Not so long ago, a holiday trip to the great outdoors was something only the foolhardy and brave would attempt. The countryside meant grass, fields, trees - and above all else, not much to do.
Well, that was the opinion of countless teens and youngsters dragged unwillingly on damp camping trips to the back of beyond.
So since its inception in the UK in the mid 80s, Center Parcs has worked miracles to convince the Great British public that fresh air, flora and fauna should hold no fears. However, despite numerous friends and family talking of this holiday hideaway in the depths of Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest, I’d never ventured beyond the welcome sign on the main road. As we rolled through acres of lush green trees to the check-in, the worries of the working week instantly slipped away. Although only here for a taster weekend, it still felt like we being transported to a peaceful, idyllic oasis deep in the Alps as we headed for our executive games lodge situated in The Pines section of the park.
Now forget basic wood cabins - this was all mod cons luxury. A huge kitchen and lounge area opened up to an outdoor patio area - complete with its own sauna! It also allowed myself and my two children a reminder of how we were in the thick of nature as two squirrels playfully hopped across the door ledge.
Clean, tasteful bathrooms and beds to simply sink into at the end of a long day were standard - but the piece de resistance for us came in the shape of a games room, complete with widescreen TV and a pool table. That alone would have kept my lads entertained for the weekend. But we were here to explore and explore we did, saddling up on the bikes that you can hire from a huge range of wheeled options situated slap bang in the middle of the huge park. They are essential for getting around - although can make things a little complicated when you are planning to head to the indoor swimming paradise, armed with your towels and trunks.
The huge water paradise was the main focus of a fun-packed weekend, with two trips crammed in to make the most of the wave pool, flumes, slides and much more.
And despite being busy, we never felt hemmed in. There’s an extensive programme of outdoor activities to get stuck into such as high ropes, archery, watersports and pony trekking - and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, with such tight time constraints, we didn’t have time to sample everything, so opted for a game of ten pin bowling instead - proving that there’s just as much to do indoors to if the weather isn’t great and in Britain, we know how frequently that can be.
The main village square, for want of a better word, is where everything’s at, with shops, bars, restaurants and cafes open throughout the day and into the evening to help you recharge. We opted for a meal at Hucks, an American style cafe diner where youngsters were able to pick their own food choices from a help yourself bar, but in the case of my two, the video games suite proved even more of a draw!
And if you truly want to get away from it all, the Aqua Sana spa, with a wide variety of beauty treatments, pamering and relaxation area is ideal. If you’ve got active sporty youngsters who can never be tired out, Center Parcs is the place to be - just make sure you’re ready to become the next Bradley Wiggins before heading there though!
* Darren Burke and his family enjoyed a short weekend break at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, stopping in an executive games lodge in The Pines. The company has five UK parks at Longleat, Whinfell, Sherwood, Woburn and the recently opened Elveden. Summer school holiday breaks start at £599. For more details and to book visit www.centerparcs.co.uk