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Summerfields Holiday Park is listed on the Hoseason’s website, which is where I found it. Not that it belongs to Hoseason’s, it is owned by a company called Richardson’s who own a number of holiday villages and parks in Norfolk, and run a small fleet of houseboats to rent for boating holidays on the broads. They are a family run business that has been around since more than 50 years, long enough to gather enough experience to run their business properly one should think. To give them some credit, they’ve ventured into the holiday park business “only” in 1993, and seem to have been busy since buying whichever old and run down Holiday Park Pontins and Haven want to get rid of. Hoseasons, with whom I so far had made only good experiences, will not tell you who runs this park on their website.
=Booking a Summerwave in April
Easter this year it was unclear until almost the last moment whether my husband would be able to take a few days off during the holidays or not and thus we made our booking almost literally the very last moment. Given that this was during the school holidays it wasn’t surprising that many accommodations and parks in Great Yarmouth on the Hoseason’s website were booked and we were left with very little choice.
We only had enough time for a long weekend, from Friday to Monday (3 nights), and we really didn’t want to invest too much for such a short stay. Main season, cheap, popular area and last moment – would that be possible?
We’d been to two different caravan parks booked via Hoseason’s last year and liked them both, there clearly had been no major problems with either. So when I found out that Summerfields Holiday Park still had self-catering accommodations for less than £100 for the 3-night stay I didn’t think that there might be something wrong with the park, but thought they might have had a few cancellations and were now trying to get their properties filled at a last-minute price. I was even happy that at this rate we could opt for an upgrade and book the most expensive holiday-let they had left – a “Summerwave”. The only disappointment so far was that we’d planned to book a caravan but had to opt for a “house” instead because the caravans they have on the site were all booked.
The Hoseason’s website is very easy to use and it took no time at all to book the “Summerwave” 2-storey house with two bedrooms and heating throughout. The later was important for me because it was still so cold, on the day I made the booking it was snowing in Essex, and I really wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t be freezing in our holiday home.
Travelling to Summerfields
The Friday came and we set off towards Norfolk. The park is not located directly in Great Yarmouth but in Scratby, a small village you can find around 5 miles to the north of the seaside resort, just behind Caister-on-Sea. We are familiar with the area, so finding the park was easy.
To start out with something positive: The location of Summerfields is great! The village is really small so it is not an overly busy spot, and you can walk to the beach, which should take not more than 5-10 minutes to reach. The park does not have a shop but there is a small supermarket just a few hundred metres from the entrance, another small market that is open until midnight every day can be found at the entrance to the village, which is also just a short stroll away. A fish and chip shop, a fast food take-away (burgers. Kebabs, pizza) and a coffee shop were also just metres from the park. We wanted to try the chip shop but when we entered it smelled so badly of old oil that we changed our mind and left without ordering. It took quite a while to get that smell out of the nose and sadly it was not the last to smell fishy at Summerfields. Obviously I can’t commend on the quality of their fish but you do need a very less sensitive nose than I do to give it a go. We never went into the shops and also never tried the other eating facilities during our short stay.
The beach is clean and sandy but only accessible via long and steep stairs. Not great if you have small children or mobility issues. Normally we have neither but I am awaiting surgery to fix my meniscus and some torn ligaments in my knee, so even if the weather would have been less arctic, the beach had been out of reach for me. Something you might consider if you want to spend your summer holidays in this area! For now, this was not a problem.
There is parking right in front of the reception and checking-in was easy. The staff at the reception desk was really very friendly and made us feel welcome. We got the obligatory envelope with information about the park, a park map printed on the outside with directions to our holiday home marked, and were told that we could buy top-up for the electricity meter either from the reception desk or the machine in the reception. They would close the reception area around 8 but the machine would be accessible as long as the bar was open.
We’d also had to pay for the electricity at the Vauxhall Park in Great Yarmouth, but there we’d got a £5 card free of charge at the check-in of which we didn’t even spend half during our 4 night stay. This had been in a caravan and over Halloween so I was expecting a similar performance here. I couldn’t have been more wrong ….
The reception staff never mentioned anything about handling items like the cooker, heating or electricity meter and I was expecting to find this either in our envelope or a guest information folder like we’d had it in the other parks we’d stayed at.
First encounter with a Summerwave
Our house was just around the corner from the reception/entertainment centre. The chalets/duplex houses are about as aesthetic as a 1970’s council estate and really
not very pleasing on the eye. The site itself was immaculately clean and there was no litter on the grass and pathways, but the houses looked old and tired, most of the doors had paint peeling off, the windows could do with a clean, and a few flower beds and shrubs in between would have done a lot to cheer the place up a bit.
The faces of the kids and my husband were pretty long by the time we reached our entrance, and things were bound to get worse …
~~~Downstairs is a downer~~~
We opened our entrance door and were immediately hit by the smell of damp, mould and cheap disinfectant. Not pleasant at all! The downstairs area consists of an open plan kitchen/living and dining room, a utility cupboard under the stairs where you can find some cleaning items, and the shower room/toilet. To say that this sounds grander than it actually is would be a gross understatement…
Living area: The “living and dining” part is covered in a dirty and ugly brown-chequered carpet that also covers the stairs to the upper floor. We could clearly see that there were plenty of crumbs and other particles on the carpet which a proper vacuum cleaner easily could have got rid off. Obviously it hadn’t met one in quite a while …
The sitting area is comprised by a combination of a rather large dark-blue 2-seater leather sofa that was covered in crumbs. Maybe a housewarming present from the last tenant? The two matching equally large leather chairs where slightly cleaner. Then there is a large dining table with 6 chairs of which one was so wobbly that we decided not to use it. The chairs and table are not the same design and the room is so cramped full with large pieces of furniture that it is not easy to navigate around it once we were all inside.
The kitchen: Tiny, every kitchen we've had in caravans so far have been much larger, and with workspace so limited that you won’t want to cook a proper meal here, not even if the equipment that you get wasn’t quite such a joke. There is just one pan and if you hope that it is suitable to fry an egg in it, or even a steak – keep dreaming! It’s wobbly and whatever you’ll put into it will stick. I’ve bought a pan at ASDA for £2.50 which is better quality. Pots are available in all sizes of small - great if you are hoping to cook spaghetti. You’ll need to break them in half plus use two pots for 4 portions. All cutlery and china exactly enough for the 5 people this place can sleep …
The fridge/freezer seems fairly new and is really large. It also was the only piece of furniture in the whole house that seemed to be really spotlessly clean. We didn’t use the microwave and the cooker worked after we managed to figure out how. There was no information about recycling so we just put all rubbish into one bag and left the few glass bottles we had on the table when we left, hoping that they would end up in a bottle bank and not the household waste.
The bathroom: Whereas the sitting/kitchen area had looked just tired and slightly dirty - the shower room was a mess! The walls in the living area were yellowish with darker patches and there were some traces of mould in the kitchen and around the windows. The bathroom looked as if it hasn’t been painted in years! There is one row of very old fashioned tiles on top of the wash basin, dust hasn’t been cleared away in a long time, there were hairs on the floor that belonged to whoever has stayed here before and neither the little mirror over the toilet nor the glass shelf in front of it were really clean and shiny. The shower was the biggest joke of all, with a tiny shower head and very little pressure. The whole structure was probably fitted when the house was build, and not only mould and rust but also lime scale was present all over the room. After having one look in here I was glad it was only a weekend trip…
They give you a foot mat for the floor and a rubber mat that you can place in the shower basin. The rubber mat had a very unsightly greyish/cream colouring and I didn’t really feel like standing on it with my bare feet, just that the basin itself looked even worse than the unsightly mat. There is a small fan heater on the wall which is enough to heat the room very quickly but burns a huge chunk out of your electricity budget as soon as you pull that string. This bathroom must have been one of the shabbiest I have ever seen in a holiday accommodation ever.
~~~ The hunt for the meter~~~
You won’t be told that the meter for the gas is situated in a small closet under the TV, they leave you to hunt it down yourself. This fun little game of “freeze while you seek” kept us busy and reasonably entertained for around 10 minutes. There is no explanation at all how to this boiler works, or the shower and oven. We found out by trying…
My husband went back to the reception when we couldn’t find the electricity meter and they told him that he’d have to calculate around £3 per day at least, and that they’d send somebody to show him how the thing worked. The site manager appeared within 5 minutes, so no complaints on that front. He was very friendly and also explained the boiler to us, but confirmed that £3 were the minimum you’d need to buy in electricity a day, even if you are very careful. If you are considering a holiday here you might want to calculate that into your costs.
The Summerwave didn’t feel very summery at all and not using the heating to save money would not have been an option. There is only one small radiator to heat the open-plan downstairs area and this radiator clearly wasn’t able to cope with that much space, so in the evening the sitting room never got really comfortably warm. What a luck I’d brought blankets!
~~~Upstairs is not uplifting either~~~
The two bedrooms are both located upstairs and covered in equally dated and grim looking carpets. By now I seriously wished I’d packed our vacuum cleaner and even my husband, who normally moans about my notorious over packing, agreed. Not that this would have rid us of all the stains of I-really-don’t-want-to-know-what-they-are but at least of all the hair, dust, sand, crumbs, toe nail clippings and whatever else we found.
The twin bedroom for the children faced the front of the house that overlooks the parking. Furniture consists of two single beds, a built in wardrobe, one bedside table in the middle of the beds to share, and a chest of drawers with a mirror above and another electric radiator.
The beds were made up for arrival and the sheets looked just as dated and out of fashion as the rest of the house. The furniture shows plenty of markings of heavy usage and must have done its duty for long enough to have earned its retirement. The windows were even dirtier than downstairs and multiple fingerprints of people who stayed here before us were clearly to make out. In the master bedroom we found a small double bed that would have been a generous single but small for two. It was covered with the same tasteless bedding and we enjoyed three nights lying on a badly sagging mattress that ensured that we met regularly in the middle of the bed. The pillows were thin and the linen for some reason smelled like chlorine. I just hope this doesn’t mean that the people who slept here before spent all their time in the pool and they just forgot to change them …
There also was a single bed in the room, small bedside tables for us and a larger one for the single bed, shelf with mirror above and a built in wardrobe. We placed our suitcase on the spare bed and decided not to unpack this time. Our window overlooked the entertainment centre and the children’s playground was just metres from it. This playground is very small and really only geared at very young children. Our children had one look and a laugh, and never went near it. Next to the playground are several tables and chairs which are probably meant to serve for those eating in “Bobby’s”, the sites fast-food restaurant. I’m not sure how many of the people we saw sitting there actually consumed any food but they certainly did consume a lot of cigarettes and were a real treat for sore eyes, especially early in the morning when they are the first thing you see when opening the curtain. We only opened them on the first day and from then on kept them shut, not even the bright sunshine outside could do anything to make this room more inviting. If it hadn’t been for the girls who were really looking forward to this weekend away I’d probably suggested the husband that we pack our bags back into the car and go back home.
The entire house was a huge disappointment and even though the kids didn’t want to admit it at this point, they didn’t like it at all. The husband was more articulate but I really do not want to repeat here what he said about it.
Not amused by the entertainment
The entertainment complex offers an indoor swimming pool, a small arcade with the usual penny machines, show bar, fast-food restaurant, adults only bar, bowling, soft-play area and pool billiards room. All areas are interconnected, fully accessible and offer toilets for gents, ladies, disabled guests and baby changing facilities.
Is open from early in the morning until around 10pm and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We checked the menu and found it very limited, slightly overprized and not very appetizing. The range is burgers, fries, fish and chips, lasagne and chips, jacket potatoes, and very little that doesn’t come either directly out of the deep-fryer or contains some vitamins. We decided to give it a miss …
The bar is located in the same room as Bobbys. It is divided into several sections, the ones at the side and back are slightly raised to enable the guests sitting here to see the stage more comfortably. To my surprise I saw a group of people occupying the front row seats already hours before the entertainment started. They were also the ones who really joined into the shows and games and genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. The variety of drinks they served at the bar was OK for us, we only wanted beer and soft-drinks and found what we liked. Price-wise the bar in the Summerfields bar was as overpriced as in the other parks we have visited, the only difference being that those parks actually offered good and clean accommodations and entertainment that was entertaining.
The daily-evening entertainment is a combination of the horrors the site’s own entertainment team puts to the stage and the visit of a “special” guest. We arrived around 8 every evening which means that we always missed the first part of their program, although I do have my doubts that we missed all that much. We always managed to be in time for the obligatory “Bingo”. Strangely, this was won by the same group of guests in the front row each of the 3 evenings of our stay. Not that they didn’t deserve it, they were the only ones who really seemed to have fun and made sure the entire room was aware of it. Afterward the bingo we finally go to enjoy one of the shows of the entertainment team. We suffered through an incredibly silly and bad “Pirates” performance and found the team’s take on the “Lion King” so self-indulgent that it was almost comical. Not even the kids found either of the shows funny or interesting.
The visiting “star” guests didn’t fare much better… The comedian we saw on Friday night was OK, although he obviously was not impressed to find the venue almost empty. He made us laugh a few times which was much needed after the shock of moving in, so kudos to him! On Saturday night we were presented with a female singing duo that was beyond bad. The main singer right away forgot her text, their voices were unimpressive and the
Dining table and fridge
whole performance pitchy and painful to watch. It was a bit like watching a prolonged audience of one of the comically hopeless acts on the X-Factor and an utter waste of time. The bar wasn’t busy before they started to sing and by the time they had finished almost everybody had left and only a hand full of tables were still occupied. We stayed because the kids were worried that they’d have to go to be if we went back to the house and we gave in because the bar was warmer than the house was even after we managed to activate the heating. On Sunday it was time for comedy again and this time it was a scrawny guy who seemed to enjoy making jokes that are clearly for an adult audience. Most of his jokes had a sexual background, with the question of himself being gay or not seemingly being his main concern. I had to answer quite a few questions from our ten year old daughter after the show and could imagine that other parents had the same experience. As if that wasn’t the perfect Sunday night entertainment already – he also murdered “Swan Lake” whilst dressed up in blue satin leggings and an oversized ballerina’s dress in a performance that was absolutely over the top and not funny at all. The upstairs adults-only bar was closed but would have been useless to us anyway. The soft play area is pretty small and most suitable for toddlers. There are 3 or 4 pool tables upstairs which were all occupied by teenagers, and the bowling lanes (two if I’ve seen it right) were children’s size. Our young ladies decided that they were “too old” for them, which saved us some money.
That the arcade was so small was actually a plus in my book, not in my kids’ though, and they didn’t find enough in there too keep them longer than five minutes. As a result each also didn’t spend more than one pound there and they never asked to go back. You need to pass through it to reach the pool or the bar but none of them was tempted to stop on the way.
~~~The swimming pool~~~
The pool area looks as old and run down as about everything else at Summerfields wasn’t overly clean either. There is a huge sign on the wall that asks parents to send their children to the toilet before they go into the pool, which must be one of the most off-putting things I have ever seen in my life!
Along the window side of the pool there are some picnic style tables where parents can sit down and wait for their kids. There are 3 changing rooms which seem very little but was enough as the park wasn’t busy at all, even though we’d been told that they were fully booked. In the cabins and along the entrance side of the pool they’ve decided to lay a shiny green fake-grass style carpet that, of course, was totally soaked. I don’t even want to imagine what could be living in there
Our girls went to the pool on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday there was an older life-guard who had no problem with our younger daughter’s swimming and even took the time to give her a few hints on how to improve her swimming and spurning her on to practise a few more rounds. The area for swimmers is small and it’s hardly possible to swim a few lengths as you can cross it with just 3-4 strokes. The area for non-swimmers is even smaller and the water will hardly cover your knees throughout.
On Sunday the two very young boys who were replacing the friendly lifeguard from Saturday insisted that my daughter was not fit to use the “big” pool. She showed them that she could swim and the pool is, apart from a small patch right in its middle, not to deep to prevent her from being able to stand. Apart from that, I was in the water too, as was her older sister. I tried to ask the kid in charge if this was really necessary and if he really thought that I would stand there and watch my own child drown within and arm’s length from me if the worst should happen – but was simply ignored and am still waiting for an answer to that question! Strangely on that day all children that looked younger than 13/14 were removed from the swimmer’s side, no matter if they had parents with them or not, which probably gave the young lifeguards the chance to talk more peacefully than if they’d had to keep an eye on them. Surprisingly they missed the fact that our older daughter, who was allowed to stay in the swimmer’s area, can not swim at all. Maybe if they’d been a bit less busy checking out here swim suit …
Our girls stayed in the pool for another half hour or so, even though the non-swimmer side had got uncomfortably and unnecessarily busy but their fun had been destroyed and they’d lost all interest. What a change this had been in the fantastic pool in Vauxhall – or even the day before with the life-guard who really did his job well!
They offer a children’s club for up to 11’s and another one for teenagers (12+). Our kids weren’t interested and we were out all day long so I can’t tell you what they are offering.
Summerfields has been a huge disappointment and this is not a park we will return to! There are some really wonderful people working here but they are let down by the shabby site, the lack of information and some of their colleagues who simply should just not be there.
Apart from the location there was hardly anything that we did like and even though the stay was cheap – it was still too expensive for what we’ve got. If I’d known before that this park is so run down I would have never booked it and can only recommend that you stay away too. While we were there we had a walk around the site and managed to have a peep into some of the caravans, which seemed better equipped and clearly had more modern and less mismatched furnishings. This might, to some extend, explain some of the raving reviews about this park that I’ve seen on various websites. I still don’t know how those writers justify their ratings for the rest of the park – and why this place has an official 4-star rating. I’m not naïve and know I can’t expect much for just around £130 for a 3-night trip and am willing to compromise on some mod-cons but I will always, no matter at which price, expect from a rental property that it is safe to use and clean. Dirty carpets, dust, mould and the likes are unacceptable – if you are not willing to keep it clean, don’t rent to anyone.