I love camping. I’m not sure if it’s my girl guiding childhood or the fact I love outdoors but there’s something about being in the middle of nowhere that I enjoy. One of the places I like to go is Dower House in Norfolk. You have the option of taking a tent or a caravan, with the benefits of an outdoor woodland experience, but with some of the comforts that stop you feeling like you have abandoned civilisation. It’s perfect for taking children for a night or a week (or longer). It was suitable for my son, who is autistic which is important for us as a family as they have adequate disabled facilities (although limited as there was no Changing Places facilities).
There are various options ranging from caravans area, tents with and tent without electric access (there’s even the option to use the ‘Bell Tents’ that are already there and set up. I didn’t get chance to explore those but they sound amazing). For those with disabilities there is a section reserved for those who require somewhere closer to facilities and with easy to access paths (the grass can be bit of a bumpy terrain).
Those with caravans can choose to become a season pass holder meaning you can keep your spot and come and go whenever you want. This is what my family do, so we get to visit their caravan and make use of its facilities (it has water and electric). When you pay, one car is included in the price which you park alongside your tent/caravan (important for us as J is hypermobile so walking long distances can be uncomfortable for him, plus it helps to keep his safe by not having to go through car parks whilst trying to carry everything). Most spaces can fit one or two cars so you just pay for the extra vehicles. For additional cars there are some parking spaces near the main house.
I love the fact that Dower House is a campsite but with ‘mod cons’. There’s decent toilets and showers (with some adjustments for those with disabilities) which are situated quite centrally. There’s also a laundrette facility and somewhere to wash pots/dishes. The campsite has it’s own pub with a pool room and darts (there’s also wi-fi). I haven’t personally tried the pub yet but it’s on my list. Food-wise, we take our own as it is a little bit of a drive to main shops. The onsite shop does have a small selection of food that you can cook yourself if needed, as well as snacks and treats. We enjoyed a lovely ice cream from there and can of drink (ok, and a packet of sweets). Two days a week there is the option to have takeaway food. One evening there’s pizza and another evening it’s Fish and Chips. It’s best to double check the days and times with the campsite.
Something I liked was the old phonebox which has been repurposed into a library booth. There are free books that you can read and return as and when you please. Some guests leave books they brought with them for others to enjoy. It’s a little tucked away so you can easily miss it if you didn’t know if was there, but it’s worth finding.
Things to do
There’s a lot of great things to do on the camp. There are two play parks. One has a large wooden playframe with slide, and a ‘obstacle’ course, the other has a smaller climbing frame suitable for younger children (there were no playpark facilities for those with disabilities which limit ability to climb/use ladder style steps). There’s also open space for ball games and netting to play badminton or volleyball.
The woodlands are beautiful and a fantastic place to go off and explore. There’s fallen branches to climb, plants and bugs to look at and it’s a great space to ‘go on a bear hunt’. If you have them at home then take along your binoculars, magnifying glass and bug books to have a proper adventure. At night the campsite goes dark and its a great opportunity to look at the stars. We plan on taking J’s small telescope on our next over night stay.
There were a lot of families enjoying bike routes when we were there. We didn’t take ours but it did look like they had a great time. There’s a lot of woodlands to explore…other children just had fun riding around the campsite. There’s also a table tennis set and ‘table football’ in an under cover area for when the weather isn’t too great, or you just fancy some shade. The whole campsite is quite spaced out so if your child sometimes needs time away from people then you will find it. Whenever things got too much for J (eg: after playing at the park) we would have some time to have ‘sensory downtime’ to regulate (in the caravan or we went to the table football area where he could spin the people or spin himself without worrying about knocking into others).
Probably the most popular places to go was the swimming pool. The site has two outdoor pools (both heated). One is a shallow children’s pool, and the other is 1.4m deep. We stuck to the shallow pool and had fun playing ‘baby shark’. There’s lovely grass areas to layout your towel and take a break and it’s close to the shop if you want to grab a quick drink (as long as your children are supervised). The swimming pool is in a fenced off area to help keep children safe (this is important for us as part of J’s autistic traits is difficulty with sense of danger and spatial awareness so knowing he can’t just run off and get into the swim area is a relief).
We took along some outdoor activities to play at the caravan for when we just wanted to sit and relax, but keep the children entertained. The whole campsite has a ‘family friendly’ vibe to it so we never felt uncomfortable playing about and making noise (respectfully). We used a windbreaker to ‘fence off’ our area so you feel like you have your own little piece of land (and helps with keeping children ‘contained’ when you just want to chill for a bit). Inside the caravan we had TV, took J’s handheld console and some toys ready for any bad weather or just to get out of the sun for a bit (if your child relies on electronic communication systems you can get tent spaces with access to electricity so you can keep them charged).
There are staff onsite at all times, and there is usually enough staff in the main shop that you dont have to wait too long and there’s always someone to ask for help. The staff we dealt with were all polite and friendly. It’s great to know they are there, but they also respect your privacy and time with family so they aren’t over bearing. There is an information hut with leaflets too if you want to explore off-site.
We had an amazing time. J had plenty of space to play and explore. Our 3 month old enjoyed laying on the mat having a stretch whilst looking up at the trees. Mummy and Daddy enjoyed family time but also having chance to just relax (taking it in turns to go to the park and swimming with the eldest). I highly recommend Dower House and look forward to going back.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT an ad or gifted post. We went as guests of my family to their caravan as they are season pass holders. All views are honest and my own.