Travel Review: At one with nature

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WHEN you think of the word holiday, your brain naturally conjures up images of sun, sea and sandy beaches.

When you introduce another word ‘England’ into the equation, your brain simply thinks wet!

But wet or not, holidaying in England can be just as enjoyable, particularly if you have children, and especially if you go to Centre Parcs.

In fact, ask your kids in ten years time which holidays they remember most fondly and undoubtedly they will recall the ones filled with activities.

So, with this in mind, and the storm clouds gathering, myself and my family set off for Sherwood Forest Centre Parcs in Nottingham, charged and ready for an action-packed long weekend.

With three active boys - Josh, in his teens, Jacob (9) and Ethan (5) - and a partner keen on a spot of relaxation and pampering, I thought it best to plan an itinerary in advance so everyone was catered for - and it was an easy and enjoyable task via the Centre Parcs website.

Simply pick your activities - set out in an easy to follow age-group and category related format - pay for them online and you’re all set.

And so with the little ones looking forward to a spot of soccer coaching and archery, the big one excited about paintballing and ten-pin bowling and my partner, Natalie, booked in for a three-hour relaxation session followed by a one-hour massage, we landed at our cabin in the heart of Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood once roamed with his band of merry men.

And what a beautiful and serene setting.

Within minutes of our arrival and a quick mooch around our luxurious home for the next three days, our first visitor arrived ... a grey squirrel.

And a bold one at that.

It sat right outside our patio door (see picture at top), nose pressed to glass - Jacob and Ethan’s first little pal of their holiday.

When a duck and ducklings waddled past, followed by a pair of swans, we really did feel at one with nature.

Then, something odd happened ... the sun came out!

Centre Parcs really does have a multitude of activites for children of all ages and adults.

Bowling, tennis, badminton, quad biking, scuba diving, climbing, snooker, table-tennis, football, sailing, fencing and aqua jetting to name just a few for you to try your hand at.

And the centre piece of the village - a huge subtropical swimming paradise complete with a raft (no pun intended) of water slides, wave pool and jacuzzis.

We spent five hours whizzing down the various slides on one day, the kids in their absolute element.

As well as the huge-domed swimming paradise, there’s a village square where you can choose from a variety of eateries and browse round shops.

We opted to have our first-night tea out at Huck’s American Diner, which, with its large indoor play area, computer games and kids buffet - was perfect for the whole family.

Our shared starter came on something resembling a surfboard there was that much of it and Jacob and Ethan were more than happy with their hot dog, chicken nugget and fries combo from the buffet.

It really was a great feed after a busy day of activities and cycling around the village.

On top of the hundreds of activities to try and the swimming and cycling, there are numerous nature-related things to do, from treasure hunts to owl spotting, or just sitting in the fresh forest air while the youngsters have fun at one of the many outdoor play areas - each with its own theme.

Pleasant and engaging staff and a friendly atmosphere help to enhance the whole Centre Parcs experience and with the site a no-drive zone, you feel totally safe whizzing around on your hired bikes.

Natalie described her three-hour relaxation and sauna session simply as “bliss” and the lads couldn’t decided what they enjoyed most.

They enjoyed everything!

Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest is just over two hours away from Wigan by car and is open all year round. And I would thoroughly recommend it.

There are some great deals to be snapped up if you keep your eye on the official website at www.centreparcs.co.uk