The massage therapist has met her match in the knot in my right shoulder.
She pushes her redoubtable thumb through the offending mass, aided by a fragrant blend of body oils that promise to both soothe and revive. It's an experience typical of a five-star hotel – except this spa is at Shorefield Country Park, a 40-hectare community of holiday cabins on the edge of the New Forest.
Our cabin doesn't have such a pleasant whiff; the smell of cigarettes has lingered here too long since the smoking ban. I suspect it could be eliminated with a change of the dated, if functional, furnishings. Our position below a tree that the local crows call home doesn't help create much of an ambience either – persistent cawing, permanent shade from the sun, and decking spattered with old droppings don't encourage us to lounge on the terrace.
Still, there are clearly better appointed and maintained abodes about this holiday park. Our neighbours opposite have only praise for the place – they're so smitten, they've bought a cabin here. It is their sanctuary, visited on every high day and holiday, when the kids go computer-free and while away time making new friends, riding bikes, and playing on the nearby beach.
This park has modern diversions for those who want them, of course – from a state-of-the-art gym to live entertainment. But the spirit of traditional family fun still dominates here, and is doubtless why Shorefield Holidays has expanded its award-winning fare across six parks in Dorset and Hampshire over the past half-century.
Our cabin was the usual study in wood veneer, with a large space for cooking/dining/lounging, bedrooms furnished with comfortable beds and a decent amount of storage space, and bathrooms generous with the hot and cold running water (plus a notably good shower). There's a range of styles of accommodation available, sleeping two to eight people, from caravans to New England lodges with private hot tubs.
The food and drink
Local supermarkets, farm shops and farmer's markets keep self-caterers easily supplied (there's a store and off licence on the park, too). If you fancy giving the washing-up a miss for the night, there's a bistro and a carvery on site.
Shorefield Country Park has heated indoor and outdoor pools, the Reflections Elemis Day Spa, a gym, sauna, steam room and spa bath, tennis court and football pitch, nature centre, fishing lake, children's playground and games area, kids clubs during school holidays, bars, live entertainment, sports screens, and internet access – phew! All cabins have large colour TVs, some have DVD players. Bikes can be hired from Cyclxperience (newforestcyclehire.co.uk), which will deliver them to your cabin. The beach at Milford on Sea is a short walk from the park, the New Forest National Park is three miles away, and Bournemouth is a short drive. Other nearby attractions include Paultons Park (paultonspark.co.uk), which features the recently opened Peppa Pig World, Beaulieu Motor Museum and village (beaulieu.co.uk), and Corfe Castle (nationaltrust.org.uk/ corfecastle).
The park has a six-berth lodge adapted for guests with disabilities.
Shorefield Country Park is currently offering seven nights' self-catering accommodation from £259, based on six people sharing a four- to six-berth Danestream Chalet. A week's hire of the chalet during the October half-term school holidays starts at £380. Prices include self-catering accommodation and use of the park's facilities.
Shorefield Country Park, Shorefield Road, Downton, Hampshire SO41 0LH (01590 648331; shorefield.co.uk).Reuse content