This weekend, we had a very special treat and spent the weekend at Center Parcs in Thetford, Norfolk. For anyone who hasn't heard of this company, they run holiday villages that are located within forests in various parts of the UK. We'd previously stayed at three of the five villages, over 8 years ago when Little Bird was very small, but we hadn't visited since and we hadn't been to this particular park before. Little Bird had no recollection of these holidays, having been so small, so we decided to take her again now she was older, as we thought she would really enjoy it. She did.
When we arrived, we were very pleasantly surprised by our very modern villa and also the facilities on the site. There were, of course, the odd niggles, but the overall experience was a very positive one, so I don't want to dwell on any negatives. The site had a great tropical swimming pool with slides and rides, whirl pools, lazy rivers, cafe's. This to us, is the main attraction of these holidays, as the pool use is free and you can spend as long as you want in there, every day of your stay.
In addition, there are a plethora of other outdoor and indoor activities including cycling, archery, boules, bowls, tennis, badminton, bowling, rollerskating, exercise classes, gym, spa, watersports, etc. etc. Virtually all of these activities do, however, incur further charges, so this is by no means a cheap or frugal holiday, but with careful thought it can work out good value for money. We took our own food and ate in our villa each lunchtime and evening and we were careful not to spend too much money in the shops, so it wasn't too wallet busting. We did treat ourselves to the odd drink in a café or restaurant and we did book some extra activities, but most of them weren't too expensive. You can make your stay even better value by taking your own bicycles, as they are useful to get around the site due to it being very large and very easy to cycle around as it is quite flat. Other savings can be made by taking your own sports equipment i.e. racquets, footballs, pool inflatables, etc. We didn't take our bikes as we took our dog and walked everywhere. We foolishly forgot the racquets and inflatables, but if we went again I would definitely take them, although they aren't exorbitantly expensive to hire.
It does cost extra to take a dog, and there are a limited number of villas that accommodate them, so you do have to book well in advance. As there are lots of wildlife, i.e. ducks, geese, rabbits, deer, squirrels in the forest and around the lakes, dogs have to be kept on a lead at all times too, so it is not an ideal dog friendly holiday, as they also cannot go into the indoor areas although they can go in the outdoor areas of some cafes and restaurants. Our dog couldn't cope with the abundance of wildlife and just got far too excited. We probably wouldn't take her again as a consequence. She did enjoy this visit though, as deer and squirrels would come right up to the large windows of the villa. We didn't particularly enjoy being woken by her barking at them so much though, bless her.
Anyway, during our stay I took in a couple of exercise classes, as I was missing my usual classes whilst we were away. I did a Zumba class which was very good and well taught and a Legs, Bums and Tums class which was incredibly tough. I'm still suffering now. Little Bird and I really enjoyed taking part in a Cheerleading class, in which we were taught to use the pom poms and were taught a routine which we then performed to a performance track. We took part in this with a group of ladies on a hen night who were good fun, so this was really enjoyable. I was really pleased we did it and would do it again if I got the chance. It's always good to try something new. We used the pool quite a bit and Little Bird and OH did some outdoor adventure activities which were quite expensive, but were not something they would get to do everyday and so they were good experiences for them.
We also hired a badminton court too, which was really good fun and I treated Little Bird to a Cupcake Decorating session whereby she learned to decorate 6 cupcakes in a very professional way. She was able to do this workshop on her own and it lasted an hour and a half, so was actually quite good value all told. She completely loved it and wants to use her new skills to make some cakes for the school fair in a few weeks. I didn't take any photos of her cakes, but they were very good. If she makes some more I will definitely post about them. We enjoyed eating the fruits of her labour too I might add. The cost of the workshop was little more than the cost of the cupcakes if you bought them from a shop.
Although our break was only for a weekend, we really enjoyed it. We had great weather and did enough activities to make it feel like it was longer yet felt really rested by the time we left. Well, exhausted if we're honest, we were definitely ready to go home after three days of activity. I was happy that I didn't put on any weight and we all got lots of exercise, which made it very worthwhile for all of us. There are, of course, many much cheaper ways of doing this, but everything here was made very easy and stress free for you.
I must add that this post is definitely not sponsored, and my opinions are most definitely my own. I would recommend this type of holiday, but it definitely won't be for everyone. Check out the website if it sounds interesting and see what you think, but be warned, it can be very expensive at peak times, unless the cost is shared with other family members or friends. Having said this, judging by the large numbers of families there during our stay, it is obviously considered to be good value by many families, from all walks of life and across all age and ability groups. What they do, they do very well, what ever you think of the cost.