“Mumma, can I stay all summer” requests my six year old as we near the end of our PGL Family Active holiday. “And mumma, all the instructors here are cool and I want to teach the zip wire when I’m bigger”. If someone had told me before the holiday that that was how my daughter was going to feel about our 4 night multi-activity holiday I wouldn’t have believed them. I had started the holiday with some intrepidation as I was not sure it would be suited to both my children.
In the late eighties as a young teenager I was desperate to go on a PGL summer camp – I could see myself on the climbing walls, messing around in a canoe and enjoying some freedom but it never happened. Fast forward twenty five years and suddenly I find myself invited to review with my two children Jonny (7) and Gaia (6) a PGL family holiday in South Devon.
Barton Hall in Torbay, Devon is PGL’s largest family-friendly centre and is set in 46 acres of the English Riviera with a huge, outdoor heated swimming pool (impossible to keep my children out of in-between activities), dry ski slope and lake for canoeing and rafting activities. On arrival we were met by a team of friendly PGL reps, shown to our accommodation, given a hand with our bags and sat down to run through our personalised itinerary for the next four days to check that we were happy with the activities planned. My heart skipped a beat or two when I read ‘vertical challenge’ and ‘survivor’ however, this was something I couldn’t show in front of the children.
We spent the next four days trying 14 different types of activities or ‘challenges’ including zip wire, quad biking, a vertical challenge, open canoeing, crate challenge, archery, a challenge course, raft building, abseiling, survivor, aeroball, orienteering, climbing and problem solving. The zip wire was Gaia’s favourite activity and for Jonny it was ‘survivor’ – a combination of fire-making and shelter building. Mine turned out unexpectedly to be the ‘climbing wall’. My children liked the timetabled 2 activities in the morning, 2 activities in the afternoon with meals, ice-creams and swims in-between. The children were always encouraged if they were slightly daunted by an activity but never made to do anything they didn’t want to.
Jonny and Gaia never seemed to tire and after dinner we found ourselves joining in the evening activities. Early evening games being outdoors based (think scavanger hunt, team challenges, human bingo and dance routines) and mid evening games being based in the bar area. This was a great way to socialise with the other families we had been grouped with over a relaxing drink. Plus the bar offered milkshakes, hot chocolate and fresh popcorn so always a winner with the children, plus they got to play with their new friends.
PGL has been refining its activity offer since 1957 and from our experience at Barton Hall I reckon they’ve pretty much got it right. The range of activities on offer, the beautiful site, the friendliness and competence of the young PGL instructors could not be faulted. The accommodation at Barton Hall is a little dated but the room itself was clean and comfortable, with a lawned area in front where the kids could run free and play in the trees. The kids loved the bunk beds too. The holiday also taught me never to make assumptions about what your children can and can’t do. Both Jonny and Gaia amazed me with their ‘give it a go’ attitude. PGL we will be back!
PGL offer a range of great value family activity holidays both in the UK and in France for children aged six and over. If you have a younger family member they can come too but will be unable to join in the planned activities. http://www.pgl.co.uk/PglWeb/families/default