A couple of weeks after returning from my short getaway to Rome, I was invited along by girlfriend and her family to join them for a long weekend away to the Elveden Forest Center Parcs. If you have never heard of Center Parcs before they are essentially a holiday and recreational company that operate holiday villages throughout the UK. The holiday villages themselves are situated within expansive areas of woodland, around 400 acres, and offer visitors the chance to reconnect with nature away from their busier city lives.
There are a variety of different accommodation styles to choose from depending on your preference and of course your budget. From new style exclusive lodges rocking everything from a hot tub and sauna, to more budget friendly options such as the comfort lodges that just offer the basic amenities. We were staying in a Woodland Lodge, towards the cheaper end of the scale, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the lodge and its modern interior. (A full lodge tour available here)
With all the lodges being situated within the heart of the forest, the local wildlife is very curious and they have come to learn that new arrivals, means the chance of food. Within 5 minutes our patio area was swamped with ducks, birds, squirrels and even a small deer. After feeding and getting attacked by a duck, we decided to leave the lodge and explore the village grounds.
All of the parks accommodation is centred around a main entertainment area that features badminton courts, ten-pin bowling and a sports bar as well as a number of restaurants, shops and Starbucks’ (There are so many, which was great for the free WiFi that wasn’t available in the lodge). It also houses the main swimming complex that is heated to a constant 29.5°C and has a number of slides, rapids and a wave machine which is free for everyone to enjoy.
Aside from the main entertainment complex, Center Parcs also offer a range of outdoor adventure activities for people to try throughout the forest. If you have ever wanted to try your hand at Archery, Quad Biking or Laser Clay Shooting then this is a great place to start. They also offer more relaxed activities such as Pottery Painting, Bird Watching and Wildlife Walks. And if you really want to relax they also have their own Aqua Sana spa onsite offering an assortment of treatments from massages to facials.
The best way to get around the huge park is to either bring your own bicycle or hire one on site. We chose to hire bikes and for one days rental the cost is £17, which is a bit steep so I recommend bringing your own if possible. Biking around the village is a great way to explore the forest and provides some much needed exercise if you chose to eat at the Pancake House like we did.
Overall I would say that Center Parcs provides a great alternative for people, who are not experienced campers, to reconnect with nature on their holidays. Although the prices for some of the activities may be a tad expensive, if you limit yourself to the activities you really want to do and take advantage of the free swimming complex, your wallet won’t take a beating.