Take a trip that doesn't play on your conscience
Sunday 29 June 2008
Inspired by the rallying call of friends who needed help to raise the timber frame on their eco-build in north Norfolk, I decided to extend my trip and take my five-year-old son Inigo to check out Kelling Heath, an environmentally friendly holiday park near Holt.
As this was an eco mission, we took the train from London to Sheringham, then the Poppy Line steam train to Holt. It dropped us off at Kelling Heath, where we headed into the woods.
The holiday park is set in 250 acres of heath and woodland, part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, across which are spread holiday homes, timber lodges and pitches for tents and caravans. The noisiest inhabitants, though, are the birds.
The centre of the park is the "village square", where you'll find an information-packed reception (complete with useful trails), the shop, three restaurants and, on some evenings, outdoor entertainment.
Kelling Heath has a clutch of commendations, including a David Bellamy Gold Conservation Award, and prides itself on combining tourism with conserving the heath, woodland and wetland areas and wildlife. It is also striving to become a carbon-neutral holiday park. Environmentally themed activities range from guided bat walks to star-gazing expeditions and, in the school holidays, the Acorn Club for four to 12-year-olds.
Our holiday home at the edge of the woods had two bedrooms and could sleep six. Inside, it was spotlessly clean, centrally heated and offered good storage. The spacious lounge had a TV, a dining area and kitchenette, there was a shower bathroom and the double bedroom had an en-suite toilet and sink. The decor was a Dot Cotton plush-and-chintz dream, but what did it matter? We were here for the great outdoors.
And with cycle hire, tennis courts, boules pitches, an adventure playground and assault course among the choices on offer, there was plenty to do. Rain, however, stopped play, so we decided on a swim, visiting the red squirrels en route, which are part of a successful breeding programme run by the park.
Kelling's Health and Fitness Centre feels every inch like a private club from the moment you arrive. There's warm, spacious changing rooms, a well-equipped gym and an indoor/outdoor pool and spa complex.
Luxuriating in a post-swim spa bath, I gazed up at the timber ceiling, shaped like an upturned boat, and out of the windows to the trees beyond, feeling deeply relaxed, despite the ducking and diving of my spa buddy.
Our afternoon passed in an energetic blur of bicycle wheels and forest fun.
Of the three eateries on the village square, we – or rather he – chose dinner in the pizza restaurant (check out the two-for-one offers on the website). It's small, friendly and ideal for families, though the pizzas are decidedly more Hut than Express.
Outside we breathed in the scent of heather and pine, and headed home. Lighting is limited to the square to reduce pollution, so we were guided by the starry night sky and Inigo's pocket torch, a fitting end to an eco-friendly day.
Kelling Heath Holiday Park (01263 588181; kellingheath.co.uk) offers seven nights from £726 in a holiday home; from £1,173 in a timber lodge; and tent and caravan pitches are available from £29.50 per night.
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