Review: Shorefield Country Park at Milford on Sea, Hampshire

Tucked away on the Hampshire coast is Shorefield Country Park which boasts a five-star rating, close proximity to various family-friendly attractions and an on-site day spa.

Just how this holiday park gained a five-star rating and scooped silver in the 2014 Holiday Park of the Year awards is something of a mystery given the, at times, Fawlty Towers-esque scenarios I experienced on my recent visit there.

After travelling down on Saturday we landed in New Milton at about 5pm, checked-in at reception and were left to our own devices to track down our log cabin in the pitch black using a map and just the glow of my mobile phone to light the way.

Shorefield Country Park select plus lodge

This was particularly tricky as the UK’s much talked about ‘weather bomb’ had left a trail of wet leaves in its wake which were tricky to avoid when trying to follow a map while dragging a suitcase in the dark.

We stayed in a select plus lodge which featured two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and large lounge area.

Shorefield Country Park living room

The décor was a little tired in places but the rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable and the lodge itself was warm and cosy.

Shorefield Country Park bedroom

Minor details such as properly hung curtains, the inclusion of tie-backs and a working airer (particularly as there’s a washing machine) would have been nice finishing touches to give it a true home from home feel.

Shorefield Country Park dining area

Shorefield Country Park airer

TV show Cheers launched the career of Hollywood star Woody Harrelson and Kelsey Grammer and portrayed that bar as the place to go when in need of a drink and a chat.

In need of a pick-me-up after the two-hour commute from London we were keen to head down to Shorefield’s very own Cheers Bar and see if it lived up to its namesake.

Unfortunately no such luck.

It was if we’d landed in a parallel universe, one where loud bingo calling, a kids disco and a Chelsea match blaring out from a TV mounted on the wall – all in the same open-plan area – was the relaxing ambience for evening dining.

The menu offered a decent range of traditional pub meals – I went for the full rack of ribs while my friend plumped for the 8oz thick cut rib eye steak (both around the £16 mark).

At the bar we were told that, on a Saturday night, they were out of steak so my friend had to instead opt for a lighter dinner of lime and coriander chicken skewers.

Our first warning sign was that our food arrived within ten minutes. I’m no gastro chef but I assume cooking a full rack of ribs should take a little longer.

At first glance the slab of meat before me looked ok, but the incredibly ‘porky’ smell made my stomach flip. And not in a good way.

Shorefield Country Park rack of ribs 2

On closer inspection it was incredibly fatty. What meat clung to the ribs and managed to poke its way through the ‘spicy’ sauce was overcooked and looked more like mummified human flesh then a succulent pork rib.

I appreciate that pork ribs needs to be fatty to ensure the dish is packed full of flavour but it didn’t fare much better on the taste front either.

Shorefield Country Park rack of ribs close-up

It was incredibly bland and dry with the only flavoursome relief being the chewy globs of fat which had to be discreetly spat out and stashed in a napkin.

Shorefield Country Park rack of ribs fat

My friend’s meal was pretty disappointing too. The lime and coriander chicken kebabs were dry and overcooked and didn’t appear to have met a solitary lime on their route from the kitchen to the plate.

With no sign of any roasted butternut squash on the plate we asked our server where it was who assured us it was in there somewhere.

Shorefield Country Park lime and coriander chicken skewers

After rooting around the overcooked heap of boil-in-the-bag rice she eventually found a few shrivelled orange cubes topped with some equally sad-looking coriander and a dollop of mango chutney dumped on the side for good measure.

Our server didn’t at any point return to the table to see how we were getting on. Even if he had I doubt he could do anything about the car crash of a meal we had just been served.

Sensing something was up after we failed to touch our meals for ten minutes he scurried over, asked if he could take our plates but even then failed to ask us what we thought of it.

The evening was rescued by one of the bar staff taking pity on us and letting us buy a few bottles of lager and the receptionist giving us the menu for a local Indian takeaway.

After a somewhat disappointing evening we set out alarm clocks to enjoy an early morning massage at the Elemis day spa the next day.

I had a wonderfully relaxing back massage but unfortunately my friend’s treatment had to be cancelled due to the masseuse falling ill.

Huge brownie points to her for managing to stick it out for thirty minutes with me but it seemed strange that there was no-one else available to take over appointments until 4.30pm that evening.

After visiting the spa we then decided to try out the sauna and pool facilities.

The compact sauna (which held just four people) certainly did the trick but it involved getting up close and personal with strangers which may not be your bag.

The changing room facilities were reminiscent of a 1980’s municipal swimming pool changing rooms but despite looking a little rough around the edges were fairly clean and did the job.

As it was only 10am the pool was relatively quiet when we arrived but by the time we left it was starting to fill up with parents and their excitable children. My advice? Get down there early.

After giving the pool a go we decided to head towards the beach and follow the route through Shorefield Park up to Milford on Sea.

Being so close to such stunning coastline is where the park’s strength lies.

The accommodation would be a decent base for those looking to get out and about and explore the coastline and other attractions Hampshire has to offer.

Shorefield Country Park New Milton on Sea

Despite it being cold and raining heavily (it is December after all) it was the perfect way to wile away the afternoon.

The swimming pool changing rooms may be dated, the airer may not have worked but the charm of the picturesque village of Milford on Sea didn’t fail to impress.

But if Shorefield Country Park wants to prove its five-star credentials a little more attention to detail and a complete overhaul of the not-so-aptly-named Cheers Bar menu and service is urgently needed.

* Shorefield will be holding a Boxing Day sale offering 25% discount off all self-catering and touring holidays from 00.01 on December 26 2014 to 00.01 on January 5 2015.

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