Nestling among the trees, hidden from the gaze of passersby, is England’s latest holiday attraction – and it’s right on your doorstep.
After 10 years of planning and two years of construction Center Parcs Woburn Forest officially opens its lodges today.
The 362-acre site is set in a former commercial forest, owned by the Duke of Bedford, and Center Parcs has worked hard to retain the trees and wildlife.
Chief executive Martin Dalby said feedback from trial runs started a week ago had been fantastic.
“We describe it as the holiday the weather can’t spoil,” he said.
He said the original site had been picked out by a pin on the map when the company felt a park closer to London and the south east would help ease demand for the group’s existing four resorts.
“The forest has got real character,” he said. “Undulating, but not too steep.”
There are 625 lodges which rest among the trees, a 75-bed hotel, spa suites, a subtropical swimming paradise, restaurants, shops and more than 100 different leisure activities offered by the company that has revolutionised short holiday breaks in the UK.
There are plenty of activities available for couples, families and children, from adventure golf, cycling, Segway riding, pedalos on the lake or braving the tornado twister and typhoon at the swimming complex.
General manager Wayne Matton is no stranger to the area – he lived in the county for a while and visited Woburn as a child. He believes the park is ideal for people in the Milton Keynes area to use for short breaks.
“The place is just transforming,” he said.
“People have their day to day working lives and then can come here and be transformed.
“But the biggest advert is our staff raving about the place.”
Wayne’s first appointment at the site was a grounds manager whose role is to protect the forest.
As well as working to keep the character of the forest, a lizard colony, three badger setts and deer have also been identified and protected while work was carried out.
Wayne said bookings for the opening weekend were going well, at 60 per cent.
There is a policy of phased occupancy to help staff, almost 90 per cent of whom live within 15 miles of the park, settle into their new roles, as well as the guests.
Full occupancy is expected by the middle of July.
“I’m really lucky with the team, 1,500 people who all know me,” said Wayne.
“They are all switched on. There is something really special going on here, which bodes well for the future.”