Parcs have stayed at ‘Center’ of our plans

Center Parcs Woburn Forest
Center Parcs Woburn Forest

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The great thing about Center Parcs is that its sites are so big, even if you keep going back (like we do) you’ll carry on finding new things to do.

We’ve been visiting the site at Longleat Forest in Wiltshire for several years and despite the kids getting older and more choosy about what they want from a holiday, it remains a firm family favourite.

For those who have never been, Center Parcs comprises of a network of lovely lodges in a forest setting – including the relatively recent addition of treehouses, which really increase the feeling you’re living out in the wild.

The size of the complexes – on which no cars are allowed – mean you need bikes (or the popular land train) to get around between the different zones.

The list of activities and adventures you can sample is long – and growing all the time.

Try archery, climbing or zip wires one day; boating, diving or meet-the-wildlife sessions the next.

Or you can spend time in the sub-tropical swimming paradise, or get the family using up their energy with one of the many indoor activities available, ranging from tennis to rollerskating (the latter, I have decided, is not something I’m destined to make a career out of).

The adults in the party can also enjoy one of a wide range of luxury treatments at the Aqua Sana spa.

I’m old enough to remember when the whole Center Parcs experience was new and I was quite startled to discover that Longleat Forest has just celebrated its 20th anniversary – and that one’s opening was seven years after the first.

During those two decades, the Longleat complex has welcomed six million guests, hired out 1.8 million bikes, served up enough pancakes to make a stack 10,000ft higher than Mount Everest and – I love this stat – seen archery arrows fired a total distance that would reach the moon.

Nature and the environment are very important to the Center Parcs ethos and more than 2,000 species have been recorded as living there during its 20 years, including nearly 100 which are rare in the UK. See how many you can spot during your stay.

Another big reason for a Center Parcs celebration this year has been the opening of a fifth resort, Woburn Forst in Bedfordshire.

This one, apart from all the usual features, boasts a 75-bedroom hotel, a new way of enjoying the Center Parcs way of life.

You get the feeling that the success of Center Parcs is allied to its bosses’ ability to move with the times; to keep on offering visitors something new.

You’d certainly not bet against their various locations enjoying many more milestones in the future.

To end, two pieces of advice I’d offer if you’re thinking of visiting.

One, if you can go outside of school-holiday times, do – visits get more expensive at peak times. And two – don’t actually try firing the archery arrows at the moon.

Short breaks at Center Parcs in autumn 2014 start from £299 (

Book any three-bedroom Woodland Lodge for a midweek break between now and October 17 and get it for the same price as a two-bedroom lodge. Terms and conditions apply.

There are now five Center Parcs ‘forests’ to choose from – Longleat in Wiltshire, Elveden in Suffolk, Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, Whinfell in Cumbria and Woburn in Bedfordshire.