Saturday, 6 August 2011

Stockley Farm Park

Last week was an extrordinarily busy week for us so I've been a little delayed in blogging our latest news. I've got lots to share though! Monday 25th July brought Foz's birthday and we spent it in the glorious sunshine in the company of some lovely friends.

We arrived at Stockley Farm in the early afternoon and met Clare, Ric and Isla in the carpark. The farm is part of a large Stately House Estate caled Arley Hall in Cheshire and I was surprised at how far the carpark was from the actual farm. The website had advertised a tractor ride from the carpark to the farm but it looked like we were about to have a pretty impressive ride! The trailer for us to ride in was long, with straw bales down both sides. As we boarded and sat down I tried Bee on one of the bales. She had shorts on and I wasn't optimistic. Correctly as it turned out. The 'spikeyness' of the straw was just a little too much sensory input for Bee and she got upset. Once settled on my knee she calmed down and was able to enjoy looking out at the sheep in the fields. The ride was very bumpy and took a good 10 minutes but Bee and Isla seemed to enjoy it.

Our tractor ride!
Our first stop once reaching the farm was the park, a large field with lots and lots of play equipment, plus some sandpits! Bee has always been notoriously bad at sand. We first bought Bee a sandpit for the garden in the summer of 2010 and our first attempt at sitting her in it did not go well. Not well at all. To be honest we didn't even sit her in it, but on the little bench at the side, with just her feet touching the sand. Bee became so hysterical that not only did she vomit but the pressure forced her G-Tube open and shot milk everywhere. We've tried sand on and off since then with absolutely zero success. Our other serious attempt at sand was a trip to the seaside. It went like this:

Bee at Talacre, North Wales
 Consequently we were not expecting much from the sandpits at Stockley Farm. 
They were lovely big wooden ones, with bench edges and we sat the girls down between Clare and Ric, no shoes and socks, just bare feet. Bee started immediately with "naow, naow" in an insistent voice. We persevered and all tried to encourage both girls to allow their feet to rest in the sand. Bee became less stressed as time passed and she became distracted by the other children playing around her. She stopped telling us 'no' and, although wouldn't touch the sand or sit in it, left her feet resting on the sand. She even wiggled her toes and pushed the sane around a bit! Success!

We moved on from the sandpits and headed into the barns where they keep the animals. We looked at goats, pigs, sheep, cows plus guinea pigs and bunnies. Bee did not cry once. Not once. This is the child that is so terrified of animals that she screams if she even hears a dog bark. We didn't get as far as touching any of them, but even standing near and looking without crying was great progress.

Bee in the sand
At baby-goat-feeding-time we headed over to the smaller barn to take our seats on the hay bales, ready for our turn to feed the baby goats. This time Bee went one better with the straw bales and sat on the herself. Bare legs and all! As a concession to her discomfort she wasn't happy unless she was touching me in some way and became a little distressed if I stood up or moved. After a short wait the baby goats were led in and each child was given a short turn holding a bottle of milk for a goat as it drank. In preparation for Bee's turn I talked to her while the other children were having a go: "look Bethany, here comes the baby goats, shall we give the baby goats a bottle? Awwww look, it's a little baby..." and so on and so forth. I tried to talk in terms that Bee was familiar with, referring to the goat as a baby goat (Bee loves her babas) and talking about feeding the baby andgiving him a bottle etc. As Bee's turn came the woman offered her the end of the bottle, with a feeding goat on the teat end, and Bee took it immediately! No hesitation, no fear of the goat, just keen interest in the whole situation. And all the while sat on a straw bale. Another win for my girl.

The afternoon wore on and my girl continued to behave beautifully. We looked at the big horses in the stables, the cows being milked and the birds of prey. No fear, no tantrums. Once we'd looked at everything (and had an interlude in the soft play!) we headed back towards the big field with the play equipment. We headed again for the sandpit, this time letting Bee walk across the grass to it herself, with bare feet. She managed it with the minimal complaint and then, after navigating the sandpit bench, she walked across it. In bare feet!! Sand!! In bare feet!! We were over the moon! And we weren't stopping there! After Bee's triumphant sensory success we were off to test other things.

Bee had been pointing at the climbing frame but I had been reluctant to take her over as it was marooned in a sea of wood bark flooring. Not anymore! Holding Bee's hand we toddled over (across the grass) and reached the edge of the wood bark. Bee took a tentative step forward on to the new surface and slowly shifted her weight to let her back foot follow the first. That's it, we were on! The whole time I'd kept up a dialogue about the climbing frame and the slide and the ladder and just about anything to try and keep her attention off the flooring texture. It seemed to be working, she was just so keen to reach that ladder and climb to the top! Bee has really started to enjoy the park and has mostly stopped noticing that many parks have textured metal.
Wood chip AND textured metal!
She had loads of fun on the climbing frame and even braved the slide a couple of times. What made me the most proud was that every time she reached the bottom of the slide she stood right up and walked back to the ladder with me to do it all again. No shoes, no socks, just bare feet. My brave girl!

It was far too soon, time to go home. We boarded the tractor with two very tired little girls. It had been a huge day for Bee and way more succesful than any of us could have anticipated. Bee had conquered grass, sand, wood bark and braved the animals! Well done Bee!

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