All you could pos­si­bly want – in one place

Cen­ter Parcs hol­i­day vil­lages are in­cred­i­bly popular with an in­creas­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies. Mort Smith and his wife, Julie, went to sam­ple the de­lights of the new­est park – and got quite a sur­prise

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GLOBE TROTTING - Mort and Julie Smith were stay­ing as guests of Cen­ter Parcs

IHAD not been to a Cen­ter Parcs vil­lage be­fore and I wasn’t at all sure what to ex­pect as we drove into Woburn For­est, just a cou­ple of miles from the M1. We were greeted at one of the eight drive-in check­points by a cheer­ful at­ten­dant, who had all our de­tails to hand, is­sued us with our pre­cious green wrist­bands – which all park vis­i­tors get to wear – and were di­rected to the mas­sive car park.

And that’s where you learn your first and most im­por­tant les­son – that cars are al­lowed to un­load and load at the be­gin­ning and end of your stay but apart from that, the site is a car-free zone ex­cept for the elec­tric-pow­ered main­te­nance ve­hi­cles that can oc­ca­sion­ally be seen purring around.

Cen­ter Parcs is es­sen­tially a fam­ily hol­i­day camp, but brought bang up to date with the lat­est fa­cil­i­ties, sump­tu­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion lodges that are spread out across the mas­sive site, a ho­tel and spa, a sub-trop­i­cal swimming par­adise and a host of ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at cater­ing for the majority of in­ter­ests.

We stayed in the ho­tel at the heart of the com­plex, but it is not like many ho­tels I’ve been in be­fore.

In ad­di­tion to the size­able bed­room, bath­room and toi­let, there is also a very well-equipped kitch­enette, kit­ted out with cooker/mi­crowave, ket­tle, cof­fee ma­chine, fridge, wine cooler, and even a dish­washer. The whole place is beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated to a high stan­dard and each ho­tel room has a bal­cony over­look­ing the boat­ing lake.

There is a su­per­mar­ket right be­side the ho­tel for those who want to cater for them­selves, but the park has a wide range of culi­nary of­fer­ing, in­clud­ing burger bars, Ital­ian, French, Chi­nese and In­dian restau­rants. The Sports Bar in the cen­tral area also of­fers a wide range of meals for adults and chil­dren, and sporta­holics can en­joy them­selves watch­ing top sports on the huge screens dot­ted around the restau­rant.

Since us­ing your car is ver­boten, most vis­i­tors ei­ther bring their own bikes or hire them from the 2,500 on site – cater­ing for ev­ery shape and size and in­clud­ing tow­able bug­gies if you want to take your tod­dler for a trip around the park. Nei­ther Julie nor I had writ­ten a bike for years but it’s amaz­ing how quickly you get back into the swing of it – it’s just like… well, rid­ing a bike.

Of course we had to try the sub-trop­i­cal swimming par­adise, which has a wide range of pools and rides cater­ing for all ages. The wild wa­ter rapids were en­ter­tain­ing and the wave pool was very popular, even more so when the wave ma­chine kicked in ev­ery half-hour.

There are dozens of other things to try out at Cen­ter Parcs – archery, laser clay shoot­ing and Seg­way rid­ing (great fun – we tried it and got to travel around the park at a heady eight miles an hour). You can hire a boat or ca­noe on the lake, take on the thrills of the aerial walk­way and zip­wire, while the younger mem­bers of the fam­ily can have fun in a very well-equipped ad­ven­ture play­ground. There is also pot­tery paint­ing, teddy bear stuff­ing, bad­minton, squash, ta­ble ten­nis – the list goes on.

But the pièce de ré­sis­tance was the Sun­day morn­ing we spent sam­pling the de­lights of Aqua Sana, the spa com­plex ad­join­ing the ho­tel.

There are six saunas and steam rooms, rang­ing from the gem­stone and min­eral spa to the fire and ice sec­tion, each of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent lev­els of steamy re­lax­ation. Never hav­ing been in a spa be­fore, I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly look­ing for­ward to it but I’m now a com­plete con­vert – it was in­cred­i­bly re­lax­ing.

The Woburn For­est site was built with an eye to at­tract­ing more vis­i­tors from London and the south of Eng­land and I’m pretty sure it will do ex­actly that. Even in Septem­ber after the schools term had started, the place was vir­tu­ally full.

Cen­ter Parcs isn’t a cheap hol­i­day. On top of the cost of rent­ing a lodge or a ho­tel room (our room was priced at £459 for a four-day break), you pay for vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing apart from the swimming cen­tre. Bike hire, all the ac­tiv­i­ties and the spa cost ex­tra, but you can­not pos­si­bly crit­i­cise the stan­dard of equip­ment or en­ter­tain­ment, which is out­stand­ing. And the staff are sim­ply fan­tas­tic.

For a fam­ily with young­sters who want to be kept oc­cu­pied and ac­tive, there can be few bet­ter places to take a short break.

Some of the tim­ber lodges at Cen­ter Parcs’ Woburn For­est vil­lage

The ho­tel room came with a very well-equipped kitch­enette

An in­struc­tor takes a group on a Seg­way ride around the park

The sub-trop­i­cal swimming par­adise has a host of sec­tions to cater for all ages and abil­i­ties; be­low, steam rises from the In­fin­ity Pool at Aqua Sana

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