Holidays - Inspire January 2011 - Min-Y-Don
FAYE SMITH, her family and friends discover a great break in Wales at an adventure centre with something for everyone
Min-Y-Don is a Christian adventure centre that hosts schools in term time, but in the school holidays, it’s available for families and single parents to book weeks and some weekends.
Single parent weeks in the summer are hosted by Care for the Family, who also offer bursaries for those who cannot afford the full cost. Five years ago, my best friend and I were blessed to get places on one of their Take a Break holidays and had such a wonderful time, we have been going back to Min-Y-Don every year since! Children of any age can go all year round but on the CFF holidays, they should be over five.
As we roll into the car park, it is like visiting dear old friends in a warm, safe, welcoming home, and friendly young leaders rush to help us with our bags. The centre is basic, in youth hostel fashion, but we always book a family room with bunks, and a single bed for me. Some have a loo and shower – luxury!
Many rooms look out over a stunning estuary where we spend happy hours kayaking, canoeing and enjoying our beach safari – all favourites. You can see the sea, and you are surrounded by trees and birdsong. With the windows open, you feel like you are almost living in the wood. Utterly magical.
Five minutes to unpack, then we are off for a welcoming cup of tea in the lounge. My children will have already disappeared to play in the familiar grounds and make new friends. Then it is dinner and a chance to meet the other guests (about 30 of them). Everyone is lovely – truly strangers who are simply “friends you haven’t met yet!” Some, like us, come every year, some come in a group, some on their own. Many keep in touch afterwards and find help and support from both each other and the lovely staff at Min Y Don. That’s just the kind of place it is.
I guess it’s best described as being on a big house party with extended family and friends, such is the environment created by Susie and Pete Cook, who run the centre. Susie is a former teacher and the centre was her dad’s vision in the 60s. Lovelier hosts you could not hope to meet. Food is simple, but there’s some great home baking and I would have been proud of the shepherd’s pie they rustled up.
After the meal (everyone takes turns to help clear up, which is made fun by the youth leaders and good training for the kids, I think), it’s sign-up for activities time and evening team games. Tired adults like me relax and let the children wear themselves out in the company of the best youth leaders I have ever met – endlessly patient, good-humoured and fun-loving. At a moment’s notice they are up for building sandcastles, conducting impromptu hikes, beachcombing and kayak-based water fights, all with several small children usually hanging off each bicep!
At sign-up time, excited children, with firm new friends they will be emailing long after the holiday has finished, gather to put their names down for a wide range of activities like abseiling, rock climbing, archery, mountain or trail biking, zip wire and the infamous high ropes course. Over the week, other more sedate activities included bushcraft, orienteering, treasure hunts, art fun, problem-solving and detective games – oh, and sometimes walks up Cader Idris or to the local waterfalls for hardy souls! There were also trips to two local beaches where the kids could indulge in ice creams and sandcastle-making while the adults went walking or chilled out in local tea shops.
When I think back to the four amazing activities a day my children, now 14 and 10 enjoyed, I can’t believe I could ever afford those experiences at somewhere like Center Parcs. Plus the team games each evening are followed at 9pm by the epilogue, a short, optional time of reflection on a Christian theme. There’s maybe a fun video clip, sketch or action song fronted by the youth leaders, followed by tea and biscuits – so it is very faith-building too. My friend Judith’s son Daniel age 13 says: “It’s really inspiring about Jesus – they make it interesting. Nice rooms, good activities. It’s fun exploring in your own time with really great people helping you.”
We all learnt a great deal about each other and had great fun together. As a single parent, I know that from the moment I arrive until I leave, all my meals will be taken care of, my children will be safe, well cared-for and will have the time of their lives, growing all the time in independence and self-belief. What more could I ask for? We have booked again this Easter with two other friends and their families – can’t wait!
For just £495 all inclusive, it’s surely the best-kept holiday secret in Britain!
More at www.minydon.com, and talk to Care for the Family on (029) 2081 0800 about bursaries.