NEW FOREST: Fordingbridge

Sandy Balls premium lodge lr

L-R: The Premium Lodge at Sandy Balls and the master bedroom inside



By Tim Saunders

New Forest artist Claire Wiltsher loves watching how the light dances amongst the forest shadows. She says it becomes a natural cathedral when a backdrop of light comes into play among the trees. We experience this staying in our Premium Lodge at Sandy Balls holiday village.

The first night is always difficult for our two daughters: Harriett (3) and Heidi (1) because they need time to become accustomed to their surroundings. We forget to tire them out sufficiently before bedtime and live to regret it. We must remember to do that in future.

It is so lovely and toasty warm inside the lodge that when we emerge into the chilly cold of the forest it is quite a shock. But very refreshing nevertheless. With a bike and trailer from the cycle centre I take my daughters on an early morning ride around the local area while busy mummy Caroline has chance to relax. An extremely good aid to relaxation is the bathroom incorporating a shower and a large corner bath with its water jets that provide a good massage. The beds are also extremely comfortable. This certainly gets the heart pumping; I forget how heavy Harriett and Heidi are becoming and so it is impossible for their unfit father to ride up any of the hills in one go. But after numerous stops we make our way round and see the world as it wakes up; ponies in the fields and even some squirrels gathering their nuts. We spy some donkeys outside The Foresters Arms at Frogham.

This break is all about relaxing for us; we have such a fast paced life that there is generally very little time to do mundane things like curling up and watching television of an afternoon. We actually manage to do this and it is thoroughly enjoyable. But we also go for a swim and relax in the sauna.

A real luxury is to have a meal out and The Forest Table restaurant is a fabulous place in which to treat yourself. It offers surprisingly good value for money, too. Thumbing through the menu with my chilled Peroni in hand I notice that a coffee and a slice of cake is under £4; you’d be lucky to get a slice of cake for that on Britain’s high streets. Convivial surroundings, friendly and attentive staff and a really buzzing atmosphere with numerous families eating provides a really memorable occasion. For me the haddock, mozzarella and spring onion fishcake is a must. This is followed by duck breast and chocolate pudding. Presentation is high, service is unhurried and the experience is fantastic with plenty of choice.

Sandy Balls, which has been a holiday village for over 90 years, provides everything for the holidaymaker. From The Forest Table restaurant to The Woodside Inn pub and takeaway there is something for every budget. There’s even a good value onsite supermarket, The Village Store, so there really is no need to venture into the outside world. And there is plenty to entertain the children too from the Toddlers’ Wood and two indoor play areas through to the outdoor play areas and swimming pool. There are even craft activities laid on throughout the year and this is particularly enjoyed by Harriett and Heidi. It is so nice to be able to spend time with your children seeing them be creative. Sandy Balls runs a programme of weekly activities, including biscuit decorating, fabric painting, working with wood, woodland walks, collage making and bug hunting. Parents wishing to pamper themselves can do just this at the Retreat where they can book a haircut or a massage.

Back at the ranch or the premium lodge as it is referred to in the Sandy Balls literature it is an idyllic setting where unlike many holiday parks there is privacy and the lodges are not overlooked. They fit in extremely well with their surroundings and it is just a pleasure to sit and watch the world outside through the large expanses of glass. You really do get a chance to explore the inner oasis of the forest and it is lovely to watch the birds.

Stay at Sandy Balls for a week and you will feel rejuvenated.

Claire Wiltsher’s book Journeys from the forest to the sea published by Creative Coverage is available for £9.50 from May 2015. More details:

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