• By Amanda Blackburn.

Centre Parcs Sherwood Forest.

Last weekend we visited one of the 5 U.K. Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire).

We wanted to celebrate my daughter Skye’s 16th in style and do something she would remember. After a very tough few years in and out of the hospital with her Crohn’s disease and the fact that her hospital school don’t celebrate prom, we wanted to treat her. I chose Sherwood as I’d heard that the Aqua Sana Spa was the best Centre Parcs Spa. My daughter has always fancied a Spa but never been old enough, I thought it would make a great 16th treat.

We only booked it 4 weeks before, I’ve not been very organised lately and it was too late for discounts. If I go to a Centre Parcs again I will be looking for ways to save. I have friends that go every year and they pay half of what we paid. I will gather the information together and share it with you in a later post. We paid full price £440 for 3 nights stay Friday-Monday in a two bedroom woodland lodge.

Our lodge:

The Woodland Lodges are practical but stylish with an open-plan living designed for family time. Both bedrooms have nice fresh white bed linen, one room had two single beds and the other a double. All the beds and pillows were very comfortable. Both bedrooms had a flatscreen tv, a dressing table, plenty of hanging space including hangers and a hairdryer was included in both the rooms.

The family bathroom is a good size and it includes a bath that can also be a shower. There was also another toilet with a sink. The fully-equipped kitchen includes a microwave and dishwasher. In the living room are sofas a flatscreen TV and a log-burning fireplace. The patio area looks out onto the woodland and has a table and chairs along with a barbecue.

Each lodge includes towels, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, soap, washing up liquid, tea towels and cloths, 3 dishwasher tablets, tea, coffee, milk and sugar enough for a few drinks. The kitchen had everything I needed for cooking and plenty of cutlery too. The lodge was spotless and lovely and warm when we arrived. It was clearly signposted and the staff were very friendly and helpful when we arrived. The free WiFi that was available worked really well in the lodge and the surrounding areas. I have included a short tour of our lodge in the video below.

Once we’d unpacked our stuff we couldn’t wait to visit the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The Subtropical area is included in your holiday price, allowing you unlimited use during your stay. Apparently the area is heated to 29.5c all year round but unfortunately, this wasn’t the case during our weekend, it was warm but not 29.5 my phone only recorded 21c and the pool water was also too cold for me. My children were happy though and they absolutely loved the wild water rapids and slides.

I had visited 14 years ago during the winter and it definitely wasn’t cold then, I’m not sure if all the new building work that is currently going on has messed with the temperature in the swimming area as the extension for the new building was attached to the dome and it was allowing drafts to come through. Unfortunately, this ruined my swimming experience and I wasn’t able to stay in the water for as long as I wanted to, I was so cold even the hot tub wasn’t hot enough to warm me up.

We brought our own towels but left them in the lockers as we were warned that towels get stolen if you leave them on the chairs. You can hire towels for £2 per person per day. The lockers are quite small and require a £1 coin that you get back. We had to use two lockers for all our stuff and it was a tight squeeze so make sure to bring a few £1 so you can fit all your things inside.

The wild water rapids are so much fun, painful but fun. We had such a laugh plummeting down and crashing into one another. My son Zac is 8 and can swim quite well, he was able to go on the rapids, we went with him and didn’t take our eyes off him as it’s very fast. He really enjoyed it but we made him have a rest in-between as it’s quite fierce and exhausting and we didn’t want him to injure himself.

Another great ride was Grand Casade, the water raft ride fits four people in comfortably and although fast and fun it’s not painful like the rapids. We only went on this a few times as the queue was quite long and it was freezing waiting on the stairs up to the ride. If you go on this ride don’t forget to smile at the end as it takes your photo. This slide isn’t open all day for some reason, that’s probably why the queue was always so long. There are two other water slides, one in the dark with flashing lights and the other your standard type of water slide. I didn’t go on these because I couldn’t be bothered to queue, my children did and they said they were good fun.

We didn’t eat by the pool but had drinks. My son had a slush puppy which he liked but our coffee was absolutely disgusting, I should have complained as it wasn’t cheap but I’m rubbish at complaining so I just left it. One thing I wasn’t impressed with was how dirty the poolside changing rooms and toilets were. When I’d come 14 years ago it had been spotless, this time however it was poor. I didn’t see any staff going around sweeping the floors and checking the toilets once during the weekend. There was plenty of staff around but they obviously didn’t like being around the toilet shower area. The floors were soaked with soap and scum and the changing rooms stunk of urine. My son got an upset stomach on Sunday and it ruined his last day, he also had to miss a day off school Monday because of this.

I don’t want to run the place down as we really enjoyed our stay, it was so lovely being in the woods with all the nature, I couldn’t fault the woodland and our lodge. I hope Centre Parcs read this post and do something about it, I’m not one to moan and I always make the most of things but this was very disappointing and would stop me going back again.

We invited my sister in law and her two children to come for a day. It was also my nieces 16th so we thought it would be nice to celebrate it together. It cost £39 for each guest for the day, this allows the use of the pool and freedom to wander the woodland grounds. They arrived at 10 am on Saturday and we all went for breakfast together at the pancake house. I didn’t think the pancakes were very nice especially for the cost so I wouldn’t recommend the pancakes from my experience. The waffles were good though so maybe stick to them if you visit.

We walked off our food and explored the lovely grounds. We saw rabbits, lots of squirrels and all different kinds of birds. I saw lots of snowdrops dotted around the edge of the woodland, a flower that I haven’t seen in ages. We checked out all the parks and had lots of fun, it was cold but dry so after a few hours, we all headed into Starbucks for a warm drink. I tried the Black Forest hot chocolate, it was good. After our drinks we had a little look around the shops, I got a lovely bikini, some flips flops and a cool underwater phone case for a reasonable price.

During the afternoon we spent a good four hours in the Subtropical area, having lots of fun together. We are all covered in bruises from the rapids, you just can’t help bumping into other people and the sides, it really is funny. After we’d exhausted ourselves we all headed back to our lodge to get ready for the restaurant I had booked. I’d booked the restaurant early in the week, we’d chosen Cafe Rouge as I’d been recommended by the Centre Parcs booking team.

The restaurant was lovely we definitely had the best table. We had our own private area with a lovely round table. The waiter serving us was very nice and made us all feel very welcome and served us well. Our food was very tasty and wasn’t too expensive. The girls didn’t want us to embarrass them by singing happy birthday to them and decided to take the birthday cakes we had for them back to the lodge to sing happy birthday. We all raced back to the lodge in the dark, it was so much fun running through the woodland. The evening was clear so all the stars were out and the air was crisp. Centre Parcs likes to keep the light pollution down so we could see so many stars it was lovely.

Back at the lodge we put on the log burner, had some coffee, sparked up the candles and sang happy birthday to the girls with lots of silly versions of course....can understand why they probably didn’t want us to sing it to them in public. We then sat and chatted and watched a bit of television until my sister in law decided she’d better make a move before she fell asleep. I made her another strong coffee for the road and she set off for the walk back to the car park. It was a good hour and a half drive for her back to Rugby. She stayed till 10pm so she’d been with us 12 hours, we were all exhausted and soon as she left we all headed to bed and were asleep in seconds.

Sunday was our last day, we had paid till Monday but had work. So we planned to leave late that evening. I had booked the Aqua Sana Spa for me and Skye. It was part of her 16th treat. Our 3 hour season at the Spa had cost £98 and it was booked for 2 pm that afternoon. That morning we took our time and decided to go for a game of something in Jardin Des Sports. It was drizzling so we thought we’d go and look inside to see what to do.

What a great choice there was, climbing walls, tennis and badminton courts, children's play areas, snooker, pool, bowling and lots lots more. Zac was complaining of a stomach ache after the walk so we decided to go easy and just play table tennis. We got a table straight away, it cost £16 for an hour. I thought this was a bit overpriced for table tennis but I’d heard the activities were not cheap so I’d expected it.

We had a fun hour but Zac wasn’t feeling too good so we decided to take him back to the lodge for a rest. His stomach hurt on the walk back and he got really upset. We had something to eat and got ourselves ready for the Spa, Zac was going to chill out with his dad in the lodge and we planned to meet them in the Subtropical swimming area after our Spa experience. I told Zac if he had a rest he might feel better after. He was desperate to go in the pool again and was gutted that he felt so rough.

The Spa was absolutely amazing, myself and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed it and felt so relaxed after our 3 hours, we didn’t want to leave. You are supplied with a towel and robe, you don’t need change for the locker as they give you a special bracelet that activates your locker. Drinking water is supplied throughout the spa. The inside of the spa is so beautiful and is set over two floors, surrounding an outdoor heated pool. The newly refurbished spa, rated 5 bubbles by Good Spa Guide, includes six zones. Forest Floor (the ground floor) hosting the Nordic Forest, Hot Springs and Volcanic Forest, while the Forest Canopy (the first floor) consists of the Treetop Escape, Treetop Nesting and Forest Immersion. Together these zones feature an inspired range of heating and cooling experiences, outdoor hot tubs, foot spas, relaxation areas and a heated outdoor pool. We will definitely be returning, the staff were lovely, it was absolutely spotless and I wasn’t cold at all. My daughter was so grateful and happy and said it was the best birthday ever. I was so happy that I’d made special memories for her 16th.

We headed back to the Subtropical area to meet the boys. When we arrived Zac didn’t look too good at all he’d had a rest but had a head and stomach ache. I didn’t think he should go in the pool but you know children they don’t want to miss out on anything, especially on their holiday. Skye was desperate to go in the rapids again, she loved them, I was exhausted after the Spa and couldn’t think of anything worse. I didn’t want to disappoint the children though so I pretended to sound enthusiastic. When we got in the poolside area the noise and businesses were too much for Zac so we decided to go into the quiet pool at the side. Luckily it was empty and we had it all to ourselves. Zac and I enjoyed a good swim together and we played hide the hoop and we tested out the underwater phone case. I’ve included the underwater recording in my video attached. The case worked well and only cost £14.99 from Sportique (shop in Centre Parcs village).

After a couple of hours we headed back to the lodge for dinner, we were all starving except Zac as he was still feeling ill. I run Zac a nice hot bath to help him and he soaked in it for a good 15 minutes. He couldn’t eat his dinner and complained about his stomach. We were going to leave to get him home but unfortunately, Zac got diarrhoea and was on the toilet for a while bless him. He was worried he would have an accident in the car so we had to wait until he felt ready to leave. We eventually left at 1030pm it wasn’t a bad journey home Zac just slept. He was still poorly the next day though so he had to stay off school.

Overall we had a wonderful weekend at Centre Parcs. I hope the cleanliness and the temperature of the Subtropical Swimming Area improve or there will be more children getting ill like Zac. I’m sure he picked something up from the pool, he probably swallowed some of the pool water from laughing so much down the rapids and that’s why we didn’t get it like him. If the Subtropical area was better I would definitely recommend a Centre Parcs break. The Aqua Sana Spa is definitely worth a visit, I look forward to going there again.

Have you visited a Centre Parcs before? What was your experience?


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