I was so excited to hear that Center Parcs were opening a new village. Center Parcs, Woburn is just off Junction 13 of the M1, so mileage wise it isn’t too far from Kent at all, there is just the ‘small’ matter of the M25 in between.
I booked a weekend break in a two-bed lodge for my two girls and myself (girly weekend). We left the boys (husband and son), set off straight after school on Friday night and arrived about 7pm. There is no getting out of the Friday rush hour on the M25 and it makes no difference which way round it you go. Unfortunately, we hit the traffic around Heathrow and it added an hour to our journey. However, it didn’t spoil our good mood.
As everything is brand new at Woburn, I had no qualms about booking a standard lodge. It was clean and perfectly adequate for our needs. If you have ever been to Center Parcs, you will be familiar with the interior: I guess it is one of the nice things about going there. Knowing what you are going to get in terms of accommodation is one less thing to worry about.
I know from experience that it is best to pre book activities when you go to Center Parcs, otherwise you can end up disappointed. We booked archery for my younger daughter on Saturday morning (she is seven, so we did the Robin Hood and Little John’s which you have to do with an adult). My elder daughter did this last time we went, so it was her turn to watch.
Afterwards, both the girls were booked in for hair braiding, something they had specifically requested. It was raining for most of the day on Saturday, so it was lucky we had booked indoor activities. We followed this with a spot of lunch and some shopping before returning to our lodge to change out of our wet clothes.
We had an early dinner, before heading to the tropical paradise to try out the swimming pools. They are open until 9pm and early evening is always a good time to go, as it is quieter by then. There is plenty for everyone in terms of swimming pool fun: toddler pool and slides, wave pool and three tunnel water slides. One of the tunnels is called the Tornado and (should have realised by the name) is pretty scary. We went on this slide because you sit on a four man dingy, so being three of us we thought it would be good to go on together. Little did we know that half way down we would drop down a great big hole and be flung from wall to wall at speed for the rest of the way down. My ten-year-old loved it but the seven-year-old would not forgive us for making her go on such a scary ride. She hated it.
Sunday morning started with Falconers Club for my eldest (my seven year old used this time to do her homework, which was handy). This was a great experience. The children were allowed to handle Kestrels and hawks and to experience them flying.
After much needed coffee, we went on to a roller skating session in the Plaza. This was a first for my seven year old and she thoroughly enjoyed it (though somewhat cautiously). It was back to the swimming pool after, where we experienced the outside rapids (something we all agreed on was fun). We finished with lunch, before going back to the lodge to pack up and leave.
By 6pm, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it home in less than two hours. The girls were already in their pyjamas, so all they had to do was clean teeth and go straight to bed. They were both exhausted (as was I!).
During our stay, we ate at Strada (Village Square), The Shearings (the Plaza) and Café Rouge (Village Square). Apart from undercooked pizza at Strada, the rest of the food was of a reasonable standard. We particularly enjoyed The Shearings and the lovely view of the lake from where we were sitting.
We found the staff at Center Parcs, Woburn really friendly and helpful. I couldn’t fault them at all. It was nice to see them engaging with the children and asking them questions. They all seem to enjoy their jobs.
We took a bike for my seven year old because she has only just learned to ride again after breaking her arm last year. I wanted to make sure she had her own bike so she would feel more comfortable. We hired the other two. I wasn’t sure how my younger daughter would get on, as she wasn’t that confident when riding. Unfortunately, at Woburn, you can’t get to the Plaza or Village Square without going down a steep hill and this is a bit scary when you have only just learnt how to ride. Let’s just say that my daughter’s brakes were well used (it was the very first thing that I made sure she was able to do).
During the weekend we cycled pretty much from one end of the park to the other and apart from the steep bits, it is all easily accessible. The lake sits in between the Plaza and the Village Square and when the sun is shining, it is a lovely spot to go for a walk, a cycle ride or even to go out on a rowing boat. There is a small beach there too.
I don’t have many complaints. We had a lovely time, but our bathroom did smell a bit foisty, as though it needed some bleach down the plugholes. We also had a strange surprise in our fridge. After calling at the Parc Market for milk, bread and couple of cereals on our first night, we came back to our lodge and opened our fridge to find this inside.
It was stocked full of milks, juice, butter, sausages, eggs and bacon. When I phoned guest services to tell them, they said it must have been left there, but that if someone came to collect it, it would all be thrown away. I thought this was a shame, because most of it was unopened and in date and I hate food waste. I would have been happier to know that the staff could have it. May be the cleaners left it, rather than throw it away, thinking that we could make use of it, but unfortunately, one adult and two children could barely make a dent in that lot! It made our little bag of shopping look a bit pathetic to be honest – we needn’t have bothered.
On another note, I bought a Fat Face jumper for my husband from Spirit (in the Village Square). Unfortunately it was too big, but when I went to my local Fat Face to change it, there were none left because the jumper had gone on sale. To my surprise, this jumper had been reduced to £20, over a week earlier, but at Center Parcs, I paid full price for it. I have taken this issue up with them and I am still waiting to hear back, but I am annoyed that I not only paid full price, but that I can’t even change it for a different size. There’s nothing worse than feeling ripped off is there?
I hope this issue does get resolved, because I wouldn’t want it to taint my view of Center Parcs. I would love to go back again, next time with all five of us. Center Parcs is a great place and now that we have one so close, it is even more appealing. I won’t be letting my five year old loose on his bike though as it’s a bit dangerous for little ones to cycle down those hills. He will be better off with one that attaches to the adult cycle. That’s not a problem, though. He will love that. It means less work for him and more for daddy, I expect!