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Our Story

Dedication and Service

In the early 1960’s a few men (led by the late George Eustance of West Kirby) recognised that a group of polio disabled children were in need in assistance in regaining their independence – a camp under canvas was set up for the children.

The holiday camps evolved over the years under different leaderships, however the ethos has always remained the same – to provide free holidays to disabled children aged 7-16.


At our camp the children benefit from the independence the camp offers them. This is, for many, the only time they spend away from their parents or guardians all year.

The camp provides a safe and secure environment where the needs of the children are met, leaving them to enjoy a holiday just as children would. It is also a valuable respite period and peace of mind for their parents, many of whom care for their children single handedly throughout the year and can rarely leave them in the hands of others.

The helpers at the camp are all volunteers and often attend year after year. They are great friends throughout the year and often meet up for social occasions outside camp. Many have helped at ten or more camps and so they have experience of disabled children and their needs, some have attended the camp as children and returned as volunteers in adulthood, others have disabled brothers, sisters or family members.

The strong sense of camaraderie, friendship and unity of our helpers is one of our greatest assets and forms one of the reasons children request to return to camp each year.

I could be myself with lots of friends and helpers that care for us
“I was a bit scared the first time I went, being away from home but the helpers reassured me and made me feel really welcome.
The helpers have experience of lots of different difficulties, which the children have, and what their needs are.
There is no one looking at you because you’re in a wheelchair. I could be myself with lots of friends and helpers that care for us; it’s great!
The fun starts as soon as you have checked in and seen your room. Plenty of games and I do a lot of laughing."

A child who's attended 4 camps

Our Current Trustees

Our History

Our history is part of our strength. Each year all the helpers gather to pay thanks to Alastair Shaw, for all the hard work he and many others put in to start Heswall Disabled Children’s Holiday Fund and to honour those who continue to uphold those same principles that founded our Charity.

In 1960 a group of friends from Wirral came together because they realised children with Polio were being left out of opportunities. Through their own experience they knew these children needed help to recover and have some fun. One founder, Alastair Shaw had contracted polio before going to college and disabled people have always had a voice running the charity

Our first Camp was in on the playing fields of Calday Grange Grammar School in 1961. In 1962 it moved to The Liverpool Boys’ Association Camp at Heswall and has changed local within Wirral several times since. In 2020 a second camp in the South West of England was founded and is led by Toby Maddocks, a teacher with 20 years’ experience of Heswall Camp. Our camps are now based at Barnstondale Centre in Wirral and Barton Camp in Somerset.

We are proud to say that we are one of only handful of Ofsted registered disabled children’s holiday schemes in the UK. Even more so because we have been graded as Outstanding in each of our inspections. In 2017 we were recognised with The Queens Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade a charity can be given.

The idea for a second camp in the Southwest came from helpers who regularly travelled from the region to Heswall. In 2019 a flying day was arranged in Gloucester and many parents spoke about how a residential camp was sorely needed, so we worked to create one as soon as possible.

In recent years we have also had a virtual camp to offer some support during Covid, a book club, a half term club and a residential camp for young adults based at Wingate Centre in Cheshire. We are ambitious for the children and young people we support and keen to grow and continue to meet their needs.

Thank you for your lifetime support

Roy Wignall

Sir Bert Massie

Dr Martin Crossley Evans

Graham Baldock

Thank you for remaining active within the Charity, as Vice-Chair and then Vice-President to fight against discrimination and to liaise closely with MPs', The Department for Education, Ofsted and other agencies.

Thank you for being our Patron.


Thank you for serving both as a Camp Volunteer and also as our Volunteer Recruiter.


Thank you for keeping our finances under tight control.

Chairs of the trustees

George Eustace

Alistair Shaw

Frank Vaughan Needham

Michael Byrne MBE

Vincent Keating

Captain Charlie Bough

North West Camp Leaders

1961 - 1981        Harold E “Waddy” Waddington

1982 -2005         Dr. Martin Crossley Evans

2005 - 2011        William Brown

2011 - 2019        Andrew Powell

2019 - 2020        Steph Griffin

2021 - present   Sophie Rice

South West Camp Leaders

2020 - present   Toby Maddocks

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