Last weekend we went on a long weekend break with the in-laws to the Woburn Forest Center Parcs near Bedford. Living in Hertfordshire, it was a wonderfully convenient 40 minute journey. So we loaded up the car after H had her nap and lunch so that we arrived shortly after the 3pm lodge arrival time. (Although if you can go from 10am to use the pool and other facilities.)
We had a three bedroom lodge and it was a really reasonable size. This Center Parcs has only been open for a couple of years so all of the furnishings are still in really good condition. There was one double bedroom with an ensuite (we let the in-laws have that one) and two equal sized twin rooms with a bathroom to share. The front entrance area had plenty of space for us to leave the buggy indoors fully assembled. It also had a small patio area with a brick ‘BBQ’ (for using disposable BBQs).
Quite a lot of the big activities at Center Parcs need to be paid for but free entertainment is also there. One of the most popular features is the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. H hasn’t been to the swimming pool in months after she just kept crying through her swimming lessons. This seemed like the ideal time to take her again; She really enjoyed splashing around in the baby pool and playing with some of the water fountains. We also took her in the big pool for a little float.
There was also a nice beach area alongside the boating lake. The weather was kind to us whilst we were there so we took H along to play with the sand. After we didn’t manage to take her to the beach in Lisbon, it was nice to take her on this break. She LOVED it! The sand seemed quite and clean. I also bought her a small bucket and spade from the little shop.
There are also a couple of childrens play parks. The smaller one in the Plaza was for older children. But the bigger park in The Village had toddler swings, a toddler slide and some little rocking horses. It was another hit!
My birthday treat was a Swedish Massage at the Aqua Sana spa. The prices are more expensive than at a normal spa. But it was worth it to have an hour of relaxation to myself. I didn’t have my phone to take a pic but there are some smart changing rooms where you can leave your things and change into the provided robes. The waiting area has comfy chairs and drinks. The massage was wonderful. Afterwards there were two relaxation rooms I could have used but instead I went and used the lovely shower facilities before getting back to H and the gang.
One of the activities I booked for H, my Mother in Law and I was a Baby Owls session. The children were able to stroke the feet of one of the big owls. H was too young for me to trust her holding the other smaller birds so instead I held them and she waved at them!
Sam and his parents did the Segway experience which was an hour made-up of 20 mins ‘training’ followed by a ride round the park and an off road activity. They were all pretty hyped-up afterwards and seemed to really enjoy it! It wasn’t the cheapest activity at about £36 each but it was worth it for the time they had.
The park is designed for cycling and every lodge has a lot of bike racks outside for locking them up. We didn’t bring our own bikes for ease but Sam and his Dad hired two for 24 hours – it was £18 per bike. The ones we hired were fine but I would recommend bringing your own if you can to save money. If we go again we’ll take ours. It was great to cycle down to our badminton session though whilst H napped on Sunday. Sam and I had great fun playing a few games (to sketchy rules) and vollying (we make it to 86 without missing) for 45 mins. It’s only £15 per court for 45 minutes which I think is good value. Racket hire etc is more so we took our own rackets.
Eating and Drinking
I’m always too busy eating to take pictures of my food, but we ate some tasty food whilst we were away. There is a take-away / delivery restaurant which does a variety of different foods; We used this on our first night and booked a 30 minute delivery window for our chinese (Sam & I) and pizza (the in laws). It wasn’t too bad value considering and we all enjoyed our meals.
For eating out there are a number of restaurants, some chain some independent. We didn’t realise we would need to book on Saturday night so struggled to find somewhere to eat! But we ended up having a lovely dinner at Cafe Rouge whilst the in laws babysat H. On Sunday night we went to the independent Indian restaurant which was very good; The prices are higher than in the ‘normal’ world but we got the meal deal which was £22 per person for poppadoms, starter, a main each, rice, bread and a drink.
For smaller snacks there are a couple of Starbucks which we used a few times. By far my favourite eatery was The Pancake House on the edge of the lake. After my massage we met there and I enjoyed a stack of American Pancakes with Maple Syrup. H munched back so much of my portion (the non-mapled parts) that she refused to eat her dinner!
We ate breakfast and lunch at the lodge. We took a lot of supplies with us but there are two on-site supermarkets to get top-up items. Again, the prices are a bit over-inflated so try and take as much as you can to keep costs down.
Our overall Woburn Forest experience
We had a really great weekend. Travelling with H seems to always throw a few curve balls, especially with her sleep. So we were quite tired on Sunday and Monday. But that aside, it was a really relaxing environment. I enjoyed the layout of the park with facilities being spread out rather than being grouped into one centre. The activities aren’t cheap but if you don’t go crazy and just book on to 1 or 2 things then it isn’t too bad.
There are some nice touches to make it really family friendly. The delivery food service is great for parents who can’t go out. Every restaurant accommodates children and the pool had loads of family changing rooms.
I would really recommend Center Parcs for a break, especially Woburn Forest. It’s not the cheapest of breaks; Everything is nice and convenient but it would be very easy to spend an awful lot. However, if you’re mindful of that and don’t go crazy on eating out / activities then it’s a lovely and relaxing environment to get away from things and recharge! If your little people allow it of course…