Travel review: Fun left, right and Center - Emily Bridgewater visits Woburn Forest Center Parcs
It was a random song to teach a two-year-old child, except – with a slight tweak – it seemed entirely fitting of the occasion.
And at least it gave us some welcome relief from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or Baa Baa blooming Black Sheep.
As I whizzed round the cycle paths of Woburn Center Parcs on two wheels with my daughter sat inside the trailer in tow, she belted out ‘back in the wagon again’ to the tune of cowboy entertainer Gene Autry’s Back in the Saddle Again. For her, being inside ‘the wagon’ was one of the holiday’s highlight.
However, there were many others during our four-night break at Center Parcs’s newest site.
It opened in June 2014 and still feels dazzlingly new; our three-bedroom Woodland Lodge was so immaculate it felt as if we were its first occupants.
We holidayed with friends – another family of three – and despite having two energetic toddlers there was loads of room for them to play, while the adults relaxed.
With luxurious fixtures and fittings, and kitchen boasting integrated appliances, it’s a real home-from-home; the type of place you could spend a lot of time – if there wasn’t a million other things to do.
Each of the UK’s five Center Parcs sites is set amongst hundreds of acres of natural woodland with top quality accomodation, facilities and activities appointed sympathetically to the environment. Lodges vary from standard Woodland Lodges to the uber-luxurious Treetops (opening at Woburn this September) however, whichever grade you opt for you’re in for a treat.
On arrival to our accommodation we were greeted with a welcome grocery pack with essentials for our stay, such as eggs, bacon, bread and milk as well as treats like chocolate biscuits and Walker’s crisps. And while the kitchen provided the perfect cooking environment, the lure of the onsite restaurants was too great. With branches of Las Iguanas, Café Rouge, Strada and Starbucks, plus a host of others we were spoiled for choice and ate out frequently.
We enjoyed delicious meals in family-friendly environments; Strada has a lovely soft play area which I couldn’t drag my little one away from even with the promise of chocolate ice cream, meanwhile Las Iguanas had a dinky room with interactive games suitable for tots. As well as eating our way around the complex, we managed to factor in lots of activities too. Hiring bikes – or taking your own – is a must to enjoy the breathtaking landscape, as well as easily reach the site’s vast facilities. That said, Woburn Center Parcs was smaller and more accessible than a couple of the other Center Parcs we’ve visited – Sherwood Forest and Longleat – but, for me, this only added to its appeal. It would be perfect during the winter months too, when a warm destination is even more appealing. A large lake – home to a variety of watersports such as kayaking, paddle boarding and pedaloes – is at the heart of the site. It proved a popular spot for our little ones who could feed the ducks and play on the woodland playground while we enjoyed a Stabucks caffeine fix, or pop to the well-stocked ParcMarket for groceries.
Daily trips to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise were top of the agenda as the children loved it – almost as much as the adults.
The vast indoor pool area is home to a lazy river, shallower children’s area with water spouts and gentle slides, outside wild water rapids and heart-stopping chutes. There are family-sized cabanas if you want to treat yourself to some private relaxation space, and two cafés if hunger strikes. The thrilling water rides were spectacular; Tropical Cyclone proving particularly memorable – my other half certainly won’t forget me bellowing: ‘I can’t believe you’ve brought me on this’. Although call me a glutton for punishment, I did return for a second go.
Equally thrilling was our encounter with the baby owls up at the falconry in which an experienced member of staff introduced us to some of the smaller birds of prey.
If that’s not your cup of tea, then there are more than 200 other activities to try out from pottery painting and paintballing to cupcake decorating and quad biking – options are endless and easy to book at hubs dotted across the site.
As a break from the mayhem of holidaying with toddlers we all took time out in Aqua Sana, the fabulous onsite spa. With three floors of scented steam rooms, saunas, relaxation areas and more, Woburn’s spa is the largest across the five sites.
The outdoor swimming pool, with its Jacuzzi-style jets and peaceful views of the surrounding woodland, was simply sublime, while a massage in one of the treatment rooms proved essential for sleep-deprived parents.
And afterwards it meant we could jump on our bikes and take in the challenging slopes with renewed gusto.
After four fabulous nights it really won’t be long before we’re returning – and we’re back in the wagon again . . .