Travel: Park life in the New Forest is a bubbly treat

With staycations still high on our wish lists, why not add a touch of luxury too? By Ruth Brindle

New Forest ponies are a delight for visitors. Credit: Bramble Beach Photography
New Forest ponies are a delight for visitors. Credit: Bramble Beach Photography

As I enjoyed a very relaxing soak in my own private hot tub on the deck of our luxury lodge in leafy Hampshire, I realised just how far holiday park breaks have come from their early days.

They bear no comparison with the very basic caravan stays of the past, enjoyable and memorable though they were.

This accommodation is more akin to a high-grade hotel - TVs in each of the three bedrooms, a big flat screen TV in the spacious living room, chic, newly-updated, modern decor, a well-equipped kitchen with dishwasher and even heating for autumn and winter visits. All budgets are catered for on the site with caravans, different grades of lodges and even beautiful, high-end tree houses with bathrobes and a four-poster bed in the main bedroom! Count me in for next year.

Durdle Door is just one place to visit on the Jurassic Coast. Credit: Laura Bridger

Each of the Shorefield parks has a different offering, including camping and touring caravan pitches and holiday cottages and homes.

The location of the main Shorefield Country Park near Milford-On-Sea on the south coast where I stayed is ideal for seaside lovers who want to discover the delightful towns, villages, harbours and beaches in this area of the New Forest. The national park has been voted number one in Europe on Tripadvisor and tenth in the world.

The hotel, family owned since 1958, and one of eight in the group across Hampshire in Dorset, has won awards for excellence.

The company website tells the story of how and why Shorefield was formed. Founder, Dr Robert Pollock, bought a small caravan park next to a worked-out gravel pit on the south coast in 1958 - because he couldn't find anywhere to pitch his holiday caravan. The gravel pit was transformed into Shorefield Country Park and the rest is history.

The beach at Milford-on-Sea is a walk from the park

In its development since the 50s thought has obviously gone into small details of how to make the experience better for guests. Little things matter. I was impressed with the siting of the lodges in our part of the site with no windows directly opposite neighbours’ windows and with mature trees adding to the lovely location.

There’s plenty on site to keep fun-loving families happy - play areas, tennis courts, lots of organised activities for all age groups - eyes down for bingo just after 6pm and lots of children’s activities. The main entertainment centre has a restaurant, bar, evening entertainment and live shows.

There’s even a gym and day spa offering face and body treatments, spray tans, pedicures and holistic treatments.

Our group particularly enjoyed the indoor pool with sauna and steam rooms, and the outdoor pool is a great place too for lounging in the sunshine with a handy hut selling snacks, drinks and ice creams.

The New Forest National Park was voted No 1 in Europe by Tripadvisor users

Milford-On-Sea, just a short drive away, or even walkable from the park for those who enjoy a stroll, is a pretty, small town with a long seafront and mostly pebbly beach. The views across to the Isle of Wight and The Needles are simply stunning. You feel like you can even touch the white cliffs opposite.

The bustling nearby town of Lymington has a lot of independent shops to browse (and an M&S for supplies). Its famous Saturday market dates back to the 13th century. There were stalls with everything from fresh fish to sun hats and plants.

Make sure you also spend some time at the Old Town Quay with its charming period buildings and cobbled streets. Lots of youngsters make their way here for crab fishing and it’s a lovely location to have lunch.

On one of our days at Shorefield we couldn’t resist a sea trip across to the Isle of Wight from Lymington which took about only 40 minutes. The ferry lands at Yarmouth, and we enjoyed a pleasant outing with plenty of restaurants and pubs to tempt us inside. We didn’t take the car, but if you did, you could carry on to explore more of the island.

Hot tub heaven in a Signature Lodge

Lymington also has an annual three-day seafood festival each summer.

The park has high green credentials and partners with local producers as much as possible in its Country Store shop on site. It has also won the prestigious Blooming Marvellous Pledge For Nature Award emphasising its green credentials in everything from bee keeping to wildlife and habitat conservation.

I was very impressed with Shorefield. Its park life is something all the people will enjoy!

What to enjoy in the area

Theme park rides

Discover Peppa Pig World, 70 rollercoasters and much more at Paultons Park, in Ower, around a 40-minute drive from Shorefield Country Park.

The lodges are in a delightful woodland setting

History lesson

Visit Hurst Castle, built by Henry VIII in the 16th century, for a walk through the past. Currently being renovated by English Heritage, but plenty of features to see and space for youngsters to explore.

On yer bike

Ditch the car and climb on an e-bike to discover the New Forest. With big fat tyres and pedal-assist, it’s a great way to explore. Shorefield has partnered with Jaunt-Ebikes for special deals. You can even hire a ride-along ‘chariot’ for your dog.

Travel facts

Superior 3-bedroom Hot Tub Lodge at Shorefield Country Park (sleeps up to 6). Four nights for £1,663.66. Book now at https://www.shorefield.co.uk

Early history of the New Forest

The name is somewhat misleading, as it is neither new (it was established in 1079), nor a forest in the current sense of the word. It is rather it is a patchwork of areas of open heath and gorselands, mixed with forested 'enclosures'.

It was established by William I as a royal deer-hunting reserve. He introduced a strict egal code which forbade the local peasantry from doing anything that would interfere with his pursuit of deer. In slight recompense, they were given the right to graze their ponies, cattle and pigs. Semi-wild ponies, cattle and pigs still roam there.