DORSET: West Bay

Mummy and the girls at West Bay beach lr

By Tim Saunders

Peace and quiet at night.
Our two main requirements for an enjoyable family holiday. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to meet this not unreasonable criteria. And when we stay at West Bay Holiday Park on the Dorset coast we are unsure whether this will be achieved. But I am delighted to report that we have four blissful nights of quality sleep on comfortable beds in our static caravan. We have been surprised because this is a holiday park where there is on site entertainment at night such as discos and bingo for the adults. Yet the only sound to be heard and this is in the early morning, is the distant squawk of the seagulls.
The park lies on the site of a former shipyard destroyed in the Great Storm of 1836 and is owned by Parkdean Resorts, which owns 73 holiday parks throughout the UK. Therefore it is well placed to know what families want and that is namely that tired parents need a break and their children need entertaining. These two demands are satisfied by friendly and approachable staff such as Seagull Sid and Lizzie the Lizard, who run an entertainments programme between March and November. During our time at the site, activities are run every day at 10am for children accompanied by their parents. Harriett (5) and Heidi (3) go to Garden Tots where they produce a sunflower picture, go on a bug hunt and grow watercress. It’s a great way of introducing children to the wonders of the garden, something educational and fun to be enjoyed on holiday. Yet to our surprise Harriett and Heidi are the only children taking part in this activity. They thoroughly enjoy it. The following day at the same time Rainbow Tots provides more fun activities for our daughters as does Toy Tots on another occasion. This combined with the on site swimming pool and park really means that there is no need to venture elsewhere.
If you do you really only need to walk into West Bay, which really comes into its own when the sun shines. It is still a working harbour and following the Brexit vote its future should be even more secure, according to some fishermen who believe that Britain’s waters will now not be as attractive to foreigners looking for a good catch.
On the first night little Henry (7mths) just will not go to sleep so I pop him in his pushchair and we walk around the harbour and along the seafront. I am surprised that he only finally drifts off at the end of our walk, the sea air eventually sending him off to the land of nod.
“The best bit of this holiday is the swimming and the ice creams,” say Harriett and Heidi in unison. There is a small and a large pool. Caroline and I have to take it in turns to manage our three children because little Henry still needs feeding at regular intervals so he cannot stay in the pool for any longer than 15 minutes. Over our time there Harriett and Heidi grow in confidence and it is a joy to see Heidi actually starting to swim.
The static caravan complete with gas cooker and fridge/freezer provides comfortable self catering accommodation as you can see in the video at It is really helpful to find that there is a shower room at either end, which means that our girls can get ready using one while we use the other. They can both operate the shower without our help. And the washing machine is a great help for drying those wet towels.
We have come to realise that we can never have a complete break like we used to before having a family but the Parkdean Resorts experience has enabled us to enjoy some relaxation, which is much more than we usually get. When we compare this to many other holidays it scores very highly indeed. Additionally the fact that the journey takes little more than two-and-a-half hours is a huge bonus.
We explore West Bay and its variety of shops and hidden gems and buy some unique mugs from potter Richard Wilson. Afterwards we discover another park where there are some great activities that further entertain Harriett and Heidi. Musical instruments and dexterity challenges have been included alongside the more traditional trampoline and swings as you can see in the videos at
On our return to Hampshire we break the journey up by stopping off in Dorchester and visit the Dinosaur Museum. It proves incredibly difficult to find a parking space for more than one hour and after 45 minutes of exploring, finally strike lucky on the outskirts of the town. The Dinosaur Museum is housed in a Victorian property and is crammed full of interesting exhibits including life size model dinosaurs such as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. There is much information about evolution which will always baffle me. And there’s a watchable film in the cinema that details how dinosaurs were wiped out. But for me the most interesting aspect of my visit was finding out about Mary Anning (1799 to 1847), an amateur fossil collector from Lyme Regis, who is now considered to be an extremely influential palaeontologist. Her portrait hangs in the Natural History Museum in London.

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