Tackling the misperceptions of Center Parcs
Center Parcs as a family getaway is pretty much unrivalled but it is also often burdened by unfair misperceptions.
There is a common view that a weekend away at Center Parcs is a full on, intense experience for adrenalin junkies and super active families.
Of course the company caters for those who are looking for just that.
But it by no means defines the Center Parcs experience.
The unique selling point of any stay at a Center Parcs resort is the fact you can tailor every aspect to suit you. The misperception that it may not be “relaxing” is often trotted out by those who have never been or given it a try.
Perhaps some find it intimidating to a degree. But Center Parcs, and in particular it’s newest addition to the growing family Woburn Forest, are built around choice.
You can make your stay as fast, furious and active as you like with everything from zip wires, bikes and segways to laser tag, kayaking and swimming.
But equally you can tailor it to be the most relaxing few days imaginable.
You can literally rock up to the fantastic array of accommodation, bring your own food and drink and spend the weekend vegging out, eating in and ... well ... not really doing anything.
Because that’s the point, you don’t HAVE to do anything.
Woburn Forest, which is one of the smaller parcs in the group, is the most accessible yet with all areas within a short walk of one another - not the case at other older, bigger venues like Sherwood Forest where bikes are a must.
So there is no need to panic that your days must be filled with pulsating, thrill-a-minute activities. Why not just have a lay-in, some breakfast, go and relax in the spa and join up with the fantastic Natasha and her gang for a therapeutic afternoon of pottery as a family?
There are accommodations to suit all budgets and Woburn Forest, which opened in 2014, picks up the baton from the first four villages in being impeccably presented and looked after throughout.
While many argue they might rather use the money to go abroad, there are not many holiday destinations where you are guaranteed value for that hard earned money, and Center Parcs is one of them.
Rain or shine there is so much to do - or not do if you are that way inclined - that it doesn’t matter. And the forest cover really does fend off the worst of any really bad weather.
Staff are informed and genuinely friendly - not in an exaggerated Disney Land kind of way - and there is a real family feel amongst them from the security gate guys to the waitresses, lifeguards and Segway instructors.
Just being in and around your little holiday home in the quiet serene woodland brings a sense of calm to our otherwise manic, fast paced lives.
You feel a world away from the rat race even if you have come from Milton Keynes 20 minutes away.
I was sceptical about how authentic Woburn Forest could be as a true Center Parcs experience given it is still very much in its infancy.
Yes the woodland areas are not currently teeming with the type of wildlife you might get at a more established Sherwood or Elveden.
But it is quite remarkable just how quickly the animals have taken to life amongst holiday makers.
Squirrels and adorable little rabbits are slowly getting used to being around us humans and realising there’s some grub in it for them too.
There is no greater sight for the children than pulling back the curtain of your lodge to see the birds, rabbits and squirrels tucking into some bread you left out for them the night before.
Center Parcs takes its “corporate responsibility” seriously too. At Woburn Forest lots is being done to encourage more wildlife to feel at home in their new surroundings.
The resort has a team of 18 rangers in charge of enhancing the biodiversity of the woodland and protecting the habitats of the animals that live there, from owls and birds to lizards and bats.
Earlier this month five young hedgehogs were released into the Woburn Forest wilds after being nursed back to health at a local hedgehog hospital.
Willow and Bobby, aged three months, were amongst the prickle of hedgehogs who were encouraged to discover the natural habitat within the forest. After being nurtured back to health at local Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital, the hoglets now have a few months to settle in to their new home before the impending colder months and hibernation.
And last year Woburn Forest experienced a rare sight when a badger was caught on the forest cameras in broad daylight. The video, which you can see for yourself above, showed the nocturnal animal venturing out of the sett and having a tentative look and sniff around before quickly retreating back into the hole.
Eat in, eat out. Stay in and chill, go out and seek some thrill or simply relax and be at one with nature for a few days. It really is up to you at Center Parcs and particularly Woburn Forest which for people of all ages, abilities, lifestyles and holiday preferences is the most accessible of its venues to date.