Family time at Sandy Balls

Sandy Balls
Sandy Balls
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With my daughter’s hand gripped tightly in mine, we waited for the clue.

And once it came, we shot off at top speed to head for the play area in a bid to be the first to find the postcard containing the next instruction.

I’m not sure who enjoyed the Sunday afternoon treasure hunt more – me or six-year-old Grace – but it certainly gave us some exercise on a weekend dedicated to chilling out.

And we gave each other a little high-five when we finished on the top team at the end.

It might not have been the most sophisticated event but it’s straightforward pleasures like this that can turn a good weekend break into a great one full of happy memories.

We had a long weekend in one of the comfortable, clean lodges at Sandy Balls – and like any family it was important to us to get the right balance between action and relaxation.

The holiday park’s new online booking facility helps with this, giving you the hassle-free option of putting yourself down for activities such as archery, horseriding and, of course, the treasure hunt.

Not that you’ll be short of options if you decide to take a more relaxed approach.

Bike hire, which is available on site, gives you the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs – whether that’s trundling around on the site or venturing further afield to follow some well thought-out routes on the quiet roads around the park.

There are beautiful walks through the forest around the resort, with the option to go off-road a little bit if you’re feeling more adventurous.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot, including the New Forest ponies which do have a habit of holding up the traffic – not that it matters much because family rules state that no rushing around is allowed on holiday.

In the centre of the site is the main plaza, which acts as a meeting point for most activities. The swimming complex, which includes an outdoor pool for summer days, is open from first thing and includes a sauna, steam room and hot tub – although in busier times you’ll need to book a slot and a time restriction is enforced to avoid overcrowding.

There’s a great children’s play area with a zip-line that my little ones thought was the best thing ever invented.

And there’s an amusement arcade and tots’ play area for those rainy days.

You can, of course, just opt to enjoy the balcony of your lodge with a barbecue lunch and a cheeky bottle of wine.

When the evening comes, there’s more entertainment on offer in the Woodside Inn – the on-site pub which deserves praise for offering local Ringwood ales.

On the Friday night when we arrived there was a kids’ disco just to make sure the youngsters were worn out.

Saturday saw a visit from a pretty good magician, and while the stage hypnotist who visited on the Sunday night was perhaps a little too bemusing for the youngest children, older ones and adults got plenty of laughs out of it.

Rates are reasonable enough for a site that is a cut above a lot of other more traditional holiday parks – and opting for a caravan rather than a lodge drives down the cost quite a bit.

Most precious of all is the chance to spend some family time in a beautiful setting that’s just far enough up the road to feel like a proper getaway without being too much hassle for a short break.

Graeme Patfield and his family stayed in a pine lodge courtesy of Sandy Balls.

Sandy Balls is in the heart of the New Forest at Fordingbridge. The postcode for sat-nav is SP6 2JZ.

Bike hire and information about local walks and cycle routes is available on site.

A midweek four-night stay in a four-berth pine lodge starts from £149.

To book or for more information visit sandyballs.co.uk or call 0844 693 1434.