A holiday in the forest
We are just back from a week at Elveden Forest Centerparcs with our two year old. We took it as a respite from the daily grind of February in the UK. Honestly, February is the worst month of the year. January is grim, after the excitement and cheer of Christmas, but by the time February rolls around, getting up and going home in the dark is starting to wear PREEEETY thin. In pre-LP times, we jetted off for a sneaky bit of sun in Lanzarote, to take a week off the tail-end of winter, but it’s not so easy or stress free to holiday abroad with a toddler.
This is why we resorted (see what I did there?) to Centerparcs, which is wonderfully set up for families. We have been before, but not to the Elveden one. I was drawn there following my Google searches on “which Centerparcs is the best” and the promise of muntjac deer as well as the obligatory waterfowl and squirrels. As you can see from the pictures below, we were rewarded with visits from the deer, hand-feeding them from the patio door, and took some time in the great outdoors.
The muntjac mini deer at Centerparcs Elveden Forest. It’s like Disney or something. See the majestic stag, bottom right.
Centerparcs is great for young families. You will be surrounded by babies and toddlers if you visit outside of the school holidays and enjoy exchanging weary smiles with other families, as they plead with and carry their small children sideways out of the ParcMarket. It’s brilliant because it is set up with families in mind, so you don’t feel like the inconvenient ones making a scene – you blend in.
Some of these amenities include a soft play area in pretty much every eatery, a baby station with a microwave and free baby food, children’s activities suitable from 4 months and creche and babysitting facilities, if you want to escape the little darlings for a while. We took advantage of the babysitting one night and had a lovely Irish grandmother, called Carmel, come while we ate dinner in Cafe Rouge, played a game of Tenpin bowling and overindulged on daiquiris.
And of course there is the Subtropical Swimming Paradise – don’t forget. For the uninitiated, this is a swimming pool / water slide attraction under a glass dome, heated to balmy temperatures surrounded by all the plastic chairs your heart could desire. Swimming is exciting enough for my two year old, but there is also a children’s water play area with mini slides, paddling pools and waterjets, a wave pool and a saltwater lagoon. Plus the slides! We were delighted that at over 24 months, LP was old enough to accompany us down the tubes, seated astride BP like Mowgli on Baloo in the Jungle Book. “Go again” became his new favourite phrase.
LP and BP on the fast green one
Frustratingly I didn’t take any pictures in there because I put off risking my phone in the water and then forgot. But we did spend £15.00 on a pair of key rings featuring a really poor quality picture of LP having the time of his life in armbands. That is the rub with Centerparcs – the prices are not cheap. We did a shop at the local Sainsburys instead of stocking up at the Centerparcs market and that saved some money. But the restaurants and bars are all pretty expensive.
We did a couple of activities that were suitable for ages two and up – the and Baby Owls. We failed the golden rule of keeping toddlers well rested and fed and brought a tired, hungry LP to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. This involved us feeding him pom bears to try and keep him happy as we followed the group leader around a set of rabbit footprints to someone dressed in a full rabbit costume. He was too terrified to have his picture taken and I have to question why they didn’t get a bear costume. He ate jam sandwiches with the other kids as they “listened” to a story and was given a little teddy to take home. We called it quits shortly after he squeezed a juice box all over the picnic blanket *facepalm*.
Baby Owls was more of a hit. They brought out a huge Malaysian owl for the kids to see, then released three baby owls into the room who delighted everyone by flying around and landing on the laps of adults. LP was so delighted he was squealing. This was all well and good until he tried to share his drink with one of the owls by shouting “Here you go!” and throwing his cup at it. Luckily there was no injury.
Have you ever seen fear in the eyes of an owl before?
My other favourite moments included:
- LP putting his hands in the air and shouting “Centerparcs, yeah!” when we pulled into the service station halfway through our journey
- The spontaneous, alternative version of Twinkle Twinkle he started singing with a little girl in the soft play, finished with a resounding, “Twinkle, twinkle CENTERPARCS!”
- LP getting his groove on in the children’s disco (aka, running around and screaming non-stop like a loon for 45 minutes)
- LP getting to grips with his first round of adventure golf
- Toasting marshmallows on the fire at the lodge
The budding Rory McIlroy at work
All in all, we’ll definitely be back to Elveden Forest Centerparcs. All that fun, water and fresh air has left me with a cold though… so maybe we’ll go back when it’s warmer next time.