I grew up going on Haven Holidays. Perran Sands, Golden Sands, Primrose Valley, Blue Dolphin caravan sites amongst others, and many happy times have been spent in our wee tourer, joining in with the entertainers at the club, singing along with Rory the Tiger and friends, learning dance routines and flaking out across the chairs in the club at the end of the night. Magical holidays full of fun and, most importantly laughter. It’s no wonder then that I want my children to have the same sorts of memories when they grow up.
I loved our tourer caravans. I have so many memories of running across to the toilet and shower blocks morning and night, and (when there were more dishes than our wee sink could deal with), we would go over to the communal sinks to do the dishes there. Seats by day, our beds were flipped over and bunk beds would appear. I also remember that, unless it was a dire emergency the caravan toilet was ONLY for wee. I never understood that till I helped dad pack up the caravan one day…
Sadly, we don’t have our own touring caravan – our wee Corsa really wouldn’t be up to the job – but that just gives me the perfect excuse to stay in a static caravan. Growing up, static vans were the height of luxury, though I always felt really sorry for the owners because they couldn’t go to lots of different places like I could. I definitely felt that tourers had the best deal.
Now that the Monster is starting school and the Minx is two, I felt it was the perfect time to introduce them to the wonders of a Haven caravan park and we chose an old family favourite – Blue Dolphin in Filey, Yorkshire – to get them started. We booked a year ago and have been eagerly anticipating it for months. My only concern was… would it live up to expectations?
We arrived at Blue Dolphin on the last Friday in June. Pulling up at the site was great and the kids were so excited. The checking in staff, though, left a lot to be desired. Minimal eye contact was made and it took a while to even get someone to deal with me. However, we were eventually checked in and directed to a caravan which, on the map, looked almost as far away as it could be. We were assured though that this was not a huge site so it wasn’t as far away as it looked – and I must agree that it was only a few minutes walk from the complex once we’d got settled in and had a chance to explore.
The caravan was great! We had booked Deluxe but it felt like an even higher grade. We had a full size freestanding fridge freezer, central heating throughout, and a DVD player – bonus! Once the children had claimed their bedrooms and we had pushed the Minx’s beds together so that she wouldn’t roll out in the night, we went off to the Mash & Barrel for dinner.
We were really impressed with the Mash & Barrel. The food was good value for money and very tasty – we ate there several times throughout our fortnight break and as a family on a tight budget that’s quite impressive. After a quick change into our “night time finest” we went along to the club for our evening entertainment. I can’t remember much from that first night except that finding a table was challenging and we eventually had to share with someone else. The children ran and danced for an hour or so then we headed off to find a Tesco to stock up the cupboard with some essential supplies.
We duly attended the welcome meeting the following morning, discovered we were in Bradley Bear’s team, joined in B Fit with Rory and got the Monster signed up for swimming lessons at 9am every morning except Mondays and Fridays. It was looking good. The Monster even joined in the Club R&B arts and crafts activities, making a wee notebook with Funstar Shelldan. I was so happy to see that the Monster drew Rory the Tiger on the front of his book – he never draws anything except flowers and himself so Rory must really have captured his attention that morning. We used his wee book as both a diary of our holiday and a place to get the Zoo Troop (the characters) and the FunStars (the entertainers) autographs. The Minx made a wee windmill in Little Cubs with her daddy.
The following night was the first of four Polly’s Fancy Dress Parties. I knew that there would be fancy dress so had come prepared but it’s not made very clear in the Haven literature so many of the children had no costumes. Still, from the children who DID have costumes it was the Monster and the Minx who impressed them most as Fred & Wilma Flintstone so they got to go on stage with Polly and FunStar Kris to get their certificates, though the Minx got stage fright and almost dived off the stage in her eagerness to be back with me.
Over the course of a fortnight we explored York, Scarborough, Filey, Whitby, Bridlington and even Leeds in the pouring rain. We have made our own sticks of rock, paddled in the sea, sailed in pirates ships, ducked into sweety shops to avoid thunder and lightening, watched bees making honey, played on a farm park, ate fish & chips from the award winning takeaway in Whitby whilst walking by the harbour… all this and so much more. The Monster’s favourite place was the railway museum in York which he went to with his dad whilst I went to the Chocolate Experience and the Fudge Kitchen with the Minx. A very tasty afternoon. There’s so much to do in Yorkshire that we’ve really only just explored the tip of the iceberg.
And yet, with all these day trips we still had time to play with the FunStars in the club with Club R&B and Little Cubs. The Monster has made a whole variety of crafty items, learned to spin plates and
throw balls about juggle. We have been on Wildlife Detectives walks in the mud and rain – the Monster jumped into a puddle right up and over his ankles – and made fossils with feathers and leaves. We had such a fabulous time in the kids clubs and, even more special, the FunStars thought that the Monster had been such a great member that they awarded him the Club R&B member of the week! He won another certificate and they gave him a picture of Bradley Bear presenting him with his certificate. This was particularly special for us because his Asperger’s can make it more difficult for him to join in but the FunStars were great with him and made the whole experience fully accessible.
Our evenings were spent in the Galaxy bar, dancing along with the FunStars and watching the Zoo Troop shows. The Monster finds it difficult to stay still but he was captivated by all that was happening on stage and so sat happily in the midst of all the children on the dancefloor. The Minx loved to dance and developed a wee crush on FunStar Kris – we’ve been home for days and she’s still asking for him. By the end of the fortnight the children were able to stay up quite late so, on our last night, we were there for the Gunge Roulette show and I got to go on stage too! I didn’t win (fortunately or there would have been an egg smashed on my forehead) but I did get a certificate so the only one of us with no certificate by the end was my husband.
We’ve all had a brilliant time, and driving away from Blue Dolphin my husband and I agreed that it felt like we’d left friends behind. All of the staff were great – from Becky’s leisure team (particularly Shannon and Jasmin who taught the Monster to swim), through the amusement arcade staff and friendly security guard staff, to the extra special FunStars, nothing was too much hassle. Special mention must go to FunStars Kris, Shelldan and Katie who joined in with us as a whole family rather than just the children, to FunStar Alex – a gentle giant who was so funny and great at encouraging adults onto the dance floor, and to FunStar Dan – the Monster’s favourite because he was good at taking time with him and was the first to remember his name. These FunStars went the extra mile.
Now that we’re back home I could weep about the fact that I have had to start back at work but at least I know there’s less than 50 weeks till I go again because we booked to return before we left! Anyone fancy joining us at the Blue Dolphin next summer…?