Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Our Bluestone Break

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a competition on facebook to win a short break at Bluestone, a holiday park situated in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.  It's somewhere I've been dying to visit for ages, so I was ecstatic to win, even though I then had to persuade my boss to let me have the week off work!

Home Sweet Home
Now, when you hear the words "holiday park", what springs to mind? Caravans?  Ancient chalets like something off Hi-De-Hi?  None of that here. Our home for the week was a log cabin!  Not just any log cabin though, one with all the mod cons, a dishwasher, freeview telly, wet-room shower, a heated towel rail (you know my thing for heated towel rails!) big squishy sofas, an oven that puts mine to shame (and stumped me the first time I tried to use it).  And just in case, like me, you don't have a dishwasher at home, and didn't think to bring detergent, a starter pack with a short-break's-worth of dishwasher tablets & washing up liquid.  Forget log cabin, this is more like a log palace!

No Keep Off The Grass here!
Now, Bluestone is a very family orientated resort. Not just family-friendly, it's really set up to make sure the kids have a great time.  There's banners all the way up the drive with "Lots for Tots", "Where kids can be kids", "Free Range Children" and things like that.  It's not cheesy, in your face, traditional holiday camp style entertainment, club dances & creepy stuffed characters, but more like the wistful memories of the childhood you *think* you had, the one you read in an Enid Blyton book.  Lashings & lashings of ginger beer.  Rather than being encouraged to follow strict rules & stick to the paths, quite the opposite.  I love this sign, it sums up the spirit of Bluestone, for me it was all about adventure & nature, and just getting outside & enjoying it.  We were blessed with fabulous weather, which made it all that much easier, but in these surroundings, we couldn't help but enjoy ourselves.

If you go down to the woods today...
Squeaky was a bit frightened when we first spoke about staying in a log cabin in the woods.  I think it was the woods bit she was more concerned about, but I can't be sure.  I managed to talk her round though, with promises of a Teddy Bears' Picnic, and too much singing of "If you go down to the woods today...".  So she was absolutely determined that we should have a Teddy Bears' Picnic during our stay.  All other toys were left at home in favour of Tower Teddy and an un-named white Teddy.  According to Squeaky, teddy bears eat cheese, so I prepared a picnic of ham sandwiches for her, cheese for the teddies, chicken wings for the grown-ups, and crisps & pop for everyone.

Mummy's lego house.

Even if the weather hadn't been so good, we would have been fine.  The Adventure Centre had all sorts of undercover activities, including miniature golf, a lego room, where I might have got a little bit carried away and forgot that I was meant to be an adult now, a Circus Zone for the under 5's, a massive adventure playground with slides & rope bridges, and the Big Four activities - high wire swings, climbs, rope trails & bungees, though this last one had an additional fee.

There's a full programme of activities daily, some are free of charge, but others are paid for.  We didn't take part in any of the paid activities, because we found more than enough to occupy ourselves without doing so, and because Squeaky's still young enough to not know what else is going on.  I can see though, if you have older children that there's the potential for things to get very expensive.

We visited the swimming pool every day, another activity included free in your break.  There's no photos of this, mind, for obvious reasons.  The pool was great fun, as long as you're not a serious swimmer, as there's nowhere you could swim lengths.  Daddy spent much of his time on the slides, with 4 to choose from, he was occupied for a while.  Squeaky alternated between the children's pool and the shallow end of the big pool, and I bobbed about in the waves and around the lazy river.  I couldn't believe the lazy river went outside, and we were happily basking in an outdoor pool, in the UK, in April, at 5 in the afternoon.  Unbelievable!  There's a spa bath outside as well, for the over 12's.  That was a bit of an experience, dashing from a warm swimming pool to a hot spa bath, when the air between the two is a bit on the nippy side!  Made me enjoy the warm water all the more though!

Mmmmm, wine
Kids aside, I think Bluestone were expecting me.  Just take a look at one of the shops I spotted in the Village!  I've seen an off-licence on holiday sites before, but normally just a Spar.  I love the idea of a Wine Store on site.  It was part of a larger convenience store, but the whole of this storefront side was just wines & beers.  Lovely!  Just what I needed at the end of the day.  To be fair, even though we took a 3 year old Squeaky along, and there were a lot of children there, I'm pretty sure you could still have a great break at Bluestone if you didn't have children.  There's masses of woodland to explore, cycle, run, walk, however you see fit.  There's a High Ropes adventure course, adrenalin activities in the Adventure Centre, a glorious pool with slides.  And if there's not enough on site to occupy you, it's literally next door to Oakwood (seriously, you can see the rides from the site) for all the high-adrenalin rides you could ever need, and half an hour from the beaches & shops of Tenby.  I spent a lot of time thinking about which of my friends would love it the best, and came to the conclusion that all of them would, for different reasons.

The Treehouse
New for 2013 is the treehouse in The Village.  A series of inter-connected treehouses, linked by wobbly bridges, tunnels & slides.  This was where you'd find Squeaky, and lots of other children at every opportunity.  Over the course of our stay we saw her confidence increase on the bridges & she explored more & more on her own.  Which meant we were able to watch from the sidelines and have a little break ourselves.
Move over Ray Mears!
We took off for a "short" walk in the woods, following one of the nature trails.  We went a bit further than we'd really planned, but it did mean we got to see an area of the site that we'd not otherwise found.  Camp Smokey is a BBQ restaurant (sadly it was only open one day during our stay & we missed it), deep in the woods, and surrounded by the High Ropes adventure course, where we had the chance to watch one of the staff team zipping around above our heads carrying out his daily safety checks before any of the guests took part.  Part of me would love to have tried it out, but I can imagine myself getting stuck, dangling from a wire 30 feet up in the air, with everyone laughing at me.  And let's face it, those harnesses are hardly flattering!  Fair play to Squeaky though, she walked the whole way, which was probably about a mile & a half.  Because there was so much to look at, she didn't have chance to get bored & demand to be carried.  We followed numbers on the nature trail signs, found creatures, picked up interesting sticks, and collected tiny pine cones, for reasons best known to her.

Give us an "S"
I really appreciated the environmental ethics of the park.  All the accommodation has solar panels on the roofs, the pool is heated using biomass (believed to be the first in the world!).  You're encouraged to sort your waste into recyclable and non-recyclable sections.  The gates to the main site are only open on Mondays & Fridays, to allow cars to the cabins for checking in & out.  Outside these times, cars are parked in the main car park.  There's a few ways to get around the site though.  There's bikes (with baby trailers) and golf buggies available to hire, a free land train which circles the site hourly, or good old fashioned foot power.  We opted for the latter two.  There were times, especially in the afternoons, where the land train was incredibly welcome, after a hard day's adventuring.  The lack of cars on the site meant I had a bit more confidence in Squeaky's safety, after all, a golf buggy with a top speed of 5 mph might hurt if it hit you, but it'd do a lot less damage than a car.

And for my next trick
After our walk in the woods, we rewarded ourselves with a cuppa, a huge chocolate muffin, and a trip to the Circus Zone.  The Circus Zone is bizarre, it's free in the mornings, and then you have to pay in the afternoons.  So we went in the mornings!  Squeaky had a great time being a cheerleader, putting on a circus show in her tent, and being a caterpillar.  Again, reasons best known to herself.  I don't ask.
A caterpillar. Possibly Very Hungry.

Newton North Church
And finally, I'll leave you with one of my favourite pictures.  There's a ruined mediaeval church in the Village, which has been slowly reclaimed by nature.  I'm fascinated by the way nature takes things back bit by bit, and the church stood out so beautifully against the evening sky.  There's also the remains of a mediaeval manor house elsewhere in the site, but too far to persuade Squeaky to walk to just for me to take artsy photos.  Maybe when she's a bit bigger?

Disclosure: I won a four night break at Bluestone, free of charge.  I was not asked to write this review as part of my prize, but I have chosen to do so. I have not received anything for writing this review. I have not been told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I can't believe that I've only just met you through Claire T! I live near to Blue Stone, we go to Blue Lagoon regularly.

    See you Fri!




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