St Leonard’s 2018 by Paul Bowler

We asked Paul to write about his latest holiday with us to Saint Leonard’s, Paul is coming on the Cardiff trip in November, so we will be asking him to write a report for you then!

In June 2018 the VIP Lounge took members away for a holiday at a campsite on the East Sussex coast, the tenth the group has organised since it was founded in August 2013. The venue for this year’s break was the Combe Haven Holiday Park in Saint Leonard’s, and once again several of us journeyed from across the UK for a week of excursions, socialising and generally catching up with friends.

My own journey from Birmingham took me through London, before I caught a train from Clapham Junction bound for Ore, a town in East Sussex I’d been unfamiliar with until I booked my tickets. The journey took me to Saint Leonard’s via Eastbourne and Bexhill, and I’d arranged to call Ian when I got to Bexhill as he and Richard would be picking everyone up from the station.

The holiday park is about two miles from the station, and I ought to say at this point it’s probably been about thirty-five years since I last stayed in a caravan. I remember them as being quite small and compact, but they’ve completely changed since 1983. The caravan I shared with Simon and Chris felt more like a modern apartment, with all the things you would expect to find in any 21st Century home.

There’s also a lot to do at the camp, with a games arcade which seemed quite popular with the families staying on the site, a small supermarket where you could buy just about anything, a swimming pool (both indoor and out), sauna, Jacuzzi, and even a gym. I had intentions of using the gym during my stay, but never seemed to get round to it. The bar, the Mash & Barrel, ended up being my favourite place, as I suspect it was with everyone.

After settling in on Monday, we began our week of activities the following day. There were two trips planned for Tuesday; a walk along St Leonard’s seafront in the morning, and something called sound tennis in the afternoon. We did the walk in small groups, and it gave several of the guide dog owners a chance to give their four-legged companions a much deserved free run. Sound tennis, for anyone unfamiliar with it, is basically played in the same way as conventional tennis, but with a slightly larger ball which has bells inside, and on a smaller court. Although I didn’t go on this particular trip, those who did thoroughly enjoyed it.

We went to Brighton on Wednesday where we visited the pier and had fish and chips at a restaurant overlooking the sea. Then, perhaps most importantly for a visit to Brighton, we had our pictures taken by the Brighton Pier sign.

For me, Thursday’s trip to the Battle of Hastings museum was one of the many highlights of the week. After watching a short film that debunked some of the myths, such as the fate of King Harold, we set off around the battle site and abbey. The museum had provided us with an audio device, a bit like a mobile phone that you wear round your neck on a lanyard, and on which you can listen to the story of the battle as you make your way around the site. The commentary was narrated by someone who sounded a bit like David Dimbleby the broadcaster, but I don’t know if it actually was him, and it even told you the sequence in which to visit everything. There was also a chance to look at some of the armoury worn by soldiers from both sides, and what is striking about this is how heavy it all was.

The usual cost to get in to the museum is £10.60, but we managed to take advantage of a discount scheme that brought the cost down to £5.60. Chiefly this is because if you are retired or have a disability a companion can go in with you free of charge.

Thursday evening was our final evening together, and the holiday ended with a surprise party for Lucy, whose birthday it would be shortly after we all went our separate ways. She was overwhelmed to discover the get-together had been arranged for her, and it was a nice way to round off the week.

I feel I should say something here about the staff at Combe Haven, who looked after us tremendously well and were very helpful throughout the week, particularly as they were not used to dealing with such a large group. A few who I remember are Jake, Emmy, Helen, Gemma, Kelly and James, but there were many others too.

Holidays with the VIP Lounge are always enjoyable occasions, and there’s something different to do every time we go away. On the breaks I’ve been on I think the trip to Saint Leonard’s is without a doubt the best holiday I’ve had so far, and they get better each time. I’m already looking forward to next year.

So there you have it, Paul thoroughly enjoyed his tiime with us, Why don’t you come and join us on our next trip?