WHEN myself and a group of girlfriends decided we’d treat ourselves to a mini-holiday together, discussions naturally turned to where we could go.
But after a bit of research we soon realised that to find accommodation for five of us, somewhere that would be suitable for a six month old baby, wasn’t all that easy.
We didn’t just want a little cottage somewhere. We also wanted entertainment, shops and a family-friendly restaurant, preferably all within a five minute walk.
Thankfully we happened upon the perfect retreat when we plumped for Sherwood Forest Center Parcs.
Booking ourselves into a New Style Woodland Lodge, we found the accommodation perfect for five close friends sharing.
The mum among us, my friend Nicola, was put in the double room that she shared with her little 11 month old Amelie, while the rest of us bunked up in two twin rooms.
The accommodation came with all the added extras a new mum needed, such as a cot, microwave and proper high chair.
As well as a fully kitted-out kitchen, the lodge also came with an open plan kitchen/living room/dining room perfect for socializing.
On our first night we settled down in front of the flat screen TV to watch a DVD, put the world to rights over a glass of wine (or two) and peer out of our double glazed French windows at the woodland.
The next day we were up early and wanted to make the most of the Center Parcs experience. Packing ourselves up we headed out for the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.
The dome was perfect for our group. Baby Amelie loved playing in the children’s pool and delighted in splashing about in the big pool when the Tarzan call signaled the start of the wave machine, for us adults.
Meanwhile the braver gals among us took the opportunity to leave mum and baby to fling ourselves headfirst down the rapids, a water ride that takes you outside the dome before washing you down into a plunge pool at the end.
Coming out bruised and smiling we threw ourselves down at least three times until we’d inhaled our fair share of chlorinated water.
Next, we decided to brave the big one, the ‘Grand Cascade’. Not knowing what to expect, the anticipation mounted at the same rate as the rapidly-growing queue behind us.
Four flights of stairs later we were more than a little excited about the ride.
To our delight, me and my two brave buddies were thrilled when we reached the top to find out we’d all be riding down a huge outdoor flume together in a giant inflated yellow rubber ring.
Thirty seconds of hysterical screaming and splashing later it was well worth the wait.
We opted for a more leisurely afternoon all meeting back up at the lodge for a few sandwiches before we took ourselves off for a game of bowling.
In the evening we booked in for an early meal at Café Rouge. We were concerned about being out with such a young baby, but we needn’t have been.
The restaurant was thronging with young children and was extremely family-friendly. Amelie enjoyed a kids’ meal of fishcakes and was delighted when our lovely waiter, Nick, presented her with her own Café Rouge balloon.
Meanwhile the rest of us tucked into a variety of dishes including olives, Camembert, moules marinières and duck. This was followed by a selection of mouth-watering desserts including gauffre Belle-Hélène, coupe rouge and tarte tatin.
We also maximized the adventure on our stay by opting to hire bikes to get about the place. However we needn’t have bothered because everything was so close. The Center Parcs experience made for a really relaxed weekend where we were able to split into twos and threes and enjoy different entertainment, and still all meet up very easily.
Any groups of friends, or groups of families, could do a lot worse than opting for a weekend at Center Parcs. A Woodland Lodge could set you back as little as £100 a head for five adults.
That is for three whole nights and all the subtropical swimming fun you can handle.
The beauty of the activities on offer at Center Parcs is you can opt in or opt out at any point, making the experience as cheap and cheerful as you like.
There’s plenty of affordable dining for families and a variety of restaurants to choose from, but you can always opt to eat in. The park even has a market for all those little home comforts you may have forgotten to pack.
Activities range from the more active archery and go-karting to the Aqua Sana spa, for adults looking for a little bit of luxury.
I cannot recommend this break enough for anyone looking for a totally different kind of getaway.
The complex is only a few miles down the road from Worksop, but once inside you can’t help but feel you are on holiday somewhere very special indeed.
by Debbie Sansom