Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest – Review
By Richard Jones
As we cycled away from the bustling Village Square, a silence descended on the forest, broken only by the rustling squirrels, foraging rabbits and the towering pines, cedars and maples creaking in the breeze. I craned my neck up to stare at the statuesque trees, imagining they were not gently swaying from side to side, but in fact groaning as they grew a couple of millimetres.
It’s not just the tall trees that have matured over the past three decades at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest – almost every aspect of the resort has grown since it first opened its gates in 1987. As well as the natural woodland habitat maturing, new lodges, buildings and other amenities have sprung up, all with the aim of making the park even more adventurous.
Like many groups who visit Sherwood year in, year out, my family has also grown substantially. It only seems like yesterday that my wife Rachel and I were pushing our youngest daughter Evelyn around in her pram or pulling her sister Isla along in a trailer on the back of our bikes.
Nowadays, we have two energetic young ladies to keep entertained, and our weekends at Center Parcs look dramatically different to what they did five or six years ago. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our love for Sherwood’s Subtropical Swimming Paradise, which has just undergone a £15million expansion.
New for this year is the Tropical Cyclone, one of the largest interactive four-person raft rides in Europe. Riders can choose from four light and sound themes before embarking on 125 metres of twists, turns and sways. For younger kids, there are also two new areas in the pool revamp – Venture Bay and Venture Harbour.
Fifty yards or so from the pool in the Village Square is American restaurant Huck’s, which again has always been a highlight of our Center Parcs trips. The food and drinks are even better in 2019 as well, with new menu additions like smoky New Orleans-style ribs and Texas themed steaks, leaving hungry diners spoilt for choice.
Most families’ Center Parcs breaks are cram packed full of adventure, and if you are capable of riding a bicycle, they’re a must. We picked up four mountain bikes from the Cycle Hire Shop and rode around for hours, wandering off-road and getting muddy on the forest trails.
In the past, we would complete our weekend with a couple of leisurely activities like pony trekking or archery. However, this year, the kids demanded that we ramped up the adrenaline with two high-octane pursuits.
First up, we had a game of Laser Combat, as the four of us, armed with state-of-the-art laser guns, raced around the woods in shoot ‘em up missions. Then we moved onto the Aerial Adventure course.
Isla immediately found her head for heights and led the way on the high-ropes, climbing up ladders and over bridges. I tried my best to keep up with her, while also having an eye on Evelyn behind me. When she fell behind, I began to wonder where she was – but it soon became apparent she was just waiting for her anxious mum!
Despite Rachel’s nerves, we all made it round in one piece to the new finale – a spectacular 100ft-high and 100metre-long descent on a zip wire over the lake.
Although the days at Center Parcs tend to be action-packed, the evenings are just as relaxing as they always were, and after running, biking and climbing around the forest, it’s always a treat to come back to the cosy lodge.
“Resting aching limbs”
We stayed in a four-bed Executive Lodge, and while Rachel headed to the Aqua Sana spa for her Swedish Body Massage, I started roast dinner cooking in the oven, and played a few games of pool with Isla and Evelyn.
Then, as the sun set, the three of us stepped out from the patio into the forest and towards the sauna, where I was planning on resting my aching limbs.
Yet again, there was almost silence – I could just about hear the odd crackle from the flaming log fire in the living room and the occasional creak in the woods. But this time, it wasn’t the swaying trees, but rather my old bones creaking after two days trying to keep up with the kids.
Richard Jones and his family were guests at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, where prices start from £299 for a midweek (four nights) break in a two-bedroom Woodland Lodge (sleeps four)
For more information about Center Parcs, visit centerparcs.co.uk or call 03448 266266