“ Address: Bridge Road, Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6QS / Tel: 01297 560154 „
My husbands' family used to stay at the Seadown Caravan Park in Charmouth, Dorset when he was a child, so last year when we were looking for a UK based summer holiday we decided to go back to allow him to reminisce ( and believe me he did - how many times did we catch him saying - 'when I was little' or 'I remember when me and my sister did such and such'.
We made our booking through the Hoseasons website, but I notice now that the site has its own website and a direct booking can be made, although the prices don't vary significantly other than the Hoseasons site adding insurance, so it may be worth booking through them if cancellation insurance is important to you. Booking through Hoseasons was an easy experience with the usual type of online booking system whereby you select dates from a calendar and the number of people staying etc.
Seadown Caravan Park is a 5* Rose Award site situated on the bank of the River Char at the point where it flows into Lyme Bay, 3 miles from Lyme Regis by road and 7 miles from Bridport. It is a family owned site, and indeed we discovered it is still owned by the same family as in my husband's childhood visits. It certainly has the feel of an individual smallish site with none of the big Haven style entertainment. There are a number of static vans, with parking beside for 1 car and space for a picnic table and chairs (not provided). A number of well sized level pitches are available for touring vans and tents with electric hook ups. Most pitches are positioned looking over towards the river and the notoriously beautiful Golden Cap and the fields of cows leading to this.
Facilities on site include a shop at reception that stocks all the basic essentials of food and toiletries and beach type toys, all of which are reasonably priced. Head to Morrisons in Bridport for any major shopping though. There is a wash block for touring vans, which unfortunately I was unable to look inside as keys are provided to those who need to use it. The laundry area and undercover washing up area all looked clean and well maintained, so I imagine the shower areas would be similar.
Large areas of the site are devoted to leisure. A very long wide strip of land running the length of the river is left as open grass, ideal for ball games. Table tennis tables, badminton net, skittles and a netball post are also found in the recreation area, but there is no specific childrens play area. There are also picnic tables for the less energetic to sit at. This site is a peaceful one with most entertainment being of the natural variety. There is no pool and no club house or bar, although the village of Charmouth is only a 5 minute walk from the site and the George pub there has a friendly atmosphere and serves great pub food.
Charmouth beach is accessed directly from the site and offers no end of things to do. The cliffs between Charmouth and Lyme Regis are world renowned for their rich supply of fossils. In the 1820s some of the first dinosaur fossils were found in these cliffs, including the first ichthyosaurus and plesiosaurus, by Mary Anning. I would recommend anyone visiting who is interested in this to read 'Remarkable Creatures' by Tracey Chevalier while they are there which tells the story of Mary Anning and describes the local area perfectly. Just searching on the beach is likely to lead to you finding ammonites and even some good specimens of dinosaur poo! I would caution against climbing on the cliffs to search for fossils as they are unstable and landslips are not uncommon. Many people do though and the fossil shop on the beach loans out hammers for excavating. This shop is fascinating and the owners sell many of their own finds and have on display a whole dinosaur skeleton that they found. There is also a separate heritage centre and cafe and the icecream van is usually to be found in the carpark.
The beach is mostly shingle, but we could normally find a patch of sand to lie on if we fancied sunbathing, but the sand is quite course and not up to building sand castles. The beach at Lyme is better if this is what you're looking for. Walking along the beach at low tide you can walk to Lyme or Eype and West Bay. The cliff top walks are stunning and Golden Cap can be reached at a brisk walk in 1.5 hours, or you can divert and make the walk circular heading up to the ridge and back down a lane into the back of the village. There is significant evidence of recent landslips and the path has obviously diverted further into farmers fields in places. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to walk to Lyme along the cliff due to the landslips.
The river offered the greatest entertainment for us. It is about 5 meters wide as it runs down the length of the long thin site and it is possible to wade in beach shoes up most of this length, which my 11 year old loved. They also took their ball in there to play. The tides have caused a damn at the mouth and this forms a natural boating lake with a footbridge crossing to the other side. Dingies are on sale in the campsite shop and the village store and we certainly don't have any regrets about buying one. So many of the children staying on the site spent hours playing in these and even us adults had to have a turn too. The water here was about 1 meter deep and as well as this lake area about 100 yards of the river is also navigable before it becomes too shallow. For parents it is ideal as there is a large grassy area beside the lake to sit and watch the children and also some really pretty reed beds. Ducks and swans are always happy to be fed here too. A path weaves along the river within the site and some of this is a narrow wooded strip, again perfect for children to play imaginative games. My daughter is 11 and she made friends on the site and they happily went off to play, with instructions to pop back frequently, regular visits from parents and armed with mobile phones to report back on their location (until it fell in the river of course! - that's when the fishing nets came in most useful). It felt quite safe and she really enjoyed a great sense of freedom, similar to that which we had as children, during this holiday. Obviously for parents of younger children this may be a big drawback to this site, although none of the pitches are right by the river.
We stayed for a week in the school holidays in August in a Horizon van. This is the smallest caravan available, but it was still large in comparison to many I have previously stayed in. It is a 12 foot wide model with one double bedroom and a smaller room with two single beds. The lounge area seemed vast with a circular table and benches and a stool and comfortable bench seating along two walls, a coffee table , gas fire and digital TV and radio. The kitchen was well equipped with a full size cooker, fridge and microwave and all the utensils that I needed for basic holiday cooking.
The main bedroom had a 4'6" double bed with a decent quality mattress (I slept like a log on it anyway!) Two pillows were provided, but when I asked at reception, 2 more were promptly brought. Bedding was included and this was all a neutral peach colour that matched the decor of the bedrooms. It appeared clean and well kept and I had no uneasy feelings about sleeping under it. A positive feature of this room was the truly enormous walk in wardrobe; our two large suitcases easily fitted in there as well as our dirty laundry bag and shoes. It had a hanging rail ( a few more hangers would have been helpful) and a shelf across the top for our folded clothes. The downside though was that this was the only storeage - no drawers for the underwear etc and no dressing table. The light only switched off from the main switch by the door which was also a pain - once I'm in bed I don't like to get out again to turn out the light. The childrens bedroom had a wardrobe with shelves and a hanging rail, but the beds were short. My 5'6" daughter only just fitted. In the bathroom the full size shower cubicle with powerful shower was a bonus and a hook on the door for a towel would have made it perfect.
The cost of this van in August is £565.00 per week, but if you chose to stay in March it is as low as £195 and £465 in the May half term holiday. I felt that this represented extremely good value for money, particularly when compared to other caravan holidays we have had in the past. Two models of 3 bedroom vans are also available, the Oasis costing between £225 and £605 a week and the Mirage costing between £310 and £640.00. Signs were up showing the site of a new 3 bedroom Beach Lodge on the pitch nearest to the sea and this year this will cost between £420 and £905. Touring vans cost £18.50 per night in high season including electricity.
Dogs are permitted on site, but must be kept on a lead and are allowed in the Horizon and Oasis vans. I could find no trace of a dog in the van we stayed in, no hairs and no smell, which was a huge relief. The caravn was clean throughout , apart from a pirex jug that I found was dusty and obviously hadn't been used all season. £15 per week is charged for the dogs.
Out and About
I confess that we spent a lot of time on site or at the beach or walking on the cliffs, but time in Lyme Regis is a must, visiting the cob and walking around the harbour, exploring the art galleries and dinosaur museums, the lifeboat and other seaside shops. It is still a quaint small seaside town with well kept pretty beach huts and a manmade sandy beach. I heard on Countryfile that the water quality is not brilliant for swimming here.
West Bay in the opposite direction is another small harbour town with fantastic fish and chip booths. It was rainy and blowing a gail when we were here though so I don't think we saw it at its best.
My favourite excursion was to the Sub Tropical gardens at Abbotsbury which were absolutely stunning, and there is also a Swannery and childrens farm here which we did not have time to visit. The famous Chessil beach is also close by. Further afield we travelled to Monkey World at Wareham, about 45minutes away and Maiden Castle, an iron age fort at Dorchester.