Garden centre introduces quiet grottos for children with autism

Dobbies Santa 1 SA
Dobbies Christmas - Santa
Picture by Stewart Attwood
All images © Stewart

Santa's Grotto at Dobbies near Royston will welcome children with autism for a quieter experience - Credit: Stewart Attwood

A garden centre near Royston hopes to make Christmas special for children with autism and other sensory needs with the introduction of quiet grottos.

Dobbies Garden Centre, off the A10 near Shepreth, has specially adapted the grottos in partnership with Autism Together - one of the country’s leading providers of services and support to autistic people and their families.

The Quiet Grottos will allow youngsters and their families to experience the delight of meeting Santa and his elves in an environment where the sound and visual elements have been specially adapted to help minimise anxiety.

On their visit, people can stroll through a magical winter wonderland walkway, spotting festive characters along the way, before being greeted by Santa’s helpers.

Children will receive a gift from a special selection of toys, handpicked by Santa depending on their age.

They can also get a snap with Santa and his elves, which can be purchased at the end of their visit.

Michelle Walklett, head of Autism Together’s training and advisory service, said: “As a specialist UK charity supporting autistic people, we’re pleased to be working with Dobbies near Royston to help enhance their Christmas Grotto experience for visitors with autism and other sensory needs.

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“Through this partnership, we’ll also be delivering autism awareness training for Santa and all his elves and helpers in time for the festive season.”

Sarah Murray, partnership and events manager at Dobbies, said: “Meeting Santa is a wonderful experience for all children and we wanted to be as inclusive as possible. Here at Dobbies, we love to see the excitement before and after attending Santa’s Grotto, which is guaranteed to spread Christmas Joy throughout the rest of our store.”

Santa’s Grotto tickets are priced at £11.99 which includes a toy. The event will take place on Friday, December 10. Booking in advance is essential to avoid disappointment, all events are subject to availability and there are a limited number of slots.

Bookings can be made at