Trying to entice an 11-year-old outside to learn survival skills in the forest, when it’s pouring with rain is quite a tall order.
Long, painful sighs evolve into deafening silence, so, I use my jolliest sing-song voice to over-compensate and get us out the door.
Forest rangers Gerry and Mike lead us into the woods and brief us on how to build a shelter. Rosie shuffles about looking for wood while Poppy, her 8-year-old sister, runs about the forest enthusiastically grabbing everything needed to make the A-frame.
We’re in Cheshire’s largest woodland, at Forest Holidays’ new site in Delamare Forest. Immersing yourself in nature has never felt more necessary, and within 20 minutes, all signs of Kevin The Teenager have disappeared, as my mainly wonderful eldest daughter builds a spit, bench and herb garden for our epic den.
And as a reward, we mooch over to another part of the forest, where the kids use Swedish fire steels to light the campfire, and toast and gobble fluffy marshmallows.
The 11th Forest Holidays site is situated deep in Delamere. Wooden lodges are dotted about the forest and we’re in a White Willow Premium cabin, which contains everything we need plus lots of fancy extras, like two robes per person – one for the lodge, one for the hot tub, Hypnos mattresses, a Nespresso machine and Nutribullet, complimentary Prosecco, and an outdoor grill, fridge and pizza oven.
Waking up to the light of a new day streaming through the tall pines is a delight. And being completely surrounded by forest is good for the soul.
Smatterings of dappled sunlight make the tree trunks glow as we amble towards the reception to sign up for the Peter Rabbit trail.
Rosie might have rolled her eyes (again) at the utterance of Beatrix Potter’s most famous character, but the holiday spirit soon kicks in, as we meander round the one-mile track, looking for clues, spotting birds and learning about nature.
It’s easy to feast like kings, whether you bring your food and cook in the kitchen, order food or recipe boxes that make life easy (the pizza packs, £17 – which come with ready-made dough and toppings to cook two pizzas in your outdoor oven – are delicious), or stop at the Forest Retreat and enjoy food and drink made by someone else still feels like a novelty. For a treat, afternoon tea is delivered and set up wherever you want it in your cabin. Crockery comes with an array of Tea Pigs pyramid bags, and delectable sandwiches, scones, cakes and pies are piled high on wooden towers.
We can hardly move after gobbling less than half of it, but it sets us up for an afternoon of mountain biking.
The landscape makes for the perfect play area as the hire bikes’ giant tyres bump and hop across hills, streams and grass-strewn woodlands. Rosie squeals and gasps as she follows her dad down steep and scary paths, before using every last ounce of energy she has to pedal back up.
Elsewhere in Cheshire there’s the new Bewilderwood outdoor attraction – full of treehouses, wobbly wires and slippery slopes, one of the country’s best zoos over in Chester (both are a 20-minute drive away), and in half an hour, you can reach The Ice Cream Farm, where you can scoop and lick at an impressive 50 flavours of the good stuff.
More R&R can be found back at Delamere, but after the sixth slam of the door, I was beginning to wonder if the in-cabin spa treatment was actually worthwhile.
Booking local Glo therapists to pummel the stress out of my shoulders was a no-brainer. I tried to banish the family, but Poppy refused to go for a bike ride. Now fully camouflaged after completing her den-making kit in the woods outside, she wanted to stay and play at being Bear Grylls.
It wasn’t quite the serene experience I would have had at a spa, but it was still lovely.
Maybe it’s the fact I’ve been staring at the same four walls for the best part of 14 months, but I’m not sure Saturday nights with the family get much better than making pizza, cooking it outside, playing giant Jenga on the deck and splashing about in a hot tub watching the stars come out, all the while surrounded by trees in the middle of a forest. Even the 11-year-old seemed happy.
P.S. Go Ape is just the other side of the forest, which you can walk to in 20 minutes, before climbing into the trees to test your bravery. Every step is worth it for the adrenaline-fuelled zip wire finish.
White Willow Premium cabins at Forest Holidays in Delamere start from £830 for a two-bedroom lodge for four nights. Visit forestholidays.co.uk.
A two-hour Relax & Unwind mix and match spa treatment costs £150. The Forest Discovery Ranger Experience costs £10 per adult, £8 per child, and The Forest School Den Kit costs £60.
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