Dominic Picksley is a travel and sports writer, including work for the Press Association, and recently enjoyed his first family break to Potters Resort.
Dom visits us every January to write about the Just World Indoor Bowls Championships, so it was a great opportunity to show him how we entertain families during the school holidays.
A big thanks to Dom for letting us use his review. Over to you Dom…
Want a fun-filled family week packed with activities, magical entertainment and copious amounts of food? Then Potters Resort, on the east Norfolk coast, is the place to go. And believe me, you won’t be disappointed. We weren’t.
Synonymous with bowls holidays, as well as being the host of the World Indoor Bowls Championships every January, the Hopton-on-Sea holiday venue throws its doors wide open to families when school’s out, where the place transforms itself into a children-centred paradise of fun, with everything geared up to make them have the time of their lives.
I took my wife, Jennie, son Benjamin and daughter Amelia to experience a week at a destination that prides itself on providing activities by the bucketload, laying on top-notch entertainment and fine dining on a grand scale. And all in a fabulously clean, reassuringly safe environment.
Even by lunchtime on our first day, Benjamin had taken part in squash coaching, laser clay shooting, archery and bowls, while Amelia enjoyed a couple of hours of Easter-based crafts, while their afternoon was also jam-packed with activities including hoverboards, table tennis, bungee trampolining and swimming in the indoor pool.
The place had a totally different feel from the times I had previously visited to report on indoor bowls’ blue riband event, where everything was geared up for that particular sport where, let’s be honest, the clientele was of an older persuasion, with barely a youngster in sight. It is still a great place to go in term time, though, with plenty to do each day, but it really comes alive when the families roll in.
Go-karts, giant swing, climbing wall, segways, scalextric, badminton, football coaching with Leeds United legend Paul Reaney, ten-pin bowling, amusement arcades, crazy golf, laser quest, the list of things to do was huge and it was a job to fit everything in during our stay.
Amelia particularly loved the heated pool and the chance to try out skills she never knew she had, such as being a whizz on a hoverboard, while Benjamin was in his element during the Fortnite-themed laser quest session. I even rolled back the years by winning that week’s table tennis tournament, and was presented with my very own medal! Amelia’s dancing skills ensured one for her as well, while Benjamin’s prowess of archery also saw him come out on top one afternoon. It all adds to the fun when there’s a competitive element. And especially when there’s a glint of gold-coloured metal as a reward.
Lots of merriment was in order in late afternoons when the much-loved resident entertainer Buzby would organise keenly-fought indoor kurling tournaments, with families battling against each other in this unique game, which basically involved using a plastic stick to push a frisbee-typed object on wheels at a numbered target. And it was a blast, attracting a large crowd every day.
This was mainly down to the appeal of the ‘Pied Piper of Potters’. Buzby has been a Potters institution for over 25 years, and is a curiously effervescent character who manages to entertain young and old alike with effortless charm. You will often find him walking around in clown shoes while wearing some peculiar costume, along with his customary bright yellow glasses, and you can’t help but smile when you see him.
He also pops up somewhere in the magnificent shows that are staged every night in the Atlas Theatre, where the resort’s highly-talented singers, dancers and musicians (watch out for the brilliant lead guitarist) perform West End-style numbers every night.
These dazzling evenings are a big attraction for Potters and the performers belt out all manner of musical styles from 50s rock’n’roll to 60s psych, 70s disco to New Wave 80s and beyond to more modern genres, with their awesome takes on Bohemian Rhapsody and Good Vibrations of particular interest to Benjamin and myself. It is no surprise that over the years that members of the various ensembles have gone on to bigger and better things, including Lee Mead, who once worked a season here.
You also cannot talk about Potters without mentioning food. Lots of it it. Four meals a day, if you include the midnight feast. Don’t go there expecting to come home with a thinner waistline, though, it’s not going to happen despite all that strenuous activity on offer.
What I like about the sittings is that every family is assigned a particular table for the duration of their stay and you get the chance to build up a rapport with your waiter/s for the week, they get to find out your eating and drinking habits and cater for you accordingly and it just adds another tick in the box.
Don’t get me wrong, do not go expecting Michelin-style catering of haute cuisine variety, that’s not what Potters is about. What you do get is good, honest ‘proper’ food which appeals to all, with a delicious carvery in operation at lunch and dinner, while fish and chips, pasta, rice, curries, salads and lasagne frequent most servings. And with cheesecakes of many varieties, ice cream and profiteroles for dessert, you leave your table feeling more than satisfied. Even fussy eaters don’t leave their table hungry.
Strangely, for a resort of this quality and standing, it has the aura of a hidden gem to it, particularly for us from the northern reaches of the UK, well anywhere above East Anglia really. Most people we met were from Essex, Kent and London, with barely a northern accent in earshot. Maybe it’s because it is tucked away right away on the east coast, or the fact that Potters don’t advertise but rely mainly on word of mouth, not that that has had any sort of negative effect as the place is always packed.
You’ll find families coming back year after year, entranced by the magic of the place. You don’t even have to leave the site and go off to explore other places as there is so much to do, while there is an on-site shop as well as numerous bars. Our car never left its spot in the car park all week. And above all else, it is a tremendously friendly and safe place to visit, where you have no qualms about letting your children go off and explore on their own.
The only problem I have now, is going to back there in January for a few days to write about the bowls and leaving my children at home. They will never forgive me.
Thanks Dom and see you again soon.