Following a very quick and rather rash decision a couple of weeks ago, we ‘accidentally’ booked a very last minute holiday to spend another week at Centreparcs, following my girlie weekend only a week or so beforehand!
How very extravagant of us eh!!!
Though this time we would be taking our families!
On the advice of our good friends, who were joining us for the week, we chose to go to Elveden Forest in Thetford, Suffolk.
It was pretty cool really, as most of the time when you book a holiday, you have ages to wait until you go, but for us we only had a week to wait!!!! Which helped loads when it came to Holly asking pretty much every few hours..
‘Are we going to Centers Park now’? (her words not mine!)
And then five minutes later when I popped on her shoes for a quick trip to Sainsbury’s,…
‘are we going to the centres park now mummy’
I was so thankful it was only the following week!
Again we booked a 3-bedroomed Executive Lodge, with the three en-suite bathrooms, which worked perfectly, as it gave each of the two families their own little bit of ‘personal space’ for the week.
I mean – we love our friends and all, but not to the level of sharing a single toilet between 7 of us,… not just at the moment!!
Not sure if this lodge was classed as the ’new-style’ as it was definitely ‘older’ in furnishing than the one we had at Longleat, but still very comfortable nevertheless. Just that bit less modernised I suppose.
Our friends have a daughter pretty much of H’s age – which was lovely – as the two girls are best of friends and were so very excited to be sharing a twin room together! And Little E stayed in our room in a travel cot – bit of a squash, but perfectly manageable.
With our booking from Monday to Friday, we decided to travel up on the Sunday evening to split up the long car journey, and to miss the height of Monday morning rush hour with small children.
This worked amazingly well.
We stayed in a Travelodge just 40 minutes away from Thetford. The final leg of the journey was quick and easy without incident, and it obviously meant too that we could really get the most of Centerparcs itself on that first day.
The weeks holiday itself was truly brilliant.
And the weather helped – lots!
It was like we were on holiday abroad!
Although if I was to be completely honest and ever so slightly picky – it was almost too hot on occasions, as there was absolutely no breeze in the air, the duvets in the bedrooms were all about 20 tog, and there was no air conditioning on offer.
I wonder if any of the accommodation options offer air-con?
Also, on the day we wanted to spend on the beach we found this impossible too – as there was just no shade whatsoever – which is not good when you have small children and babies.
We picked up our bikes as we had done at Longleat. With complete ease.
Each adult had a mountain bike, the husbands then had a trailer on the back of theirs and we had booked for two small bikes also for the 3 and 4 year olds, although we never actually even picked these up as the children were having far too much fun in the trailers!!
Plus, we were often in a bit of a hurry to get from one activity to the next – so found it was quicker for us to pull them along behind, rather than waiting for them to trundle alongside, crashing into everything en route.
One day though (hopefully soon) we will book again and may have more time, so will use this as a safe environment for H to learn properly. It really is the most perfect place for it!
Apart obviously for the odd squirrel or rabbit darting into your path!!
Such a safe environment to explore!
And through such a beautiful and scenic forest and parkland – I miss my bike now!
I was in seventh heaven!
I was generally the first up each morning as Ella needed her bottle, and each day, as I drew back the curtains in the sitting area, no more than two seconds later and the patio area was filled with ducks.
At one point we had about ten ducks, a mother duck and her ducklings, a blackbird, three squirrels and a Muntjack deer!! All staring in through our patio doors!
My friend says the animals here are ‘brazen’.
And they were.
But it was fab!
Little E loved it too – absolutely mesmerized!
I literally felt like Snow White – or that princess from Enchanted! Loved it! You can even buy food in the supermarket to feed them!
And then on the beach there were loads more ducks and geese. And I must admit, although I was baking hot, I was rather reluctant to dip my toes into the water for fear of the size of the very close by carp!! Talk about big!! These were humungous!
If this was Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom – these would have been Big Bad Barry’s even Bigger Brothers!!!!!
And if you’ve ever seen the (really bad) film ‘Lake Placid’, well, it sort of reminded me of that!
But ok – it wasn’t a giant crocodile!
We pre-booked a few activities along with the bike hire before we arrived.
Rather sadly – I drew up a spreadsheet/timetable to see when we could fit things in to our daily schedules!
(Don’t worry – I took myself off to one side and had a word with myself!!)
The activities we selected were Adventure Golf, Pots for Tots, and Tennis for Tots.
I thought the pottery was a success, though Mr B would probably beg to differ. I paid for both the girls to take part. Holly loved every second of it, was thoroughly in her own little painting world and wouldn’t let me go anywhere near her bowl in an attempt to help her.
Little E on the other hand was far more interested in running around the room, a little bit to close to the display of beautifully painted pottery, and nipping from table to table saying hi to anyone who would take notice of her!
The adventure golf is a total must for every family of every age.
It’s fun, not too long to keep even the youngest players entertained, was in the shade and was enjoyed by all!
Everyone seemed to set off at once though as soon as the allocated time slot started, so we decided to hang back a bit and go last. This way we weren’t forever waiting for the other families and could take our time a bit more with the girls to have a few go’s at each hole!
This worked a treat!
The tennis was great too!
A really easy introduction to small children in using and handling a racket and ball.
We then booked a further activity for Mr B once we’d arrived. He really fancied having a try again at wakeboarding, known as Cable Ski at Centerparcs. He was brilliant. Fell in a couple of times, but hey, he’s not as young and fit as he used to be (as I reminded him!) so we all thought he did really well.
He even showed off a couple of times with the odd hand drag!!
Eating Out or Eating In
And also a couple of evening meals – although we had originally intended to self-cater – we got a bit more extravagant and opted to eat out instead. We were on holiday after all!
So yes, initially we had thought we’d eat in most nights to save some pennies, though, after cooking on that first night, we decided to opt for the lazy option and eat out on a couple of occasions too!
So we had a nice middle ground I think.
One night we made carbonara (quick and easy), the next we had a BBQ as the weather so beautiful, and the final two nights we ate out. We had thought to split this up, but because we’d not pre booked the restaurants, this was the only time they could fit us in.
Then – to eke out funds a little more, on the days we were eating out in the evening, we had lunch at the lodge. This probably worked so well for us as our lodge was so close to the main center. Much further out and it could have taken up too much time.
For us though, it was great as we could relax, whilst the kids had some ‘time-out’ away from the sun, and could nap if need be so they could recharge their little batteries ready for a later evening.
In the supermarket we discovered it had a hot counter, so our meal of choice was a hot chicken burger for the adults, and chicken goujons and potato wedges for the girls. We took them all back to the lodge and added our own accompaniments such as salad, sauces, etc.
Where to start!
Don’t worry – I won’t go on!
I will just say that it was brilliant!
A watery adventure playground for little kids and big kids (husbands) alike!
Being with another family made it lots easier and more sociable too –so when my friend and I looked after the kids in the main pool, the husbands would go off and play on all the water chutes! Elveden also had the Cyclone, pretty much a giant plughole that you get sucked down on your rubber inflatable!
They were in their element.
Another feature of the Elveden site is the amazing and pretty spectacular Smugglers Cove – a purpose built water play area for small children, toddlers and babies. The chutes were much smaller, they had height restrictions to make sure you weren’t too big, there were jumping water jets from the floor and the water was at bath temperature!
All three girls were in awe! The bigger girls with the fountains of water and water slides, and Little E with the baby play area and the water spouts.
It did get very busy though – but if you’re anything like me that just means all the more people to get chatting to!!
Facilities for children
What can I say!
I was so amazingly impressed by the sheer number of play parks for children of all ages. Each restaurant had its own play area, and soft play area for small children, they gave out colouring paper and crayons for every meal out and the staff are all so used to dealing with families on a daily basis and are therefore very patient and accommodating.
Highchairs, baby stations, book corners (in Pancake House), picnic box for kids options at the supermarket, children’s trolleys, children’s sized drinks with lidded cups and straws at all restaurants, balloons, baby changing facilities, family rooms – the list was endless.
It really was quite thoroughly thought out.
Though obviously, being a mummy, and experiencing things first hand, I could always help them tweak things ever so slightly to be ‘perfect’ but for a family friendly holiday option – it was superb!
So, Elveden vs Longleat!!!
What a question!!
And to be honest, not a very easy one to answer – as they both have their slight positives and negatives depending on who you are as a group, your ages, mobility etc and what you are there for!
Longleat worked very well for us as a girlie weekend away. It was closer to our home town. It seemed more spread out (probably because our lodge was at the very back of the park so we saw more of it), there were less people as it was out of season, it was more hilly but we didn’t mind as we were all relatively fit and could cycle, you could cycle more between activities, restaurants etc
Whereas with Elveden, all the main facilities and activities were in one central area (pretty much) which made things lots easier if you have small children and a buggy or two! The forest was much flatter which made it easier to cycle around, especially if carting a trailer behind you, it had the small children’s pool area and the Cyclone. There was more wildlife to spot.
I would return to either in a flash!!!
Though I am one of those people who want to see the next one now, so I will probably opt for another one next time! We would love to return and try a different type of accommodation one day too – but will need to save some pennies first.
Our friends also recommended that whilst the children are not in school we should return out of season, as its cheaper and lots less busy!!
Lots more extra cash to spend on more activities!!
So my only gripes after a really wonderful holiday were:
Firstly, that it was too hot, which is fine in itself, but with no fans or air-conditioning and heavy tog duvets it was just too much.
The lodges could have done with those pull out washing lines – though I suppose this is for the aesthetics of the park – but with the spin machines out of action in the pool area, it made the rooms musty and damp with drying clothes everywhere
All in all, a fantastic week had by all.
A fabulous mixture of great location, great activities, great company and a whole lot of laughter!!!
We really can’t wait to rebook and do it all over again.
Has anyone else got any experience of Centerparks?
Or have you been to any of the other parks? I would love to hear from you with your recommendations!
Lining up with Twin Mummy & Daddy for Binky Linky