Do you remember our childhood holidays in the 60s and 70s? I was born in 1966 and I love looking back at the old holiday camp photos, there was the year I won the Bonny Baby competition wearing a silver lamé bikini that my auntie had sent from the USA (she was in the circus (yes really) and her gifts were always quite wild). We'd go to Norfolk, to Kent, the Isle of Wight and West Sussex, stay in chalets or caravans, meet up with family and friends, my granddad would roll his trousers up, put his handkerchief on his head and paddle in the sea with me. Later on when my own children were growing up we had a touring caravan and recreated some of these experiences albeit in a slightly more modern way. But my point is that a good old fashioned holiday, either going with friends or making friends when you get there, can be so special, the fun and camaraderie is something that stays with us for years after. So when I saw that Potters started in the 1920s in Hemsby in Norfolk, all the old memories came flooding back!
Potters Resorts asked me if I'd like to spend a weekend at their Essex resort, Potters Resorts Five Lakes and share a review on my blog. I was a bit unsure at first, we have never done an all-inclusive break before and I wondered how I would feel about the games and entertainment, I didn't want to feel obliged to join in. But there was no need to worry, my concerns were totally unfounded and we had a super 3 night October break with the added bonus of sunshine!
Potters Resorts Five Lakes is exclusively adults only but don't be deterred, the age range of guests varies from younger couples in their 30s visiting with family groups, midlife couples like us keen to have a weekend away exploring the area and older people either on an organised group trip or happy to be spoilt for the weekend and not worry about cooking - and of course to enjoy the fantastic (and entirely optional) on-site entertainment and activities.
This is a sponsored blog post.
How it all began for Potters Resorts
Potters Resorts bagan in 1920 in Hemsby in Norfolk and is still privately owned by the Potter family to this day which I think is really special. It is known as being the first permanent and mixed use holiday camp in the UK. In those days, accomodation was in timber huts although that was still an upgrade from the 'under canvas' camps of that time.
In 1924 Potters moved to Hopton-on-Sea and Potters Beach Camp was born, the site is still used today and is also home to the Potters HQ! Then in 2021, Potters Resorts acquired a new site and in 2022 Potters Resorts Five Lakes opened. In 2023, it was recognised by VisitEngland as a 5* Holiday Village (Hopton-on-Sea has held this accolade since 2003).
Potters Resorts, headed up by John Potter, are proud of their heritage and thrive on positive, word of mouth recommendations. Guests re-book time and time again and talking to staff at Five Lakes, they are clearly happy in their jobs and looked after very well.
Arriving at Potters Resorts Five Lakes
We've not had a holiday in this area ever! My father grew up in Essex so this coast is familiar to him but we've. only ever been to Colchester to pick up our puppies as the breeder lives nearby! We were lucky to travel on a beautiful sunny autumn day, and the journey through the countryside was so much prettier than I expected. Potters Resorts Five Lakes is only 20 minutes from the seaside (well the Estuary) and Mersea Island, more on that further down!
Five Lakes occupies a massive area of countryside with a long drive leading up to the main buildings, there is a golf centre and spa that serves day visitors as well as the resident guests. There is plenty of parking and it is easy to pull up outside reception to drop off luggage if so desired.
Checking in was very simple and we were made to feel super welcome. Staff explained that every guest or group is allocated their own table for dining and a friendly young staff member showed us where our table was located and explained how to get to our Village Room. If you are a first time guest you can join an organised tour of the resort to get your bearings, it is large but not overwhelmingly so and we found our way around easily.
All optional but the traditional games area is super fun!
Accomodation at Potters Resorts Five Lakes
We chose to stay in their peaceful Village Rooms which are located away from the main buildings, probably a 2-5 minute walk depending on which room you are in. We decided on a Village Room because I love being outdoors and our very spacious Deluxe Room came with a balcony with stunning views across the Potters owned 320 acres of Essex countryside. I was treated to mesmerising sunrises and sunsets and it was warm enough still to relax on the balcony with a cup of tea. However, if you have limited mobility or prefer not to have to step outside in the cooler months to walk to the dining room or entertainment area, then there are lots of fabulous rooms in the main hotel.
Our deluxe room really was big! It also had a massive bed! The bathroom was spacious and clean and had both a bath and a shower (the shower cubicle has a step up to it so if you need easier access then you'd need to request this). The balcony had a small table and two chairs and wall-to-wall glass doors making the room bright and welcoming. We were very comfortable for our 3 night stay and the housekeeping staff were helpful and friendly, the room was impeccably clean and electric sockets and mirrors were all in the right places, always a bonus.
Dining in The Eden Restaurant
The restaurant is split into three areas, so it does not feel too big and maintains a cosy intimacy. Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks are included in the price of your stay - and any drinks you would like, yes even alcohol. Our allocated table had a lovely view of the golf course. Dining is either from the servery or can be brought to your table, there are two menus depending on your preference. The servery always had a roast option and a curry-style dish. The 'à la carte' menu offers a choice of 2-3 starters, 2-3 mains and there is a separate dessert menu. Food is plentiful but servings are not ridiculously big either. Breakfast has a buffet style continental option or traditional english and lunch offers lighter choices and a salad buffet. Meal times are set and dinner finishes at 8 pm to allow you to enjoy the evening entertainment if you so wish, but there is absolutely no pressure to vacate the table if you don't want to.
Wine or prosecco is served to your table by the glass or for other options you need to order at the bar. Water is available at every table.
The restaurant staff were fantastic, a special mention to Elena who looked after us, she was happy to stop and chat and make recommendations for where to visit. Elena explained why we had been sat in traffic on our way to Mersea Island (it was high tide and the road has to close for a few hours)! So the next day we tried again but first we asked reception to guide us on tide times!
Activities, entertainment, the golf course and spa!
Games - so much to do, if you want to do it! On Friday evening we had a wander around the enormous games area! Nicola, the Reservations Manager, showed us around and explained that the vast area had originally been used for weddings, markets and other big events but when Potters Resorts took over they converted it for games such as indoor bowls, dancing, table tennis and darts. There was also traditional games like Jenga, Ping Pong and Connect 4. This area houses a studio used for workouts, yoga and dancing.
Theatre - The Glade Theatre hosts the Potters Theatre Company and offers some impressive evening entertainment - we decided to try out the 'Born in the USA' show on Saturday night and wow what energy, colourful costumes and amazing talent! The main evening show starts at 9.30 pm and lasts for one hour but there are all sorts of options before and after - like a 'Name That Tune' competition! Drinks are served at your table within the theatre, you need to place your order at the order point just outside the theatre, this is the only time we struggled a bit with the service, drinks were taking some time to arrive, but like anything feedback is essential and hopefully improvements can be made. There were certainly plenty of staff so I am not sure what was causing the backlog. We worried about getting a seat but the theatre is spacious and there is plenty of seating available for all.
Spa - on Saturday morning, I booked in for a Full Body Massage at The Spa which has an impressive 12 treatments rooms, a beautiful relaxation area and an outside terrace. You can book a day spa package and have afternoon tea too! I loved my massage and it was the perfect way to relax. There is also an indoor swimming pool and gym.
Golf - The Lakes Golf Course seemed very popular, neither me or my husband are golfers but it was busy and as part of your break you can upgrade and enjoy Par-3 Golf at the 18 hole championship course, which has had a £1 million pound investment into it since Potters Resorts took over in 2022. There is also a driving range.
Outdoor activities - the activity field offers fun options like Rally Karts, Archery and Rifle Shooting. There is an extensive activity schedule that you can pick and choose from with something to suit all ages and abilities! We spent Sunday afternoon checking it out and had fun driving golf buggies, playing with frisbees and watching the archery. It does get quite busy at peak times and we chose not to join the queue for the rifle range so it is a good idea to arrive early if you are super keen to have a go! I fancied the rowing boats but they were closed on Sunday, my mistake, I should have gone on Saturday!
Bars - there are several areas where you can relax with a cup of tea, coffee or your favourite tipple. The Orangery has a variety of tabletop games like chess and draughts. The Garden Bar and Lounge has different entertainment options going on throughout the day and evening. And The Lake View Lounge overlooks the golf course and offers an outside area with panoramic views. The Garden Terrace hosts live music on the outdoor stage during the summer months.
Everything is very relaxed, the hotel feels spacious and quiet despite it being full, every table was occupied in the restaurant, we had no problem getting a table in any of the bar areas.
Enjoying the surrounding area
For me personally, I love to explore a new area and I didn't want to be confined to the hotel resort so on Saturday we set off to find the seaside! I hadn't done much research beforehand, life has been very busy, so I wasn't exactly sure where we were, only that Five Lakes is near Colchester.
Well it is actually located in the stunning Blackwater Estuary National Nature Reserve with Mersea Island only 20 minutes drive away and Brightlingsea a little further at about 40 minutes. As mentioned above our original plan to visit West Mersea was aborted due to high tide making Mersea Island inaccessible at certain times but we weren't deterred and carried on along the coast to Brightlingsea.
My dad remembers visits to Brightlingsea when he was a child in the 1940s ... it is situated on the mouth of the River Colne and is a small coastal town with a safe beach and a wonderful promenade to enjoy. But of course the Beach Huts are the highlight, We wandered along choosing which one we'd buy, we were very jealous of the family groups sitting down to their fish and chips or enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of tea, while reading a book and soaking up the views. It was a peaceful and enjoyable few hours.
Then on Sunday, having checked the tide times with the Potters Resorts reception, we headed to Mersea Island and loved it just as much, if not more! With mile and miles of the prettiest Beach Huts, this is Britain's most easterly inhabited island, it feels like somewhere the Famous Five would go for an adventure. It is approached by a causeway that does sometimes get cut off from the mainland, We headed straight to West Mersea, which is oyster territory and is full of shops, guesthouses, bars, beach huts and caravans. But it doesn't feel at all overly commercial and life is simple and relaxing, it was so peaceful. I watched a young family pitch up with their toddler son and he was in his element playing on the beach while they relaxed at the front of their beach hut - what a glorious childhood activity.
While at West Mersea, we were admiring a particularly pretty row of beach huts, and when researching to write my blog post, I discovered you can hire a beach hut for the day! I did that once before when I stayed near Lymington, but these are next level! Must make a note to book one next summer!
The drive there and back through the pretty countryside was glorious, helped by sun and our open top car! We stopped at the pub on the way back before arriving back at Potters Resorts Five Lakes in time for a late lunch and the afternoon activities.
The perfect weekend getaway at Potters Resorts Five Lakes
Having not really known what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised, we never felt under any pressure to join in games or entertainment or talk to anyone! But the other guests were friendly and happy to chat if we wanted to. The staff were non-obtrusive but on hand always smiling and welcoming. We loved the Essex countryside and the pretty Blackwater Estuary. Sitting on our balcony watching the sun go down was an added bonus.
Potters Resorts Five Lakes is a step up from the holiday camps of yesteryear but still offers the option to enjoy a little something more, the live entertainment was first class and the hotel was comfortable and customer service brilliant. We enjoyed laughing at our attempts to master the activities or try the games!
We loved seeing larger family and friends groups coming together to celebrate special occasions, there was a 50th birthday, a 51st anniversary and a 30th anniversary, a 77th birthday celebration, a coach group from Windsor but also lots of other couples where maybe the wife was there to relax at the spa and husband was making use of the golf course. You could dress up if you wanted to, there were plenty of sparkly party outfits or you can dress down a little and be comfortable in flat shoes! You could talk to your neighbours or keep yourself to yourself, you could join in the activities or go out and explore, there was no pressure at all to do anything but what you wanted to do.
Feedback from other guests was positive too. We overhead one gentleman saying that the entertainment is much better than at *a competitor*! And the lady from Windsor told us that she thinks Five Lakes is one of the best and they always enjoy their visits!
After a very busy few weeks, with our empty nest suddenly being very full again, we enjoyed getting away and exploring Essex so much. Our daughter is back having finished her year in London, she is now job hunting. Our son has had a few personal things to deal with so has been staying with us quite a lot and my hormones have crashed again, when does life get easier? I thought by now I'd be taking it all a bit easier! But add in worries about older parents and a post-pandemic lull in my husbands business and the stress is real.
Thank you Potters Resorts for looking after us.
Disclaimer: our 3 night stay at Potters Resorts was gifted to us and my blog review is a sponsored post, all opinions and words are my own.
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