£10m revamp launched at New Forest tourism’s ‘jewel in the crown’

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Sandy balls
Go New Forest chief executive Anthony Climpson (left), Fordingbridge mayor Cllr Paul Anstey, and Away Resorts chief executive Carl Castledine

PART of a £10m overhaul at one of the New Forest’s most popular tourist destinations was launched by its new owner with an ambition of challenging what holiday parks are all about.

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The opening of the section of high-end lodges at Sandy Balls, near Fordingbridge, was personally conducted by Carl Castledine, chief executive of Away Resorts.

Mr Castledine, a third generation holiday park owner, told the A&T the new luxury structures, some equipped with a hot tub, had been specially designed to fit into the woodland landscape.

At the opening ceremony he said that with Sandy Balls he wanted to “challenge the norms of what a holiday park can be”.

Away Resorts, which has five other holiday parks, bought Sandy Balls in 2017 from founders the Westlake family, which had owned it for 97 years. Centenary celebrations are planned later this year.

VIPs included Fordingbridge mayor Cllr Paul Anstey (pictured centre) and chief executive of Go New Forest tourism group Anthony Climpson (left), who cut the ribbon and congratulated Away Resorts for its work.

Mr Climpson said: “What they’ve done to this park in the last two years is absolutely wonderful. It’s truly amazing and there’s more in the pipeline.”

The new section offers 150 lodges in landscaped surroundings, with some offering features such as verandas, outdoor washing facilities for dogs, and up to six televisions each.

There has also been investment in the village square-type area with upgraded eateries, shops and surroundings.

The lodges have replaced 345 touring caravan and camping pitches which, as reported in the A&T, upset regular campers when some had their bookings cancelled last year for the work to go ahead.

Mr Castledine (right) said: “Sandy Balls has been a great addition to the Away Resorts family, and this new development featuring some of the most luxurious accommodation in the holiday park sector is just fantastic.

“Sandy Balls is the jewel in the New Forest holiday crown and we are committed to evolving and developing our beautiful park with the right accommodation.

“I am so proud of every single one of the team at Sandy Balls, and everybody who has been involved, they’ve worked so hard to make it happen.’’

In its successful planning application to the national park authority, Away Resorts said the changes would reduce visitors and traffic while boosting the local economy by attracting higher-spending customers. It projects 62,000 visitors over the first year.

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