19/06/2008
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Merley Court Touring Park, Dorset

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A long woodland driveway takes you from main roads to tranquil Merley Court. And if you’re lucky enough to get a pitch backing onto that woodland, the dawn chorus will enchant you – and encourage you to rise early to enjoy this park.

Natural though this woodland attribute is, Merley Court’s first-impact appeal is of topiary-standard hedging, spherical bushes – every bit the man-made traditional elegant parkland.

A gushing fountain surmounts a rock feature at the entrance; new for 2008 are green, red and blue lighting to create a psychedelic effect as soon as the daylight fades.

This park retains all the hallmarks of a grand estate, although stately Merley Court House, visible from the park, is now used as offices.

campsite play area
Play area and tennis courts
The park gives you a heated outdoor swimming pool, short-tennis courts, a Game Zone, a bar open at weekends and during busy seasonal times, a great adventure play area that features a wooden “train”. There’s even a neat circular cycle rack to enable you to park your cycle near to the play and sports area.

Investigate more closely and you’ll see that the bar opens onto a walled courtyard area where barbecues take place in the season.

The park looks immaculate – and there are further refinements in progress. Underfloor heating is a feature of refurbishment of one of the three amenities buildings.

The shop is shortly to be extended to offer more camping equipment, wine, walking information (there’s a good stock at present), plus enough food to ensure you wouldn’t starve if you arrived here with an empty fridge.

The Shorefield Group bought Merley in 2006. It was already an established and quality family park. Now, the attractions include the log fire in the cosy bar, discos on the small dance floor in another bar area, breakfast served at weekends, a room where traditional skittle equipment invites you, plus darts, a take-away

Pause as you take in the facilities list here and order, perhaps, scampi and chips, lasagne, salad, pizza, jacket potatoes – plus puddings and children’s meals.

We peruse the breakfast menu for tomorrow and decide on a full-English at £5.95 and a Breakfast Bap at £2.45 and move on, to discover more of this site for you.

campsite entrance
Illuminated fountain entrance
Rabbits, foxes and hedgehogs are regularly observed here. Each day as we returned to our test Hymer Nova 470 astride a pitch bordering the woodland, rabbits darted about, seemingly relatively bold; this a delightful, natural and reassuringly quality place to be based for a holiday or short break. And don’t forget that its proximity to the port of Poole renders it an ideal overnight halt before or after a ferry crossing to France from Poole.

 
Facilities here are all high quality. There’s a family bathroom for which you can hire a key for your stay, the main shower buildings are heated and a local radio station is playing. We discover outdoor washing-up arrangements, a good laundry, two motorhome water disposal points…

Then Dave Hawkins, who runs the park with his wife Jane, leads me to a part of the site I would not have otherwise discovered – a natural woodland tent area where pitches are set amid the trees. There’s no electricity here – just wild woodland enclave pitches to enjoy.

Everything from tents to the largest RV is accommodated here – pitches of 15 metres x 5 metres are ample for RVs and fifth-wheelers and there are other pitches which are almost as big, to accommodate the largest of touring caravans.

Merley Court’s character is that of family park with no razzmatazz but bags of quality and refinement. After four nights at Merley Court – our second visit; I’d spent a happy half-term with our son here some years ago – we are sure we want to return again.

•    For contact details, visit Merley Court Touring Park's listing in our Campsite Finder section by clicking here.


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