Part of our job involves visiting each property that requests to list on our website which is always something that is extremely important to do, but also take she most amount of planning. As most of you reading this will understand, planning trips with your autistic child is not always easy, and while Luca is now older and we spend a lot of time preparing him for the upcoming journeys, it is not without its difficulties. When Luca was little we would never have been able to take him away on these visits (which is why we started Spectrum Holidays) but he is now much more able to cope with the uncertainty and change of routine much better than he did – obviously we have iPad and his comforts such as “Sharkey” his 3 foot blue shark soft toy that has been with him since he was 2, and his Dragon Ball Z figures and games!
Living in the North East, we can sometimes travel quite far for property visits (Cornwall and Devon etc) so when we were contacted by the team at Middlehead cottages we relaxed a little knowing that for us, it was a relatively short journey to Yorkshire!
Luca finishes school early on Fridays and the plan was to make a start as soon as he was home which would have seen us arriving at Middlehead cottages at around 5pm, however the universe had different ideas for us and we ended up leaving at 5pm instead. Luca managed well and once in the car he settled down with his iPad and dragon ball Z movies.
Our journey took us through the North Yorkshire Moors, and while it may have taken a little longer, I was definitely not sad about the beautiful views! We drove down country roads with open farmland on either side so had to watch out for sheep on the roads, and even when we lost the daylight, we were able to see pheasants, rabbits and deer crossing the road in front of us! We followed a rabbit for around 2 mins as it hopped up the road in front of the car which Luca found hilarious!
We followed the directions we had been sent and after following a single-track path through Copton forest, we turned a corner to drive up to the cottage grounds and came face to face with a baby deer! We parked up in the car park which is spacious and includes an EV charging point for the cottage guests to use.
The front of the property is a big conservatory with seating areas, information booklets and a DVD and book library inside. We met with 2 of the team (Gill and Karen) there and after a quick chat we were shown to our cottage. 3 of the cottages are accessed through the conservatory which is a lovely throw back to when the old farm building was in use, the cottages would have been where the cow sheds were before they were converted into the holiday homes you see today.
Stepping through the front door of Meadows Edge (which is inside the conservatory) we were met with a really beautiful cottage, very clean and welcoming, and really well set up with its open plan layout and homely feel. Karen showed us around and explained where things were and how they worked, then left us to settle in. Luca made a beeline for the sofa and made himself comfortable with his iPad again while Malcolm and I unpacked a few things. Luca streamed his movies using the WIFI and had no issues, and we all connected our mobiles without any difficulties.
As we left in a rush, we didn’t have time to stop for food and provisions at the shop on the way, so Malcolm had to go shopping pretty much straight away and drove to the closest shop which was the co-op in Pickering which is around a 20-minute drive away from the cottages. Holiday makers can get food delivered from a supermarket though to avoid a last-minute dash to a shop like us!
While Malcolm was at the shops, Luca and I explored the cottage. We found a large upstairs area with 2 really big bedrooms, a double and a twin room, the beds can be zipped together to make a double if required. The bathrooms are upstairs and are ensuite for both bedrooms.
We then had a quick look outside which even in the dark was easy to do with the torch that is provided in all cottages. The whole area is a dark skies location and with no light pollution you could see the stars so clearly! There is a back door in each cottage that leads to a decked area (Middlehead cottage has a larger outdoor space and doesn’t have the decked area) and a hot tub. There is a small gate that leads to an enclosed area of garden and the gate has a bolt on the opposite side. There is another small gate at the top end of the garden area that leads out to the manmade lake.
After dinner we decided to have some time in the hot tub. Luca can get nervous at night as he really doesn’t like the dark and initially didn’t want to leave the cottage and became quite scared. Thankfully the torch that was in the cottage also acts as lantern so we put that outside, and distracted Luca by allowing him to talk about his favourite subject (Dragon Ball Z) for a lot longer than we would usually allow. (We really aren’t awful parents, but if he could, he would only talk about DBZ characters for hours and hours without realising that others may have stopped listening 5 hours earlier!) This worked well and we had 30 minutes in the hot tub before getting ready for bedtime. There is a log burner in the cottage and the first bag of logs/kindling is provided for free. We didn’t light the fore as the central heating made the cottage really cosy but if we had been there for longer than 1 night we would have definitely made a fire at some point.
The next morning, we took a trip up to the Lake which is home to 2000 fish! Those who have fishing licences are able to fish the lake while on holiday. There is a basket of bread that in the conservatory that guests can help themselves to so they can feed the fish. We took some bread with us, and Luca threw it in. Almost immediately, we say loads of big fish (Sturgeon and carp) coming up to the surface to eat the bread which Luca really enjoyed, he found it so funny that the fish seemed to be competing for the biggest pieces! There is also a pair of binoculars in the cottages that we used to spot some wildlife and birds – Luca had a lot of fun with those!
After meeting with Gill, Helen and Tom, we had a look around the rest of the grounds. There is a central courtyard which is fully enclosed and accessed via the conservatory. It’s a good place to run around in a more secure area. We enjoyed walking around the property and the views from the back garden/lake is beautiful. There is access into the forest from the lake area as well as through gates around the car park area. As we looked around the conservatory, we found a bat detector and a book about the different species that you may see at middlehead. Luca loves bats and he would have loved to have gone bat spotting so we will be back to do that as soon as possible! We found the location so peaceful and relaxing and most importantly, Luca had a really good time and has already asked to go back.
Both Gill and Helen have lived experience of autism and strive to make Middlehead an inclusive, welcoming place for people on the spectrum and their families. It was very clear that they have a great understanding of the needs of our families and are more than happy to help in any way they can!