This is a guest post by Lorenza Bacino, Anglo-Italian journalist and travel writer. Lorenza went to check out Kelling Heath Holiday Park in Norfolk with her family on behalf of Mums do travel.
Kelling Heath Holiday Park
Kelling Heath is designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And on our recent spring visit to Kelling Heath Holiday Park, we could certainly appreciate why. Kelling Heath lies on the north coast of Norfolk, which is about a three-hour drive up from London. It’s a wild and unspoilt place. The park covers some 270 acres, and heaths and woodland combine with sea views and beaches to create an enchanting environment. The children (12 and nine) were out and about immediately, climbing trees, exploring the Conservation Pond which was absolutely rammed with frogs, newts and toads, and taking pictures of birds and bright yellow gorse bushes and heather. We found butterflies, rabbits, squirrels and even a solitary stoat. There are several rare species of bird to be found here including the nightjar, which very much depends on the heathland to survive in the wild. Since 1999 a red squirrel breeding programme has been underway to try and prevent their extinction.
Nearly all of the trees across the park are native and this is so that the woodland environment can continue to support the habitat and wildlife of the area. In fact, there’s a wealth of things for families to see and learn about this unique habitat and how it came to be.
We arrived at Kelling Heath at the end of March for a three-day mid-week visit. You can choose from a variety of cosy holiday homes and timber woodland lodges, all equipped with central heating, kitchen facilities, TV and bathroom, and of varying sizes and prices. The top-end Woodland lodges have an outdoor deck where you can eat or enjoy an evening aperitif.
Our two-bedroom lodge was situated at the edge of the woodland, overlooking the heath, the sea in the distance. The main bedroom was warm and comfortable, with an en-suite bathroom and a TV.
The children’s room was very snug with twin beds and lots of nooks and crannies to store things. The beds are quite close to each other, but the children loved the snugness of it all.
You can choose to be in a more secluded woodland plot, or in a more open sunnier position. There are also places for pitching your own tent, or parking your own caravan or mobile home. There’s no wifi connection at the lodges, but there’s a free connection over in the restaurant and bar area. Mobile phone signals are fairly weak too, but we certainly didn’t mind about that.
Things to do on site
There are many trails to follow throughout the park, (including a history trail, a tree trail and a nature trail) and they’re all clearly marked by numbered posts.
The children particularly enjoyed exploring the holiday park on bicycles, which you can hire on site, and which we used for a day to explore beyond the heath. Huff and Puff Cycle hire prices range from between £6 a day for kids’ bikes to £12 for adults. You can get a discount if you hire the bikes for two or more days, which is quite likely as it’s the best way to explore. The bike guys are really helpful and came up with some great suggestions based on the age and ability of the kids. We also cycled out of the heath and down to the little town of Weybourne for a pub lunch, and came back along woodland trails.
The pool on site is very family friendly. It’s not deep, so you can’t really dive and jump in, but there’s fun to be had in the jacuzzi. Parents can chill out in the sauna and steam room too, and it’s a good place to come and unwind after walking and cycling. There is also a gym if you haven’t walked around the heath enough, and a day membership for the Fitness Club is £11 for adults and £5.50 for children. You can buy three-day passes for £20 and £10 respectively. In summer, there’s also an outdoor pool next to the indoor pool, but this wasn’t yet in use on our visit.
Behind the pool there’s an assault course for children, which is so camouflaged that it just melts into the surroundings and you only see it when you stumble upon it in the trees. Both mine spent time hanging, climbing, sliding and chasing. One local mum from Holt was visiting on a day pass with her children and said – ‘We know how lucky we are here and we don’t take it for granted’. In fact I met several local families who come to Kelling Heath to relax and bring their families rather than travelling further afield.
We cooked a couple of times in our lodge, but if you don’t fancy it, generous portions of toad-in-the-hole, madras chicken curry, burgers or Walsingham pies are on offer at the Terrace and Forge Bars on the park’s Village Square. There is usually some form of musical entertainment in the evenings and there’s a den with a soft play area for the younger ones. There’s also a village store on the square, where you can buy fresh local produce, groceries and locally made gifts.
Things to do in the area
At the edge of the woods just beyond Bottom Pond there’s the tiny railway halt called Kelling Heath Park Halt. From here you can begin your journey into the past on the steam railway, the North Norfolk Railway.
You don’t have to be a railway enthusiast to enjoy a day out on the steam trains. The North Norfolk Railway opened towards the end of the 19th century and narrowly managed to avoid closure. It’s been lovingly restored and maintained by enthusiasts and now offers a very romantic 10.5 mile round trip. And yes, ‘Brief Encounter’ does spring to mind! We loved our ‘time travel’ experience, stopping off to explore other seaside towns en route. The carriages and wagons are all maintained in their original state, and at Holt Station you can visit the William Marriott Museum of railway memorabilia.
The volunteers who run the railway are helpful and knowledgeable and they’ll even let you climb into the locomotive to show you how it works (if you don’t mind a certain amount of black soot). We learned that the temperature can reach 2,500 degrees F when the engine is working at its hardest and 4000 gallons of water are needed to power it.
The stations of Weybourne and Sheringham, are also quaint, retaining their old-fashioned charm, having been restored to their original 1930s heyday condition. The atmosphere is enhanced by the staff looking very smart in their traditional railway uniforms. I loved the painted advertisements displayed around the stations, and the old photographs and memorabilia. There are lots of events on offer too, throughout the season, including Murder Mystery Trains, Sunday Lunch trains, or Days out with Thomas the Tank Engine, to name a few. The views as the train puffs along the coast are lovely, with the sea never very far away.
Cost: Hop-on, hop-off day rover tickets cost £12 for adults and £8.50 for children. A Family Rover is £40. You can travel on as many trains as you like throughout the day and it’s great fun to do.
Lifeboat museum in Sheringham
Stopping off in Sheringham, we visited the small but fascinating Lifeboat Museum. Sheringham has a strong boatbuilding heritage and the volunteers on hand can explain the stories behind the seven historic boats and lifeboats on display. Don’t forget to climb up to the Wind Farm Centre – called At The Mo…- to learn about climate change and renewable energy. It’s accessible from the Lifeboat Museum and offers great views across the coast.
Cost: Admission is free, but they welcome donations as they rely on volunteers to keep it all going.
Muckleburgh Military Collection in Weybourne
I’m not a fan of military stuff, but this collection is impressive and interesting. Weybourne has always been considered a good landing place from where to invade England – from Roman and Viking times through to the Spanish Armada threat in 1588. During WWI Weybourne was a homeland defence site, and became an anti-aircraft military base throughout WWII up until the last shells were fired in 1958.
The Collection, which opened in 1988, houses over 150 tanks, guns and other vehicles, as well as light weaponry, uniforms and ammunition and memorabilia. It’s pretty hands on too and if you’re there at the right time you can watch a tank demonstration outside or take a ride on one of the military vehicles.
Both my son and daughter enjoyed this visit immensely and I think that the Collection has appeal for all ages. If it’s a cold day, you’ll need to wrap up, as the hangars are right on the coast and it’s quite chilly inside.
Cost: Admission to this collection costs £10 for adults and it’s free for kids under five. Military Vehicle rides are £2.50 per person.
We really enjoyed this break as a family and would definitely recommend Kelling Heath Holiday Park to others.
We loved the woodland and heathland and the cycling in particular. Walking down to the seaside towns or catching the steam train and hopping on and off was great fun too. The staff were friendly and helpful with lots of information on hand about what to do and where to go in the area.
Family travel lowdown
Four-night breaks at Kelling Heath Holiday Park in March and April cost from £365 for a two bed-room lodge. A three-bedroom lodge costs from £439. Costs increase as the season gets underway, peaking in August, where you’ll pay £687 for a two-bedroom lodge and £769 for a three-bedroom lodge.
Thank you very much to Lorenza for this review. You can read more of Lorenza Bacino’s work here.
Disclosure: Lorenza and her family were guests of Kelling Heath Holiday Park for the purposes of this review.