Thornton shop transforms into magical Santa's grotto with special 'quiet sessions'
A Thornton gift shop has undergone an enchanting transformation in time for the festive season, with visits from Father Christmas and sessions specially catered for children who need a quieter experience.
La Shack gift shop in Marsh Mill shopping village, Fleetwood Road North, Thornton, has an in-built Santa's grotto open to the public with special sessions adapted to the needs of each child.
The grotto is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and is also dog-friendly so the whole family can join in with the fun.
Owner Linda Adams, 59, from Thornton, has been creating the Santa's grotto for the past six years, with the help of her 27-year-old daughter Elizabeth- who she credits for her creativity.
Linda said: "Elizabeth used to work with me in the gift shop, now she works full-time elsewhere but she still cares about the grotto just as much.
"The quiet sessions are something I realised there was a need for. I myself have an invisible illness, so I know what it's like for children who sometimes need a calm and quiet environment to enjoy it.
"Some families don't bring their children to a grotto because there's too much going on, there's too much excitement, so we have quiet sessions where they can come and relax, have a bit more time, and it's much quieter and peaceful."
Linda recognised the requirement of low lighting and a quiet environment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, or for anyone else who would prefer a less busy session.
Karley Proctor, also from Thornton, visited a quiet session last year with her daughter Karisa-Jayne, five, and son Jameson-George, seven.
Jameson-George attends Red Marsh School on Holly Road, Thornton, and usually wears ear defenders to help him manage his autism, to prevent him becoming overwhelmed with crowds and loud noises.
Karley said: "We've tried to bring Jameson to grottos before, but he completely freaks out around busy crowds, bright lights and noise.
"He finds situations like that overwhelming, and he'll cry and ask to get out of wherever we are.
"These sessions are a brilliant idea, he's coming round to the idea of Father Christmas now so we're really excited about it."
The grotto has seating around Father Christmas' chair for caregivers to relax with their children, and an array of different toys and gifts which visitors will be allowed to choose themselves.
This year will be the sixth year of the grotto, and visitors can also bring their dogs for a selfie with Santa.
She said: "We've even had customers calling to book just for their dogs without any children, there's lots of space so it's perfect for photos with Santa.
"Some children feel more relaxed if they can bring their dog or their pet."
It is important that nobody should feel awkward about coming to the grotto, Linda said.
The first quiet session will take place on Saturday November 30, between 10am and 5pm.
Booking is advised, but families are welcome to turn up and wait until there are available visiting times.
Prices are £6.50 per child, and the grotto will be open every weekend throughout December.
From Tuesday December 17, it will be open daily and Christmas Eve is bookings only.
To book, contact "La Shack" gifts on Facebook or call 07525468412.