We have recently returned from a 4 night holiday to the New Forest. If I were to summarise our experience in short then ponies, pub friends and Peppa Pig are just a few of the things that made our stay there wonderful.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Oh great! Another mummy review about a holiday I couldn’t give a shit about!” But after regularly updating my personal Facebook page and also posting photos on instagram, I had lots of questions coming from people. They wanted to know what I thought of places we visited, where we were, so even if there is a small minority want to read this crap, then my possibly arthritic fingers have ached for nothing. (Big cheesy grin and a thumbs up from me.)
Our decision to book a break in the New Forest stemmed from a desire to take George (now 2 and half years) to Peppa Pig world before he completely lost interest in it altogether. If I’m honest I was feeling pretty hyperactive about it myself.
The New Forest really doesn’t describe itself very well. It’s actually a really, really old forest, decades in fact. But what it isn’t telling you is that it is one of the largest unenclosed pasture lands in the south east. Largest what what of a where now? Well basically it means that once you cross that cattle grid, it’s hello free roaming animals! Nothing can prepare you for the surreal beauty of this place!
Being my typical research freak self, I began looking for places to stay late last year and stumbled across an adventure packed holiday camp called Sandyballs. I checked that this wasn’t some sort of swingers camp, (have I ever told you about the time my 18 year old self and hubs accidentally found ourselves on the nudist beach at Brighton!)After confirming that everyone would be fully clothed and no car keys would be swapped, I subscribed to their mailing list.
Sidenote: I have no problem with swinging if that’s your chocolate cake. Each to their own. I just wouldn’t book that type of resort for a toddler friendly holiday. Let’s still be friends yeah.
Just before New Years, they had a flash sale offering 15% off of the booking price. As a result, I managed to book us a comfort caravan on the site for £207 for 4 nights. When looking at hotels in the local area that offer 2 nights at Peppa Pig world (Paultons Park) and one night in their hotel, it equated to almost the same price and you would still be 18-30 miles away from the theme park!
Although the Sandyballs booking didn’t include the Peppa Pig tickets, these are £27.25 if purchased in advance online. Saving £4.50 per person the day and once purchased the ticket is open ended so can be used once on almost any date until the end of October 2017.
Our booking included a 4 night stay in a two bed caravan, sleeping 4 people. The caravan came equipped with central heating in all rooms, microwave and a decent size lounge television with built in DVD player. It had other things but these are the things that are important to me and the night time milk monster. For a full inventory, check the Sandyballs website. (Link further down, cheeky way to force you to keep reading methinks).
In my own opinion and with relatively high expectations I found the accommodation clean and comfortable, aside from the mattresses on the beds! These were very soft if i’m being polite, completely knackered and in need of an update if I’m being honest. On one of the singles you had to fight not to roll off one side. Outside you have a single parking space directly next to your caravan, some were a very short walk to a small parking area. If you have ever been to Centreparcs though then this is a luxury you will possibly appreciate. You also have a picnic table and barbeque. All service charges and linen are included in the price. As well as use of the leisure facilities. I’m not going to waffle on about everything in lots of detail because their website does that all for me.
All you need to know is, I loved it, hubs loved it, George said he loved it. Although at the time he was going through some weird “I can’t believe you’ve driven me 2 hours up the road and called it a holiday anxiety”. He spent the week insisting hubs carried him everywhere like some sort of Egyptian ruler and told me to “go away, I don’t want you”. To be fair though, when we took a walk through the forest it had random strange headstones and felt eerie. So perhaps it was haunted and George was in fact possessed for the week.
My overall opinion is that is was clean, friendly, welcoming and somewhere we would most definitely recommend.
Onsite you have a convenience store. The prices are relatively reasonable and not massively increased. Genuinely! I’d say everything was marked up by about 50p more than the supermarkets but that’s to be expected. There are a few local supermarkets such as Tesco express and Waitrose just a short drive away though.
There is an amusements arcade with a good selection of old and new style arcade games and penny drop machines. Next door to this is an unsupervised soft play area for younger children and toddlers. We didn’t get around to trying this unfortunately, but it looked pretty cool. As did the huge park play area which again we sadly didn’t get around to trying. But there wouldn’t be a reason to go back if we had exhausted everything so every cloud and all that.
Across the road from our caravan we had an access path to the forest. This was an active walk up and down hills and with access to the river. A toddler could manage it though. Sandyballs appear to own this part of the forest as there are many signs for their activities such as clay shooting and pond dipping. They have such a huge array of activities. We didn’t actually book any except cycle hire. There really is so much to do for every age. Checkout their website here, Sandyballs to see all they have to offer. It has our seal of approval.
Anyone that knows me, knows I believe that life is too short and the world is too vast to return to the same place twice. But on rare occasions I will. I believe Sandyballs has so much to offer that we would both love to return for maybe a 7 day stay and hire a lodge with a hot tub.
It’s also worth noting that we went just out of season in the last week of March so there is more on offer during peak times. There wasn’t much in the way of evening entertainment. Onsite there is a restaurant, The Forest table, offering Italian cuisine. We had a fry up breakfast here one morning and it was delicious. This restaurant appeared calmer of an evening and less suitable for the likes of a noisy toddler and his Blaze and the Monster machines car tearing it up and down the table.
We chose to dine at the Woodside Inn one night and stopped by a second night for dessert and drinks. The Woodside Inn is both dog and child friendly. This reminded me of the scene in the film Titanic. Whilst the more refined classes were enjoying fine dining in the upper decks or in this case The Forest Table. We were herded together, dogs and rowdy children into the pub the Woodside Inn, to do some irish dancing on the tables. Clearly this is just a figment of my imagination but it did make me chuckle.
We absolutely loved it at the Woodside inn. The food was lush and portion sizes were sufficient. We attended the pub quiz curry night on the wednesday and there was a good mix of pensioners, 50 somethings and thirty something families in attendance. The banter was good and the quiz was very well organised. Needless to say our confidence wasn’t much help as we came close to bottom.
The staff everywhere were very friendly and always made an effort to interact with George, who was at times struggling to adjust to the excitement of being on holiday and was being very clingy and temperamental.
The swimming pool area was nice but it wasn’t all singing and dancing, no slides or alike. There are two small triangular splash pools for toddlers, either side of the steps to the main pool. As it was March, we couldn’t try the outside pool as it is closed off peak. I absolutely loved having some much needed chill time in the Jacuzzi and Spa, pummelling my sore muscles after a crazy bike ride. Whilst still being able to seeing hibs and little one play together in the splash pool.
Ah yes, the bike ride. Hubs and I haven’t ridden bikes in just over two years. Having hired from the onsite cycle centre, who provided us with a route map of varying difficulties, we set off. It was George’s first time on the back of a bike in a special childs seat. We were apprehensive as to whether he would enjoy it, but he really did.
Our chosen cycle route took us down the road before entering the forest. Once in the forest, we encountered many ponies. You are advised not to approach or touch them, but they approached us so it seemed rude not to. They simply wanted a little scratch and then they were on their way again, munching through the forest. At one point a grey pony crossed the path ahead, specifically to stand in my way. I asked him if he was trying to tell me not to continue that route and he simply looked at me and walked off. Leaving me dumbfounded. Needless to say he wasn’t wasn’t warning me about any dangers ahead. Maybe about the small stream we had to ride across that I ended up getting a sodden foot in, but I’m here to tell the tale.
The ponies were just totally surreal. As soon as you cross the cattle grid there are ponies galore, with the odd cow and donkey. It was just awe-inspiring.
Until next time…..