Mersea Island Holiday Park owner Away Resorts acquires Sandy Balls Holiday Village

Away Resorts chief executive Carl Castledine at the Sandy Balls Holiday Village in Hampshire.

Away Resorts chief executive Carl Castledine at the Sandy Balls Holiday Village in Hampshire. - Credit: Archant

Fast-growing UK holiday parks operator Away Resorts, which last year acquired the Mersea Island park in Essex, has expanded again with a deal to buy the Sandy Balls Holiday Village in Hampshire, bringing its portfolio of properties to a total of six.

Sandy Balls – its name is derived from domed sand and gravel dunes on its western boundary which were first recorded as “sandyballas” during the reign of King Henry VIII – has operated as a holiday destination for nearly a century.

Carl Castledine, chief executive at Away Resorts, said: “Over the last eight years, we have built up a strong brand that has really hit the right note with UK holidaymakers.

“The demand for affordable UK holidays, particularly short breaks, is strong, and growing, as our record bookings for 2016 have shown.

“Sandy Balls has been a family-owned business run with passion and feeling for almost 100 years, so we are very mindful of retaining the heritage and essence of what makes Sandy Balls such a well-loved holiday village.

“It is in a brilliant location, near to London and with excellent road links to make getting away on holiday relatively painless. The village is also award-winning, having won accolades for its conservation and management of the wooded areas and riverbank, including The David Bellamy conservation gold award (21 times) and Green Tourism Gold Award.

“Sandy Balls complements our strategy of providing our existing customer base with a range of very different types of holidays, avoiding the chainlike feel of our major competitors.

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“We now have parks that meet the needs of a wide variety of guests, whether they are seeking a lakeside retreat, a coastal experience, a holiday packed full of entertainment, an outdoor adventure break situated in remote areas of outstanding natural beauty, or a peaceful escape within a short drive from London.”

He added: “Thanks to the financial support of LDC, we have been able to steadily build our portfolio of parks over the past few years, as well as improving, renovating and re-energising existing parks, where needed. We still have plans to invest in the right opportunities, and are always on the lookout for new parks to acquire and to bring into the Away Resorts family.”

Richard Whitwell, investment director at LDC, said: “Amid a booming ‘staycation’ market in the UK, the acquisition of Sandy Balls is a real milestone moment for Away Resorts.

“The site benefits from an enviable position as the largest holiday village in the New Forest, which receives around 20 million visitors a year. Its close proximity to London will help the business reach a wider range of holidaymakers looking for a break closer to home.”

The Mersea Island Holiday Park, previously known as Cosways Holiday Park, was acquired by Away Resorts for an undisclosed sum a year ago, joining Tattershall Lakes (Lincolnshire), Whitecliff Bay (Isle of Wight), Mill Rythe (Hampshire) and Barmouth Bay (Gwynedd) as part of the group.

Mid-market private equity investor LDC, part of Lloyds Bank, backed a secondary buyout of Away Resorts in April 2015, and the purchase of Cosways and Sandy Balls is part of its support for the firm’s strategy to identify high-quality acquisitions to complement its portfolio and grow its share of the UK market.