Discovering the joy of Norfolk camping and glamping
PUBLISHED: 14:39 21 June 2018
It was a glorious weekend camping in style in south Norfolk, but what were the best bits? Jo Malone writes.
I thought the highest bed bunks they’ve ever seen might be the highlight of the weekend for my two children.
Or being able to ride their bikes safely around the park within eyesight while feeling they had freedom to explore.
Or having a super cute compact kitchen in the living area of our shepherd’s cabin which had everything we needed, from saucepans and sink to spoons, sharp knives, microwave and toaster so we could cook and chat and watch TV at the same time.
Or the decking area with its table and chairs; most useful for cycle parking too.
Or heading out to eat at a nearby pub, or maybe completing the challenging SkyTrek course at Banham Zoo.
Or it could have been the actual appearance of our shepherd’s cabin, which seven-year-old Thalia felt looked the same as her guinea pigs’ wooden hideaway – high praise indeed as she’s long been suggesting that she’d like to live with her guinea pigs.
No, the highlight of our stay at Applewood Countryside Park at Banham was, for Thalia, seeing the sloth moving at neighbouring Banham Zoo, and for big sister Keola, 10, it was ‘playing on the monkey bars for as long as I liked.’
I love how simple pleasures are still at the top of my girls’ list, and the holiday park is very much all about simple pleasures.
It’s a mixture of glamping pods, luxury shepherd’s cabins and pitches, including electric pitches, for those taking their own tents, camper vans or caravans.
There’s no huge leisure centre, no amusement arcade, no nightly shows, exuberant entertainment staff or restaurant serving fast food 24 hours a day on the site.
Amenities are only a few steps away however as across the road are shops and pub, while Banham village and Old and New Buckenham – where we found excellent family dining pubs – are not far.
Instead it’s the place to sit and watch the world go by; there’s plenty of green space to play, an adventure playground for the little ones, masses of trees, a dog exercise area and clean showers, laundry room and toilets.
There’s also Applewood Hall on site, a spacious venue for weddings, parties and special dinners and events, plus its refurbished Orchard Room which is available for smaller private events.
It was hosting a coffee morning to raise money for the EACH when we were there, all part of the welcoming community feel of this holiday park where pretty much everyone says hello or waves if you wander past their pitch.
I love adventure and travel but I also very much enjoy the almost instant relaxation of holidaying close to home. Sitting in the sunshine on the decking with a magazine, watching the girls pottering about on their bikes, was wonderfully tranquil.
The holiday park is spacious so we weren’t interrupted by noisy neighbours or other people camping far closer than we’d like.
Plus I’m totally won over by the glamping idea. We normally camp in our trailer tent but staying in the shepherd’s cabin meant I only had to pack bikes, clothes and food. There was no trying to stuff towels, duvets and pillows, pots, plates and pans, cutlery, washing up bowl and so on into the car in some kind of order.
The cabin had everything, from very comfy beds – including those high bunk beds – to TV, microwave, compact kitchen, sofa, dining table and chairs, fluffy towels, storage and space for our bags, and an amazing bathroom.
With a bath but no shower at home for months, due to a long running bathroom renovation, we all loved the drench-style shower. The bathroom had a heated mirror too, of great fascination to Keola when she noticed it was clear despite a steam-filled bathroom.
Next door to Banham Zoo, there are zoo entry offers for those staying at Applewood Countryside Park – and we went both days of our weekend stay.
It meant we had time to explore the zoo properly, and what we missed on day one – the birds of prey flying display, penguins in the water, the ring-tailed lemurs, the flamingos and the aerial trekking course – we saw on day two.
Also, rather than chivvying Thalia along after 20 minutes of waiting for the sleepy sloths to move in the Eureka! sub tropical house – knowing we weren’t trying to see everything in one day meant we waited, and waited, and waited, for it to move.
It didn’t the first day, but Thalia’s patience was rewarded the next when it slowly turned over and started eating – her weekend was perfect!
Applewood Countryside Park, Banham, has 110 electric pitches plus glamping pods, luxury shepherd’s huts and a 12-acre meadow for non-electric camping pitches. Next door to Banham Zoo and opposite Appleyard with its shops and Banham Barrel family-run pub, Applewood Countryside Park is peaceful yet easily reached in south Norfolk. Prices start from £12.50-£18.50 per night for a tent or caravan pitch with electric, £35-£45 per night for a standard or Posh Glamping Pod and £270 for a three-night stay in a Shepherd’s Cabin from Friday to Monday. 01953 715319