Juliet Dennis found activities for all the family at Hoseasons’ Go Active Park in Somerset
Finding a holiday that met all the needs of our family, including our four-year-old twins Joe and Nina, struck me as a bit of a challenge.
Joe wanted play-acting of the pirates or super hero variety with fellow, fearsome four-year-olds. Nina wanted swimming, running around, drawing and a good playground. My husband wanted relaxation time, red wine and beautiful countryside.
Personally, I wanted to combine chilling out with fun, quality family time and the chance for me, and the kids, to learn some new sporting skills.
On top of that we wanted comfortable, dare I say luxurious, accommodation. Was that too much to ask?
We scanned the UK holiday parks, a favourite for Joe and Nina because of the on-site activities. A UK break meant we could throw all their paraphernalia – from scooters and footballs to buckets and spades – in the car. If there was room, it could come.
One glance at Hoseasons’ range of Go Junior activities for three to seven-year-olds, introduced in 2012, and I was confident Joe and Nina would be happy, occupied and tired out (meaning a good night’s sleep for all of us – hurrah!).
Hoseasons has 18 Go Active parks in the UK and each offers activities catering for three-year-olds up to adults, ranging in price from £4 to £12.
The choice of activities at Go Active parks feels endless, from river rafting and rambling to canoeing, gorge walking, tennis, yoga and trampolining, depending on which park you plump for.
We chose Cheddar Woods holiday park, nestled in the Mendip Hills in Somerset and revamped under the Go Active brand last year. Before I knew it I’d signed the kids up for Pirates Paradise, Robin Hood Juniors, a balanceability course to learn to ride a bike, and swimming lessons, and booked myself an archery lesson, something I’d always fancied having a shot at, forgive the pun.
The kids’ excitement in the car on the way down was palpable.“Are we there yet?” Answer: “No, not yet.”“When can I get dressed up as a pirate?” Answer: “Wait and see.”“Will I have a dagger like Robin Hood?” Answer: “No, absolutely not!”“Will there be lots of other children there?” Answer: “If there aren’t, I’m not sure how we’ll cope.”
The kids’ fun and parents’ relaxation time started the minute we turned up for their first one-and-a-half hour Go Juniors session, Pirates Paradise.
Or in other words; pirates for kids, paradise for adults – they pretended to be on the high seas searching for treasure, we pretended to be footloose and fancy free and searched out a drink, child-free, in the bar.
The leader, a ‘pirate’ with a loud, West Country growl, soon had his team of young swashbucklers marching through the corridors dressed in pirate garb, faces painted and yelling “alright me hearties” at the top of their voices while playing games and drawing treasure maps.
Day two, and another, more challenging, activity for my two bundles of energy. “But I can ride a bike already!” said Joe indignantly, when I told him. This was followed by a conversation about riding a bike without stabilisers – and a look of astonishment from Joe and Nina as if to say: “you never told us these are going to come off our bikes?”
The instructor did warn us this was a tough session for children. Concentration was key. Given our four-year-olds’ ability to concentrate only when watching TV, this could be tricky. I prepared myself for the worst.
Nina took to the balance bike like a duck to water, confidently pushing it along with her feet round the tennis court. Joe, on the other hand, struggled. Wheels and feet swished in an uncoordinated fashion and it wasn’t long before the tears and screams started. Some foot-stamping later – fortunately, no one was phased, and even the bike got off lightly – Joe was back on the bike as if nothing had happened.
Swimming was a happier affair and with one teacher to four children, the kids enjoyed some great one-on-one attention from the instructor, learning to swim on their backs across the pool.
We timed the activities for early morning or late afternoon so we could fit in trips to Cheddar’s famous caves and a day on the beach at Weston-super-Mare, and at £4-£5 a child for an hour-and-a-half session they were both affordable and worthwhile.
During their final activity, Robin Hood Juniors, the kids were outlaws, part of Robin Hood’s merry gang, riding play horses and designing ‘Wanted’ posters. Joe could hardly believe his luck when he was allowed to use a bow and arrow – toy-sized of course – for target practice.
I knew how he felt. I, too, was quite excited when I got the chance, palms sweating, to use a real bow and arrow in an archery lesson with a mixed age group of children and adults.
Some, like me, were complete novices, nervously trying to hold the arrows the right way. Then there were the others who held their bow and arrow like real pros, confidently aiming, shooting and hitting the target, with the odd tut when they didn’t hit the ‘gold’.
After a few wayward shots, I started to get the hang of it. Our instructor, India, added a sense of fun with competitions between the group based on everything from football to favourite countries, foods, and even cutlery, depending on which part of the board our arrow managed to hit.
“If you only hit a spoon and a knife then that’s what you’ve got to eat your dinner with tonight,” she joked. I only managed to hit knives – and it was pasta on the menu…
So what if I kept being beaten by a seven-year-old? Next time I’m going to be one of those swaggering up to take aim, with a confident “I’ve done this before” look. Watch this space.
Tried & Tested – Cheddar Woods
“Oh, I could live here!” exclaimed my mother-in-law as soon as she set foot in our Cheddar Lodge Premier when she visited during our stay.With its modern, spacious interiors and tasteful decor, well-kitted-out kitchen, two bathrooms (one en suite), walk-in wardrobes, flatscreen TV, decking area and hot tub, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Without question, this lodge lived up to its ‘premier’ name.
There was plenty of space for us and two four-year-olds – even with their toys spread out across the floor. Refurbished a year ago, the park boasts a farm shop, bar and restaurant, including an à la carte area. Particularly of note for families, there is an outdoor seating area overlooking a compact playground. Our kids loved spending time there, meeting other children, while we watched on, a beer in hand.
Other facilities include a spa, sauna, health centre, swimming pool, soft play, indoor play area for the under sevens, bowling alley and climbing wall.
The restaurant offered a takeaway service so we could enjoy a meal at the lodge while the kids were asleep. And then, we could sneak out to sit in the hot tub and look up the sky – the ultimate relaxation.
Book it: A seven-night break in a Mendip Premier 2 lodge at Cheddar Woods park leads in at £795 with Hoseasons on April 6. Go Active activities can be booked and paid for at the park on arrival. Costs vary between £4 and £12 for activities including archery, fencing, Xplorer and disc golf; and from £4-£5 for Go Juniors activities such as Wizard Workshop, Circus Skills and Balanceability.
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