As parents of young children, one of the things we dream about is a lie-in on a Sunday morning. An undisturbed, guilt-free lie-in, reading a book or the Sunday paper with a large cup of tea in hand, oblivious to the goings-on of the children. So imagine my delight when we arrived at New Park Manor in the New Forest, part of the Luxury Family Hotel chain, to discover that at 8 a.m., someone would come to our room and discreetly whisk our brood downstairs to the extremely well-organised crèche, give them breakfast and entertain them for TWO whole hours.
This in itself is a reason to go and stay there. We don’t generally “do” hotels with our children. The stress of keeping them under control, finding something on the menu that they will eat, the headache of fitting five of us into two bedrooms, finding somewhere with interconnecting rooms, not to mention the general cost of the whole thing—frankly I’d rather stay home. But from the moment you walk through the door of New Park you notice the incredibly relaxed atmosphere of the place. From the child-friendly reception area with no formal check-in desk but instead sofas, soft toys and newspapers making you immediately want to put your feet up, to the lovely smiley staff who drop down to greet the children. No one stresses about them touching everything, making noise or running. Indeed this place is all about making you feel like you are staying in a low-key country home. Formality is banished. I soon relaxed a bit, helped hugely by the fabulous manager, Steve, who kept telling me not to worry about the kids charging ahead down the corridor as he showed us the very nice rooms.
BRING THE KIDS
For the children there is a plethora of things to do, from the trampoline in the garden—always a draw for London kids with limited outside space—to the giant cinema room where films are screened when it’s too wet for outdoor play or to entertain the older kids during grown-up dinner. There are two swimming pools, outdoor for the summer months where you could happily spend the whole day, or indoors as part of their very impressive spa where they have kiddie swim times throughout the day. The crèche is worth a special mention. My four-year-old generally does not like formalised crèches when Mummy and Daddy are around, but the lovely friendly staff managed her very well and I was gently but firmly banned from staying. Needless to say after two hours I couldn’t get her out of there.
The Bath House Spa is impressive with a range of delectable-sounding treatments. I didn’t have any, preferring to sit and read a magazine undisturbed for an hour while the kids went swimming with my husband. However it seems to manage to accommodate family guests whilst retaining calm—not an easy thing to achieve.
Kids’ tea is served from 5 p.m. and includes all the staples for both fussy eaters as well as the more adventurous: dippy eggs, sausages and mash or steak and chips as well as delicious garlic bread. It’s amazing how much more relaxed you feel when you know your children have eaten something they actually like. Grown-up dining is country house in style, without feeling the need to dress up—always a good thing on the weekend.
The hotel is set in rolling fields in the heart of the New Forest, overlooking a polo school where the gentle clack of sticks on balls can be heard. You can walk, cycle or horse ride from the hotel out into the beautiful countryside or jump in the car and be on a beach in about 20 minutes. The hotel is a short drive from Brockenhurst railway station, only 90 minutes from London Waterloo, so if you want a real family adventure you could get the train. By the time we left, the children were begging to come back, the staff were still smiling at us and my shoulders had dropped a few inches. For a lovely weekend away from it all, only an hour and a half from the Smoke, check in here.
Contributed by Annabelle King.