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Ice age links

IN the reign of Henry VII maps and documents identified an area of interesting glacial deposition of dome-shaped sand and gravel as “sandyballas.’’
By Edward VI’s reign it was being identified as ‘sandyballes’ and by 1591 this area of land was recorded as being in the ownership of the Doddington family as part of the Breamore Estate.
When the seventh baronet Edward Hamilton Hulse (1889-1915) died in World War One the death duties forced the sale of 1,000 acres of the Breamore, including this geological formation, in 1919.
An enterprising Ernest Westlake purchased the ‘Sandyballs Wood’ as a setting for the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and to establish a Forest School for education and spiritual refreshment.
campsite entrance Within a year, Ernest Westlake (whose family still owns the park) was encouraging camping here, to help fund his huge mortgage. But he met an untimely end in a motorcycle accident and his son, Aubrey, taking over the park, espied a business opportunity for a holiday park…
Aubrey Westlake thus founded Sandy Balls Holiday Park, one of Britain’s premier parks in terms of activities available on the site. This was at the dawn of the caravan holiday industry; the first brochure was produced in 1935 and it was marketed as a caravan site from then onwards.
But it was not until the 1980s that the Westlake family started to develop Sandy Balls Holiday Park into the multi-faceted (but still breathtakingly natural) family holiday centre it is today.
So what makes this place so special? For a start, something in which the owners did not have to invest: early mornings. And incredible birdsong. Wake up in your caravan at dawn, as I have done many times through family caravanning here since the late 1980s, at any time of year and the birdsong is an amazing cacophony of shrills and warbles and tweets and squawks. And it’s loud. For you are right in the forest here. And, take it from us, the best pitch area of the park for the loudest dawn chorus experience is the “Orchard” pitches.
But this park didn’t win its awards for the dawn chorus. It has, though, won a cabinet-full of trophies for conservation and quality tourism.
Pitch facilities are up among the best: hardstandings (flint gravel) with waterpoints and electricity and TV aerial (you hire a length of coaxial cable from the reception andcampsite play area this gets you good terrestrial reception plus some good factual additional channels which our work-schedule only allowed time for a flick-through).
There’s all the usual stuff associated with a top-class park – laundry, washingup facilities, heated shower buildings, hand-driers, hair-driers, individual washing cubicles, all immaculately maintained.
There’s a good pub on the park, too, serving food (sorry, no time to sample on this trip although in years past we have eaten ample and excellent meals here). There’s a take-away serving a similarly good menu. and an Italian restaurant by the entrance to the park (work time prevented indulgence here, too).
Many parks have pubs and restaurants, but not many have an extensive craft complex of activities for children, archery (complete with tuition), laser clay pigeon shooting (real competition stuff, with shields to win), a programme of events for children and teenagers encompassing the whole gamut of crafts…
Try collage, wand-making, jewellerymaking, and pottery. (A shelf of my study is crowded with the results of Sandy Balls crafts and sports mastered in successive holidays by my now-student son, his prowess being pinnacled by the attainment of laser clay shooting Top Gun of the Week – this activity is to be strongly recommended.)
campsite gym For the energetic, there’s orienteering, too – and I can vouch for the fact that there are some challenging routes here!
Sandy Balls is, for sure, primarily about families. But there’s plenty for the solitudeseekers, too. Take a walk down the steep hill leading down to the banks of the River Avon and you’ll discover unrivalled tranquillity and beauty. Climb up the steep hills on one side of the park and you’ll find challenge (it is in places extremely steep) and still that tranquillity; hard to believe you are actually on a holiday park, for this is a vast estate. It extends to 120 acres.
The park has its own riding establishment. Enjoy hacking through the forest – this is for novices as well as experienced riders. There’s fishing, too.
Cycling is catered for on this park, and there are many routes you can take from here which involve minimal road work.
If bringing your own cycle is inconvenient, you can hire here; you can even have your own cycle serviced during your holiday. Cycle accessories are available, too. And, importantly, you can obtain tour maps from the experts here..
If you’d prefer water-mode exercise, try the large indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Or there’s the fitness suite, solarium, toning tables, beauty treatments…
Retail-wise, there’s a comprehensive gift shop which also offers tourist information. And there’s a touch of continental style in the Spar supermarket on the park – you can buy freshly-baked croissants every morning, plus there’s always fresh bread, baked on the premises and within sight and enticing smell of the bakery area of the shop.
With this huge choice of interest on the park, it’s tempting to ignore the rest of the New Forest. You don’t need to leave the park to have an excellent holiday.
Sandy Balls, though, offers a prebooking service for when you do want to visit attractions away from the park. Bookings can be made here for several attractions including Beaulieu Abbey and Motor Museum Oceanarium, Alice in Wonderland and Longdown, the Otter, Owl and Wildlife Conservation Park near Southampton.
Address  Godshill,
 SP6 2JZ
Telephone 01425 653042
Email [email protected]
Website www.sandy-balls.co.uk
Open All year
To search for your perfect campsite from our large database simply click here: www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/pitchfinder/

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01/08/2006 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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