Cropton Forest, North Yorkshire – Review


By Matt Callard

Escaping to the country used to mean a wet weekend under dripping canvas with the local foliage assisting on matters of convenience but now (thankfully) such carefree days are behind us. At least the memories give us something to terrify the kids with, eh?

cropton cabinCropton Forest lies on the southern fringe of the North Yorks Moors and Forest Holidays have, only this year, opened a sparkling new array of holiday lodges therein that mix rural delights (forest proximity, starlit nights, zero noise pollution, the wonders of nature on your doorstep) with urban benefits (en suite shower, fully-fitted kitchen, under-floor heating, hot tub).

It’s meant to be a best-of-both-worlds arrangement; escape from the seething city masses, but retaining the kind of home comforts that – somewhat regrettably – people like me cannot live without. Have they got the blend right? Resoundingly so.

“Comfort without extravagance”

The wooden framed lodges sit in a forest clearing, with huge glass windows opening onto the edge of the woods. In fact, so close to the forest was our particular lodge that a pheasant took a shine to an overhanging branch and delivered the kind of impromptu 6am wake-up call that would have shamed alarm clock makers Yorkshire-wide. Still, them’s the vagaries of country living, I guess.

cropton kitchenInside, a well-equipped kitchen offers cooker, dishwasher, microwave, large fridge and good-sized dining table. The open-plan living room hosts a decent suite and a wall-fixed TV – although you will pay additional for the somewhat patchy wi-fi. The two bedrooms are clean and neat, with a nice en suite in the master. It’s comfortable without extravagance and the views are a daylight delight.

You can order various packs of food prior to arrival, from breakfasts to barbecues, although we were a little perplexed as to why our breakfast packs contained a four-person salvo of bacon, sausage and eggs, but enough tea and sugar for the entire week – especially as we’d ordered this combo two days in a row. Still, at least it meant we went home with a new larder.

“Bush skills”

So yes, the home comforts are all in place for those who can’t live without them – but it’s the delights of nature that will really make your stay at Cropton Forest Lodges memorable.

Being situated on the North Yorkshire Moors it should go without saying that you have the obvious delights of the countryside around you – and I see little point in highlighting the well-known tourist perks there – but it’s the rural delights in and around the lodge complex itself that really makes this a worthwhile and rewarding place to stay.

cropton forest retreatA maze of well-defined walking routes circle the site (although take care not to go off-piste, as we somehow did – you might end up in Hebden Bridge) and most of them are also suitable for cycling. You can hire bikes from The Forest Retreat, or find out more info about which route to take to suit your family’s needs. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and there’s a decent amount of provisions in-store too.

But the real highlight of your stay is likely to come in the form of one of the pre-arranged activities led by an on-site ranger. You can pre-book a number of exercises which cater for all age groups, from a bush skills course, to a young explorers’ adventure.

“Night vision”

Our highlight, however, came in the futuristic form of a Night Vision Walk. The ranger supplies you with commando-esque night viewers that allow you peer into the dark depths of Cropton Forest in search of otherwise hidden movements of night animals.

Now, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll suddenly become some shadowy, gadget-clad version of Chris Packham. It appears that wild animals are as elusive in the dark as they are during the day. But what will happen is you’ll be offered an intimate view into a mysterious hidden world. One where nature silently lurks and plays. Even if the only movement you see comes from a gently drifting and falling leaf.

cropton night visionThat’s not to say our night walk was entirely without creatures of the night. Our ranger picked out the sonar of pipistrelle bats with his radar. But his female tawny owl-imitating iPad device and the injured rabbit fox-luring whistle didn’t trick any male owls or foxes into view.

“Sense of isolation”

But the point is, this doesn’t really matter. Venturing out into the black unknown with the reassuring ranger as company is thrill enough. In fact, it should be noted that the enjoyment of the activity pretty much depends on the ranger. If he was unenthused, detached or crotchety it would have ruined the experience. Thankfully, our ranger enriched the experience for everyone.

His knowledge and love for his surroundings is obvious. And his stories about the flora and fauna surrounding us bring the whole experience to life. It is a brilliant experience, under a brilliantly-lit full moon. The kind of exciting, bonding family adventure that is all too rare.

Peace and quiet, nature and convenience. Forest Holidays have a gem of a location here. Where an obligatory sense of isolation couples with an optional sense of adventure.

Three weekend nights start from approximately £355 for two bedrooms lodges.
There is still availability for Christmas and New Year at Cropton. Enjoy a free luxury goodie box – containing festive treats such as Champagne and mince pies. There is also a real Christmas tree in cabin with lights . Plus a small kit of natural decorations for guests to craft
Festive activities on-site include entertainment Christmas carols, Father Christmas in the Forest Retreat and gifts for all the children.
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