At the westernmost point of the Dorset and East Devon World Heritage Site that is known as the Jurassic Coast is a family-orientated touring park with spectacular views of the glorious red sandstone cliffs that characterise this area. Devon Cliffs Holiday Park – part of the Haven British Holidays group – climbs steeply from its own sandy beach and segment of cliff-top coastal path to the touring and camping section which enjoys the best sea views on this large park, for caravans, motorhomes and tents occupy a field above the static caravans on this busy park.
The touring section, thus, gets a sense of tranquillity well apart from the static ‘village’. That tranquillity extends right down to the park’s own beach, a five-minute walk from your pitch. The facilities on this perched park include showers – few but, during our stay, kept squeaky clean – toilets, hairdryers, a family bathroom and washing-up room all housed in a wooden-clad building. It’s a bit ‘portacabin-ish’, but perfectly functional.
Much of the field is sloping, so if you have a twin-axle caravan or a motorhome you’ll need to request a level pitch. Even so, you may need levellers. And don’t forget the chocks for safety when you’re hitching and unhitching! But for that disadvantage you gain the tremendous sea views. The access road through the static caravan area is narrow in places so take care when passing parked cars.
The actual coastline here is England’s only Natural World Heritage site and there are a number of coastal and inland walks recommended from the site (information is available at reception). There’s also an ancient natural woodland strip runs through the centre of the park down to the sea. Devon Cliffs has 60 touring pitches and a tent field that has views as gorgeous as those from the caravan and motorhome field; there is space for up to 150 tents.
This site is an ideal base for exploring the Jurassic coast, which starts from Exmouth and runs to Portland Bill, through East Devon and into Dorset; the county boundary is about 15 miles east of Devon Cliffs. And it’s not just coastal discoveries that abound from this park. Take, for example, the Bystock Natural Reserve Walk, maintained by Devon Cliffs in conjunction with Devon Wildlife Trust. Just go explore – and take a picnic! You could walk there instead of driving – it’s only three miles from the park.
All this wildlife and conservation work has paid off for Devon Cliffs – it’s in its second year of a David Bellamy Gold award acclaim. Recycling is gathering pace and borehole water is now used in the SplashZone (of which more later). Cardboard, toner cartridges from the office, cooking oil, glass and metals are all being targeted and targets reached. And even food waste is taken away for methane extraction to use to generate electricity contribution to the National Grid - the residual products is converted into fertiliser. There’s even an on-site supermarket selling everything you’d expect from a small town store, including wine and Devon cider.
On-site entertainment centres around Funworks, Devon Cliffs’ vast family entertainment centre, which feels overwhelmed by its complexity and flashy lights. Diving inside to explore, there are slots of fun of the electronic games nature, competing for attention with a bowling alley, air hockey, pool, plus things to play with and things to climb. There’s also a Burger King and an ice cream area - and then a refuge of quiet for when you need it, in the form of a bar with football to watch and a terrace outside to which you can escape to silence if you want to. Up an escalator and up a gear in the eats stakes, is Sonny Jims, a buffet bar grill that is far more adventurous and higher quality in food terms than its name would suggest. Moving up a gear still further and there’s Bugby’s, the family nightclub that offers everything from bingo to a disco for all ages.
The complex also contains the SplashZone, an inside-and-outside triple-pool complex. The outside area has two pools, each on its own level, with palm trees and a sun terrace and changing rooms. British Holidays? You could be anywhere under the sun here. The pool depth grades from a ‘beach’ to swimming depth; it’s huge, and in an attractive figure-eight shape. Nearby is an assortment of ball-courts designed for organised and informal games alike.
And beyond: the sea – a constant reminder that, however comprehensive the man-made facilities here, this park’s greatest asset is its most natural – that golden beach called Sandy Bay and those towering red-sedimentary-rock cliffs that are remnants of the fact that this was once a desert.
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