We stayed here for august bank holiday, arriving on Thursday to meet with family. Unfortunately we made the mistake of arriving early, we had a long drive to get to Derbyshire and gave ourselves plenty of time, but we had a really good run which resulted in us arriving earlier than expected. Now for first impressions, I have to say the owner (please see footnote) of this site really let the park and himself down. On entering the reception and waiting a few moments I was subjected to the rudest most abrupt greeting I could ever have imagined. I was told in no uncertain terms that the site was not open yet and when I apologised for our early arrival and explained my family had arrived and booked in at a similar time a few days earlier, he abruptly said he didn’t care what anyone had told me. The owner then said he ‘supposed’ he could let us into the car park to wait, however I already knew that our pitch was vacant and although did not expect to be allowed on did not really relish sitting in a car park with 2 kids and the dog stuck in the van so keeping my cool whilst his unpleasantness continued, advised him that if our early arrival posed a problem we would happily go off site and come back a bit later, at this point he advised me he would rather we left!. Okay we were wrong, made a mistake but there is no justification for rudeness. To be honest had it not been for the extremely long journey we had made and the fact our family were already there we would not have returned. However we felt we had no option, especially as the kids were so looking forward to being at this site, as it appeared to be wonderful from the website and claims made as to the pride that is taken in the site and making peoples stay the best they can, accommodating needs wherever possible? surely this must include customer service? but obviously not, if so maybe he would have accommodated our inadvertent early arrival!.
So, anyway, off we went for 90 minutes and thankfully on return we were met and booked in by a member of staff who was much more courteous and had some degree of customer service. Thank you, I don’t know your name, but thank you anyway! Putting the earlier incident behind us, we looked forward to getting to our pitch; however I was soon to be faced with another situation that was less than pleasing. The guy that booked us in enquired whether we would be leaving site at all during our stay, to which I confirmed we would be, he then told me that because the site was to be busy over the bank holiday weekend, the double hardstanding pitch that we were to share with my familys unit may also be used for the purpose of other peoples parking, I queried this and told him that our awnings would still be on site so why should anyone park there?, well it turns out that you are not permitted to park your car on the grass next to your tents and have to leave them on the stone road/track that goes around the site, therefore as it was busy the front of our pitch may also be used for parking meaning we could either be blocked in or worse still not be able to return our campervans to our pitch – incredible!. In order to try to prevent this eventuality we backed our van directly up to the side of my sisters van with our awning on the grass in order that we would not get blocked in, this left approximately 2/3rds of our joint pitch open for other campers cars. When we left site I had to place a sign and rope of an area in order we could get back in.
By now I was starting to feel very unrelaxed about the whole idea of being at golden valley, I have to say that the kid’s areas are very good and one of our kids enjoyed the train ride at the weekend but that is as far as the positives went for us. The facilities are probably adequate in number so why spoil the site with unsightly blue hired loos that aren’t erected level anyway? The single WC near to us didn’t lock so we girls didn’t use it, but apparently it wasn’t very appealing anyway. The ladies toilet and shower area did not smell or look very fresh on arrival but they were soon cleaned in time for the bank holiday arrivals on the Friday. Unfortunately as the facilities are kept open whilst cleaning is taking place, they perhaps don’t get the attention they need and I have to say looked a little grubby, the decor is also quite dull, not very light and airy especially as there are no windows in the block. But on the positive side at least you get to control the temperature and power of the water in these showers, which is quite a novelty at campsites! One of my main concerns regarding the facilities is that a male cleaner attended to the ladies and there was no warning sign of this, so ladies and young girls please be aware of this as he was in there at the busiest time of the day. Another thing I noticed, along with the simply hundreds of signs that adorn this site there is no smoking signs in the facilities, the cleaner obviously could not read this, I smelt cigarette smoke wafting in whilst I was showering and afterwards witnessed him entering other parts of the block again smoking – I doubt a visitor would have got away with that.
This site is quite attractive however I have to say that the multitude of signs everywhere spoils the look, with up to 6 signs on most posts and many on the beautiful trees is just over the top and some are quite conflicting, for instance one will say strictly no disposable BBQ’s on this site, the next says keep them of the grass??. We all agree rules and notices are required but for instance in the shower rooms, they are in duplicate even triplicate saying the same thing. The attractive wooden lodge building is totally adorned with unsightly signs, less is more I think! Another area that let this site down is the filthy state of some of the seasonal caravans pitched there, the awnings and vans are badly discoloured and very dirty from the dark rubble/slag that makes up the hardstanding area, surely this could be addressed?.
The staff were constantly buzzing around in farm gator style vehicles and pickups, they attended to the site well emptying bins etc, but on the first day we were there, none of them kept below the sites 5 or 10mph limit, the site may have been quieter prior to the upcoming weekend but there were still kids on site, if you want your visitors to abide by rules, your staff should set an example.
The bank holiday meant that the site must have been to full capacity or even over, and for all the rules and regulations here it is a pity that the site itself cannot keep to maybe the most important regulation of all and that is the distance between units, some tents were barely 2-3meters apart, a 20foot/6m firebreak is required by law, thank god nothing happened. Unfortunately for us, our pitch and view were ruined with other peoples cars parked so close to us and on the Friday night we were all awoken by someone moving their car out shortly before 3am and then returning again a little while later, hence not a good night’s sleep. I would have made complaint about this but to be honest I didn’t feel that the owner would be very approachable given my initial encounter therefore we didn’t make comment.
This site is expensive, as you have to pay for the kids as they are not included in the pitch price, plus you also have to pay for dogs (fair enough), thankfully we did not take our gazebo as it would have bumped up the price by an additional £10 per night!. Don’t get me wrong, we knew the site was probably one of the most expensive sites we have ever stayed on when we booked but thought it would be worth it, but no it wasn’t, it was not a good camping experience and after 10 years of annual visits to Derbyshire, we were really let down with this one, I have to say it is not a site that I would recommend and no we would not return. In fact, we packed up and left a day early, as did my sisters family.
What a shame that instead of going away with praise for what could be a really lovely site our memory of it is tainted by the unpleasantness and unprofessionalism that we encountered here.
Please note: further to writing this review, I would like to point out that the owner of the site, Darren, has telephoned me in order to discuss the content of my review, during a fairly lengthy conversation he pointed out that it was not he whom I had met on first arrival but a member of his team. Whilst I consider it right to add this information to my review, I still feel that my points are valid.