our social mission

‘To ENJOY providing an accessible holiday cottage, designed to accommodate ‘Changing Places dependent’ guests, families and friends – enabling them to enjoy the Northumberland Coastal area’

About Us

about us

Louis – early childhood spent on the beautiful beaches of the north coast of Trinidad and Tobago, came to Durham, studying geography and has been teaching in the North East for over 30 years. He has a huge love for the north Northumberland beaches, Holy Island and running retreats.

Wendy – early childhood spent at Robin Hoods Bay, Staithes and Sandsend, studied architecture, worked briefly in outdoor pursuits and then with a local housing association, often becoming frustrated about the lack of accessible housing.

Together – we have had the wonderful privilege of having family twice over – the second time round as foster carers. We love being outdoors and realised that we were now ‘Changing Places dependent’. The options to go on a holiday were limited, required a high level of advance planning and are financially more expensive. 

In December 2017 we searched the Ceiling Hoist User Group for self-catering properties in Scotland, England and Wales and only found 42 properties listed. In Northumberland there was only one – the wonderful Calvert trust at Kielder. So we started our search to see if we could provide an option for guests who require adult-sized changing facilities. Could we fit in in a Shepherd’s Hut or a Tiny House? … or would an adapted cottage (with central heating and full laundry facilities!) be a more suitable option?

Schoolhouse building work, internal adaptations and external ramp and patio spaces

a five year start up

We were given some excellent advice ‘just get on and do something!’ Try a five year start-up, the world will be different in five years time.

2019 – we purchased the Schoolhouse

2020 – opening as a self-catering business amongst the covid pandemic restrictions

2021 – guests stayed, we organised the design ideas, builder and equipment quotations, building regulations application and in October closed for the internal adaptations

2022 – external works, ensuring that we had accessible entrances and ramped access to the lower and higher level garden patio spaces. In May 2022 we were able to offer our first Accessible Stay

 

North East of England Tourism Awards - new business catergory - highly commended

highly commended

‘This self-catering holiday cottage goes above and beyond in achieving it’s goals of being truly accessible and inclusive. The newly adapted facilities are thoughtful and provide a lot of support for people with various enhanced needs and their families, allowing them to take a relaxed holiday in a beautiful part of the world. The house is comfortable and well serviced, with the dedication and passion of the owner’s shining through’ – summary comment NEETA 2023

September 2022 we submitted an application for the New Business category of the North East of England Tourism Awards 2023. We were ‘Highly Commended’ in the March award ceremony and were given some excellent business advice on how to take the Schoolhouse forward.

how we do what we do

The Schoolhouse is owned by Louis and Wendy and is run by Wendy as a Furnished Holiday Let operating as a sole trader.

Louis and Wendy have provided 68% of the Schoolhouse’s purchase costs, original set-up costs and access providing adaptations.  The social enterprise supports the mortgage repayments on the remaining 32%.

The Schoolhouse has no state or government control and earns all of it’s income through trading.

The Schoolhouse re-invests all of it’s profits/surpluses into it’s social mission.

The Schoolhouse provides local work for it’s housekeeping team, other trades and local businesses.

Wendy does not take a paid salary from the Schoolhouse – the family get the opportunity to enjoy holiday time that meets their blended family needs, supporting long term stability in their fostering placement.

a profiling bed with ceiling hoist above, a large wetroom and a wide shower stool

listening

Guests – we heard you.

2022 – 23 we provided an extra chest of drawers, the video monitor, a couple of blenders for blended-diet enthusiasts, a wide shower stool and overbed table. But most of all we have heard that you appreciate the 11am check out and the early arrival option, a ceiling hoist and large enough wet room to accommodate an adjustable height changing/shower bench and to enable every guest to access the top of the garden, sit in the most sheltered space and to be able to watch the setting sun.

Rifton shower chair, new chest of drawers and table and our next project the summer house

2023 – 24 we have been able to purchase a Rifton HTS shower chair, a new chest of drawers for the main bedroom, tables for twin room and ‘snug’ sofa, repainting the outside after a very wet 2023 … and the remainder put into the money pot for the new summer house!

a post box, howick Hall Sensory Garden and a friendly cow from the field opposite!

opportunities

Being a Social Enterprise will provide many opportunities – we are just stepping out, or should I say ramping up, at the beginning of this new venture. There will be future volunteering opportunities but at the moment please keep doing what you have been doing – give us feedback, create accessible reviews of the events you have enjoyed and the locations visited on Euan’s Guide, recommend ‘follow-on weeks’ to all your family and friends and keep in touch – follow us on Facebook and Instagram, subscribe to keep up with the latest news.

Neighbours flowers, our hydrangea and the Schoolhouse Fenwick

thank you

We have said it before and we will say it again – thank you – every guest staying has enabled us to get this far and is enabling us to move forward on our accessible journey.