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  1. Hoburne Naish – the sequel

    April 3, 2016 by Amy Hansford

    We went away this week as it was Easter half term and the smallest Hansford was home from school. Looking at the prices of holidays during the… well, the holidays, did genuinely make me weep originally. I thought there just wasn’t any way we were going to escape home over Easter.

    As a last ditch attempt, I had a look over at the Hoburne Naish website. We stayed at Hoburne Naish last year and reviewed it for Approved Family Friendly, so it was on my radar. However, given the fact it was Easter, I didn’t expect that there would be anything in our price bracket. I was over the moon to see that a Chewton Lodge was available for our dates and in budget too – fantastic! And so we arrived on a windy Saturday to our home for the week.

    Photo credit:

    Photo credit:

    I was very impressed. We’d gone for a mid-level two bedroomed lodge so my expectations weren’t too high. But here’s what we found;

    A private driveway outside the property – isn’t it annoying when you have to move your car away from the accommodation?

    The living room had plenty of seating, plus a decent telly with FreeSat and we were able to plug in our laptop to watch films. Lovely and warm with gorgeous curtains and matching furnishings.

    Fully decked kitchen with oven/hob/microwave/kettle/toaster as expected, a dishwasher, washing machine, loads of storage and a full height American style fridge freezer. Very impressive! Completely child friendly too – no scary cords hanging down, sharp corners of worktops cut down to rounded edges, etc.

    The family bathroom included a jacuzzi bath – minimal bubble bath + button = hugely excited five year old + ALL THE BUBBLES! As per last year, the accommodation was desperately lacking the cheapest of things – a little step. Due to this, the smallest Hansford wasn’t able to wash/brush teeth independently as she couldn’t reach, although it did lead to amusing Supergirl impressions instead.

    The twin room was amusing – the beds seemed almost 3/4 size. If we’d been away with my stepbrother, all near 7 foot of him, he would have been disappointed. However, perfect for the smallest Hansford.

    The double was lovely – again, the great furnishing continued throughout, the curtains did a great job of keeping out the light (we’re used to blinds at home) and the ensuite was well set up. Mind you, the shower screen which folded in half inwards would probably be a challenge for many in terms of getting out of the thing.

    It was lovely, comfy and cosy, even against the force of Storm Katie which took down a fair number of both junior and well established trees throughout the New Forest.

    Location-wise, it was a quick walk down to the local stony beach with a bit of sand which Mr Hansford and the smallest Hansford enjoyed lots. On site there’s also the outdoor pool (open from May onwards), plus the still brilliant play area with its safe location, single entrance/exit to take the pressure off wild eyed parents and loads of play options.

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    We were well placed, just a couple of minutes away from the pool (bit cold, smallest Hansford ended up with blue lips) and the main centre which recently underwent a complete refurbishment and is now blissfully light and airy. Within this there is a great schedule of events for all ages running throughout the week. It’s reassuring to see that the Ents Manager was still the same chap – it shows that he must enjoy his job, and hints that Hoburne make for good employers, which is nice. Ents teams tend to have a quick seasonal turnover, so consistency is great.

    We made it to the annual Easter Egg hunt – I admired the Ents Manager as he skilfully made an indoor egg hunt (did we mention the storm?) still good fun for ooh, about 50 kids. There were prizes and party dances to follow. However, the smallest Hansford sunk into a sulk and spent the next hour underneath the table, later citing (and this is a direct quote); “I don’t want to be told how to dance – I want to be free!” As such, rather than make her do something she didn’t enjoy (because it’s everyone’s holiday, not just ours), we didn’t make use of the fantastic itineraries that week which included line dancing, family frisbee tournaments, dancing competitions, games, music, live performances and the rest. However, we were delighted to have our own little holiday home to return to after jaunts.

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    Bournemouth Oceanarium. Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    We tried to get out when we could. Within easy travelling distance was Southampton with plenty of shops (and rain), Bournemouth with it’s glorious sandy beach, pier, entertainments and Oceanarium, plus plenty of other tourist attractions including the New Forest Reptile Centre (don’t expect the world – these are mostly animals which are local to the New Forest), Paulton’s Park and farms aplenty.

    The beach at Hoburne Naish. Photo credit: Alex Hansford.

    The beach at Hoburne Naish. Photo credit: Alex Hansford.

    Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was down with the worst throat infection I’ve ever had, plus my first ever migraine (ah, bless!) so it was up to the other two Hansfords to get out and about. But I was so very grateful for the very comfy accommodation. When you are ill, you just want your own bed. But this one certainly did the job.

    Also, I am now a huge fan of self catering holidays. Of course you can go and eat out whenever you want – there’s a lovely Wetherspoons-style restaurant on site, plus the local restaurants within a short drive – but we saved a fortune by taking some food with us, eating in of a night and doing a top up shop halfway at the local Morrisons.

    We headed back on the following Saturday, fairly well rested and happy with our lovely family time. Normally we return from a vacation needing a holiday, but this time was different. I think we’ve found that place which we return to as a family – Hoburne Naish.

  2. AFF Review: Hoburne Naish, Hampshire

    July 7, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    I’ve always said that when you have kids, a holiday is just a case of “same stuff, different place”. In fact, holidays are abolished entirely when you have a toddler. You get a break from household chores and less toys to placate your little monster with. Could Hoburne Naish Holiday Park really give me and the family some well needed time off? As it turns out – yes!

    Becton Lodge living roomWe stayed in a Becton 3 bedroom lodge, with ample room for a family including a huge living space, very comfy sofas and very well presented kitchen. While the little one rearranged all the cushions, I was pleased to see more spacious sleeping quarters – en-suite on the master bedroom, tons of storage everywhere and OH MY WORD so many buttons. Buttons for the shower, for the lights, for the slightly higher lights, for the heating, for the windows, for everything. I also had a nosy around the showhomes to see what caravan accommodation was like. Again, spacious, bright and would be a lovely place to spend a week.

    The grounds are very well kept – no litter, looks great, lots of space. (I’m big on space – can you tell?) Indoors there’s the standard ents space, bar, restaurant, arcade gallery, soft play area and indoor pool. Pools – plural! There is a standard pool plus a separate low water level fun pool for little ones with splash area and squirting octopus installations. The on site shop is great value – an inflatable ring for only £1.15, making it less painful when it was instantly shunned by the 3 year old.

    playOutdoors, families can take advantage of being right on the beach, Adventure Golf (VERY reasonable at £1/player), tennis courts, football areas and a heated outdoor pool. Plus an extensive play area for children, with a separate area for toddlers. This appeared very well kept, bright and colourful but most importantly – safe. One thing that Hoburne Naish has really nailed is keeping kids safe. Specifically, there is ONE door leading to the outside areas (only accessible via the club house), ONE entrance to the play area and ONE entrance to the gated toddler area. Our daughter was able to run around having the time of her life without us chasing her – we just knew she was safe. Kiddie wristbands are available too if your little one is prone to wandering.

    Everywhere is clean and tidy with welcoming staff on reception and the doors. The restaurant is a bit pricy – paying £11 for a branded pizza which you can buy in the supermarket for £3.50 seems cheeky – but remember that you are on holiday and are paying for the privilege of someone else doing the prep and washing up and it’s quite acceptable. Mind you, I was hugely impressed with the children’s menu. Through practice, our toddler can expertly clear a plate designed to feed a 10 year old, such is the way with child menus. However, Hoburne Naish offers a Tommy’s Tots menu for littluns alongside a Sammy Squad menu for older children. Brilliant!

    coastAs well as all the options available on site, Hoburne Naish is a great base for exploring the local attractions and there are lots to choose from, including farms, woodlands, reptile experiences and of course THAT pink pig’s world within Paulton’s Park. As we were only staying for a two nighter, the on site facilities were plenty for our little one’s needs.

    With our daughter only being three, she would generally hit The Wall around 8pm at which point we would return to our lovely lodge for the bedtime routine. Of course, a family has both children and adults, so what about some time for us? Admittedly, we did have a hot tub in our lodge, so with the little one safely in the land of nod, we did get a bit of us time too in the evenings.

    Our favourite bits: 

    • Having so much space in the lodge meant that, even on a grey rainy day indoors, no-one would tread on anyone’s toes. Very important if you’re planning a fortnight stint!
    • The Ents team were terrific fun in the evenings, getting all the kids involved and raising lots of laughs.
    • No pressure – no packed timetables to keep to, no overwhelming experiences, just the right amount of activities available for a relaxing time away.
    • Our 3 year old would have quite happily spent two days entertaining herself between the soft play and the outside play area. Can we bring those home please?
    • The hot tub. Because HOT TUB.

    What would have made it even more fab:

    • If we had taken our little Ikea step. We’ve all got one at home, haven’t we? There were no steps available on site at the time of our stay, meaning it was tricky for our toddler to be independent in the accommodation or loos. A step would have been brilliant.
    • If our accommodation had curtains instead of blinds. We had beautiful blinds (the interior décor was absolutely superb) but I was always on edge with so many cords dangling down in our little one’s sleeping quarters.
    • If we’d known more before we’d gone – website information is limited. There was a fancy dress night on the Sunday which we knew nothing about until the evening beforehand.

    We would definitely look at returning to Hoburne Naish for a longer stay – it’s not too late to book your summer break so check them out and let us know what you think!

    Hoburne Naish was reviewed as part of an assessment for Approved Family Friendly, raising standards for families when going on holiday or on a day out. See their website for information about more family friendly businesses who are going the extra mile to make your holiday even better.

  3. Slimming World: Day 2

    January 6, 2012 by Amy Hansford

    Having spoken to a few of the Griffin Players on how they’re coping with the Slimming World rules, they were split pretty much in half: those who realise it’s fairly similar to what they were eating before and are happy, and those who resent not being able to have a full fat coke. To all the latter; don’t forget you can go wild in the diet aisle!

    Day two wasn’t quite as successful as day one, but it did represent a return to the workplace for Alex so there were always going to be issues.

    Breakfast was porridge. Not my favourite, which is why it was a good job Alex was eating it and not me.

    Lunch was planned to be beans on toast. However, for health and safety reasons, toasters have been banned from Alex’s workplace. Beans on bread doesn’t have quite the same feel to it, but hey ho. It’s an easy option so he’ll be having that for work lunches from now on. This leaves me with a fridge chock full of salad to be used up. Somehow I feel Alex is getting the better end of the diet at the moment.

    I ran out of time to do dinne before leaving for rehearsals, so left Alex to fend for himself in the kitchen. We had everything in for the Chilli Beef Noodles but, as I understand it, he left it cooking a little too long. It probably tastes better when it’s not burned…

  4. Slimming World: Day 1

    January 5, 2012 by Amy Hansford

    Alex, like many of the Griffin Players, has started Slimming World. The theory behind this diet is that most meats trimmed of all visible fat, veg and fruit is ‘free’, while other things have ‘Syn’ points. For example, two tablespoons of light mayonnaise is 1 Syn, a Jaffa Cake is 3 Syns, etc. Alex has up to 15 Syns a day. I make up a menu at the start of each week (mainly so I can make sure we have enough shopping in), only now it’s run by Slimmers World.

    You should know at this point that I dislike cooking. I don’t hate it, but there is a definite resentment at the amount of time it takes to grate an onion, chop veg, measure out spices etc. You should know also that whenever I’m preparing dinner I’m also feeding my nine month daughter whilst aiming to be out of the door as soon as Alex arrives home in order to make it rehearsals 20 minutes late. This means that these meals had better bloody be worth it, or I’m going back to sticking something in the oven for 40 minutes.

    I thought it might be valid to have a real world look at someone on Slimmers World, so here it is.

    Day one.

    Breakfast was brilliant. Giant fry up. Lovely and took me through to well past lunchtime hunger wise.

    For lunch we nipped over the marina to the Carvery. Nomilicious. Alex found he could eat pretty much everything on offer but needed to check Syns of a few things when we got back.

    For dinner, I made meatballs and spaghetti. We used wholemeal spaghetti – I bought pretty much wholemeal everything in the last shop as it’s meant to be better for you, Syns or no Syns. You know what? Wholemeal spaghetti tastes fine, don’t fret it. It was a bit of a pain prepping and cooking everything simultaneously, but it came out pretty good. I whacked a salad on the side so my portions didn’t seem too small. I’m impressed at how good it tastes. I made enough to put two portions aside to ‘ding’ another day, so not a bad start.

  5. Circus Hilarious

    April 11, 2010 by Amy Hansford

    To celebrate the Easter weekend just gone, I did a bunk* off work and went to see Circus Hilarious under the advice of a friend of mine. The intention was to go and watch some of their slapstick routines to help with ideas for the upcoming pantomimes. As was somewhat expected, Catford’s Broadway theatre was somewhat thin on the ground audience-wise. It’s an outdated premise, the circus. It can’t still be that funny, can it? Hell yes. It followed the golden rules of live entertainment performance;

    – Something for the little ones; half the audience were under 8s and they were totally captivated by the whole thing. Literally, sitting on the edge of their seats to get just slightly closer to the stage. Mesmorised. Plus the whole thing about the stooge doing all the naughty things that children aren’t allowed to do, like call out, throw things, silly words and names.
    – Something for the mums; I have to say, Danny Adams (the stooge) is certainly very kind on the eye. Not to mention his brother, Johnny Knox (I think).
    – Something for the dads; the four Circus Hilarious dancers gradually wore more and more clothing as the show went on. I would say that four leggy blondes wearing body stockings and bikins to open the show certainly adds glamour, if not the glitz.
    – Audience participation; from getting people on to the stage to throwing things at them from it, everyone joined in.
    – Personable; Clive Webb and Danny Adams signed autographs for the kids after the show and were happy to spend a minute with everyone there. A superfan had come to see them – a grown woman told them ‘I’ve seen you like, fifteen times or summet’, although I was a little off put that all this was said without looking up from her mobile from which she was texting at the time. It does annoy me a little (and this goes for all my interests) when fans feel that their idols owe them something for turning up. Surely the point is to have that moment with the person you’ve gone to see? Or perhaps modern life continues to dictate that the world is soon to be seen through the eyes of a cameraphone? Sorry, I went off for a little rant there.

    But it was so damned funny. Every other second was some gag or another, and all so slick. Magic tricks that I just do not know the logic or workings of. Slapstick routines where the slapstick wasn’t even the highlight. Naughty jokes to fly over the heads of babes and into the ears of those paying for the tickets. Cartoon-like explosions and costumes. I’m not giving away anything they did – I would love to see them again and urge you to do the same.

    Now the campaign to get them on Twitter. Hmm…

    *I took a day’s leave. But saying I took a bunk makes me look cool. It does. Just ask Fonzie.

  6. To Ceroc or not to Ceroc

    January 29, 2009 by Amy Hansford

    Ladies and gentlemen, forget the gym, forget going for a run – if you’re only doing (or failing to do) one bit of exercise in the week, let Ceroc lead the way to your new sustainable regime.

    If you don’t have time to read this note (I have a feeling it’ll be a long one), check out for more information. In the meantime, here’s the word from the horse’s mouth on what it’s like to be a newbie at a Ceroc night. Note the use of ‘night’ over ‘lesson’.

    I hate the gym and I hate the outside world, so I figured I needed some sort of keep fit class. Inadvertantly stumbling onto Weight Watchers and discovering Ceroc earned you more food points, I thought I’d check it out. The above website pointed me towards a regular event taking place on a Thursday night nearby, appealing to my lazy not-liking-to-travel-far nature. Having read all the FAQs and other information available, I went expecting a structured dance lesson with a bit of free time at the end.

    Arriving at the church hall armed with my already completed membership form (downloadable) and small fee I breezed in, was given a membership card and a dvd with all the beginners moves on. At this point there were only about 8 people there – would I be dancing alone? By 7.30pm there were about 30 people with plenty more arriving through the night, relieving my concerns. Important note: no-one made a fuss out of me being a beginner. Huge benefit. Means you feel on a par with everyone else in the class instead of having your incompetence pointed out.

    Quick note: I thought Ceroc was going to be like keep fit utilising dance moves. So wrong. It’s more like a jive or lindyhop or salsa dance. Very social.

    The coach was great – friendly yet not overbearing and demonstrated all the moves on the stage. Excellent man:woman ratio with the women moving along the men in turn. In 45 minutes we covered just THREE moves. Perfect. Not loads to remember, but plenty to practice, ending up with a smart looping routine. And it was informal – no-one pointing at your feet and telling you you’re going the wrong way. If it goes with the flow, it’s all good. While the intermediates started their lesson (by now there being at least 50 people there) 7 of us went upstairs with two instructors to review what we’d just learned.

    With extra attention from the instructors we were all fluidly working through the routine by the end of the extra 45 minutes. It was great having the opportunity to hone where I should end up after a spin and practice with others. Then back downstairs for the ‘Freestyle’.

    By now I’d been dancing an hour and a half. The previously well lit church hall had now turned into a proper party – decent disco lighting in a darkened room, a table with water/pop and a window with tea/coffee. Everyone was going for it, beginners mixing with intermediates, people spinning here and there and everyone just having a damned good time. An intermediate asked me to dance. He was really good at leading and so he made me look like I was a professional, spinning me here and dipping me there. Magic.

    But this is the thing – it didn’t feel like I was going there to keep fit. It felt like I was on a night out. Everyone is friendly and no-one is left out or, equally important, hassled. It’s a brilliant concept, and you don’t get lost if you miss a week as you learn new moves each session. I will be cancelling my gym membership this week. And investing in a plaster collection for my little toe – it’s going to be hard pressed every Thursday from here on in.

    I attended the Ceroc night at St George’s Church Hall, Muswell Hill, N10 3AH.
    Sessions are Thursdays with beginners 7.30-8.15, intermediates/beginner revision 8.30-9.00 and freestyle until 10.30pm.
    ?8 per session, ?2 membership payment on your first visit, ?6.50 if you’re just there for the freestyle.