderful memories, for me eight weeks without barely a break has been too long.

And that makes me insanely jealous.

Our summer holidays started well. Oscar began happily enough. I loved not having to get up and dressed in time to walk the miles a day to take him to preschool. It was enough. But within a few weeks the iPad had taken over our lives and try as I might to set up activities at home, mostly I felt like I was whistling in the wind. I had to take him out of the house, to the park, or to the shops on errands, just in order to get him away from the screen. Cause when he falls into the vortex that is Youtube Kids, I may as well not exist.

It’s my fault of course. I gave him the damn thing in the first place. Downloaded the stupid app in an attempt to stop him googling pictures of trains, which would lead to videos of trains on real Youtube, which lead to videos that weren’t wholly (or sometime at all) appropriate. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

But unlike last year where he spent a large portion of the summer hols watching Team Umizoomi on TV, which seemed to improve his language no end, this summer, his language seems to have stalled. And in the last few weeks the echolalia is back; repeating scenes from YouTube videos over and over. He hasn’t done that for so long. At least he now brings me into his script, teaching me what to say and when. For example:

Oscar comes over to Mummy: “Mummy (say) Oscar, what you talking about?”

Mummy: What are you talking about Oscar?

Oscar: It’s a ghghghghost train drive here last night

Mummy: Where?

Oscar: Last night (something I cant quite make out) made my wheels wobble

Mummy: You are a silly engine, I’m not afraid of ghosts

Over. And Over. And Over.

A friend with older autistic children has suggested this could be his attempt to make order out of the chaos. That for him, not going regularly to preschool (his established routine) is starting to make him anxious. It could be. I thought we were doing OK, but his behaviour has started to suggest he’s not doing quite so great. No full on melt downs yet, but lots of resistance to doing anything. And an obsession with anything Thomas related. He’s always been a fan but this summer he’s taken that to another level. Again, I’m assuming it’s familiarity in an unfamiliar routine. An attempt to make sense of our world.

We have had a few nice days. We went on our Day out with Thomas, he’s been to Challengers twice (which he loved – I hear. He never tells me of course), we’ve had the paddling pool in the garden and sojourns to the swings. But there have been no day trips out out. Because I don’t drive if it’s not on a train or a bus I can’t do it. But even if it was on a train line, the thought of taking him ‘out out’ alone scares me. We have been to our local children’s centre a few times this summer, which has been mostly lovely (although it’s hardly LegoLand right?!) Anyway one day he had a good time but started to get stressed towards the end and I knew it was time to go. We went to the toilet before we left, when he started to cry and fight me. I had a banging headache that day and I ended up sat on the floor of the loos, trying to hold the tears in, just completely unsure of how I was literally going to get him home. Because everywhere we go is under my own steam and I seriously wasn’t sure I had any left.

I did get him home (he calmed down as soon as we left), but that’s how I feel this summer has left us both. With little resources left. Somewhat frayed at the edges.

I’m not sure this is the best frame of mind to start school is it? Surely it would be better to be rested and raring to go. But I’m pretty sure that’s not how he feels. At a guess I’d say stressed, bored, lonely even. Probably sick of my face. I’m hoping our short break to Moonfleet Manor next week is a good idea. He’ll have so much to do and lots of new things to play with. I doubt he’ll remember our last visit so I’m making him a visual reminder. But I am hopeful that we’ll all come back a bit more…. if not rested, then more ourselves.

Because this summer has left me like my Woody and Florence AUTISMMAMA bracelet.

Worn thin and ready to break.

Worn thin and ready to break

Worn thin and ready to break

On the School Bus

Oscar starts school in three short weeks. But whether or not I’m ready for it is not what I want to talk about today (by the way, I’m not).

I knew the school we’d chosen was the right one from the first visit. I just knew. But there was a problem. The school is three miles away and I don’t drive. This wouldn’t have been an issue had there been a decent public transport link, but there just isn’t. However, I knew this school was perfect for Oscar, so I put all thoughts of actually getting him there to the back of my mind. After all where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

And I’m thrilled to say we found that way. Because we live more than two miles away from the school (3.1 to be exact) and because I don’t drive due to my epilepsy and because of Oscar’s Autism, the council have agreed to provide him with transport to and from school. I’m so happy about this. The logistics otherwise just don’t bare thinking about. It means the mini bus will pick him up from our house and drop him at school (and vice versa) every day. It’s such a relief.

I love that it means I can concentrate on just getting one of us ready in the morning. I mean I probably wont hand him over in my pyjamas, but if I really had to I could! I can make sure he’s as prepped for the day and as calm as possible without having to worry about getting myself ready to leave the house and struggling to getting him there. No more mile long walks along busy roads to preschool every day for me!

And I think he’s going to enjoy getting the bus with other children from his school. He’s a surprisingly sociable little guy, so I think he’s going to get a lot out of riding in the ‘Frog Bus’ (the bus has a frog on the side) with the kids. He will of course have an adult escort on the bus, but I’m hoping he’ll enjoy the social interaction that it brings and who knows, he may even make some friends!

And that got me thinking. One of the main things I felt we missed out on when Oscar was starting late and finishing early at preschool (apart from actual time at preschool) was the social interaction with the children and their parents. It was really hard for me to develop any kind of friendships through the preschool because I just didn’t see, and therefore get to know, any of the other mums. And the fact that I’m not going to be dropping off or picking up Oscar from school, kind of leaves me in the same situation. When children are older and start making their own friends I don’t suppose it matters so much. But at this young age, I remember from my own childhood, that much of the socialising they do outside of school comes as a result of the friendships their parents make at the gates. Not to mention the friendships that I could be missing out on. It’s something of a conundrum.

But hang on just a minute. Schools in the States use buses to transport their pupils as standard don’t they? Unless TV and films have lied to me, even from the earliest age our Stateside friends put their kids on a bus to school and have them dropped off in the same fashion and have been doing so for years. So what do American parents do? How do they connect with their child’s school? How do they meet each other? How do they form friendships? Do they have another way or is it something that wouldn’t occur to them to do at all? I obviously need to chat to some American moms and find out what I need to be doing. Any advice gratefully accepted!

ICCE_First_Student_Wallkill_School_Bus

Of course the school gates aren’t the only way to meet other parents at your child’s school. Its the easiest way sure, but what about things like PTA meetings and committees? School fetes and fundraising dos? I can do those. I can help out and make friends at the same time. And I hear Oscar’s school’s version of PTA meetings have wine!

See. I knew it was the right school for us 😉

Our day out with Thomas the Tank on the Watercress Line

If you follow me on social media at all, you can’t have missed how excited I was when I recently won a Family Ticket for The Watercress Line’s Day out with Thomas event. If you haven’t heard of the Watercress Line (or to give it it’s full title The Mid Hants Railway – The Watercress Line), it’s a beautifully restored and maintained vintage steam and diesel railway line, running trains all year round from Alton to Alresford in Hampshire. If you haven’t heard of Thomas the Tank then where on earth have you been for the last century?

The competition was run on Instagram and asked you to share photos of your child playing with their Thomas toys. Seeing as how Oscar is such a big Thomas fan, I had plenty to hand and entered a few. This is the one that won and quite right too. I love it!

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said ""I'm working on one side of the table, he's working on the other. It's lush"

The IG photo that won the competition. The original caption said “I’m working on one side of the table, he’s working on the other. It’s lush”

We started to explain to Oscar where we were going and what we were doing two days before the Thomas experience even started, which was a massive mistake. Once he heard, he wanted to go NOW, NOW, NOW! School boy error on my part perhaps, but it did give him time to get his head around the idea. We used videos on the Watercress Line website, showed him pictures and talked him through what we might see, In his mind he had it all sorted. He was going to drive Thomas, I was going to ride in Clarabel and Ben was going to set the points.  And he told us all that with words, dontcha know!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

Oscar marching up to the station as early as we could have possibly got there!

A Day out with Thomas

A Day out with Thomas was running for a week this summer and Oscar’s excitement made sure we were stood on Ropley station platform, tickets in hand, at 9.30 on the first day it started. He was beside himself and to be honest so was I. I mean how often do you get to introduce your child to their idol? I’d seen photos of what to expect, but I wasn’t quite sure how authentic it would feel. I’ve heard of other ‘experiences’ that promise the world and fail to deliver, but I needn’t have worried. When Thomas puffed down the track my little boys screams of “It’s Thomas, he’s here” and how hard he jumped up and down told me all I needed to know. As did the fact that Oscar’s excitment made Ben well up 😉

image

Just look at how perfect this Thomas is! It blew all our minds!

Thomas himself gives short trips up and down a small piece of track (well he is only a tank engine!) and when he arrived on the platform we started to walk straight to Annie and Clarabel (the carriages for those not in the know!). However, Oscar had other ideas. Despite all our prep, he was adamant he was there to drive Thomas. We told him over and over that he couldn’t, but it took quite a long time for him to understand (and a few tears). It was no ones fault. He just got an idea in his head and when that happens it takes some effort to change that.

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn't just a little disappointed!

We finally got him to ride in Annie and Clarabel, instead of in Thomas, but bless his heart if he wasn’t just a little disappointed!

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

Riding while standing and looking out of the window is so much fun for my guy.

After a couple of rides in Thomas’s carriages, we went over the bridge (Oscar loves bridges) to check out the other attractions that were available. We got to ride actually in Toad the Brake Van (which went some way to compensating for him not getting to actually drive a tank engine. You know, at four years old 😆) and then took a ride in the carriages of a real steamie. Oscar insisted it was Neville, but to us it looked like Donald or Douglas. Oh yes we know all the names 😱.

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

We actually got to ride in Toad the Brake Van! Photo by Mid Hants Railway Watercress Line

image

Just look at these beauties! Neville or Donald and Douglas, they were superb.

We rode up and down the line a few times, which despite the few small delays we experienced Oscar loved. And I mean loved. I don’t know if it was the movement or the look and feel of the coaches but he seemed to just be happy to be on the train. We stopped off at various stations and at one he convinced us to add another train to his collection.

Diesel 10 joins the crew

We bought this TrackMaster toy from one of the stations. I was happy to see the toys cost no more than you would pay in any other toy shop.

Boy on train playing with toy train

Diesel 10 came along for the ride!

Oscar just had the best time. Once he got over the idea of riding on the footplate he really enjoyed so much about this day. He found so many opportunities to mix his two favourite things, Thomas and movement. We went on so many rides on the train but also on the small fair at the side on the tracks at Ropley. He’s not one for colouring and such, but was happy to look round all the activities laid on in the station buildings.

Boy lying on train seat

Feeling the movement from another angle – that’s my little seeker for you.

We loved it

It was such a wonderful family day out and very thoughtfully aimed at small fans of Thomas, but I can’t tell you how much Ben and I also got out of it too! For me it was the vintage details that won the day. The stations were beautiful in themselves but also helped create a feeling of being ‘on Sodor’!

vintage rail platform sign and the bunting

The signs and the bunting – gorgeous!

Vintage toilet lock

Even the details on the loos at Ropley were beautiful! Spend a penny anyone?

The staff were also very helpful and all obviously proud of what they were doing. Oscar knew exactly who this was. He waited patiently to speak to him then told him “Fat Controller, Fat Controller, Thomas is in the station”. Proud! I really felt for the chap playing the Fat Controller – it was such a hot day and he stayed in that outfit throughout! What a champ!

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

Oscar chatting to Sir Topham Hatt

I would also highly recommend taking a picnic as we did. Not because there isn’t food available (there absolutely it) but having our own food with us mean we could eat whenever we liked, wherever we were, including half way down the line!

boy and mum on train

Hungry boy half way between stations.

All characters aside we all loved the engines, especially Ben. I think at times he was more excited than my actual little boy! I already know we’ll be going back. Not just to the Day out With Thomas (which I imagine we will be doing every time now!) but just to ride the trains and surround ourselves with the history and the magnificence of the engineering.

Oh and I’ve just noticed the Santa Experience. Oh good lord!

 

 

We would like to say thank you so much to The Watercress Line for our competition prize of a free Family Ticket to Day out with Thomas.

I was not asked to write about our time at Day out with Thomas, I just like to share the things we love.

I’m not sure when the next Thomas experience is scheduled for, but you can contact The Watercress Line via their website or Facebook