After the drama of our Summer holiday, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t hold out much hope for our half term trip to Centerparcs. The lead up to any holiday is always stressful with writing list after list, packing the bags, loading the car and praying that we haven’t forgotten anything major. At the grand old age of thirty-five I still haven’t mastered the art of packing light, probably never will, and so we left on Monday morning with the car piled high to the roof and four very hyped up children looking forward to a week of fun!
We arrived at Centerparcs, Whinfell Forest, with very little drama and somewhat miraculously, not a single toilet stop! As we drove up to the entrance I could almost feel the weight of the world leave my shoulders. If you had previously asked me where my favourite place was I would probably have said the beach, the beautiful white sand and the deep blue of the ocean, the sun beaming down and the gentle breeze as I sipped on an exotic cocktail or five. And yet actually, arriving in that forest with the trees the most beautiful shades of burnt orange, red, yellow and brown, that crisp Autumn air, surrounded by nature, I think that right there and then it became my favourite place in all the world.
And even when I drove my car right into a four-foot boulder, even when we took a wrong turn from the car park and walked 90 minutes in the wrong direction, even when I unpacked my case and discovered a travellers worst nightmare – the dreaded shampoo explosion, somehow….it all turned out pretty wonderful.
We have spent the week enjoying so many activities, trying new things, playing new games, new sports, new experiences. We have played table tennis, snooker and bowling. We have tried quad biking, paintballing, segways and aqua jetting.
Lewis and I did an “Aerial adventures” trail which, anyone who knows me will appreciate, is probably my biggest fear! I HATE heights, I hate being cold and I am the first to admit that I am physically weak so swinging around in the trees is probably my worst nightmare! Despite copious sprays of Rescue Remedy before hand, I was a nervous wreck and as we climbed the first set of trees my hands and legs were shaking so much that I could barely even hold on to the ropes. Lewis was so lovely, turning to check on me every few seconds and talking me through the scariest parts. My parents on the other hand were stood below us with the children, creased up double, laughing at my misfortune! But actually, afterwards, when I was safely back on the ground drinking my hot chocolate, I felt completely invigorated. And although I am in no rush to ever do that again, it did make me think that facing your fears can leave you feeling pretty amazing.
We have played inside, outside, climbed trees, rode our bikes and swam once, if not twice, each day. We have laughed, cried (that will be me on the Aerial Adventures!) and made so many lovely memories that I am sure the children will remember for such a long time to come.
It turns out that we picked a pretty amazing week to plan our visit as there was so much going on. On Wednesday night, by which point Gaz had drove up to join us, we went along to the firework display at the lake and although the girls were initially very nervous, I had promised them that with the power of their “magic ear muffs” that the fireworks wouldn’t be as loud as they thought! As soon as they started, and Megan immediately started to cry, it became apparent that the earmuffs alone would not do the trick and instead Nana’s hands had to act as a second force field to protect our little scaredy-cat from the loud bangs. So much so that after the first few fireworks we looked down and she had fallen fast asleep!
We were also fortunate enough to plan our visit around the opening of the Christmas wonderland. And I have to tell you, it was absolutely magical! The forest had been completely transformed into a snow filled little village where little wooden huts housed beautiful Christmas scenes of woodland animals. There was a huge Santa’s workshop, elves, snow machines and the thing that excited my girls the most – real live reindeer. There are no words to describe just how excited the children were, well maybe not Lewis who at eleven is way too cool to care, and the looks on their faces were priceless. They were literally squealing with excitement, running from one hut to the next, dancing in the snow with the biggest smiles on their faces. And I honestly felt as though I would explode with happiness.
Every night we would trudge back to the lodge, which again was absolutely beautiful, and my Mum would have something lovely cooking in the slow cooker. We all sat around the table tucking in with the kind of appetite you can only get from a day in the fresh air, and it was the nicest thing in the world to just spend that time together. For me with Lewis especially, it was lovely to have that time without having to share him with school, football, boxing, his friends or his Dad. And at night we watched a film together or we stayed up talking with a tub of Cadburys Heroes and I felt like I needed that. I needed that reminder that there will always be time for the two of us, no matter how old he gets.
There was a lady who commented on my last blog, when I announced that I was coming to Centerparcs, and said that when she visited she had been suffering with post-natal depression and that the forest had made her feel as though she could finally breathe again. And I understand that now whole heartedly. I have been struggling the last few weeks especially with my low mood, have felt myself slipping under and fighting to claw my way back out, and yet being there was exactly what I needed to help me through. Riding round the forest with Lew, pedalling as fast as my legs would take me, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my face was better than any medication or any therapy out there. I felt alive for the first time in such a long while.
Yes it was hard work, juggling four of them at swimming, dealing with the logistics of the prams, age gaps, nappy changes and nap times. And yes it was hard, physically hard, being flung down the most violent water slides I have ever encountered, being battered and bruised climbing through trees and racing round a track. But walking in the forest, kicking leaves, jumping in muddy puddles, dancing in the “snow” with my children, it was everything that I had hoped our holiday would be. Seeing the look on their little faces, the twinkle in their eyes as they took in the magic, the sound of their laughter as they ran from one activity to the next, it made us as parents, and grandparents, happier than had we been laid on the most beautiful of beaches in some exotic resort.
This week was possibly one of my favourite weeks that we have ever shared as a family and as we drove home and Eva told me, “Mummy, we had such good fun!”, I felt as though I couldn’t possibly feel any happier. I felt so sad to be leaving and yet now, after our little taste of festive cheer, I am so excited for the next few weeks and the countdown to Christmas. Bring it on!!