Monday, 28 December 2015

This Surrey Mummy visits Center Parcs, a review of Elveden Forest.

For the last couple of years, during the first week of the Christmas holidays we join forces with Charlie's Godparents and head off for a mid-week of pre festive fun to Center Parcs, and this year was no different. 

We packed the car up so there was barely any room to breathe and headed towards Elveden Forest, just over two hours away from Cobham. With Chris Rea and Mariah Carey accompanying us on the journey we began to relax and start to get into the festive feel of things. 

According to the Center Parcs website "Elveden Forest is set in over 400 acres of stunning forest in delightful rural Suffolk, which inspires an outdoor lifestyle." Like all of the Center Parc locations The Village Square is at the heart of all the action, with the Subtropical Swimming Paradise on one side and the Sports Plaza on the other and a variety of places to relax, eat, drink and shop. Having only visited Elveden Forest and speaking with friends who have visited other sites we are led to believe that Elveden is pretty flat compared to others which was a big consideration to us when booking as we are still at that stage of parenthood where a pram/buggy comes everywhere with us. 

We opted to stay in a four bedroom Woodland lodge and paid extra to be within a 5-10 minute walk of The Village Square as with little kids who don't or can't at the moment ride bikes for us closer was better. This time around and being our third visit this year to Elveden we pin pointed the exact lodge that we wanted to stay in and opted for 738, a four minute walk to all the main action and backing on to a lake. 

The settings are beautiful. Once you've unloaded your car you must return it to the main car park which means there are barely any vehicles on the roads that intertwine throughout Elveden. Despite being set in a "woodland" setting you are not having to negotiate muddy paths to get from A to B which is a bonus. Our lodge as I say had four bedrooms (two doubles, two twins) with two bathrooms (one shower room) and was perfectly large enough for a family of four adults and four children to roam about without trampling on everyone. 

An example layout of the four bedroom woodland lodge. 

Enjoying half hour alone with Eastenders on catch up using the free Wifi that's available around the site.
We booked a number of activities including pottery painting (extra charge), making a woodland habit box (extra charge), the Magic Olly magic show at The Pancake House (extra charge), an Elf Hunt (extra charge), as well as a lot of swimming at the Subtropical Swimming Pool (a free activity). 

The Subtropical Swimming Pool is fantastic. Charlie is nearly four years old and as of yet is not a fully confident swimmer and the toddler pool here is set off from the main pool and safe enough that those who are competent enough can go up and down the slides, obviously under parental supervision. We love the pool and the main slides for the older folk are brilliant too. The cyclone is definitely one to do....if you are brave enough! There are loads of changing rooms so you never have to wait for long to get a changing space. Remember to use your £1 coin on the giant air dryer that you as a family can stand in whilst it blows hot air and dries you, perfect for those chilly winter months when you want to avoid your little ones getting colds from wet hair!

Charlie's Godmother unfortunately the week before ruptured her Achilles heel and it was touch or go whether she would actually make it or not. Luckily she was given the all clear to come and despite not being able to do any of the physical activities she was able to rent a mobility scooter for a reasonable fee of £50 for the week enabling her to move around the site with ease and more importantly meant the whole family could all come still, without this mobility aid getting around would have been near on impossible. 

One of the highlights is the meet and greet with Father Christmas (added extra) and it's well worth it. Not only do the kids get a pretty great toy, this year the fire engine was a huge hit you also get a good length of time with the big man himself as well as a free printed photo in a frame. 

As we had four kids between us we decided to eat in in the evenings and the Park Mart (the supermarket on site) is brilliant and not massively more expensive than what we were used to paying. It's also worth noting that the onsite bakery is phenomenal. Honestly I challenge you to find a larger cream slice at any other bakery! But, you must buy early in the day to avoid disappointment! 

We did eat out a couple of times including the carvery at the Pancake House where Magic Olly has a weekly show. This is a must see. We've seen it twice now and the act is just as funny if not funnier second time around. Magic Olly is a credit to Center Parcs, a great entertainer who is at one with the kids as he is with the adults and it's a brilliant show to watch. The carvery also has a cracking chocolate fountain which let's be honest, who does not LOVE a chocolate fountain!??!

One really nice touch is the collaboration that Center Parcs have with Heinz Baby Food. All baby food is free in their restaurants when dining in which means you don't have to think about packing lots of jars and pouches in your suitcase. For the even the fussiest eater there is something that they are bound to eat. You must try the Dining In option which is available in all villages. The menu is vast to say the least and you may even find yourself getting severe food envy when someone orders something else that you might have fancied. 

For us the draw to Center Parcs is the fact that it really is so so easy for young families like us, and here are a few reasons why....

1. Soft play in most restaurants. Ingenious yet such a simple idea meaning that we can all eat together and after whilst we enjoy a glass of vino the kids can go to the soft play in eyesight of us. 

2. It's safe. If like us you have little ones who like to scoot or ride their bikes but are unable to learn properly Center Parcs is the ideal place to learn to. 

3. It's a real escape. You switch off and you can relax and spend some quality family time. 

4. For us it's close enough to be not a mission to get to but far enough that you feel you are away away. 

5. It's a home away from home. Cots, high chairs are provided free of charge and there is even a daily maid service should you chose it so you won't have to lift a finger. 

We love Center Parcs and struggle to holiday in England anywhere else. If you get the chance try and squeeze a break in at one of their villages in 2016 and make some memories that will stay with you for life and with prices from £299 for a mid-week you won't be disappointed!

Why not take a look at our video from our week away....

Big love, 

This Surrey Mummy x

Disclaimer. The holiday was booked and paid for by us solely and Center Parcs have not offered any incentives for this review. The thoughts and opinions above are all my own. 

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