Just a short UK one – we decided to go on a mid week break to Forest Holidays at Sherwood Pines, and had a lovely time.
I’ve never been to Center Parcs, but my understanding of it is that Forest Holidays is a bit like Center Parcs, with slightly plusher accommodation, but fewer on site activities (eg they don’t have a swimming pool on site). The clincher for us was that we could have a cabin with a hot tub of our own for some chill out time after the kids were in bed – whoop! If you’re going all out then there are even cabins with ‘tree house’ master bedroom suites, but we stayed in one of their ‘Golden Oak’ 2 bedroomed cabins.
The cabins themselves were spacious and smart, with underfloor heating, terrace with BBQ area as well as the hot tub, and wifi included with the entertainment package we bought in advance. You can arrange extras such as beauty treatments and a chef to come to your cabin, and even order a pizza through your TV! The only downsides were that there wasn’t space in the second bedroom to put up the travel cot we’d brought, and the lack of oven gloves in the kitchen!
It’s unusual for us to go on holidays that aren’t jam packed with day trips and places to go from start to finish, and before we got there I did my usual googling and asking around to see where we should go. But once we arrived we soon decided to take things easy and enjoy the forest rather than jumping in the car every 5 minutes.
The Forest Holidays site is a short (10 minute) walk from the main Sherwood Pines visitor centre, with a variety of play areas, walks and cycle paths. My last experience of Sherwood Pines was about 3 years ago, running a 10k race after a quite literally sleepless night with a toddler G. This time was somewhat more relaxing!
A couple of times during our stay we left the pram behind and popped C in one of our carriers to go and explore the forest. We followed one of the shorter walks at the visitor centre which was just right for G, with enough to entertain her on the way round including a rainforest discovery theme, a couple of play areas and a den building area. She also loved being just like Dora the Explorer and taking charge of the map and directions!
One of the unique offerings at Forest Holidays is the on site Forest Ranger, who can take you on tours of the forest to see wildlife, learn how to survive in the wild etc. We booked G onto the ‘young explorers’ walk on the Thursday which she absolutely loved – they saw deer footprints, all kinds of different trees (including one that had been struck by lightning, and another which was a scratching post for the local deer), a fox’s den, and picked up lots of bugs on their way round which they then built a bug hotel out of sticks and leaves to put them in. At the end of the walk they collected pine cones that they painted in The Retreat (the main cafe/shop/office for the site). It ended up taking a good chunk of the afternoon and was excellent value for the £8 cost.
We did do a couple of trips out – one to the Thaymar Ice Cream Farm Shop (they had dairy/soya free ice cream as well as a baby who shares C’s birthday so it’s now my favourite place in the world!), and one to Sherwood Forest itself. The latter had a neat cafe (but no dairy free treats sadly), and another lovely walk through the forest to see the famous Major Oak tree, again a walk just short enough for G to manage without too much moaning.
We ummed and ahed over whether we should let G have a go in the hot tub at the cabin and after looking up the guidelines decided to let her in a few times for short periods. She loved playing with the resident rubber duck, but the hot tub mostly remained our post bedtime treat, complete with a glass of bubbly and, er, the baby monitor on the side.
We went back to Sherwood Pines at the end of our holiday to do the mini Gruffalo trail which, whilst not on a par with the one at the Forest of Dean, was still good fun and a lovely way to round off the trip.
All in a we had a fabulous time and would highly recommend it!
We paid for our trip with our own pennies and weren’t given any incentives to write about it, we just had a great time and wanted to share!