Center Parcs at Sherwood Forest and Why it didn’t work for us
My husband and I (with our two boys aged 4 and 6) are quite outdoorsy people, we love walking, camping, sailing etc. however have never been to Center Parcs. Why not, I hear you ask? Well, simply that we prefer to organise things ourselves, so we’ll happily stay in a house in the countryside and go walking, sailing, climbing, play sports but under our own steam. However, I was curious, after all so many people I know who have been love it, so when a group of University friends suggested it as our annual family weekend away, we agreed.
We decided on Sherwood Forest, which was fairly central for all of us, so we decided on the first weekend of the summer holidays – maybe this was our first downfall! Prior to arriving I found the run up to involve a lot of organising; there was food to try and organise (as we couldn’t do our usual supermarket shop), activities (some of which seem to get booked up well in advance!) and bikes (we could only fit 3 on our bike rack). Although it took some co-ordination between 4 families, this isn’t a criticism as I’ve no idea how else it could be done and it did help that we had pre-planned certain things.
We arrived, and after a superb greeting, made our way to the lodges (we had two between the whole group). Herein starts our first challenge … sign posts! I appreciate that it’s hard to find your way around such a large site, but it took us two days before we had our bearings. The sign posts seemed very random, not always signing the same thing and generally got us very frustrated especially while on our bikes!
The lodges had a good layout and adequate space. It looked like they had been updated a few years ago, but I found them to be shabby. Certain areas of Center Parcs were filthy e.g. the skylight in the bathroom, sinks in the toilets in the swimming pool area. It gave a general feel of not really being looked after, just superficial cleaning.
The activities, and the people running them, were superb. The boys went climbing, ten-pin bowling, did cross-bow and fencing, and cycled everywhere. The swimming pool was a big draw, but unfortunately it was for everyone. This brings me onto our second frustration – it was SO busy. Before you say it, it was the first weekend of summer … but people told me that because of the clever layout it wouldn’t feel as busy as it was … I’m afraid it did. The worst place for this was the pool, where you couldn’t walk anywhere without having to squeeze past people.
Generally we did enjoy it (the boys especially), but I feel that in charging for everything it took some of the fun out of it. I felt that the accommodation itself wasn’t cheap (£450 for three nights for the four of us), but then once you add on all the extras you’ve easily hit £700! Things like £6.50 for a table tennis bat just took the biscuit I’m afraid.
The good bits:
- The boys learnt how to ride their bikes without stabilisers for it and loved cycling everywhere.
- It was safe for them to cycle everywhere
- The activities and the people running them
The bits we didn’t enjoy
- The cost, and extras
- The sheer volume of people
- It just felt tired and lacking a bit of love!
NB: Emma and her family are regular contributors to Mini Travellers.