camping at chessington with the brownies

One of the highlights of the past year for the twins has been going to Brownies on a Tuesday evening. They are in a group of around 20 – 30 girls and under the watchful eyes of three owls (Tufty, Eagle and Little) they get up to all sorts of activities including, craft, singing and playing football. Each term they work towards a new badge – much to my delight when it comes to sewing them on – and now one arm of their jackets is more or less covered!

At the beginning of the year, forms were sent to the parents talking of an annual camping at Chessington trip along with the other Brownie groups and the Guides in July. There was a lot of excitement in the house and dad and I knew it was a ‘must’ for the girls, plus it was planned for the weekend just before their birthday so would go nicely into being part of their present.

As the time drew closer, kit lists were sent out and dad and I realised this was proper camping! We were going to have to learn how to make bedrolls and make them easy enough for the girls to carry.

Girl Guiding does its best to keep costs to a minimum and there wasn’t going to be a lot of kit that needed to be bought but a few bits that sprung to mind were, a mattress to roll the sleeping bags on, a thermal mug to drink hot chocolate around the camp fire and a torch for the midnight feast of course!

Who do you turn to with any camping related question – Millets of course! I told them what we needed and the important reason  – Brownie Camping trip to Chessington – and they were delighted to help out; camping is their forte.

camping mattresses

They sent along two fabulous mattresses and we practised rolling and unrolling our bedrolls (something that will need practising again before next year, apparently there were a few tears walking back to the coach on Sunday with a bedroll that kept on unravelling…)

thermal camping mug

They also gave us two thermal mugs which were nice and light to carry and did the job perfectly according to the twins (only the hot chocolate wasn’t very nice mummy)

small torch

And lastly, two torches which were small and light. Now, I spent a lot of time telling the girls to look after these torches and showing them a special pocket on the rucksack PERFECT to put them in so we wouldn’t lose them but of course, one twin came home without hers. *sigh*

Dad and I dropped two VERY excited little girls off on Saturday morning at 7.30am and collected two very happy but shattered little girls on the Sunday at 4 pm. We did our best to get some conversation from them; just an idea of how it went, what they got up to but they were so tired we got barely anything other than, ‘It was great, can we go again next year?’

Bedding roll for camping

They had a lot of fun and if you are contemplating your little ones going I would whole heartedly say yes, send them as it’s a life memory and fantastic for confidence building. Bessie said she went on all of the rides whereas before departure she was sure she wouldn’t be doing some of them.

Thank you very much Millets for coming to our rescue with all of our camping equipment. I think we did very well only losing one torch considering what could have gone missing!

Disclosure: Millets sent us the products mentioned above for the purpose of this post – all opinions are my own and Brown Owl is writing a long list of necessities for next year ;)

Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont

It all started at the beginning of the year in cold January when husband and I were thinking ahead to summer 2014 and wondering where to go. We were going to go to France again after such a successful trip to Honfleur in Normandy last year and we wanted to see if we could possibly take the girls to EuroDisney now known as Disneyland Paris.

Husband typed in campsites near Disneyland Paris and up came a list including Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont in Berny Rivière. As we wanted to spend two weeks there we were on the lookout for a 4/5 star campsite with swimming pools, activities, bars, restaurants and a shop.

We loved what we read and booked up, here’s how we got on.

camping la croix du vieux pont swimming complex

Booking

We booked direct with the campsite as we were taking our caravan, this was our first obstacle as although the 10% deposit was deducted from our account we never received an email confirmation. Only after telephoning did we receive something to say we were booked in on the right dates.

Camping Le Croix du Vieux Pont has many different types of accommodation, there are various fields for camping with tents, caravans or camper vans both with and without electricity. Major companies Eurocamp, Canvas, Venue and Lifestyle Holidays also offer tents, safari tents, mobile homes and there is also the option of a detached wooden lodge with Canvas.

camping la croix du vieux pont toddler pool

Directions

We downloaded directions from Google and used the sat nav too and towards the end we were afraid we had gone terribly wrong as we were driving along quiet country roads that were hardly roads at all but tarmac’ed trails. We did get there but decided to go along the motorway for an easier drive back home rather than return through the countryside towing a caravan.

Site plan

The site of Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont is enormous and you will definitely be stretching your legs whilst there. We are very glad we took the girls bikes with us as it saved a lot of walking for them. We were assigned a plot in the Petit Bois which is close to the beach area but meant a good 10 minute walk to reach the swimming pool and more to get to reception and the shop.

Pitches

Arrivals after midday, departures before midday.

camping la croix du vieux pont

You can choose a pitch with or without electricity. There are various camping areas all over the site, we were allocated a corner pitch in Alleé du petit bois but on walking around the site we discovered Alleé du Grands Barbecue and Alleé du Rond Barbecues and should we ever return we’d ask to have one of these pitches which are closed in by hedges and also have a private brick built barbecue. On asking at reception for information I discovered that you have to book very early (December/January) to get one of these.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Washrooms

There are plenty positioned around the site and some are busier than others, our closest washroom was near the beach and therefore saw a lot of traffic. The campsite cleaned three times a day but in mid August it still got messy quickly. We discovered by walking a bit further we could use a much cleaner bathroom.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Reception, shop and bakery

Everyone working on reception speaks perfect English and are incredibly helpful with all enquiries. The shop is reasonably priced and has a good selection of food and products, the bakery has fresh bread and pastries daily.

There is an Intermarché supermarket only 5 minutes from the site.

Laundry, carwash, cashpoint, boutique

I used the laundry on two occasions and found it to be sufficient but not a perfect wash. The tokens you need are bought at reception, they also have singular soap tabs if you don’t have any. The washing machine took about 45 minutes and is a large capacity. The dryer also took 45 minutes but for towels and thick t shirts I used two tokens.

The boutique onsite has a range of toys, floatables, postcards and souvenir items. It also sells newspapers

camping la croix du vieux pont

Bars, restaurants and take away

By the beach there is a bar/restaurant called Macao Beach. You can also access their wifi whilst you sit in the bar area. Delicious ice creams, cocktails, beer and snacks for sale. We didn’t try the restaurant but heard good comments from neighbours who did.

By the swimming pool there is another bar and separate restaurant, again we didn’t try the restaurant but heard good reports. We visited the bar on a few occasions to take the girls to the kiddies disco where they had great fun. The bar display an entertainment schedule for guests to check including karaoke evenings, pub quiz and much more.

camping la croix du vieux pont soft play

There is a bowling alley and an upstairs soft play area which needs to be paid for downstairs.

There is a take away also near the swimming pool selling burgers and pizzas. We never used this as the queues were quite long with half an hour wait.

There is another bar on the side of the lake which serves, drinks, ice creams and food.

Sports and activities

Close to the lake there is an area with all sorts of activities for the children including Go karts, trampolining and kayaking on the lake. We enjoyed a half an hour pedalo trip with the girls one day and spotted many fishermen around the lake. (Fishing license compulsory and bought in the lakeside shop). There is also an enclosed room with 3/4 table tennis.

camping la croix du vieux pont

Close to the swimming pool there is an indoor 5 a side football pitch open to everyone.

You can hire bikes by the hour, morning or days.

Tennis courts and a beach volley ball area close to the beach. Also by the beach is a mini golf.

Just outside the campsite there are stables who do daily trekking with the horses and ponies. We took the girls for a guided hour trek around the village area and through the fields and they loved it.

pony riding france

Spa and beauty treatment

Sadly I didn’t have time to review this part of the site. :)

Organised trips

This is possibly why most of the guests come to Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont, the proximity to Paris and to Disneyland paris.

The site organise coach trips, as you check in they will normally tell you which days the excursions are being organised for. Once that coach is full they will put on another day.

Paris – I caught the coach at 7.50am and we arrived in Paris around 9.30am. The coach drops you off at about 800m from the Arc di Triomphe, it’s a 15 minute walk to reach the monument. The coach left Paris at 6.45pm and was back in Berny Riviere at around 8.15pm. Read more of my Paris in One Day

Paris rooftops

Disneyland Paris – The coach left at 7.50 and arrived about 9.30am, there is a good 10 minute walk from where the coach parks to the entrance of the parks. The coach left EuroDisney at 7.45pm meaning we were able to see the 5.30 parade but not the fireworks at 10.30pm.

Disneyland Paris castle

Both trips are reasonably priced and excellent service.

You can also buy your Disneyland paris tickets at reception at a very reasonable price.

Our verdict

We thought the campsite was very clean and well organised and it had everything you could possibly wish for. A lot of care goes into the gardens and the flowers are beautiful.

We noticed that circa 97% of the guests were British. If you’re looking to savour France this might not be the place for you.

This is an excellent campsite near Disneyland Paris offering lots to do on the days you’re on site. The swimming pools have chutes, slides and a lazy river plus an excellent water play are for the youngest members of the family. A perfect family holiday.

See the beautiful sunsets over the lake here.

Twitchen House woolacoombe

Twitchen House must have been a family home one time, a huge beautiful family home. It’s a breathtaking Edwardian building and still looking grand today. It is part of the Woolacombe Bay  holiday parks and this is our second visit to Twitchen House as last year we stayed at Golden Coast.

Since our last stay Twitchen House has undergone a massive £2.5 million renovation in keeping with the manor house and surroundings they have done a fantastic job.

This time we took our caravan for a five night stay and we can’t wait to return, see why …

twitchen house outside pool

Journey

Half term week is the busiest week to travel but we decided to leave at 6am and journey down on the Tuesday. This proved to be very successful as we arrived at Twitchen House around midday. To get to Woolacombe you use the Barnstaple ring road which is very straightforward, we drove along the A361 which is a great road only travelling through Broughton at peak times can be slow.

We turned into the B3343 to Woolacombe, again no problems towing the van. After about 2 miles you have to turn right towards Mortehoe and this is a small country lane with hedges either side. The only hiccup we had was when the Woolacombe Bay double decker bus was travelling in the opposite direction, it made for some very slow manoeuvres inching past each other but it can be done and we all arrived safe and sound with the caravan intact.

twitchen house outside pool

Check in

Very simple and very quick, check in is in Twitchen House. You are assigned your plot, given a map and told directions. It was very easy to get to and on booking there are three pitches to choose from, Basic, Electric and Super. We chose a Super Pitch which has the following amenities

A concrete hard standing or all weather base:

  • 16 amp electrical hook-up
  • Awning space
  • TV aerial point
  • Drinking water
  • Waste water drainage
  • Night light
  • Parking on your pitch

We were given a pitch in H field which has a fabulous play area in the centre for the kids however our plot, H49 was placed right by the grass area so we were right behind the kids goal when they were playing football, the ball did hit our van a couple of times so it might be worth taking note of that.

making friends in the park

Park Facilities

The newly revamped centre is gorgeous, a lot of thought has gone into the design and architecture, you won’t be disappointed. There is a a lovely all day cafe/restaurant area, where you can also buy food to take away – the chips were delicious! There is also a soft play area so easy to leave the children playing and have a coffee watching them.

twitchen house all day cafe

There is a club house with a stage, lots of seating and balconies opening up if you want to sit outside too

On the lower level which can be reached from outside you will find the site supermarket which is very fairly priced and holds everything you will need.

Twitchen house facilities

There is also The Art Shed and on a rainy day this was our saviour. A genius idea where you choose a piece of pottery from the many available, plates, bowls, mugs, princesses, robots and dinosaurs to name a few.

art shed twitchen house

On each table there is a centrepiece of paints, brushes and clean water. Each painter has a tile on which they squeeze their chosen colours and off you go.

the art shed twitchen house

It took us over an hour to complete our princesses, the girls loved it and there is also a bar where you can order tea, coffee or soft drinks too. Your finished piece will go in the kiln and will need 24 – 48 hours before it’s ready to pick up so worth doing at the beginning or middle of your stay. It gets busy so the earlier you go along the better chance you have of finding your preferred pottery piece and a table to work at.

twitchen house art shed

There is a cinema showing 2D and 3D films an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor swimming pool with a great fountain area to play in alongside and a marvellous adventure playground.

twitchen house play area

For older kids the area EX34 will keep them amused

woolacoombe bay ex 34

As the four parks are connected it is also possible to visit other parks to use their facilities like bowling at the Golden Coast for example.

bowling woolacoombe bay

Camping facilities

These are superb and we were very impressed. The shower blocks are huge, I think I counted 26 showers, all large enough for an adult and kids to go in, with hooks for hanging towels and dry clothes, a small sink and a mirror. There were shaving plugs too.

There are two hairdryers available with mirrors and they are free of charge.

There is also a sauna and a steam room which are turned on mornings and afternoon/evening, free of charge.

There was a separate area towards the back of the building with lots of toilets in both mens and ladies and plenty of sinks.

Every time I visited there was music playing which I really liked, it was clean, often with the cleaner present and I never had to wait long for a shower to come free.

twitchen house

Surroundings

This is a beautiful part of the world and one we return to whenever we can. Our favourite places include

Coombe Martin

Watermouth Castle

Mortehoe

Berrynarbour

Lynton and Lynmouth

Ilfracoombe with a pretty harbour and Damien Hirst’s Verity, a controversial statue worth taking a look at.

Ilfracoombe Other Criteria Damien Hirst

Woolacombe Beach and town is beautiful. I love eating at The Red Barn and we always stock up on pasties from the local shop. Woolacombe is a surfers paradise, the girls had lots of fun belly boarding in their wet suits in the sea.

woolacoombe beach

A bit of history on Twitchen House

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Twitchen like this:

TWITCHEN, a parish in South Molton district, Devon; 12 miles NE of South Molton Road r. station. Post town, South Molton, North Devon. Acres, 2,918. Real property, £1,889. Pop., 227. Houses, 45. The manor belongs to Lord Poltimore. The living is a p. curacy, annexed to North Molton. The church, excepting the tower, was rebuilt in 1848. There is a Wesleyan chapel.

Cost

We paid £170 for five nights in June half term week 2014. There is no disclosure as this isn’t a requested review just one I wanted to share with you because we loved it so much.

what to take on a caravan holiday free list to download

Our caravan holiday to France is now coming fast and my mind is constantly going over all the things I need to think about and pack to make sure our holiday is as thought free as possible. What to take on a caravan holiday?

Jump to the bottom of post for a free downloadable list to print

So I have prepared a What to Take list that I can use over and over again. I guess there maybe many more out there going on caravan holidays or self catering holidays where you have to think of EVERYTHING so hopefully this will  be an easy downloadable that you can print off and tick as you pack.

Self catering and caravan holiday checklist

I start my packing from the initial car journey as often with a caravan or self catering holiday the journey to get there can be long and tiring so it’s important that the children are kept amused and the driver watered and fed. You do not want to disembark the Eurochannel train or ferry on the continent to discover your map and route directions are packed in the suitcase under all the bags – right?

A little forward planning and you’ll be happily on your way and prepared for any traffic jams should there be any.

Car journey

  • Picnic – Breakfast snacks, lunch and afternoon snacks. How long is your journey
  • DVD/CD, Games for consoles for the younger people
  • Toys and books for the kids
  • Water
  • Map and ferry/tunnel tickets if going abroad
  • Car insurance details, breakdown info, driving license and green card if travelling abroad
  • Passports

Bedroom

My thoughts turn to sleeping arrangements next, many self catering homes allow you to book online their bed linen if they don’t you need sheets for each bed and pillow cases. If camping or caravanning you’ll need sleeping bags and pillows too.

Bathroom

  • Hand towel
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Again sometimes towels are provided with the bed linen but should you wish to save on this expense they need packing too

You might also want to think about toilet roll, self catering holidays will usually provide one and frequently onsite shops are more expensive.

Kitchen

Again, these few products will save you money on your first shop onsite and are products often picked up at supermarkets as BOGOF or on special offer

  • Washing up liquid, sponges, scourer
  • Tea towels. If you buy one onsite it won’t dry properly as hasn’t been washed.
  • Aluminium foil, cling film – foil is great if you use the grill adn don’t want to wash it and cling film if you’re in the habit of keeping leftovers for another day.
  • Kitchen roll – not essential
  • Multi use cleaning product. Choose one that covers everything
  • Mugs – because so often when I go away they have little cups or tiny mugs that just aren’t good enough for my morning tea, I now take my own

Welcome Pack

Another great package that can be brought online but for happy campers who may have a bad journey, arrive when the shop has shut and have nothing, it might be worth thinking of the following essentials that will get you through first night and first breakfast until you can get to the shops

  • Milk, butter
  • Tea, sugar, coffee, wine, beer, juice
  • salt and pepper, brown sauce, tomato sauce, oil
  • bread, cereal

Laundry

One way of reducing the amount of cases you take is to wash clothes during the holiday, for one or two washes it’s often not worth buying large amounts so a couple of washing tabs, a small bottle of fabric conditioner and pegs can be a great money saver. You’d be amazed that you can never find pegs in self catering flats. I always take a large bag for collecting the dirty washing which doubles up on transporting it to the laundry when I’m ready to wash, if you take a strong one it will also do for bringing the heavier wet washing back once washed.

First Aid

There will normally be an onsite doctor for anything that needs seeing to but essentials you might want to think about are: Plasters, disinfectant, pain killers, insect bite repellent and antiseptic cream in case of bites, Calpol for the children

Activities

Swimming bags and separate towels, will the children need trainers to join in the onsite football game or play tennis? do you want to take a couple of outdoor games to keep them amused or even indoor games should the weather be bed? A pack of cards?

Extras

Chargers for phones, cameras, iPods and consoles. A docking station for music. Torch. BBQ. Heater depending on the time of year and waterproof jackets and possibly boots too

My list can be added to and you can download it by clicking on this link here and printing it off for yourself – tick as you go and save it to your computer for the next time and

Happy holidays!

Click on the image to download your list

what to take on a caravan holiday - free list to download

sandy balls - new forest

This is one of the Sandy Balls giving the site it’s name

It was only a month ago that we last took our caravan out for a weekend break and now it’s all been ‘wintered’ and sits outside our home with her winter jacket on.

One month ago we were in Sandy Balls *snigger* I know we all chuckle at that name and I discovered there is a reason for the name too, look at the photo here –>

Sandy Balls is to the west of the New Forest and it really is easy to get to, even towing a caravan. In fact as you come off the motorway, you’re already in the midst of nature but don’t be surprised to get caught in a traffic jam because some cows have stopped in the middle of the road and don’t particularly feel like moving.

Our journey across the forest was one through chocolate box villages with wild horses nibbling on the flowers over the garden walls, I so wish I’d had my camera handy.

Sandy Balls is the most expensive place we’ve camped in our 6 week stint coming in at £35.00 a night (as opposed to £20 – 25 previously) but it was worth it for the position and the convenience of having your own personal drain for grey water and a tap for fresh water on your pitch.

I used the Panasonic V700 camcorder to take a few shots whilst I was there and discovered it has this amazing feature that connects all your shots taken and adds music underneath – take a look it’s amazing and saves a whole lot of editing.

The site is set by the River Avon and is quite hilly so perfect for nature trails and walks in the fresh air. See our ‘boats game in the photo below? There is also a fabulous centre with a shop, a pizzeria and a pub which also serves food.

sandy balls new forest

The two swimming pools are very well looked after, one indoors the other outdoors and there is a soft play area plus two excellent parks for children to play in.

The beauty of Sandy Balls is you can choose from various types of accommodation if you don’t want to camp. The most superior being a Vista lodge which are currently being sold off in 8 week periods for around £35.000 for a 15 year contract. *sigh* The view is simply breathtaking and they’ve been furnished to a very high standard, I smiled on seeing Other Half had brought home a brochure with him.

sandy balls new forest

Of course you can choose a mobile home, a cabin lodge or a tent, whichever takes your fancy but trust me you will have a wonderful time and I can’t wait to return

We spent two nights in September and although it wasn’t cold it wasn’t hot either, jackets, cardigans and welly boots were the perfect attire to enjoy this fabulous resort to the hilt.

sandy balls new forest

I’d love to go back one day and try a log cabin. Actually I’d love to go back one day and try a Vista lodge but I imagine they’ll all be sold by then