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A weekend break at Center Parcs, Elveden Forest: family travel review

To celebrate Mother's Day, two mums and their children spend the weekend at Center Parcs Elveden Forest

Posted: 2 May 2014
by Kelly Beswick

Center Parcs, Elveden Forest, is a rural retreat
Our Woodland Lodge was bright and modern
The Tropical Cyclone was a huge hit with the children
The Village Square has lots of caf├ęs and eateries
A wonderful pampering session at the Aqua Sana Spa

WHO WENT Nicola Montague, 38, and her twins Theo and Milly, 7, plus Kelly Cooper, 41, and her daughter Scarlet

WHERE WE WENT A three night break at Center Parcs Elveden Forest


Elveden Forest in Suffolk is just an hour and a half drive from my friend Kelly’s Essex home, so me and the twins made our way there by train from London as soon as they had finished school. Understandably they were very excited and when they finally teamed up with a very exuberant Scarlet, the noise level was deafening. To calm things down a bit, we played eye spy in the car, which helped to while away an uneventful journey. Our entry into Center Parcs was swift as we’d checked in online a few days previously. Handed the keys to our Woodland Lodge, we then made our way there with me navigating from the site map we’d also been given.


As soon as we pulled up alongside the lodge, seatbelts were being hurriedly unfastened amid cries to open the child-locked back doors. All three children then raced down the path to our home for the next three days, whooping in delight at it’s idyllic setting right on the edge of the forest. Once inside, their joyful squealing continued as they quickly surveyed the various bedrooms, deciding which one would be theirs, and then plonked themselves down in the colourfully decorated living room to check out the large, flat screen TV. Meanwhile, me and Kelly were checking out the wonderful hamper that had thoughtfully been left for us in the kitchen. Bacon, sausages, milk, eggs, olive oil, crisps, biscuits… it was like a particularly splendid Ocado delivery. Indeed, there was even two bottles of wine. Looking at each other knowingly, we decided that 6pm wasn’t too early for a glass of vino and swiftly uncorked one of the bottles!


Elveden Forest is in fact a forest within a forest, being just a small part of Thetford Forest that teeters on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. Not that we ventured out of the holiday village during our stay. With everything you could possibly need on the 400-acre site (plus a few things we never knew we did), we had plenty to keep us occupied. Center Parcs prides itself on it green credentials and that extends to the use of cars. Once you’ve arrived and unpacked you are encouraged to park your car at the designated car park and not use it again for the duration of your stay. The preferred mode of transport is bicycle and conveniently there’s a huge cycle hire centre in the middle of the village, which the next morning we promptly visited and were soon merrily cycling around the forest admiring all the stunning flora and fauna. Wildlife certainly wasn’t in short supply, with Scarlet spotting a monk jack hiding in a hedgerow, while squirrels, ducks and a fox were also seen during our stay.


At Center Parcs you can really do as much or as little as you want and on our visit I think we got the balance just right. On the Saturday I had booked us in for a fencing lesson as I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a musketeer and I thought it was something the children might enjoy. Thankfully I was right, in fact, they loved everything about it – from dressing up in all the protective clothing, to shouting: ‘en garde’ and learning the difference between and feint and a parry. We then spent a very pleasurable afternoon in The Subtropical Swimming Paradise where the Tropical Cyclone slide, with its huge, gut-churning drops, proved a massive hit with the children (I went on once and that was quite enough for me). Us mums much preferred bobbing along merrily on the ‘lazy river’ before retiring to a sun lounger. That evening, ravenous from all our exertions, we enjoyed a lovely dinner in Café Rouge, just one of the half a dozen restaurants and eateries that grace the village. The following day, being Mother’s Day, both Kelly and myself were awoken with cards and gifts from our respective children, followed by a hearty cooked breakfast to set us all up for the day. Kelly then went off for her three-hour World of Spa pamper session at the fantastic Aqua Sana Spa, while I returned with the children for a second slide and swimming session. Then it was my turn for a pampering, with Kelly taking the children out on the bikes and then for a picnic in the forest. That evening, not feeling like cooking, but too tired to go out, we decided to take advantage of the takeaway service. Snuggled up all together on the sofas, we tucked into our chicken tikka masala while watching a movie. It was the perfect end to a perfect Mother’s Day.


Weekend breaks in a two bedroom Woodland Lodge at Center Parcs Elveden Forest currently start from £399. For more information or to book a short break at Center Parcs call 08448 267 723 or visit

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