Have a splash­ing time... in and out of the pool

takes her kids to the fam­ily-friendly re­treat in Lon­gleat For­est, Wilt­shire

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL - Claire Spread­bury

Get­ting into a two-per­son in­flat­able raft — in a swim­ming cos­tume — is one of the most un­gainly things you can pos­si­bly do. But as I strad­dle the fig­ure of eight-shaped rub­ber rings, grip­ping on to the han­dles and wait­ing for the green light of the Typhoon, I can’t say I re­ally care. We’re all here for a bit of fam­ily fun, and try­ing out Cen­ter Parcs’ newest wa­ter ride is mak­ing me feel a bit giddy.

I’m not much of a wa­ter-slide fan any more. There’s def­i­nitely some­thing about get­ting older and hav­ing kids that makes me less able to en­joy the sen­sa­tion of feel­ing like my stom­ach is go­ing to fall out my be­hind. But the Typhoon, I have to say, is great. It’s fam­ily-friendly, so me and my eight-yearold Rosie go down to­gether (there is a height re­stric­tion of 1.22m, which she’s only just over). It’s fast and quick with a bit of splash­ing, but not so scary you lose your stom­ach or get washed up and spat out at the end.

For those need­ing some­thing a lit­tle more ex­cit­ing, the Trop­i­cal Cy­clone has also just landed here at Lon­gleat For­est.

Up to four can go on a raft at any time and there are mega drops, adren­a­line pump­ing twists and turns, and a world of swear­ing com­ing down the shoot, de­spite the same height re­stric­tion. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but i saw hole heap of fun.

But there is plenty more to do. The great thing about Cen­ter Parcs is there’s an abun­dance of ac­tiv­i­ties go­ing on and you can choose how much, or how few, you fancy do­ing.

We try out Den Build­ing and Dec­o­rat­ing — one of the newer fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties. Un­like the usual sofa and sheets af­fair that goes on at home, we head out into the woods where three thin logs have been tied to­gether to start us off. We have a mas­sive pile of twigs, branches and logs, a tar­pau­lin, some leaves, and four pairs of hands ready to get dirty.

At the end, all the fam­i­lies go round in­spect­ing the dif­fer­ent dens, and one per­son from each clan has to sit in­side while the wa­ter­proof­ing test takes place.

It costs £46.50 (how­ever big your party) and lasts for an hour-and-a-half. We had a re­ally good time get­ting stuck in, but there are oo­dles of other ac­tiv­i­ties too, from sports and quad bik­ing, to 10-pin bowl­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy lessons. They all cost ex­tra, but there’s no pres­sure or up­sell to do a thing.

Adults also get to have fun. The Aqua Sana spa can be used by day guests, as well as any­one stay­ing at Cen­ter Parcs. The spa it­self con­sists of 25 ‘ex­pe­ri­ences’, from the In­dian blos­som steam room and the hydro pool, to the ty­rolese sauna and re­flex­ol­ogy foot­baths.

A three-hour ses­sion costs £39 per per­son, but if you’re go­ing with some­one, book the ex­pe­ri­ence for two peo­ple and save £8.

Treat­ments are worth splash­ing out on. If you’re short on time (and cash) try one of the new Elemis ex­press treat­ments, last­ing 20 min­utes and cost­ing around £45.

Or, for a more in­dul­gent ex­pe­ri­ence, the brighten and glow treat­ment (£79 for 55 min­utes) of­fers the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of a re­lax­ing, knot-melt­ing hot stone mas­sage, com­bined with a mini tai­lor-made fa­cial, com­plete with dreamy head mas­sage.

You can time spa ses­sions to co­in­cide with kids’ club ses­sions too. Mine spent an ec­static three hours in the ac­tiv­ity den do­ing the Choco­late Chefs Academy (£26pp) which they couldn’t stop talk­ing about all night.

Of all the Cen­ter Parcs lo­ca­tions, Lon­gleat al­ways feels the most sprawl­ing, so hir­ing a bike is an ideal way to get about (though you can save your pen­nies by bring­ing your own).

It is pretty hilly, as Poppy — my five-year-old — finds out on the first day. But al­though it’s hard work for lit­tle legs, it’s the per­fect place for prac­tis­ing those cy­cling skills sans sta­bilis­ers, as there are no cars al­lowed on the roads and paths ex­cept on changeover days (Mon­days and Fri­days).

GO­ING FOR A DIP: the pool at Cen­ter Parcs. Above right: a fam­ily cy­cling at the re­sort, and the spa fa­cil­i­ties

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