After a 12-year delay, it's finally the end of the road for bumpy rides to one of Dorset's most highly acclaimed caravan and camping parks. Shamba Holidays can now promise guests a much smoother journey along its mile-long private drive after a major resurfacing project which cost £50,000.
But gaining the go-ahead to lay the tarmac has been a long and winding road for park owner Andrew Gray with more than a decade of lengthy negotiations. Now, however, the park's many regular guests are joining Andrew in a celebration that cars, touring caravan and motorhomes will no longer have to endure a bone-shaking arrival.
Shamba Holidays, which is located near Ringwood in the New Forest, has won a raft of awards for its high quality standards and care of the natural environment. But in recent years, says Andrew, the hundreds of glowing reviews received from customers were often sullied by one criticism: the state of the park's drive.
Potholes and huge cracks meant that visitors had to negotiate a very careful path for the final mile if they wanted their vehicles – and passengers – to arrive in one piece: "We have had every sympathy with people's moans, but our hands were completely tied while we jumped through a succession of hoops," said Andrew.
"Then, this autumn, we finally received the news we had been waiting for – that Shamba had been given the green light to go ahead with the resurfacing. Within days we'd organised a local contractor to carry out the work, and now I think we can claim to provide one of the smoothest starts to holidays anywhere in Dorset!" he said.
Open all year round, the long-established seven acre park has been in Andrew's family for over 20 years. It was started by his uncle Tim, and then taken on by his parents Martin and Anne. Over that time, the has family has invested much time and energy into creating a first-class setting for touring guests, including a 40-foot swimming pool with a retractable roof.
There's also a modern clubhouse with professional entertainment in season, and a year-round activities for all ages – plus a bar, café-restaurant, shop, and relaxation areas. The family's reward has been to see a year-on-year rise in visitor numbers from Britain and overseas, plus a series of regional and national awards.
They include a top five-pennant accolade from the AA, and the David Bellamy Conservation Award at its maximum gold level for Shamba's many initiatives to protect the natural world.
The park was also flushed with success last summer when its swish amenity building was given a top platinum accolade by judges from the Loo of the Year awards. And now, believes Andrew, Shamba's new drive also deserves a chain of honour: "It's been a long haul, but we got there in the end – and guests are already telling us that our tarmac is the icing on the cake because now their holidays aren't starting with a bump!" he said.
Shamba is a member of the Best of British group, a consortium of independent parks providing some of the highest quality standards and levels of hospitality in the UK.