Make your escape to a tranquil spot, naturally
It’s home to endangered wildlife and is one of the UK’s premiere eco-holiday destinations. Sheena Grant discovers Norfolk’s best-kept secret.
It was difficult to know what to do first: walk, bike or simply sit and soak up the unique and beautiful atmosphere of a habitat that is now rarer than rainforest.
In the end we opted for a bit of all three, staying out late as the sun disappeared on the horizon and darkness fell, determined to enjoy everything this landscape had to offer.
It may be rarer than rainforest but this particular heathland habitat is a lot closer to home - just a couple of hours’ drive from Suffolk, on the north Norfolk coast.
There really couldn’t have been a better time to visit Kelling Heath Holiday Park, which lies close to the coastal village of Weybourne, between Sheringham and Holt. The heather that stretches across acre after acre of precious heathland was in full bloom and the weather was perfect.
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The park is set amongst 250 acres of woodland and rare open heathland in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The abundant wildlife and miles of trails for visitors to explore make the park an ideal choice for those looking for a holiday with the natural environment and sustainability at its heart.
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Indeed, its ‘green’ credentials were underlined recently when for the 13th year in a row, Kelling Heath was awarded a Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award for its work to protect and enhance its unique environment. It also won the Sustainable Award in the 2011 Tourism in Norfolk Awards.
We were staying in a luxury caravan holiday home that had a well-equipped kitchen, comfortable sitting room, shower room and two bedrooms, one with ensuite.
Each home is set in its own secluded area of woodland, making it feel very private and tranquil. Ours was on the edge of an elevated heathland with fantastic views over nearby Weybourne village and the sea beyond.
Just a short walk away was the ‘village square’, with a handy shop, information and guest services area, two restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, health club, tennis courts, table tennis tables and boules area.
There are also two play areas for children, one boasting an ‘assault course’, which seemed to prove irresistable for many adults too, and on-site cycle hire.
We lost no time in visiting the brilliantly named Huff & Puff cycles the next morning to kit ourselves out with some bikes for exploring the huge number of trails around the park.
We rode over the heathlands, through the woods, around the adjacent campsites and ponds for several hours and there were still places we hadn’t explored. It’s a brilliant, virtually traffic-free place for children to cycle - you can avoid vehicles altogether if you stick to the many off-road trails.
Later, after our energy levels had been topped up with lunch at the on-site cafe, we spent a few hours in the swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, and adjoining sauna and steam room. It was a supremely relaxing experience.
Then it was time to head off-site for a jaunt on the nearby North Norfolk Railway. There is a request stop actually at Kelling Heath but we opted to drive the short distance to the beautifully preserved station at Weybourne - Walmington On Sea in the classic ‘70s sitcom Dad’s Army - from where we caught a steam train to Holt.
There’s a variety of things to see at Holt station, including the renovation of an old railway carriage to recreate a cottage as it may have looked at the height of the popularity of railway carriage homes, which were the affordable housing of their day. It’s a superb recreation and provides a fascinating glimpse into a not-so-distant part of our social history.
That evening we dined in the park’s other on-site restaurant, the Forge & Terrace - the park’s very own local pub - and afterwards, sat out in the village square as the Sheringham Shantymen provided a few hours of excellent open air musical entertainment.
This year the park has extended its packaged breaks and increased its activity programme with more guided walks. There really is something for everyone, whether you want to relax in unrivalled tranquility, get up close and personal with nature or take in all the sights the area has to offer, both on the park and further afield.