Our family generally head towards the Southeast coast of Kent for our holidays. I have stayed in several caravan parks along the coast, but the one that stands out above all the rest is the Hoseasons Holiday Park at St. Margaret's at Cliffe. This site is aimed at families with older children or adult families. Young children are catered for but might not have so much fun here as they would at other sites. This is a VERY quiet site situated just five to ten minutes away from Dover by car. I will state now that you will need a car to reach the site because there is a very limited bus service and there are areas with no footpaths, although there are grass verges that have well worn tracks on them. I will start by describing the site and then I will cover some of the things that you can do in the area. On entry to the site, you will be on a two-way drive with speed humps. The speed limit was 5mph the last summer. As you drive in, there is a small grocery store on the left and on the right there are the cottages (according to the brochure, but I call them chalets). Also on the left, but further ahead, you will see the main building of the site. There is a one-way system at this point and you drive around the building in a clockwise direction, treating the building as a roundabout. Be careful to watch for confused French tourists going the wrong way round though. The reception is very small and we drove past the first time, so we had to navigate the one-way system again. Picking up the keys was very easy, but you MUST remember to take the invoice with you, as this is proof of booking. You are provided with a map to show the location of your caravan/cottage and any other paperwork they want to give you, this varies from year to year and generally includes money-off vouchers for tourist attractions. The site is not particularly large when compared to Pontins or Butlins, but it is very well laid out. Car parking is an issue th at needs to be looked at in the caravan area because they provide about twenty spaces to serve thirty to forty caravans. We went at peak season in August and found that we had to park in the next parking area along. This was due to returning to the site after seven o'clock in the evening after visiting relatives. You will find that you can park easily if you return before six. Leaving the site before nine o'clock in the morning can also be problematic, as some drivers can block you in rather than find a less cramped car park. If you plan an early start, park strategically. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ The Accommodation \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ What are the options for caravans and cottages? Country Caravan - This is a two bedroom caravan, one double and one twin. There is also a double sofa bed in the lounge area, so four to six people can sleep in this caravan. I am 5' 4" tall and found that the single beds were far too narrow for me. My feet also hang off the end of the bed. These beds were obviously designed for children and my brother who is 6' 2" ended up sleeping on the sofa. The kitchen area is narrow and has a small fridge with a freezer compartment just big enough for a couple of fish fillets and an ice-cube tray. The cooker is also small, so don't even consider doing a Sunday roast. There are plenty of cupboards in the kitchen area and you are provided with utensils and china plates and bowls. It is recommended on arrival that you check the contents against the list. You should then report any missing items. I don't know why they don't check themselves, but if you don't report any missing items, it is likely that you will be charged after leaving for them. I recommend that you take your own mugs and teapot, as the teacups and pot provided are pitifully small. We bought some mugs at Dover. These caravans have a small shower room with a toilet and sink. If you are heavily built, you may have trouble sitting comfortably on the throne. If you dry yourself vigorously after a shower, you may find that your elbows keep hitting the walls of the bathroom. The double bed was comfy (according to my parents) but there was not enough wardrobe space if you wanted to stay for two weeks without needing to wash clothes. The lounge area is big enough to seat 8-10 people comfortably, so you can have the odd visitor, although the rules are that they shouldn't sleep there. If you want a visitor to sleep the night, you are supposed to let reception know so they can charge, but I think several families omitted to report visitors and got away with it. I would not recommend this though, as you could find yourself being evicted from the site if someone reports you. Honeywood Caravan - Sleeps 6-8 people. Double bedroom and two twin bedrooms with a double sofa bed in lounge. We have never stayed in this caravan type (or any of the following types of residence) so I cannot talk of the interiors, they look very spacious compared to the ones that we stay in. This caravan has a shower. Willow Caravan - Sleeps 6-8 people. Same as Honeywood but was new in 2001, so it has a more modern design. Ashbourne Bungalow - Sleeps 4 people. These are brick built bungalows. There is one double bedroom and one twin room. There is a lounge area with patio doors that open onto a communal paved area. There are curtains for the patio doors. This type of bungalow has a bath. Pineridge Two - Sleeps 4 people. This bungalow has one double and one twin bedroom. It differs from the Ashbourne in that you have a better fridge-freezer and a dishwasher. The patio doors open onto a verandah. These are double-glazed and central heated. Pineridge Three - Sleeps 6 people. Boasts the same features as above, but is a three-bedroom bungalow. This is set as one double and two twin bedrooms. Price-wise, there is a large variation. Depending on the time of year, this is the price range for each of the types of residence per week. These prices are quoted from the 2002 brochure. Country Caravan: £115 - £420 Honeywood Caravan: £120 - £485 Willow Caravan: £150 - £495 Ashbourne Bungalow: £150 - £495 Pineridge Two: £175 - £520 Pineridge Three: £210 - £565 The lowest price is in March and the most expensive is in July/August. November is almost as low as March. The caravans are closed between December and the February (inclusive), but the bungalows are open year round. General to all residences: Colour TV with generally poor reception, microwave, and bed linen. You will get good reception on the TV in the bar (strange that, isn't it?). Pets are only allowed in selected Honeywood and Country caravans and are charged for at £30 per week. Above the main building are hotel rooms. You can book these for one or two nights and you get room service. They will even open the bar to bring you a drink at three in the morning if you wish. There are no prices in the brochure, but I assume they will be happy to help if you phone. Contact details at end. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ The Site \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ The first port of call after unpacking was the bar. There are two bars in the main building. There is a normal bar with chairs and tables and that is where we went first. The prices are monitored to ensure that they are the same as the surrounding pubs. I think that this was a deal that was made to ensure the survival of the local. There is a wide-screen TV in this bar and they have a Sky subscription. They generally have the dull family entertainment, but if you want to suggest something more interesting, they will ask the other guests if they want to watch that instead. There are two menus available in the bar, a bar menu and the restaurant menu. The restaurant menu is good if you don't want to sit down for a full three-course meal. The bar menu has snacks and meals. You can have an all-day breakfast, or a baguette with ham and salad. The prices are a little steep, but the meals are very filling. They also sell portions of chips, sandwiches and soup. This menu is regularly revised, so you will have a wide choice. The other bar is in the dance hall. There are tables and chairs, with an open area for cabaret acts or discos. One of the staff acts as DJ for the disco, and they play requests. They don't normally have the very latest hits, but the kids will enjoy the CDs that they play. There are regular talent contests as well. After ten o'clock, they start playing music for the adults and it is policy for the hall to stay open as long as there is a person who wants it. You will find that it can be open until two o'clock in the morning. The hall faces away from the caravans, so we didn't find the music a problem. Another popular part of the building is the health club. There are two heated indoor swimming pools, but at the time I stayed, only the family pool was open. In the paperwork provided, there is a swimming pool timetable and there are set times where the pool is reserved for adults only for some serious swimming. Also provided, is a spa bath (Jacuzzi), private sauna suite*, solarium* and treatment rooms*. Starred items carry a charge for use and you need to book them for units of thirty-minutes. In the treatment rooms, you can receive skilled massage or physio work on tight muscles. For over 16's, there is a fully fitted gym. There is a lot of workout equipment and there are qualified instructors available to assist. For younger children, there is "Dylan's Den". This is a play area next to the dance hall bar. In this area there are a few arcade machines and a pool table. Dylan makes regular app earances to run activities for the children, but if your kids are scared of big purple dinosaurs, you may want to warn them in advance. There is a restaurant available that is open for breakfast and evening meals. You will need to book a table in advance because the restaurant is very popular during peak season. We had to book a table 48 hours in advance for an evening meal. Prices are high, so we went once for breakfast and once for an evening meal as a treat. Unless you are wealthy, you will not be able to dine here for every meal. You are looking at £10 and up per person. That price is for the standard meal of the day. I chose to have a sirloin steak with chips for my main course and paid almost £20 for the three courses. They also offer foreign cuisine, but this menu changes from day to day and was almost prohibitively expensive for our budget. There is also a children's adventure playground. Young children MUST be supervised in my opinion, because the roundabouts and swings are next to large climbing frames and a tire zip-line. All items have wood chippings around them. I would say that children in their early teen would be more suited to this area. The grocery shop is rather small and only gets a limited amount of stock. If you like to sleep late, you will often find that bread and milk has been sold out. If you like to get a newspaper, it is recommended that you reserve one. This guarantees that they will get one for you. As well as groceries, you can pick up trinkets and beach toys too. For those who want to wash their clothes while on holiday, there is a laundrette on-site but there is a charge to use the facility. The big downside to the site is that you can hear the drone of the hovercraft at Dover. For the first day and evening, you will be irritated but you will find that you filter the noise out after a while and you don't notice it anymore. There are rules at Dover and the hovercrafts do not operate through the night. They do start at about 8 in the morning though. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ Off-site Attractions \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Hope Inn. The most local off-site attraction is the Hope Inn. To reach it, we walk off-site and turn left at the site entrance. We walk along the grass verge until we reach the paved footpath about 100 yards along the road. We then follow the road right to the end, passing the fire station on our left. At the T-junction at the end of the road, the Hope Inn is directly opposite. This is a small, homely bar. It is generally full and can get quite hot. I absolutely love the food that they serve. You can buy light meals like Scampi or sandwiches, or you can go for a meal. They make Steak and ale pie, Steaks, roast chicken, and many other things. They also provide snacks and deserts. As well as the usual deserts, you can have death by chocolate. I find that the main course is so big that I can never manage desert. The lagers on offer are Dutch. I can't remember the spelling, but one of them was Orangeboom (or something like that). The drinks are priced reasonably and they have a pool table and wide-screen projector for the football. You can be sure it will be busy if the football is on but if you are on holiday off-season, you will normally get seats. Golf Courses. There are several 18-hole golf courses around, but I didn't visit any. Castles. Dover, Deal, Walmer and Leeds castles are within easy reach of the site by car. Everyone will have heard of Dover Castle. It is just a few minutes from the site, and will occupy you for the day if you are interested. There are quite a lot of steep steps, although they are slowly putting wheelchair access points in. Deal castle is very interesting. It is not very big, but is sited next to the beach and has a lovely view out to sea. You can spend a couple of hours here, and it takes between 20 to 30 minutes to reach by car. While here, I recommend taking a stroll through Deal, as there are some nice little shops to look at. We didn't have time last year to look at Walmer Castle, but it is on this year's itinerary. Zoos. 13 miles along the motorway will get you to Howletts Wildlife park. This will require a day trip, as the site is huge. If you go on a sunny day, take a hat or you will be passing out. Prices are steep and they don't have as many animals as they used to, but it will make an interesting day out. Due to the size of the site, wear strong shoes for walking, and be ready for young children getting tired half way round. Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury is 17 miles from the site, but the Cathedral could be worth a visit. Again, I haven't visited this landmark yet. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ Towns to Visit: \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Hythe: I strongly recommend a visit to Hythe. There are many antique shops and they have a flea market twice a week. You can pick up some amazing things here and we make a visit to Hythe a top priority whenever we are on holiday. Parking can be a problem, but don't let it put you off. You can also take a ride on the miniature railway. This is a fully operational railway from Hythe to Romney, via Dymchurch. There is a museum at the Romney end that is well worth a visit. This will take a whole afternoon, but is a lovely experience. Dymchurch: This is quite a journey and there are not that many sops there, but there is a fun arcade and a children's funfair. If you are going along the coast anyway, it could be worth stopping here for a while. Dover: If you are staying here, you may as well visit due to the proximity. There are plenty of shops, and Dover is the closest town with a large supermarket. On the seafront, you can watch the ferries, seacat and hovercrafts. There are quite a lot of people fishing from the beach and pier. You can walk along the pier, but it gets very cold and windy towards the end. In the middle, there is a café selling hot drinks and snacks. You can also buy ice creams here. Margate and Broadstairs: If you want a day at the beach, you can travel north to Margate or Broadstairs. There are plenty of shops to wander round and Broadstairs has a lovely sandy beach. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ Overall \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ St. Margaret's is a quiet site designed to cater for people who want a quiet holiday at a well-placed site to use as a base to visit places. Older children and adults use the site most but young children will be catered for. Having said that, young children would enjoy other sites more. I would say that this site is ideal for 13 years and over. Caravans and bungalows are all clean and the staff are very helpful. Most of the staff have been working there for years and take pride in the service they give. If you wish to contact Hoseasons, you can go to www.hoseasons.co.uk Alternatively, you can phone 0870 333 2000. St. Margaret's Holiday Park has been awarded four stars by the English Tourism Council. I would recommend this Holiday Park highly. I have stayed there a number of times over the last few years and we are going back this year. I would also recommend checking the web site because there are many special offers year round, so you might get a bargain. Thanks for reading.
As I'm the first to write an opinion under this heading ......I'm probably in the wrong place ...but I don't care because I want to write it anyway. This is about a relaxed area of Southern Kent, so put your feet up and get into the mood but Doo enjoy it or else I'll set Anne Robinson loose on you !! Hythe is probably not known about by many people, lying on the A259 coastal road between Hastings and Dover. It is an attractive little Victorian town, banked up the hill similarly to a Cornish village. It has about 40 shops in the High Street, blocked from traffic from 10 a.m to 3p.m for ease to shoppers, about 7 pubs and about 6 restaurants, both of varying types and prices so there is something for everyone including Greek and Mexican food. If one wished to do so, within the church in the town there is a crypt which contains about 1,000 skulls and bones. How they got there nobody really knows, however worth seeing for a minimal charge. There are several large boot sales on Hythe Green or at the cricket club on alternate Sundays and nearby is the 1/3rd scale Hythe, Dymchurch and New Romney railway which runs the 13 mile route to Dungeness and represents an excellent day out for about £9.20. I would recommend spending a few pence extra and travelling in the buffet car which is a real eye opener when you have the waiter serving you kneeling down. I felt like telling him the joke about the guy that came to my house with a stetson hat on and gun belt round his waist and when I asked him who he was he just said "Cowboy Builder!" The beach at Hythe is shingle, but the front is about 2 miles long, and France can be seen on a clear day. There are only a few shops on the front which is a slight drawback, but this is a laid back area and one has to get into atmosphere locally !! There is a golf course to, but you wouldn't catch me there. However, this is not meant to be a technical review but my impressi ons and what I want to say comes now .... The Royal Military canal. This was built about 200 years ago as coastal defences in Napoleonic times, but was never used as such ...just as a precaution for example.The canal did fall inti disuse, although in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars it was refortified as the first natural line to hold against any force put ashore by the Gremans. One can relive those times by hiring a rowing boat at the weekends for a minimal charge ...ideal for a relaxing (!!!) idle around the Romney Marsh environment. BUT...BUT ...BUT every two years all this laid back stuff is forgotten about, there is the Venetian Fete in August, this year it is on Wednesday August 15, and I'll definitely be there again !!! The idea is a carnival with floats, but on the canal, with the floats pulled by rowers in the afore mentioned rowing boats !! The floats, about 40 in number, are to an excellent standard including bands, pop groups etc, and also are judged for prizes by local gentle folk. The audience, and there IS ALWAYS about 10,000 there come for distances of up to 300 miles (yes 300 ) to this event. There are attractions on the canal banks (including a beer tent for those of you that know me). The first float past is about 6 p.m, and there is a torch light second return of the floats starting about 7.30p.m. There are grandstand seats available, but may require booking (contact me for further details on all of the above if required, it's not my style to go into all of that here !!) There is a firework display in the region of 9 p.m, all times being approx due to the laid back nature of the area, and the large audience . There are also local events on the nights preceding the fete, and the Watersedge public house has live music on Sundays anyway ! Afterwards, lay back and go for a local meal and/or drink because leaving at the culmination of events will DEFINITELY result in you sitting in the car for an equal amount of time, and I should know as my caravan is only 500 metres away, and my sister-in-law tried it !! You will certainly miss a brilliant event if you don't go, and now of course you've got to wait until August 2003 !!!