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Published: January 20th 2017
Today (Monday 16th January) we're packing up an enormous amount of life's essentials and heading away for the next four nights. Our destination is Longleat Forest, one of Centre Parcs' family resorts. We're booked into a self contained 2 bedroom 2 bathroom executive lodge, complete with a daily maid service.
The Center Parcs concept is to provide short breaks in the forest, bringing families together, and back to nature. They provide high quality accommodation, a range of leisure facilities and more indoor and outdoor activities than you'll ever have time to do. Of course there are also the usual selection of retail outlets and restaurants to spend your money in, all set within a protected and enhanced woodland environment. Each village (there are 5 of them in the UK) is set within 400 acres of natural woodland so there are many woodland paths to walk or cycle.
Check in time was 3pm and we joined the line of cars at the park entrance. All visitors are encouraged to book-in on line to simplify the check-in process. There are 10 parking bays inside the entrance where vehicles are directed to. Check-in is done here, by attendants who come to your
car. Your keys and a site map are handed to you through the window and you're waved on, left to find your own way to your apartment. Too bad if your map reading skills aren't up to scratch, though there is plenty of signage to set you right.
We encountered a problem during check-in, even though Petra had phoned them days before and ran it by them. Ben's mum and her partner has followed us from Weston, with a car full of suitcases and bags of groceries, as Ben's car wasn't big enough to hold it all. As they weren't paying guests, Centre Parcs wasn't keen to allow them in. Our attendant made it perfectly plain to us that this wasn't their usual practice and they had to drop off our luggage and leave immediately. To top it off, they had to call into the security office at the gate on their way out, so staff would know they had actually left! Welcome to Centre Parcs.
Our accomodation was nearly new, clean and well appointed. Stone bench tops in the kitchen and bathrooms, extras like a small wine fridge, coffee maker, dishwasher and more televisions than we'd use.
Thick towels and heated towel rails in the bathrooms, top quality bedding and even a row of wall hooks in the entrance area for all the winter gear to hang on. Plenty of space for prams and baby gear too. We will be very comfortable here for the next few days.
By the time we had all unpacked and settled in there wasn't a lot of daylight left in the day. I was happy to stay put, read, enjoy a Baileys and watch over soundly sleeping Sam whilst Pet, Ben and Florence headed out into the cold to go swimming. Yep, that's right - swimming!
There is a 'Subtropical Swimming Paradise' at Longleat Forest. With water temperature set at a blissful 29.5 degrees, the main wave pool is the prime attraction. They also have two wonderful hot whirlpools, one indoor and one outdoor. For a little more excitement there is the un-missable Wild Water Rapids which carries you along a series of dips and dives and isn’t for the faint hearted, while the warmer outdoor pool is a great area to relax. Most of the activities here cost extra but this pool complex is free to enjoy.
A Busy Squirrel
Such cute little animals and much smaller than I thought they'd be.
I must admit, I was rather sceptical about swimming at all, particularly when we're rugged up to the eyeballs with coats, beanies and scarves on the walk to get there the next evening. I could see the steam rising from the water in the outdoor pools as we approached the entrance. Most of this huge complex is indoors, the pools surrounded with lush tropical vegetation and palm trees. The entire complex is heated, including the water, and we all enjoyed a great swim! Then, when it was time to leave, on go the layers of clothing again for the walk back to our apartment.
The weather has been kind to us, grey skies and fog for our first full day but then the clouds cleared and we enjoyed bright, sunny days with freezing temperatures. Very bracing to walk in, a hot cuppa and some chill out time was always very welcome when we returned to our accomodation.
Florence had a few activities scheduled during our stay and she seemed to enjoy them immensely, always keen to join in, full of smiles and chat. I had a close encounter with some birds of prey with a Falconry experience and
was interested to learn more about these beautiful birds.
Our days here have passed quickly and on Friday morning we're packing up and heading home again by 10am. It's still freezing out, I see a layer of frost coating cars and the countryside as we leave Centre Parcs. We passed a long queue of vehicles at the entrance - more holidaymakers arriving to enjoy their break in the forest. Luckily for them, it's another bright and sunny day!
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