Travel: Wild horses could not drag you away from the idyllic glades, open moors and cliff top walks in the New Forest

Perfect chalet home for  family break at Sandy Balls resort
Perfect chalet home for family break at Sandy Balls resort

If this weather could be guaranteed for three months a year I am sure more of us would be inclined to give up those last minute holiday searches for a staycation, exploring a little more of England’s green and pleasant lands

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Durdle Door

Durdle Door

With blue skies and beaming sun, the open spaces, rolling hills and coastlines of the UK offer up some of the most breathtaking views in the world.

A rich history and the wildly differing cross county landscapes, fascinating architecture and some oddly placed stones offer great insight to how this proud little country came to be.

Our latest mini British adventure allowed for a cross-country tour from Lancashire to Hampshire and the New Forest at the wooded Sandy Balls resort.

Existing as a woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, the land of the Jutes (an Anglo Saxon tribe) was grouped together as a ‘new forest’ by William the Conqueror in 1079.

The Away Resorts Sandy Balls entertainments team

The Away Resorts Sandy Balls entertainments team

It was Henry VIII who ordered castles and fortifications be built to protect the area, in its strategic south coast location, from French or Spanish invasion.

Walking along the beautiful cliff tops it’s easy to see why.

Knowing a little of the land of roaming ‘wild’ horses had not quite prepared me for the sheer numbers of moorland ponies, cattle and donkeys.

For my five-year-old this rather dramatic heathland appeared like a magical world of unicorns (they stay hidden in the forest she tells me).

Christchurch harbour

Christchurch harbour

Spotting a good number of the 3,000 odd horses made up for the lack of sightings of mythical creatures on this particular visit.

Sandy Balls Holiday Village is a luxury woodland retreat owned by Away Resorts and sits a little more than five minutes from the market town of Fordingbridge home to the famous seven-arched medieval bridge which gives it its name.

Just next to the river Avon, which also sweeps through the resort, this pleasant town is recognised for a number of independent shops and eateries.

The holiday park has, for a long time, been a favoured destination for families in the south, a welcome break from the capital, which is just over 90 minutes away on the train.

Pond dipping at Sandy Balls

Pond dipping at Sandy Balls

A very easy four hour drive saw the five of us arrive late morning allowing for an afternoon bathe and swim in an outside pool in England! Holiday made day one.

The leisure facilities, including an indoor pool and a spa, are easily accessible. Entertainment passes are given to guests on check in, with a time table of priced activities and a packed programme of weekly entertainment.

The three-bedroom, two bathroom lodge was perfectly equipped and well-sized for a comfortable four-night stay, offering a car space outside and a patio area for home entertaining.

The resort’s village offers two restaurants The Woodland Inn and Aubrey’s Forest Restaurant, both reasonably priced. Takeaways are also handy for those preferring a night in.

The accommodation also provided a decent kitchen space, a welcome option after a long day out. But there are a number of fantastic traditional pubs for eating out too.

The family holiday is not always exactly labelled as a break but the best are the ones where everyone can come away with something to talk about.

Alpacas Sandy and Pickles

Alpacas Sandy and Pickles

Simple delights are being able to enjoy a glass of wine while an entertainment team and their gang of puppets take care of the small people, the little man learning to swim without his noodle, to a bunch of rather over eager dads smashing the resort record for the biggest number of newts caught in an hour long pond dipping session (124 if you’re interested and yes the pond dipping is aimed at all those aged four and over.)

Sandy Balls is also home to six rather lovely alpacas who welcome visiting companions on their daily walks around the site.

The wildlife encounter with these unusually cute and fluffy residents proved to be a highlight of our trip.

A family walk with Pickles, Sandy and friends costs £20 and is worth every penny.

On top there were daily craft activities, zorbing, archery, cycling, laser tag, junior fencing, woodland survival, as well as an adventure playground and soft play. A lot for the little ones to pack in.

It is important to leave time to venture off site as we did to near-by places. An hour’s drive took us to the Jurassic Coastline taking in Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door - appropriate footwear recommended.

I was wearing flip flops.

A lovely afternoon was also spent exploring the very pretty Christchurch with a lovely walk around the harbour and a stop off in Burley for a traditional cream tea.

At the western end of Christchurch bay is the fishing village Mudeford and a trip to the idyllic Mudeford Sandbanks jutting out into the English Channel is a must.

Fact file

Sandy Balls, owned by pioneering UK holiday park operator Away Resorts, has a wide range of accommodation, from camping pods and safari tents to Indulgent Zen lodges with hot tubs.Prices lead in at £369 for a two-night stay from November 12-14 in an Indulgent Zen lodge that sleeps seven.