What is it? Oakdeane Forest Park

Where? Near the New Forest in St Leonard’s Ringwood, Hampshire

Description: [OAK_DEANE_VILLA.JPG] Not all holiday villages mean caravan-style accommodation with overly-friendly redcoats and mandatory sing-alongs, as Wendy Sloane discovered – to her husband’s great relief – when they visited a holiday park in the New Forest.

This relatively new holiday village in the New Forest offers two or three-bedroom caravans or newly built Forest Lodges, with modern kitchens and living areas. It’s a fantastic base from which to explore the area but a car is a must unless you plan on hiking a lot.

Much of our time was spent exploring activities in the surrounding area but our small daughters, two-year-old Tilly and Josie, four, did take advantage of the Park’s swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and tiny playground. There are also loads of activities for older kids, such as Crazy Golf, table tennis and pool tables, and you can hire bikes on-site to cycle around the New Forest.

A children’s disco and cabaret were on offer, and there are special themed nights for adults (which we assiduously avoided). A restaurant and cafe are on-site.

Kid’s clubs are available but check the dates before you book.

I enjoyed the sauna and steam room, and the girls and I spent quite a while basking in the hot tub near the pool. The new gym has everything you’d need for a real work-out.

Local activities: We took our daughters on short day-trips to several child-orientated attractions in the area, such as the Oceanarium in Bournemouth, the Alice in Wonderland Family Park in Christchurch, Dorset and the Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park in Ashurst, Hants. There’s also the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Lulworth Cave and Christchurch Priory. Several beaches are nearby and the ferry to the Isle of Wight is 26 miles away.

Wish we had known: That we were supposed to bring our own towels. We brought several swimming towels with us, but had to use the bathmats provided to dry off after a hot shower.

Our top tip: Bring your own teatowels, washing-up liquid, salt, pepper, cooking oil and other sundries with you. If you plan to cook some of your own meals you’ll definitely do a shop but there’s no point spending extra cash on fiddly bits you already have at home.

Kids say: Josie, four, says: ‘The best bits were the slide in the pool and the Lodge. I loved sharing a bedroom with Tilly like I do at home. And in the morning Mummy let us have Coco-pops as a special treat!

Getting There: Hoseasons have holiday villages nationwide. Visit their website, www.hoseasons.co.uk or call 01502 502588. Prices are roughly L340 for the least expensive two-bedroom caravan for seven nights during the summer holidays – cheaper in the winter – with discounts available for under 5’s, seniors, late and fortnight bookings.

About our stay: My husband Duncan visibly blanched when I told him I was planning a four-day break with Hoseasons Holidays. ‘I’m not spending my days off sleeping in a smelly caravan and being forced to watch some third-rate cabaret,’ he fumed. ‘I’m not going.’ ‘Fine,’ I retorted. ‘We’ll go on our own.’ My two eldest daughters, then aged four and two, burst into tears. ‘I don’t want to go anywhere without Daddy,’ screamed Josie, the older of the two. ‘I want Dada!’ Tilly chimed in. A week later, we set off from North London to Oakdeane Forest Park, located near the New Forest. All we knew was that it had only opened a few years earlier, that it had two heated swimming pools and a fully equipped gym, and that we had been allocated a three-bedroom ‘Lodge’ to sleep in, not a caravan. ‘This better be worth the drive,’ Duncan grumbled. It was. If you never considered a short break in a British holiday village, consider one now. Oakdeane is a clean, spacious park located in Ringwood, Hampshire, smack dab in the middle of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. It’s only about a half-hour drive from the beach, and on the drive down we entertained the kids by counting literally hundreds of wild ponies grazing outside our car windows.[TILLY_AND_JOSIE_ON_BEACH.JPG] Although caravan accommodation is on offer, Oakdeane also offers guests spacious Lodges, which resemble log cabins and are modern and clean. Our three-bedroom Lodge had two baths, a living room with television and DVD player, and a completely kitted-out kitchen. ‘Can we sleep here forever?’ Tilly asked after seeing the bedroom she and Josie were to share. ‘I love it!’ For parents with small children, a holiday village is paradise. The kids swam and played during the day, and as there’s virtually no traffic in the park itself they could enjoy some unheard-of freedoms. We cooked most of our meals at home, which was great for our small baby, Clementine, and in the evenings we managed to put all three to bed early and enjoyed some unheard-of peace and quiet as they snoozed soundly in the country air. When the natives did become a bit restless on Day Two and Three, we piled into the car and went on afternoon adventure trips. In particular, the girls loved the beach at Bournemouth (both the sea and the ice cream) and the Otter, Owl and the Wildlife Park in Ashurst, Hants, where they smelled otter poo for the first time (‘Wow! Smells just like horse poo!’ observed Josie). And they both adored the Alice in Wonderland Family Park in Christchurch, Dorset, even more so than Disneyland (wish I’d known that before I purchased plane tickets to LA last Christmas!). [JOSIE_AT_OTTER_PARK.JPG] Even Duncan had a good time, although he he insisted on staying in the Lodge watching the baby (and a footie game) while I took Josie and Tilly to the children’s disco. Would I come here if I was single, or wanted a romantic weekend with the Dunkster? Definitely not. But for a family with kids, it was a pleasant and relatively inexpensive way to see parts of the country I hadn’t visited before – and relax. *Wendy Sloane is the Travel Editor for entertainthekids.com, has 3 children and lives in London with her husband, Duncan

Created: 2006-03-13 15:13:04.450

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