Andy Ffrench visits one of the Dream Lodge sites in Sussex and finds that times have changed, loving his trip

Fifty years ago staying at a caravan park could be a rather primitive affair.

The good news is that five decades on, staycationers can still enjoy the peace and quiet of such countryside locations while enjoying a level of luxury they might not experience at home.

The Dream Lodge Group runs a number of parks around the country and many stay open all year round, and as their lodges no longer look or feel like caravans and are fitted out with all the mod cons, you can whack the heating up as far as it will go and settle in for a marvellous mini break, or weekend away with the kids.

The group has been celebrating 50 years as a business and now has sites across the country in Sussex, Norfolk, Essex, Cornwall and Devon while a new park near Newbury, is on the cards.

We got an invite to stay at a dream lodge at Woodlands Park near Hastings, in East Sussex.

Following a three-hour drive taking in the M25 and the A21, we arrived at the park, situated in idyllic countryside, with sheep grazing almost on the doorstep of our La Belle Maison lodge.

The lodge featured a comfortable lounge with widescreen TV, a very modern kitchen with a useful central bar area, and two cosy bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.

Unlike some holiday companies The Dream Lodge Group does not go into meltdown when the phrase “three children” is uttered and simply adds in a camp bed or sofa bed whenever they are required.

According to the company the classic design of La Belle Maison “mixes a typical French home with the class of a luxury chateau in the South of France, suitable for both residential and holiday occasions”.

But there really is no need to oversell these lodges with fancy phrases – they are very comfortable places to stay, perfect for a break from the rat race, and come in several different shapes and sizes.

Next time round we might try the Casa di Lusso, The Beachcomber or The Tuscany, depending on which park we visit next.

After unpacking we enjoyed a walk in the countryside around Woodlands Park which is is well situated for visits to Hastings, Rye and the town of Battle.

Keen to remind my two lads of how Harold was no match for the French in 1066, we drove a few miles to the quiet town of Battle, which marks the site of the infamous invasion.

And having filled them in at the visitor centre, I was then firmly reminded that the main focus of the day’s itinerary was to be a visit to the zoo, so we left Battle and headed to another local attraction, Drusillas Park.

Drusillas Zoo is in Alfriston, East Sussex, which is about 30 minutes away from Woodlands Park if you avoid the coast road.

Drusillas was celebrating its 90th anniversary and started out in 1925 when the late Captain Douglas Ann bought a derelict farm and 20 acres of land and opened the cottage to sell teas to passing motorists.

He named the tea rooms after his first wife Drusilla, adding attractions and animals to help bring people in.

The first animals included a kangaroo, a chimpanzee, and a ring-tailed lemur called Georgina.

By the 1990s Drusillas had become one of the biggest attractions in Sussex and was taken over by Laurence and Christine Smith in 1997.

It was packed out when we visited on a Sunday and although the large play area and Hello Kitty secret garden are a big draw for young children, they will happily spend hours peering at the wide variety of exotic animals and birds cared for by staff at Drusillas.

Our own favourite – Google it – was the Binturong.

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Hailing from the tropical rain forests of South-East Asia, the Binturong looked like a cross between a fox and cat and crawled rather slowly along the branches in its cage.

Returning that evening to our spacious lodge, it was a welcome retreatt after our busy day and easy to relax in its spacious interior and exterior, the hot tub having the most magnificent views.

Indeed, Woodlands Park is ideal for a weekend break and ideally I would have stayed for a lot longer.

La Belle Maison won the Ultimate Lodge of the Year award in 2013, but next time we might reach The Summit lodge, which is apparently even more luxurious.

The Summit lodges promise “open plan living areas furnished in a style which exudes elegance and charm, with plenty of Tibetan and Himalayan influences”.

Fixtures and fittings include Jacuzzi baths, king-size beds and underfloor heating.

After visiting a Dream Lodge it will be a long hard road back to the humble caravan and as we left vowed to return to the land of Sussex’ Dream Lodges and its historic battles and Binturongs.

A night in a La Belle Maison Lodge will cost £150 to £180 out of season, but prices depend on the park you are staying in.

For further information speak to The Dream Lodge Group on 0845 123 6333.