We have just returned from out first stay at Centerparcs Sherwood Forest and we had a great time! When we booked, about 6 months ago, I struggled to find any up to date reviews, so I thought I would write one!
My husband and I wanted a long weekend away with our just-turned-1 year old to celebrate our first year as parents and his recent graduation. We enjoy reasonably active holidays, we were never ones to spend a week on the beach - even before children. We had heard excellent things about Centerparcs and its family-friendly vibe, so thought it would be perfect for us.
The Sherwood Forest site is just over an hour away from us, so as Little S hates the car we opted for the closest park! We booked a one bedroom executive apartment. This wasn't the cheapest option, there are studio-style apartments available, but we wanted a door on the bedroom so that we had the option of an evening once the baby was asleep. Our apartment was located adjacent to the car park, which we thought was great when we turned up. We got our own allocated parking space and unloading the car was easy. We had 2 private terraces, one from the living room with a barbecue and one from the bedroom. Large sliding doors and roof lights ensured the spaces were bright and connected to the forest. I was very impressed with how well designed and spacious the apartment was.
However, the apartment was looking a little tired and dated. Some things were broken or missing and it was shabby in places. I know that the site is currently being refurbished, so I'm guessing these apartments will be upgraded in the near future. The other downside turned out to be the location. Whilst the proximity to the car park was great initially, there was no footpath from the apartment into the centre of the complex, meaning we had to walk through the car park. This means that the charm of staying 'in the forest' was completely lost. After walking around the park, there are only a handful of apartments like ours that are accessed through the car park, so we just were unlucky.
Staff and Facilities
As we expected, the staff at Centerparcs were very good, keen to help and friendly. The facilities are also excellent and families with children are very well catered for. When we arrived we went for lunch at The Pancake House and it was great! There was a little soft play area to keep Little S amused whilst we waited, there were an abundance of high chairs available, the food came quickly and I thought the prices were really reasonable. I had heard that eating out at Centerparcs was very expensive, but I thought it was on a par with any other tourist destination.
Lots of the play areas and activities are only suitable for older children. Ours isn't quite walking confidently yet, so struggled with the bark chipping in the play areas. The extra activities are mainly from 18 months+, which I understand, there isn't much that can be done with a baby.
The swimming pool is the main event really, it sits at the heart of the park under an impressive ETFE dome. Indoor and outdoor pools merge, Rapids and flumes weave through the space, trees and plants cascade down to the water, it looks pretty amazing. Even though it was busy, there were plenty of chairs free and space in all the pools. We didn't test out the flumes as it wasn't possible with the babe and we didn't fancy queuing solo. There were a couple of warm shallow pools with little slides that were perfect for a 1 year old. Little S got a bit cold and fed up after about 45 mins so we kept our swimming time quite short.
The changing facilities are well designed, though a few more showers would be a welcome addition. I would personally have liked to see some more slides that were adult and child friendly, ie that parents can go down with younger children. There were only the big flumes and slides for children, with no cross-over slides for everyone.
We were expecting a rabbit-warren of cycling routes in and around the park, as cycling seems to be a focus of the stay. However, there was only one trail around the perimeter of the park, it seems everyone just uses their bikes to get to and from their accommodation. We asked about cycling at the adjacent Sherwood Pines Forest Park and you can cycle from Centerparcs into Sherwood Pines. This is not clear at all and the lady we asked seemed almost reluctant to tell us. We went off cycling to Sherwood Pines and it was fantastic. I feel like the proximity of this to Centerparcs is a real bonus and it's strange that they don't make more of it. For anyone looking to do more cycling on their break, Sherwood Pines have so many different trails, catering to different levels of fitness and ability, it's really good.
A little beach has been created by the boating lake, which got really busy on the sunny days. Apart from this though we couldn't find anywhere to sit down on the ground outside. We kept looking for some grass for Little S to be able to crawl round on, but there isn't any. There are play areas, but the floor covering is bark chippings - not baby friendly. Around our apartment there was the option of grass, but there were nettles everywhere so that ruled out crawling. There is a big driving range on site with lots of grass so it's obviously possible. I just think it's a shame that there is nowhere for kids to properly play outside. I guess the aim is to get everyone doing the paid activities rather than encouraging free games of rounders.
Overall we really enjoyed our stay and would definitely like to return. However, I think I will wait until we can go with another family or our son is old enough to do a bit more. We felt like we couldn't make the most of it as a couple with a baby.