The great British seaside: Camber Sands, East Sussex
JUST an hour away from London, this super seven-mile stretch of golden, sandy beach is quite rightly a family favourite.
Why go there?: The beach has plenty of room for visitors even in the busy summer months. As I discovered on my first trip here it also has some impressive sand dunes and it’s great for swimming in the sea. It’s worth checking the tide tables, however, as it’s a very long walk to the water when the tide is out. Unlike many beaches there are lifeguards here too, a huge bonus for everyone’s safety.
There is parking right next to the beach and a large café and other outlets to buy food, drink and beach accessories as well as hire loungers, chairs and windbreaks. A clean toilet block is next to the car park. While some might favour those out-of-the-way coves around our coast, I am firmly in favour of having everything I need easily accessible from my sunbathing spot.
Where to stay: Parkdean Resorts’ Camber Sands Holiday Park is an ideal location to combine all the fun of the beach and the sea with more activities on site to keep all the family happy. I stayed in a three-bedroom caravan (sleeps six) with family and there was ample space for eating, sleeping and lounging. Luckily we were near to the entertainment complex, swimming pools, play areas, bars, restaurant and shop too. It’s worth checking the site map before you book to pick a suitable spot.
The complex is the hub for the park and where all the events and shows take place. The beauty of this sort of holiday is that you can choose to just enjoy the quiet of your seaside getaway or really get involved in all that’s on offer. Prices in the Boathouse Bar and Restaurant were reasonable and the shop was really well stocked. Above all I found the staff very friendly and helpful all around the park.
You can easily walk to a more pebbly area of Camber Sands beach from here but I and my companions preferred the short drive to the main beach.
Activities on site: While I didn’t have any children in tow on this break I thought the facilities for youngsters were excellent. There are play areas, crazy golf, go karts, a football field, a multi-sports court, tennis court, splash zone and an amusement arcade. In the Oasis Leisure Centre there are several pools, a flume and a sauna and spa bath.
Just a sample of one day’s activities included street dance classes, fencing, bingo, daily trivia quiz, aqua paddlers and inflatable fun in the pool. In the evening there’s more bingo, a family disco, a game show and stage entertainment from the staff and visiting acts.
What to do: Our most memorable outing was on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway which we joined in New Romney, about a 30-minute drive away. The steam locomotives and carriages are one third normal size and the journey takes you along 13.5 miles of track through Romney Marsh from Dungeness at one end to Hythe at the other. The unique flat countryside is a haven for wildlife and has a long and interesting history including its popularity with smugglers. The land was once under 7 metres of water and the battle to keep it ‘reclaimed’ goes on.
We found Dungeness absolutely fascinating, but I can see why some might not feel the same as it could be described as rather desolate. At the southernmost tip of Kent this strange area is still a privately-owned estate - EDF Energy bought the site in 2015. It is officially designated as a desert with the largest shingle beach in Europe and attracts thousands of birdwatchers each year to the RSPB reserve. There is a nuclear power station, two lighthouses and a pub. There are also just a few quaint and tiny cottages on the land, many of which started out as disused railway carriages. One of the most famous is Prospect Cottage formerly owned by the late artist and film director Derek Jarman.
One of our best food treats of this short break was fish (a skate wing) caught that day by the Dungeness fisherman whose family has fished here for more than 100 years. Absolutely delicious. The train trip is a lot of fun and a stop at Dymchurch is another treat. The walk to the beach is shorter here than at Hythe. Another short drive worth making is to visit Rye, a very picturesque Cinque port town one of the best-preserved medieval settlements in England.
It has a pretty harbour from where you can stroll to the nearby nature reserve and plenty of places to eat. Walk the cobbled alleyways with names such as Mermaid Street and Wish Street, browse the quaint shops, visit the Ypres Tower home to Rye Castle Museum and Lamb House which was home to Henry James who wrote three of his novels while living in the town. Spike Milligan also lived here.
What’s nearby: At Smugglers Adventure you’ll wander into the depths of the hidden caves and discover fascinating stories of the smugglers who operated within the caves.
Book an October short-break, arriving Friday, October 12 for three nights for £109 (was £139, saving £30) staying in a Hailsham caravan which sleeps up four-six. Visit www.parkdeanresorts.co.uk or call 0330 123 4850.