Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Centerparcs - Sherwood Forest.
Who knew that staying in the UK for your holiday could be so much fun? I’ll be honest I’ve never considered going on holiday in England, let alone Nottinghamshire before this year.
We booked long before the nightmare of the Ash Cloud but the recession had long taken it’s icy grip and back in January we bit the bullet and booked a short break in May at Centerparcs Sherwood Forest.
You’ve got to remember that around that time everyone was pushing Staycations, that delightfully obvious PR led fad but I’m glad we did book in the UK, the pound has dropped through it’s arse due to the political uncertainty around the new government.
Then in the month before our break we would have had the horrific worry of whether we could have flown due to the Icelandic Ash Cloud… I don’t know about you but I like to spend all my money on holiday and generally don’t think to hold any back in case I’m stuck somewhere for another week!
We could not have picked a better weekend if we tried though, the weather was perfect… I’m not going to gloat too much but the sun went in for 4 minutes the entire time we were there.
I know this exact specific time because we were lazing on the beach by the boating lake and I realised I was in the shade for a moment. I looked up to the sky and the only cloud there was obscuring the sun, just one small cloud on its own and it soon moved on.
Our accommodation was basic but clean, our block of chalets was in a well shaded glade and we had a large pond with lots of wildfowl playing on very nearby. What struck me immediately was how tame everything is.
The Ducks, Geese and Moor Hens have no fear of humans. They come right up to you when you go near them with food. Not that you are meant to feed them.
The Squirrels are incredibly brazen as well, they are up on the tables outside the moment you’ve gone in to check for scraps and if you let them they’d been in your chalet in a moment if you don’t keep an eye on them. It’s like being mugged by a Disney film; cute but leaves you with a sense it isn't quite real.
I would firstly recommend you get bikes, either bring your own or rent them. It makes it so much easier to get about quickly, you can explore the site at your own speed but it is so much more fun than walking and you can race around the nature trails and cycle ways and occupy yourself without spending money on some of the other activities.
Get a mountain bike with gears, do not even think about getting a normal single speed bike. I know they are cute but your legs will thank you.
We opted to keep the paid activities to the minimum, making the most of everything that was free. The Subtropical swimming pool is amazing fun, the wave machine creating waves that seem metres high at the front of the pool. The open air and heated pool was a massive surprise and it was heaven just floating around in the warmth.
The Rapids and the Grand Cascade are a laugh a minute. But with the Rapids you must expect to get bashed about going down them. I’m 6’2” and I think possibly a bit too big to go down properly. I kept getting stuck, which prompted anyone after me to barrel into me at speed creating a pile up of bodies till the blockage became big enough for the water to move us again.
I found after a while and several grazes that going down head first works best. I don’t think you are meant to do this though, it was clearly sign posted that you shouldn’t at points but it is handy being blind at times. I think probably it might have something to do with the risk of breaking your neck…
Do make sure you go out onto the boating lake, we took out a Pedalo on our first day and then Canoes the next. So much fun just mucking about on the water in the sun, realistically as well it’s a really cheap activity as well. Admittedly we had perfect weather for water sports and I’m using the term loosely, Pedalo is hardly an Olympic event just yet despite how tiring it is. I can imagine the situation would be different if it was raining.
The food overall was pretty good, ok it’s not ever going to be something that changes your life but I didn’t go on this holiday expecting a food experience. It was all about having fun with my beautiful Lady. We mostly self catered but tried a few of the places out as well:
Pizza lunch at the Strada was exactly as I’d expect it to be. Adequate Italian style food, efficient service with plenty of Peroni to wash it down. Not my favourite beer by a long shot but sadly this was a bit of a theme throughout the site.
We visited again for deserts another night again before bowling the service was great again but the quality of the deserts wasn’t that impressive. My Tiramisu was not that appealing, served in a huge square block.
Huck's Diner was an experience and all in all pretty good, it could have been a lot worse I guess. The Hot wings were good and spicy but the blue cheese mayonnaise was at best disturbing and at worst the Lady thought it smelt of sick.
We sensibly went basic with out mains, you had plenty of choice available but we stuck with burgers. Good meaty numbers but sadly the meat was overcooked. Judging by the burger I think they could have got away with leaving some life in it but I think the overall theme of the venue is quantity not quality and consistency rules the roost in these restaurants.
The Pancake House is great for those who love heart attack classics, the American style pancake with bacon and maple syrup is normally served with grated cheese as well?!
This bizarre addition to an american classic breakfast is beyond me but I had to have the pancake anyway, I opted to forgo the cheese but part of me feels I may have cheated myself there.
Basically we had an awesome break, loads of exercise and fun. Ok food but if you want complete control over your food budget and importantly the quality I’d recommend self catering. We barbecued and had some great fish whilst we were there as well and the chalet kitchens are versatile enough for any adventurous cook.
For me the whole experience was one of total relaxation, it was easy to get there and we had none of the normal flight travel stress what so ever. We don’t have kids but I imagine having to get a couple of little people on holiday could be quite stressful, especially if you are flying anywhere.
I expected to see more kids all in all but was pleasantly surprised by the mix of people here, lots of couples. Hen and Stag do’s on healthy breaks and just groups of friends out to have fun.
Yes there were a lot of kids as well but it all adds to the fun, when you see kids just throwing themselves at the activities it reminds you that you can pretty much do anything you want, if a 3 foot mini person can, why cant you?