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Posts Tagged ‘Elveden Forest’

Last week we spent Monday to Friday at Center Parcs in Cumbria – Whinfell Forest.

We are big Center Parcs fans, and have been twice to Elveden Forest (East Anglia) and once to Sherwood Forest (Nottingham) since Lilly was 10 months old.

This was our first time at Whinfell – Elveden being our favourite so far, but also being a ridiculously long drive from where we live in the North West. Whinfell is a much more civilised 1 hour 45 minutes away, and even that felt long enough! In fact, we made our first parental error of the holiday on the journey there – waiting too long before stopping at the services meaning Lilly fell asleep in the car and napped for 40 minutes – which came back to haunt us later!

Arriving at a rainey Whinfell Forest Center Parcs

First impressions of Whinfell were very good – plenty of parking (unlike Sherwood) and we really enjoyed walking in the rain in our waterproofs through the trees to discover the  Village Centre for the first time.

The Village Centre is all undercover, unlike Elveden, and, as there was plenty of rain showers the week we were there, it was just as well. We spent our first afternoon enjoying a rather large (and expensive) beer in Bella Italia and admiring the indoor water fountain before having a wander to see the Sports Plaza and enjoy a Starbucks on our travels.

The villas are a little different at Whinfell – as they were built when the park was an Oasis – and ours was a two storey wooden house. It looked lovely from the outside – much more aesthetically pleasing than the standard issue Center Parcs bungalows – but inside it could have done with a bit of a revamp – the white goods were a good 10 years old and the decor a little bit tired. We didn’t really mind that though, but could’ve done without the super creaky staircase and no downstairs loo which meant we spent most of our evenings trying not to need a wee in case going upstairs would wake up a very light sleeping toddler….

Our first night was not to be a peaceful one, as that illegal in-car nap formed a lethal cocktail with ‘First-night-in a new bedroom syndrome and resulted in, yes, you’ve guessed it, “I’m NOT tired!!” “I don’t LIKE my new bedroom!” There’s a squirrel at my window!!” “I’m SCARED!!”. We ended up bringing Lilly downstairs with us, which wasn’t too bad as she was chatting away and making us laugh. When 10pm came around, Lilly still wouldn’t go to sleep in her own bedroom alone, so Tony had to sleep in with her before she would settle.

When she woke up the next morning, early, lack of sleep had transformed her into A MONSTER with absolutely zero tolerance for anything and with with her emotions balanced on a knife edge…

But, before we fully comprehended just how terrible a mood she was in, we took the two girls swimming first thing in the morning. It was the first time Isla has been swimming, and she remained very serious looking throughout her short experience – then promptly fell fast asleep!

Tony took charge of Lilly while I got out with snoozy baby. In a fit of unusual recklessness, he decided to take Lilly on a rather big waterslide, which she seemed to enjoy first time around, despite getting water in her face. Second time around I watched – only to see both of them go right under the water in the plunge pool. A screaming Lilly soon emerged from the water – Tony (who was frantically holding Lilly up above the water while trying to steady himself) took another five seconds – Lilly was terrified!! Not a very good second waterslide experience but quite funny for a spectator (bad mummy!)

It all started to go a little bit wrong after that. Lilly wanted to go for a wee, so I walked with her to the changing rooms. On the way there, she slipped and managed to take me down with her, so that I landed right on top of her foot! She was screaming and I was panicking because I thought I’d broken her foot. I managed to carry her to the disabled toilets where Lilly said she couldn’t stand on her foot and then, in all the upset, did a wee all over the floor, all over herself, all over me! I had visions of hospital visits and plaster casts, but luckily after a while she calmed down and was able to walk again… phew.

Soon afterwards we decided to get out and have lunch. Bad mistake at 11.30, as every other family decided to do the same, so there were no changing rooms available, and people queueing waiting for them to become free. Isla started wailing – she wanted her bottle. Lilly started whinging – “I’m hungry, I want a snack, I’m hungry, I want a snack, I’m cold, I want a snack…” on and on and on.

In the end, I took Isla into the disabled toilets to dress her while Tony and Lilly found a too-small cubicle to get dressed and I fed Isla her bottle standing up – not very comfy!

We thought the worst was over once we got out of the pool – oh, how wrong. Lilly’s mood was awful, we couldn’t go five minutes without a tantrum. We had screaming, lying on the floor, “NO! NO! NO!”, hysterical crying, refusal to walk anywhere, running off, you name it, we had it. We gamely attempted a coffee in Starbucks and some soft play near the bowling alley (they have an big open area in the bar where they play CBeebies on a big screen all day!) By about 3 O’Clock we couldn’t cope with anymore public tantrums so we all went back to the villa and prayed Lilly would go to bed ok later. Luckily, 7pm came and she went to bed fine, on her own, so we breathed a massive sigh of relief and poured a large glass of wine…

I’m happy to report that the rest of the week passed off much more harmoniously. Better sleep meant we got our good girl back, for the most part, and we had lots of fun in the playgrounds and back at the CBeebies bar (genius idea, Center Parcs!) One of the other highlights was shopping in the supermarket with the mini trolley – Lilly absolutely loved it, and looked just too cute pushing it around the aisles and loading all the items onto the checkout.

Back at the villa, we hung out three bags of peanuts on the tree outside our window and watched all kinds of birds feast on them for three days. We also had pheasants and a red suirrel come to visit – and spotted a rabbit emerging from a large rabbit hole outside once too. While we were there we had loads of fun spotting different plants and trees with Lilly on mini ‘nature walks’ – there were loads of different types of mushrooms growing everywhere. Typical though, that the main thing that Lilly remembers from these little walks was an old discarded baby dummy: “we saw a dummy, didn’t we mummy?!”

On Thursday, we had my pretend birthday (it was my 30th on the Friday, when we were travelling back), so we ate our lunch at Bella Italia (delicious) and had a takeaway for our evening meal.

We also learnt, while out and about during the week, that Lilly can do a wee in the bushes if neccessary!

All in all, we had a great time, bar an extremely stressful second day. Sleep is absolutely the MOST important factor in determining Lilly’s behaviour, and Lilly’s behaviour is the one and only key to whether or not we have a wonderful day, or the day from hell!

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When we went a few weeks ago. Well, it was fab, as hoped. We went to Elveden Forest again, which is in Suffolk – so a three and a half hour drive for us with a potentially impatient 14 month old.

However, Lilly was an angel on both journeys – she slept for two hours on the way down, and an hour and a half on the way back, which is unprecidented! She was getting a little fed up by the end, but then again so were we grown ups.

Anyway, it was unbelievable how much snow was still on the ground down there. It had been a good few days since the last snowfall but it was still a couple of inches in places and the lakes were still largely frozen over. There was a snowman in our back garden!

This time we only stayed for a long weekend – Friday to Monday – instead of M0nday to Friday like last time. It did feel a little bit too short but i suppose only keeps us keen to go back for more.

The highlights of this trip were watching the ducks walking across the frozen ponds, Lilly laughing at the snow, seeing ducks & squirrels (who ate bread out of our hands) geese and a deer outside our windows, our ‘duraflame’ log fire on the last night and Lilly’s first soft play experience. She had an absolute whale of a time playing with a little girl of about 3 who kept jumping up and down and acting silly to make Lilly laugh. It was really gorgeous to watch!

Luckily, when he started pecking furiously, there was a patio door between them Luckily, when he started pecking furiously, there was a patio door between them

 

Once again it was a lovely and relaxing experience for Tony and I – i just cannot recommend the Center Parcs experience enough to fellow parents of young children. Amazingly, considering she has not done so for months and months, Lilly was still content to sleep in the pushchair for long after-lunch naps in very noisy environments (which is not something she does lightly) so we were able to chill out for a bit with some newspapers and watch the world go by. She also slept well in the villa – we had one teething related wake up on the first night – so we both had relaxing nights cuddling up in front of the telly with a nice glass of wine and our duraflame log fire!

Since i’ve got back to work i’ve been raving about it to all my colleagues – i expect the ones without children think i’m mad as they plan their gorgeous foreign trips! But two of them who have children have both been on the website looking for holidays – but decided it is too expensive. We were lucky enough to get a fairly reasonable last minute deal.

I have now decided that, WHEN we win the lottery, we are moving to Center Parcs. Can you imagine?!

Lilly enjoyed her bike but wasn't too impressed at sharing it with all the lunches and the shopping... Lilly enjoyed her bike but wasn’t too impressed at sharing it with all the lunches and the shopping…

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We’ve booked last night to go to Elveden Forest Center Parcs next weekend. We went a few months back, when Lilly was about 10 months, and had a lovely family time together. It was also extremely relaxing for Tony and I, something we didn’t think was possible with a young baby!

Lilly is crawling now (she was just on the verge of it last time we went) and she’ll be able to take advantage of the baby soft play areas dotted around the place, which will be good. We are all looking forward to a long weekend of relaxing, cycling, swimming, coffee and cakes, maybe a few sneaky ales and cosy nights in in front of the log fire… bliss.

Elveden was our third choice of park really, as it is a good three and a half hour drive, which is a bit of a trek, but the prices for Sherwood and Whinfell were astronomical because it’s half term and Valentines Day. But this deal popped up on the website last night (only one remaining!) so we decided to go for it.

Center Parcs is a really lovely place for a family holiday. All the convenience of being at home but all the enjoyment of being away. I really recommend it, especially for families with young children. But the prices vary wildly, so be warned.

Can’t wait!

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