The Lantern Community Charity 1075845, a life-sharing community inclusive of adults with learning disabilities, based near Ringwood (Hampshire), needed a holiday home for those with special needs to have occasional breaks. In 1999, after a long search, the house known now as ‘Seahorses’ was considered suitable and purchased by the Sheiling Trust, the ‘umbrella’ Charity. From the beginning it was the aim to provide guest house facilities for the general public as well; this would form the basis for a really needed service, and also the necessary work and training opportunities. As in all Lantern Community households, which live and work together as an extended family and team, there is the aim to see that the real needs of the other person are fulfilled as far as possible.
Companions with a Learning Disability
Seahorses has at present three resident Companions with a learning disability. Richard, Anne and Andy are fully part of the Seahorses family and all contribute, as far as they are able, to the successful running of the house and gardens. This engenders amongst us all a common aim and a pride in the work, and, therefore, feeling really needed. In addition, the companions also access the local facilities and services of Freshwater Village and beyond, and feel integrated into the local community. The Art Studio also brings locals and holiday makers into Seahorses, all of which makes for an integrated life without falling into the dangers of an isolated institution.
The Guest House
Since 1999 the Guest House aspect to our work has developed to the point where we are regularly fully booked during July and August, often with repeat visitors. We are also well known and used by the locality, mostly for visiting family and friends. As a ‘dog friendly’ establishment we feature in various web-sites for pet lovers. Quite often ramblers discover us, as the Freshwater/Yarmouth footpath passes through our garden! For our guests we have four bedrooms; two family, one double and one with two singles, all en-suite. In addition we have a breakfast room, a lounge and two conservatories for our guests to enjoy. Seahorses holds a four-star rating from English Tourism.
The House and Gardens
The house was originally an early Victorian Rectory (the Chapel is still next door at St. Andrews Parish Hall) and one can see it has been extended here and there by the differing stonework. You are very welcome to look around, just ask the team. The land around totals 2.5 acres and includes lawns, mature trees, flower beds, an orchard and a productive vegetable garden. Both the house and the garden provide tremendous opportunities for employment and training in new skills for all our Companions.
The Art Studio
The Art Studio began its life in one of our conservatories but this wasn’t always practically easy for the house; after a while we managed to acquire an interest-free loan to build a proper studio on the foundations of some old stables. The studio is used by many individuals and groups, locals and holiday makers alike. It has a rather ‘open gesture’ to whoever needs it, and in many ways can be seen as a local community facility. There is a substantial Art Library and a wide range of materials on site for beginners and the experienced alike. Funding is mostly on a contribution basis. Some of the many activities might include mosaic, paper-mache, silk painting, sculpture, printing, water-colours or Raku Pottery. Please feel free to ask questions and browse, or simply join us for a cup of tea!