6th May 2017: Latest Review of the Park
Gavin Havery revisits the countryside caravan park of his childhood and finds it much changed
A QUARTER of a century ago, my parents used to bring us down the A1 from Tyneside to Akebar Park every fortnight in our old tourer. We stopped coming to this idyllic part of the world when I was about 16, and now I have children and a caravan of my own, I have been longing to show them where I spent many happy days as a youngster.
The pool bar and tennis court are no longer there, but the stone-built reception area, the three red telephone boxes and the Friar’s Head restaurant remain. Then there are the luxury holiday homes and lodges, not just static caravans, but high-end lodges worth roughly the same as my modest terraced house.
Fortunately, there is still room for the noble tourer and in the second week of the Easter holidays, we rolled in and pitched up next to the play park, which is a dramatic improvement on the swings and grassed area for jumpers-for-goalposts football we enjoyed.
With so many obstacles and pieces of equipment Tilda, six, and four-year-old Finn thought they were Ninja Warriors, and quickly made new friends with the kids who have seasonal pitches and leave their vans all year round, just as I did all those years ago. They also squealed with delight as we plodged up the stream, before riding around on their bikes, flying kites and playing rounders on the large play field in front of our set-up.
As a teenager, trips off the park were limited, but the tourism industry has become far more sophisticated and there are now plenty of great days out within a 25-minute drive.
On our first full day we visited Thorp Perrow, a seven-mile drive on country roads which took us 15 minutes. We loved ambling through the woodland and gardens where each corner turned offered another breath-taking view. There is an impressive collection of birds of prey and the children were smitten by the mob of wallabies, which were3 more than happy to be petted in return for a handful of feed.
We heard great things about the Forbidden Corner, some nine miles and 20 minutes in the opposite direction, which was our destination on day two, but some had warned that given the age and sensitive nature of my two, I should exercise some caution.
They loved it at the start. They were delighted by the burping mouth entrance, the woodland walks, the statues that wee'd at you, the three bears sculpture, but I think the tipping point for Tilda was the legs sticking out of a wall, prior to descent into a cave with a spooky voice. Lots of other kids loved it and I wish we could have seen more; I vowed secretly to return when they are a little more up to it. For those with older children, or adults who fancy seeing something a little out of the ordinary, it is well worth a look.
Instead, I took my two to Brymor Ice Cream Parlour for a luxury pudding and a play on their park to forget about their ‘trauma’. It seemed to work.
We fared better the next day as we headed some 11 miles away to Bolton Castle, one of