“How ya all doing Mill Rythe?”
So began the Michael Jackson tribute act on the Friday night of our active weekend break at Mill Rythe Holiday Village on Hayling Island. It was a slightly surreal moment; there indeed was Michael on stage, perhaps a little shorter and stockier than the original, but there’s was no doubt about the hair, the make-up, the moves and the incredible voice.
Our Michael tribute was totally committed to his performance. Moonwalking, dancing, singing (and not lip synching as he proved to any doubters), it was a superb and highly entertaining show. From Thriller to Billy Jean, it wasn’t quite Las Vegas, but we were in the company of a star.
The audience called out for more, and on the packed dancefloor three generations of holidaymakers, from toddlers to pensioners, were joining in the moves. It may have been raining outside, but spirits were high and the mood was infectious as I boogied back to my room at the end of the show.
If truth be told, I’ve always had a certain caution about summer holidays in the UK; childhood memories of country cottages in Devon and the New Forest, feeling bored and watching the rain against the windows, have left me slightly reluctant to try a staycation.
However, what my childhood holidays lacked was something to actually do when it rained, so that the weather became incidental. And this is where Mill Rythe comes into its element with activities galore for all ages. Of course, it’s a bonus if the sun shines, but not a problem if it doesn’t.
Our arrival coincided with the heavens opening, but a swift check-in found us admiring our inter-connecting Ambassador rooms. Newly refurbished, they are extremely comfortable, thoughtfully designed and well-stocked with snacks and drinks, as well as TV, tea-making facilities and a fridge.
All the rooms are on the ground floor with flat access, so very well-suited to those with walking difficulties, and there are also wheelchair accessible rooms, as well as accessible toilets, a pool hoist, hearing loop and guide dogs are also welcome.
The setting of Mill Rythe really is very special in the heart of Hayling Island, an easy drive or brisk walk to the sea, and with surrounding fields overlooking the estuary. Our first morning encounter was with a mother duck and her 8 ducklings who were waiting for us outside our front door. Needless to say all of the young children staying nearby were delighted.
There are extensive open spaces at Mill Rythe with excellent activities on offer including rock climbing, high ropes, zorbing and archery as well as a fabulous outdoor pool with slides and numerous events. There are tennis courts, and an indoor swimming pool which was very popular. The activities team are an enthusiastic group who run a wide-ranging programme catering for all ages.
Meals are taken in the dining room and it’s a tried and tested formula of buffet spreads with a la carte options. Service is excellent and quick, the food is plentiful and the atmosphere is relaxed. It was good to see a number of extended families of three and even four generations, relaxing around large tables enjoying their time together.
If you want to venture further afield from Hayling Island, it’s an easy drive or ferry ride to Portsmouth where a visit to the Naval Shipyard is a must to see HMS Victory as well as the restored Mary Rose museum which is an astounding feat of design and technology. And for those who prefer retail therapy, there’s the Gunwharf Quay outlet shopping.
After we had spent a busy day in Portsmouth (in fact revisiting my place of birth near Southsea for a trip down memory lane), we were welcomed back to Mill Rythe with another full programme of evening entertainment. It began with bingo which is very popular and surprisingly addictive, and then an excellent children’s entertainer and music from a live band.
For those who like a themed break, there’s a wide variety on offer throughout the year including Reggae & Soul, all stars music, pantomime, comedy, turkey & tinsel and festive showbreaks, some of which are for adults only.
There’s even a Vegas weekend, which brings us back to the Michael Jackson tribute act. As he performed his final encore, wiped the sweat from his face (minus the plastic surgery as one hopes his tribute didn’t go that far), we all cheered for more.
Mill Rythe, we’re all doing just fine!