Last week we had a family break to Centre Parcs Elveden , in Suffolk. I have never been to a Centre Parcs before and my husband recommended it as he uhad been to various ones when he was younger. I was a little dubious about staying all in one place without ‘venturing out’ as I had always done on family holidays when I was younger. But I thought we should give it a try to see what it was all about.
Day 1 at Centre Parcs
On Monday we arrived at about 1 o’clock slightly behind schedule, blame the hair straighteners for being too hot to pack in the case. Entry into the ‘drive in check in desks’ was quite quick considering there appeared to be a queue. We had paid an extra £35 for early entry into our lodge, which allowed us about an hour before the majority of other guests arrived at their lodges. That way we could avoid everyone taking their cars back at the same time. We parked the car in the car park and headed into The Village Square to have lunch before our early entry.
Our woodland lodge was located at one end of the lake about 10 minute walk from the main centre. When you book with Centre Parcs you can pick your exact location for yourself so there’s no need to worry about being located somewhere you’re not happy with. Unfortunately just as we got to our lodge the heavens opened so it was a mad dash to get both children inside and out of the rain, and poor Chris had to do all the luggage in the rain.
No sooner had Henry’s toy case got through the doorway it was opened and all over the floor. In this mad dash and rapid unpacking of cars and inevitable trashing of our nice clean lodge, I had completely forgotten to take photos of the lodge. Bad blogger moment. As it was still raining and Chris needed to dry out, having walked back from the car park (if you didn’t know, no cars are allowed in the Parc itself they all go in the main car park throughout your stay) we unpacked.
Once it stopped raining and we were all suitably refreshed we then walked into the village square again for a better look around and grab some dinner. We don’t tend to eat out a lot in restaurants so I don’t think Henry understands very well that you have to place an order and wait for it to come. He started to get quite impatient and well voiced in telling us ‘he didn’t want to wait’.
Strangely he had ordered a burger and chips, which he has never eaten before and he can be quite a fussy eater, but he did give it a go and ate at least half. After that, a quick trip to the toilet then resulted in him walking into the concrete pillar on the way back to the table. I can only imagine the journey and the walking had made him tired and he hadn’t seen it. Thankfully no serious injury, just a bit of bruised pride and a red ear, nothing a balloon on a stick couldn’t fix. A quick walk back and we managed a normal bedtime routine and both children in bed for usual time.
Day 2 at Centre Parcs
Tuesday morning we opened up the curtains and was greeted by some ducks and squirrels. Chris had told me about the wildlife coming right to your doors in the morning and I don’t think I quite believed him. Henry was fascinated and we opened the door and sure enough a female Muntjac deer arrived, this happened every single morning.
We didn’t have anything pre-booked so the planned day was just to have a good look round and see if there was anything Henry might like to do. We walked up to The Village area again and walked through it to the lake and beach area.
Chris noticed they had electric boats out on the lake and decided to have a go on those. They were all booked in and being used at that time so we booked one for the next slot, which was half hour later. We told Henry we had to wait for the boats to come back and meltdown mode appeared. He really doesn’t have patience at all, and the thought of him having to wait for something can send him into meltdown mode. This was a full-blown screaming, shouting, tears, not willing to listen level 3 (out of 5) , parent hiding embarrassed face type meltdown. By some miracle the threat of us walking away and not letting him go on it at all managed to work, and as quick as that he had calmed down, minus a touch of sulking and ‘stop talking at me’ comment thrown in.
After the boat Chris and Henry went into the swimming pool, we were all planning on going but Mollie was so tired from not having a nap that I didn’t think it was fair to drag her in swimming as well. So I took her for a walk around the shops to get her to sleep. Chris said that Henry loved the pool and he even managed a couple of the small water slides. We headed back to our lodge after that for dinner.
Day 3 at Centre Parcs
We had an early start on Wednesday our first pre-booked activity was at 9.30. We had a short walk to the Outdoor Activity Centre where Henry was going to try the ‘Off Road Explorers’, this was a mini jeep driven by Henry on an off-road track. More details in my Activities review. Henry loved it, as you know he has a slight obsession with vehicles, so we knew he would love it. From an adult point of view, it looked better than we expected, and we hear it was quite new at the Parc too. Henry also got a little certificate and a badge at the end too.
We went back into the lodge after this for a couple of hours for lunch as we had a gap till the next activity. This was another pre-booked activity, and when we got there, there was only one other child doing it. This was the toddler fencing. Any excuse for grown ups to play with swords, had to be a winner, right? I’m not really sure what Henry made of this one, but he got stuck in and gave it a good go anyway. He got another little badge at then end of this one, which has since escaped us.
Mollie had a nap during this one, which was good enough to be able to all go swimming afterwards.
I think we only managed an hour before Mollie was exhausted, and Henry too, even though he would never have said. Considering as I mentioned before about Henry having no patience for things, he was incredibly patient in the swimming poo changing rooms, when we were all getting ready. I’ll be honest and say that it did surprise us both, we were really impressed. We attempted another meal out in a restaurant, this one had a play area inside, which curbed the impatience for waiting.
Last Day at Centre Parcs
Thursday was our last full day and our last pre-booked activity. Mini captains adventure was down by the lake and had a similar set up to the Off Road Explorers. The boats were really nicely done in bright colours and did look a bit like little fishing boats. Henry was getting quite worn out by this point, I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as he could have done, he did tell us on Thursday morning his legs were tired. Luckily it was only a 40 minute long activity from start to finish, so we went for a light snack afterwards.
The weather looked like it was going to start raining again so we headed inside for a game of bowling, something Henry has never done before, and both us adults are a little out of practise and not very good at it. We had a great time and that’s something Henry really enjoyed so we booked another game for Friday before we would leave to go home.
Finally we managed our last family swim of the trip. On the walk back to the lodge, we had a little break through with the children bonding, Henry was on the buggy board and he was talking to Mollie and making her laugh. For me in particular it was quite a pivotal moment, as he has shown little interest in her most of the time.
Our final morning was bittersweet I guess, we all had a great time and didn’t really want to come home yet, but both children were so exhausted I don’t think we could have managed another couple of days. We had one last go at bowling and had lunch and then made our way home. Within about 10 minutes both children were fast asleep on the way home. That to me suggest it was a complete success.
I definitely think we will be going back to Centre Parcs in the future, I enjoyed staying in one location more than I thought I would. There is no reason to say that you can’t venture out of Centre Parcs if you want to, but we didn’t need to. I would like to try some of their other locations at another time, I have been told Sherwood Forest is a good one to try. Who knows, you might find Robin Hood and his merry men along the way.