Just over two years ago we were treated by my family to a weekend away at Center Parcs located in Sherwood Forest. We had just got married, had a very excited 3 year old, whilst I was almost half way through my pregnancy with our second child and so we couldn’t go somewhere exotic and this had seemed ideal. I immediately pictured Robin Hood and his Merry Men (I spent a lot of time watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves growing up and maybe just a little too much Robin Hood Men In Tights!) – and was really looking forward to some time away together as a family – which doesn’t happen that often as my hubby works alot, as even when he is at home he will whittle away the hours until the morning chorus still beavering away for work. This was to be an (almost) tech free holiday and no work allowed *Yey!*
We’d arrived late on Friday evening as my hubby was having to work and it was already dark when we finally arrived– even though you can enter the site earlier in the day and get the keys to your Chalet from 3pm. Getting in was quick at that time of day, but the car park was huge and almost fully packed making finding a parking space a little bit tricky! When booking your holiday it was possible to choose which chalet you wanted on site so at least we knew it wouldn’t be too far to get settled.
Our chalet was picture perfect and even though we couldn’t see much (as it was dark!) it immediately felt like we were in a home away from home. The décor did almost feel like we’d stepped through a wormhole to a different decade (it was built 20 odd years ago), though it was immaculate and still had all the modern mod cons. Our chalet consisted of two bedrooms, open plan kitchen with a dining and living area (with tv/radio facilities), family bathroom with bath and shower, a second bathroom, a secluded patio (with simple table/chairs/bbq area), and a fire place for a log burner (eeek!).
Early on Saturday morning, Pj woke us excitedly saying that there were bunny rabbits outside and ducks were knocking on the Patio windows. We weren’t expecting this, but it was awesome to be so close to nature – we later saw not just the rabbits but also all kinds of birds and some squirrels. It was great fun and so magical to just open the patio doors and enjoy the wildlife.
There were lots of activities on offer at Sherwood- both indoors as well as outdoors and also tailored to different age ranges and abilities. Most were at additional charge but quite a few weren’t -the extensive Subtropical Swimming Paradise was already included and completely free (result!). These additional activities could be booked on site as and when you felt like it as various booking stations throughout the site (providing they weren’t already fully booked) as well as through the internet well in advance to help spread the costs.
We had prebooked some horseriding for PJ in the morning. I was a little concerned as this was her first experience riding and on occasion she can become a little overstimulated. Thomas ; her horse was an older, experienced , easy going, reassuring and enjoyable ride-and his handler had a great way of making PJ feel at ease. So much so that we decided to book again for Sunday as luckily he wasn’t fully booked. There was also the chance to ride in a carriage as a family whilst enjoying the scenery, peace and quiet and the relaxing clippity clop sound of a large and beautiful horse.
Many restaurants on site offering various styles of food, Italian, French, pancakes and more. We’d planned to eat out once but as we were trying to keep costs to a minimum and the chalet was self catering with all the essential utensils available to cook with; so we went home for meal times. There was a mini supermarket available on site to purchase a wide range of groceries and household items that you might need during your stay. It was competitively priced which was great. Visiting it was a highlight of our holiday for our daughter as she loved that there were mini shopping trolleys that were a perfect in size for her to push around and help us with carry our shopping- which is something of a chore and boring for her normally. (Makes me wish all supermarkets had these!)
The swimming pool was a lovely set up with adequate changing rooms (single and larger family changing cubicles – very handy!), walk through showers then it was like walking out into a subtropical paradise (cliché I know but also true!) It was lovely warm atmosphere inside at a toasty 29.5 C (even though it was cold enough outside to see your own breath), with so many trees , various mini pools for different levels of ability for swimmers. From basic very shallow water for babies to sit in, to gradually deeper separate pools with slides as well as other fun features all the way up to a large pool which was like walking into the ocean –with its own wave machine no less! We tried to be prepared with our own swim aids but it was a nice touch to see that life vests were available for the little ones in different sizes (at no extra cost). It was clear to see that they were catering for people of all ages- with the plentiful patio chairs as well as numerous playpens dotted around.
We’d looked for a family activity that would be creative, relaxing and fun (as I couldn’t waddle very far without feeling tired from carrying bump) so had decided to book a session with the pottery painting studio. Everyone chose a pottery piece to decorate and settled down to the fun of decorating it. Pj had chosen a butterfly, I’d gone for a plant pot and saucer for my gardening and hubby had opted for a cute turtle. Our daughter finished hers quite quickly, whilst I tried to take care with mine I also didn’t want her to be sitting around long so hurried mine near the end. Hubbys turtle became a labour of love. He was clearly enjoying himself but took such a long time that he had to come back the next day to finish it in the morning! Then the moment of truth… they were to be put into a kiln for firing; which allows the decoration to become permanent, the colours to become vibrant and our treasures to become a reality. We were not disappointed!
On site at Sherwood they have a nature trail and wild creature observation points; one was behind mirrored glass allowing us to enjoy all kinds of birds while they visited bird feeders with out being disturbed by our presence. There were lots of hands on activities for little (and not so little people) to learn and explore. This activity was free and also available at the time for a small reasonable cost was the option of making a bird box (though this activity will no doubt vary depending on the time of year that you visit).
Another fantastic thing about Sherwood that we enjoyed was the number of play areas. They were suited to all ages with swings, seesaws, round abouts and a lot more. There were even musical steps which PJ had a lot of fun walking up and down and was sad when it was time to go home. As there were so many to chose from they never seemed over crowded and had plenty to keep us entertained. Our favourite was just inbetween our chalet and the beach area next to the lake, was so lovely to just be able to make sand castles and watch those daring enough in the cold to go out onto the water in the canoes, kayaks and windsurfs. They may have been chilly but were still smiling!
We only went for a weekend and only scratched the surface of what they had to offer at Sherwood Center Parcs, but it was enough to catch the bug and started planning our next stay and adventure with Center Parcs. 😀
Have you visited Center Parcs? Which locations have you visited and what did you think? Please comment below as I’d love to hear!!
(At the time that we visited Sherwood I did not know that I would be sharing some of our snaps online so apologies that they don’t do justice to just how much fun and how good the facilities were!)