For many of us the sound of Christmas songs ringing out of supermarket speakers, heralds the beginning of the festive stress.
Yes, it may be the most wonderful time of the year but it’s also the busiest, with weeks of shopping, planning and partying.
Thankfully, this year we decided to kick off the festive season with a relaxing weekend at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest. Every November and December, the Nottinghamshire Parc is transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, fake snow, festive music, elves and Santa in his Woodland Workshop.
In short, it was a pre-Christmas Christmassy break, which gave my wife Rachel and I the opportunity to spend time with our friends Pam and Steve. There was also room for our daughters Isla and Evelyn to take their friends Charlotte and Sophie along, too.
The eight of us arrived at Sherwood on the Friday night and checked into what would be our home for the next three nights – an executive lodge in the Pine area of the forest.
Cases unpacked, our next task was to pick up our bikes from the cycle centre. They stock a huge range, including electric models that make woodland hills a bit easier.
Over the years, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise has been our favourite part of Center Parcs but as the kids get older, there has been a shift in the way we spend our mornings. Gone are the days when we have to keep a beady eye on them in the shallow pools and pirate ships of Venture Bay and Venture Harbour. Nowadays it’s the youngsters who lead the way, dragging us on to the Tropical Cyclone, Grand Cascade, flumes and water pistes, and then the outdoor Wild Water Rapids.
After drying off and tucking into lunch, we headed to the outdoor activity centre for a spot of target archery.
Instructor Wendy challenged us to hit the highest and lowest score, slot an arrow in each of the scoring rings, and fire a single shot as close as we could to the bullseye.
Each member excelled at different times so we all went back to the lodge happy.
That evening, we marvelled at the thousands of lights in the Enchanted Light Trail and Santa’s Workshop courtyard, before heading over to Huck’s American Brasserie in the Village Square.
After a few cocktails and mocktails, we then tucked into shared starters – with the restaurant’s famous sticky BBQ chicken wings, burnt brisket ends and cheesy garlic bread bagels our favourites.
For mains, we all went for something different, with falling-off-the-bone pork belly ribs, sizzling fajitas and Mexican chicken and cheeseburgers all on the menu.
As Evelyn’s birthday was on the horizon, the jolly servers made a fuss of her, before we all tucked into zesty Key lime pie, towering hot fudge sundaes and classic ice cream desserts. The next morning, it was back in the saddle for a bike ride to burn off a few calories.
Then, Rachel, Pam, Isla and Charlotte headed off to Aqua Sana for an invigorating World of Spa session.
They moved from steam room to sauna to showers, via rain walks, ice rooms, mists and hot whirlpools, arriving back at the lodge feeling revitalised.
Meanwhile, Rachel had an extra level of pampering. She was booked in for a VOYA skin-soothing facial featuring exfoliation, a seaweed mask, and a booster eye treatment to reduce dryness and sensitivity.
With the older girls at the spa, the rest of us headed over to the Jardin Des Sports.
While Steve and I had a couple of cold pints in the bar, Evelyn and Sophie booked a badminton court to bash a shuttlecock around for an hour.
Before the weekend ended, the group reconvened at the lodge for takeaway pizza.
Although it may not sound like a Christmassy way to end the weekend, the corks had been popped on a couple of bottles of fizz by the adults relaxing around the roaring log fire, and the kids were playing pool in the games room.
The only thing missing was a tree decked in tinsel although there were plenty of tall pines with lights on outside the patio.
Our trip to the forest had not only got the eight of us in the festive mood, it also gave us the chance to spend some precious time with friends and family. If you’re wondering how you’re going to fit everything in, Center Parcs’ Winter Wonderland may be the early Christmas gift you deserve.
Center Parcs’ five UK villages are pretty much always full – they have an annual occupancy rate of around 97%, so book early. And no cars are allowed into the villages, except on arrival and departure days.
Three-nights at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest in Nov and Dec 2023 start from £629 based on four sharing a two-bed Woodland Lodge. Go to centerparcs.co.uk or call 0344 826 7723.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe