Having never been to a Center Parcs before, I was more than a little nervous as to whether I’d make a good decision when confirming the booking for Elveden Forest back in March. On our final night here I thought I’d share with you how it went.
Several people at work swore by Center Parcs and one or two strongly recommended Elveden as a good first experience, with everything more or less central and the surrounding foot/cycle paths relatively flat.
I had also read a few reviews from parents with toddlers that gave me hope that we wouldn’t be short of things to do with Ella, who at the moment has more energy than an Elon Musk reincarnation of the Duracell Bunny.
We opted for an early check in just to beat the rush, and found it well worth the extra few quid. When you get there you drive to your lodge via a 1-way system, then drive back to a central car park where you leave the car until checkout.
We went for a basic woodland lodge and I must say it was superb. Very spacious, good layout, and lots of room for Ella to run about in. It had two bedrooms, two toilets, nice comfy sofa, tv in main room and master bedroom, modern kitchen area et al. Nice little bbq area out back with table and chairs and an indoor dining table too. Child cot and chair provided and cbeebies on the telly (hallelujah!). The more pricey lodges have games consoles, terraces, saunas, etc so maybe in the future we will try one, but this was perfect for us.
The park itself is set in an idyllic 400 acre woodland, with bats, deer, squirrel snakes, and a variety of other birds and bugs as proud residents. Reading that on a leaflet is one thing, but seeing baby deer stroll up to your patio door alongside a duck and a squirrel is certainly not something we are used to – and Ella loved it. The animals were less keen on Ella and her…enthusiasm.
Now I wouldn’t say Center Parcs is particularly cheap for a stay-cation, and the modular way of creating your holiday add-ons can make it more costly without you realising (the offline version of in-app purchases!). We’d booked a few activities for Ella to do several weeks prior to the holiday, and booked a few more upon arrival. We also hired bikes, and ate out a few times whilst there. Equally you can bring your own bikes, do a big food shop (either at their shop or supermarket a few miles away)and cook every night to save money that way. Just be prepared to spend a few bob on activities once there.
Ella was a bit too young for most of the activities for children (3yrs+ seems to be when they can do a lot more) but we still booked her up to swimming lessons, bike/trike sessions, pottery class, sensory play, baby football, meet the owls and a mucky pups session, all of which were well run and extremely enjoyable for Ella. They also have cresh facilities for various ages (that I was tempted to), but we didn’t use this time.
In between various sessions we would go for walks, go to the park, go swimming, or just chill out at the lodge. The swimming pool was superb, well heated and had a couple of toddler friendly areas, though again Ella was still a bit small for some of the slides, etc. The main pool was big, had a periodic wave machine, a few flumes and a big ‘cyclone’ flume, which was decent. There was also a small man-made beach over by the watersports and boating lake area.
You’ll be pleased to know I managed a couple of rounds of golf and Chelle snuck in a cheeky massage in amongst Ella’s packed schedule.
In terms of food, eating out-wise there’s loads of choice for kids and adults. The supermarket isn’t extortionate and is well stocked, and there’s even a delivery service that it reasonably priced with several different cuisines on offer.
In summary, it was a very relaxing and fun family holiday in a beautiful location with plenty to do for Ella. Even though we were incredibly lucky with the weather this week, I genuinely feel like you could have a lovely time with friends and family in all seasons here. I will certainly be coming back with the family again, hopefully in the not too distant future.