I’ve just returned from a weekend in Dorset, where we stayed at a Haven Holiday Park. Lou was in Sweden, so it was just me and the boys. Haven invited us to test the facilities and have a mini break at Rockley Park. In return for the trip, I joined a 90 minute discussion about our experience. In my pre-arrival questionnaire, I described my perception of Haven in three words as: “Old-school, Family, Value”. So what is Haven like these days?
Our 6 birth Platinum Caravan was spacious and comfortable. A large lounge with corner sofa, TV, Bluetooth speaker (stuck on Nirvana for some reason, Rufus?). Large french doors out to a small deck. Full size gas oven, full size fridge/freezer and plenty of kitchen storage. Two toilets and a good shower. There’s not much standing room in the three bedrooms, but there’s a wardrobe and space under the bed for luggage. You also get central heating. Its all you need for a week or weekend away. You get 30 mins WiFi free per day. In my feedback I said I thought that policy was at least five years out of date – and I’m saying it again here, so hopefully that will change!
On Saturday morning we met with a group of bloggers next to a large canvas tepee. We sat on logs around the remains of a fire, and the kids followed the craft instructions from the Nature Rockz bushcraft ranger. They filled a section of tights with soil and grass seed, formed them in to the shape of an animal head and painted them. Our group included young toddlers, but the activities on offer with Nature Rockz include fire lighting methods, shelter building and making emergency bracelets with paracord. The ranger took us on a brief tour of the wild parts of the site where we discovered a fox den and the prints of fox cubs in the sand. Ropes trailed up and down short steep slopes, and nets were strung between branches – great for den making.
We fuelled up at lunch time in the on-site pub, The Mash & Barrel. There’s an outside pool and modern play equipment, surrounded by a terrace that spills out from the pub. It must be a riot for kids on a sunny day during the summer holidays!
Next door to the pub is an arcade, and a Papa John’s takeaway pizzeria. We watched the pizza chefs throwing the dough and preparing everything fresh. There’s a Fish and Chip takeaway, and a Fish restaurant. Then there’s the Live Bar featuring a long bar, loads of seating and an entertainment stage. I was expecting a curtain and a wooden stage (like my experience at a similar park 25 years ago), but the stage has a full-scale lighting rig, scenery for different performances and dedicated performers. Preconceived notions: squashed. There’s also a massage spa, but we didn’t use it, so I can’t tell you what its like.
After lunch we strolled down to a small sand beach that harbours kayak and boat hire. There’s also a basic cafe. We missed the high tide, so booked sea kayaks for Sunday morning. At 5pm, the indoor pool closes to swimmers, and launches sessions with electric Aqua Jets and pedal powered Turbo Rafts. The boys loved getting pulled around and under water with the Aqua Jets. Organised races had all the kids competing for the fastest width, furthest underwater distance and fastest tag team.
After Kayaks and a Sunday carvery, we hit the arcades and traded our winning tokens for holiday trinkets. Then we played crazy golf and went to collect the boys Pick and Paint creations. Rufus painted a skull-shaped money box, while Charlie painted a VW camper van. The paint studio is bright, well presented and well stocked with paint and options. The on-site kiln fires the colours on the pot before you leave the park. The all-weather football pitch seemed to be continually hosting a match, and featured Haven sports staff on each side. The staff were genuinely enjoying the matches, and called out supportive comments about skills and commitment.
Charlie looked mournfully at the climbing wall before we left. We’d not managed to fit a go in to the weekend, but he vowed that he would have a go next time we visit.
I really wondered how I would feel about a Haven Holiday Park. With the diverse holiday choices available from boutique campsites, cheap flights abroad, Air B’n’B and so on…why choose Haven? I’ve come to realise that the park we visited is a great value base from which to explore an area. But its also more than that. You can park and unload your car right outside your accommodation, and then walk a short distance to a collection of well thought out activities. For a weekend, at least, there is no reason to get back in the car until you check out.
My three words to describe Haven now? Modernised, Family, Value.
Collaboration Note: Thank you to Haven Holidays for our weekend away. All words, thoughts and images by Dan Taylor. Thank you for supporting the posts that make this blog possible.