“Google that Sandy Balls place we saw at the NEC show”, then we watched the screen with some trepidation as the ‘return’ button was pressed. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your viewpoint, countless beach pornography sites did not appear and we found ourselves booking our next trip. That incident was actually during the first week of January and we booked a five night stay in March, however, after a recent ten day non-caravan holiday in the Lanzarote sun, we needed a ‘caravan fix’ and decided Sandy Balls would suit for a two night February visit too.
Sandy Balls is a mixed residential, holiday park, touring park with all types of cabins, caravans, glamping pods and includes a full compliment of facilities where you could probably hide from reality for twelve months without even leaving the site. The tariff rates for tourers are either ‘bizarre’ or ‘genius’ and definitely work on a supply/demand model. More on this later, however, having paid £18.32 for two nights ‘service pitch’ we weren’t complaining on day one. The site boasts an extremely modern looking Inn, cafe, takeaway, grocery store, cycle centre, beauty salon, indoor play area for kids and a leisure centre with indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and jacuzzi and so the list goes on. There are activities offered onsite for a small fee too, including archery, Alpaca walks and craft sessions. The entertainment side of things is endless with evening quizzes and live music. This is not the kind of site we would normally choose in the height of summer but on a bright out of season February afternoon, this is perfect.
On arrival we were greeted by a lovely receptionist who carefully explained the layout of the site, directions to our pitch and took time to mention all their amenities and entertainment for the coming week, then handed us a small colour printed brochure with all the info we could possibly need for the next few days, so efficient!
Having ‘winterised’ our ‘van, of a fashion, early in January as we knew we wouldn’t be using it for a few weeks, meant that this trip took a little longer to unpack and set up. Within 40 minutes tho the kettle was on and we were trying to work out how our new wifi gadget works. The site offers free wifi but it is only accessible in their on site village square. Our gadget claims to be able to connect to free wifi within a certain range, on this occasion it was telling us we were just out of range (typical)! We did, however, manage to get it to connect to 3G and were able to use it this way.
Cup of tea drunk, time to explore. Being out of season not all of the touring side of the site was open. We were located in Four Acres, containing approximately 90 pitches and most pitches were occupied. Leaving the caravan you wander past glamping pods, holiday homes, residential homes all set in a well landscaped, well managed pocket of the New Forest. Using this trip as a bit of a recce for our longer visit in spring, we were able to see the pitch that we had booked for next time and explore their lovely village square. This is modern, spacious with lots of outdoor seating, perfect for accessing their free wifi and watching the world go by. This afternoon it was quiet and we were able to have a leisurely nosey around. For our springtime visit we will most certainly bring swim wear for the pools, sauna and jacuzzi. Normally we cook most meals in the caravan. We may even try their cuisine on our next visit as everything from the takeaway to the restaurant seemed reasonably priced.
We strolled over to the edge of the site, walking down wooded, well landscaped paths and stumbled upon a remembrance garden. Four family gravestones looked out upon the most stunning views. Strategically placed benches meant that you are able to pause and drink in the view.
A new day dawned and after a very lazy morning we wandered into the square for a cheeky coffee in their delightful café. Very comfortable with tables and sofas this is the perfect place for a bite to eat or a quick cake and a coffee whilst checking your social media accounts.
After lunch we headed out for a drive in the charming city of Salisbury. We managed to find free parking just a short walk out of the the centre. An eclectic mix of charming old and new buildings dominated by the cathedral which was in the process of having an array of sculptures set up in the grounds.
Back to the caravan for tea and a drop of something made us start to reflect on our short break away. After our last short break away this week had definitely wetted our appetite for our longer visit here in spring. Wanting to walk off our tea we went for a short walk before turning in for the night. We found ourselves, very unusually, in their arcade playing what we used to call Air Hockey. It took us back to our teenage years and we haven’t laughed so much in a long time. We then treated ourselves to a portion of cheesy chips from the takeaway on our walk back.
The mid week break has come to an end. Pitches have to be vacated by the early time of 11am, a little early for us but still do-able, just.
Finally down to prices as promised earlier. Sandy Balls tariffs vary over the course of the year. For the first week in February a serviced, hard standing pitch was £10 per night, using an online discount code this brought our 2 night stay to £18! Book the same pitch for the last week in July and their prices are up to £120 for the same two midweek nights. Whilst I really enjoyed my stay and am really looking forward to our next visit, I’m not sure I would pay the height of season prices. You do get all the entertainment and access to their leisure centre but I much preferred the quieter side of the site. Would I come again? Well I am, and would recommend that you look them up. Now looking forward to writing a more detailed blog in spring.