BALANCING ACTS - OUTDOOR ACTIVITES
Emily Martin on serving up the best outdoor entertainment recipe…
Offering a holiday that suits the whole family can be a tricky game of swings and roundabouts. Excuse the pun. Making a holiday stay fun for the adults, the younger children and the teenagers too, is a delicate balance. Never have we been more grateful for the use of our outdoor space than coping with the challenges of the pandemic. Outdoor play, outdoor activities, outdoor entertainment – have all become part of the Al Fresco holiday menu.
Don’t take our word for it. We’ve spoken to some outstanding UK holiday parks that strive to make sure there’s really something for everyone, Covid- distanced, when guests book in. And they are constantly coming up are some great ideas on how to get that balance just right. Richard Silver is the owner of Ilfracombe Holiday Park on the beautiful western shores of England. “We get all ages visiting us and we’ve spotted a really big current trend where grandparents will pay to take whole family away. “In terms of entertainment that means putting on what is appropriate for the right age group at the right time. “There are a few options for family entertainment – something a spread of ages will enjoy are things like: a magician or mind reader, maybe a family quiz. “We have a movie area, a games hall with table tennis, snooker and badminton. Plus, we have lots of games and activities for younger people, sports competitions, quizzes and even a teens got talent night.
Ilfracombe strategically aims to add value to entertainment areas by putting restaurants or cafes nearby so the adults have something to do, while younger children play. Richard explains: “We have a restaurant and bar near where entertainment is. And we also have a soft play area for younger children, but in the same area we’ve put a sports hall for older children and teenagers which has all kinds of things going on.” Richard thinks there are important things to remember when trying to entertain the whole family. “You certainly need the right type of accommodation and location but crucially you need staff with lots of energy and ideas. “Every day has to be different and you’ll know if the children are having fun, because then so are the adults.” Torie Wilkinson is Chief Marketing Officer at Lovat Parks.With parks across the UK in Cornwall, Kent, the New Forest, its Green Hill Farm Holiday Village in the New Forest does things particularly well when it comes to entertaining a range of age groups within a family group. Green Hill offer activities such as archery, target shooting, laser clay, Segways, bungee trampolines and mini golf. There’s also den building, fire building, woodland art, bug hunting, bird boxes, orienteering and nature trails. And that’s just some of what’s on offer for families who like to stay busy. Torie says: “We offer a range of activities aimed at guests aged four right through to adult and this summer we’re introducing new activities for the under-fives too.
“We try and balance the mix we offer with lots of the Ranger activities being suitable for ages 4-10. And the activities like using the Segways or practising archery are more appealing to age eight through to the grown-ups. “However, what’s great about many of our activities is that the whole family can take part and build memories together. Green Hill is set in the New Forest and so many of our activities use this as inspiration. For example, our den building is done using fallen wood. “We offer bike hire on site with traditional and e-bike options allowing guests to explore the local area including routes that take in local business, pubs and restaurants.We get fabulous feedback particularly for our Ranger scheme, with many families returning to the park and booking their favourite activities in advance.” “Children get the chance to try new things and learn skills with our Ranger team building their confidence and creating unforgettable memories.We aim to relate as much as we can to our natural setting and offer guests something they might never have done before or could not at home.
And it is not just for holiday makers. The local community plays a part in Greenhill’s offering too. Torie explains: “We have a partnership with a local primary school where we offer days on the park taking part in the Ranger programme across the year. “The activities are open to those of all abilities and the team also offer private sessions which can be tailored to a child’s particular needs. “ When it comes to planning things to amuse young people, what’s Torie’s advises: “Be inspired by your local area and natural surroundings, include a mix of fun and learning and try and create something shared for all age groups.” Covid safety is a massive consideration when hosting families and Torie adds: “We currently have a maximum of six participants per session, we observe social distancing at 2m where possible and our staff always wear masks.We also have hand-sanitising at all activity stations and all equipment is cleaned after each use. “Furthermore, just for general safety we carry out frequent risk assessments and have fire extinguishers and practices. The team hold monthly refresher courses as a group so they can learn from one another and at Lovat Parks we support the team by sending them on specialist training, for example if wider guidance for an activity changes and we need to incorporate that into our ways of working.” Cofton Holidays is another destination which has put some strategic thought into getting the balance right for families. Director Helen Scott says: “Cofton is an excellent toddler-friendly destination. Our facilities include a splash pad area - part of the heated indoor pool, a soft play area, outdoor play spaces include a play area with new equipment aimed at toddlers, and a Kid’s Club where little ones can meet Cofton’s mascot, Digby the Dinosaur, and participate in a range of activities. “In addition to all of this, we’ve created a host of kids’ clubs that run outdoors such as survival skills and nature trail experiences.”
Cofton’s £50,000 Woodland Adventure Area features a 25m zip line, a climbing cage, rope ladders, a balance beam, balance lines and scramble nets. Young guests can enjoy fishing experiences on the five coarse fishing lakes and we offer pond dipping experiences too, which are always hugely popular. There are miles of cycle paths and nature trails that take visitors through woodland to the golden sands of Dawlish Warren beach and nature reserve. There’s a gym, fitness studio and added entertainment opportunities, such as the bowling alley Helen continues: ‘We’re always looking for fun ways of engaging with our young visitors. In July 2020, guests were given complimentary duck-whistles to alert other guests to their presence whilst out and about on site maintaining social distancing. Children visiting really loved it and TV and national papers even picked-up on the story.’ With potentially only a week (or maybe two) breaks in the year, holiday parks don’t have long to impress their guests. To ensure everyone has a good time and, crucially, to secure a rebooking or a recommendation, parks need to think about layout, adding value, and providing activities that families can enjoy together in a safe and stress-free environment, in order to foster and help create those precious memories. You need the right staff team and to create those precious opportunities for families to make special memories together. If you can crack that, then you’re on to a winner.
(*All COVID guidance being observed by the parks featured was correct at the time of writing).