What I Did On My Autumn Holidays

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 6:03 | Filed in Life, The Pickards

I’ve been to the Whinfell Forest CenterParcs ‘holiday centre’ before, and while I basically remembered it as not exactly my ideal holiday destination (no items of historical or cultural significance to look at, no decent bars and importantly it’s not one of the Greek islands), it’s not that bad and it is good for the kiddies.

Yes, it’s one of those ‘family’ holiday destinations which obviously cost more than usual for accomodation, and then because you’re pretty much trapped in situ, cost more for everything else as well. On the other hand, you can get pretty much everywhere with a pushchair, they’ve got fantastic swimming pools which is then free to use (although technically you are provided with the opportunity to buy trunks, goggles, swimming floats, swim rings, and disposable waterproof cameras which you accidentally leave lying around and lose before you’ve even managed to take a single photograph and I don’t want to talk about it right?).

the wilderness of plants that is Center Parcs Village Centre

We arrived at about midday and as we couldn’t check in for another few hours, set off to ‘explore’. Firstly we took in the Village Centre, which is inside some kind of biodome type of thing, and is chock full of plants so it feels almost like you’re in the Amazonian rainforest (only with more cafés, restaurants, mini-supermarkets and toilets, and considerably less pirhana in the swimming areas).

We discovered that our lodge in Moorland View was right on the bottom-right corner of the park (that’s in the south-east, for anyone more cartographically minded) — right next to the pond marked on the Village Map, and pretty much as far from the Village Centre as it was actually possible for any of the accomodation to be.

On the plus side, the fact that it was a twelve minute walk (fifteen avec pushchair) from Moorland View to the Village Centre meant that we’d be out walking for at least an hour every day, as well as swimming and any other exercise, so that was obviously a good thing. On the negative side, this meant that we were going to have to walk for an hour each day…

View from Moorland View patio

However the two bedroom lodge we were in was, while little and simple (and with a nest of wasps nearby), very nice. Because we were right on the edge, our patio area faced out into the forest, with the nearby pond just behind the immediate thatch of trees. Not only that but the rooms were reasonably sized and with just the right level of amenities (a TV and microwave) to make it feel like some home comforts were provided while some of the other things I’m used to (basically, broadband internet access whenever I feel like it) obviously weren’t available.

On the first day, we also tried to book ourselves into the Village Cinema for the following day to “Meet The Robinsons” which we’d thought would be a laugh for the kids, so we were a bit disappointed when the person in the booking office told us that the film had apparently been cancelled, but there was no reason listed. Not that that matters particularly: I mean, if it’s cancelled, I still can’t go to see it, irrespective of why it’s been cancelled…

But we had a lot planned anyway: arriving on the monday, and leaving on the friday, we had:

  • planned to go swimming at least four times
  • booked an early evening meal at Yang Chinese Restaurant for us and the kids
  • booked an early evening meal at the Indian restaurant for the same thing
  • booked to attend “Cinderella’s Tea Party”
  • booked to decorate Gingerbread Men
  • booked to take part in ‘Soccer Mites’
  • booked to take part in the ‘Little Sharks’ swimming activity
  • booked to go horseriding

…so we probably had enough to keep us ticking over anyway.

The following morning then, we set off to go swimming and myself and BTP had got considerably ahead of the GLW and SWP, so were sat around waiting for them in the Village Centre when suddenly I heard:

Oi! Pickard!

…and discovered that we would in fact “Meet The Robinsons” after all, as it turned out a friend of that name (whom I’ve known for 18 years) was also at CenterParcs the same time as us with his wife and their daughter. So we all stopped for a chat, and while we didn’t particularly arrange to meet up (apart from one night in the pub), we kept bumping into them now and again over the holiday, usually while swimming!

Sunset at CenterParcs Lake

After swimming, we walked back to the lodge, stopping briefly to admire a rather beautiful sunset over CenterParcs lake.

On the whole, it was a lovely, restful week. Well…

It was a lovely week that was about as restful as you could expect with two small children (that is to say, not at all restful), although it was still more relaxing than the average week because there was nice scenery to look at and I didn’t have to rush off to work in the mornings but could spend quality time with my family.

Little Sharks turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment, though. Not for BTP: he loved it. I was slightly disappointed though, because I’d expected it to be a class to start to teach 3 to 5 year olds how to swim, whereas it was in fact a class to help teach 3 to 5 year olds how to overcome a fear of the water by playing games that got you wet, mucking about with floats and so on.

I have no doubt this was very beneficial to some of the children in the group, but as it was BTP who had wanted to go swimming every day in the first place, we didn’t exactly have a fear of water that needed to be conquered.

Nighttime over CenterParcs Lake

In the evening, the GLW went for a bit of a lie down after we’d put the kids to bed, so I took the opportunity to meet up with the aforementioned Robinson at the Lakeside Inn, where we had an absolutely stunning view of the moonlight, clouds and other lights being reflected in the lake. Then — after discovering through the power of internet accessed over Robinson’s mobile phone — that Arsenal had dumped Newcastle out of the league cup, we decided that it was too cold outside, that the lake wasn’t that pretty anymore and we went back inside to relative warmth.

The indian meal at Rajinda Pradesh was absolutely fine in terms of quality, and would have been nice all round if it wasn’t for the fact that we’d been sat with two small children who, whilst pretending to decorate gingerbread men earlier that day, had pretty much stuffed themselves full of chocolate, artificial colourings, sugary foods and anything else likely to result in them being hyperactive and so were an absolute nightmare meaning that the meal was rushed, and we felt stressed and didn’t enjoy it properly.

But we’d learnt our lesson: no sweets in the afternoon and force them to have a nap, and so when we went to Yang’s the following night that was a different matter entirely. Not only was the food of even higher quality than before (the Thai green curry was simply exquisite and the finest example of that dish I’d ever had), but equally importantly the kids were well behaved and we all had a lovely time.

The final full day was to be the only day of the holiday where we didn’t go swimming: there simply wasn’t time.

Soccer Mites

First thing in the morning, BTP was taking part in “Soccer Mites” at the sports plaza where he thoroughly enjoyed himself (even more so when the Dads had to join in too — although if I’d known I was going to play I would have worn clothes somewhat more appropriate to running about!

Immediately after that, I had to race back to the lodge to pick up the clearance form we’d forgotten and then race back up with it, so the GLW could take BTP horse-riding while I went back down to the lodge so SWP could have an afternoon kip.

After that, we had Cinderella’s tea party: party food, party games, party prizes, pass the parcel and people dressed up as Cinderella and Buttons. Not exactly my thing, but then again, I think it was probably pitched at the kids anyway…

And after all that, we still had time for a punch-up.

Okay, I admit that we didn’t go to the soft play area in the Sports Plaza with the intention of getting involved in a brawl, but these things happen.

I was stood near the soft play area watching the kids; my wife was sat down further back reading the paper, and the two kids were running around the soft play area having fun. Some of the things were a little hard for SWP (then aged 1) to climb up and so I was frequently chuckling to myself at the site of his older brother (age 3) standing behind him, putting his hands on his bum and then just shoving him up to the next step.

And it was while I was watching them that “the incident” occurred.

SWP was struggling to climb from one level of the soft play area to the next (and as usual, BTP was stood behind him trying to help), when a boy on the level above then (about the same age as BTP) aimed a kick at SWP’s head.

Fortunately, he missed, but decided to have another go immediately afterwards, and this time would have connected had BTP not put his arm protectively around his brother’s face to ward off the attack. SWP was just looking puzzled: seemingly as unsure whether the boy was trying to hit him as to why, but fortunately his big brother had twigged otherwise that second one would have caught him in the face.

Then this mini-lout, thwarted in his initial thirst for inflicting violence on a one-year old, reached down to pull SWP’s hair, only to be pushed away by BTP again, who then shouted…

How dare you!BTP

…so loudly it could probably have been heard at the other side of the forest.

But even that doesn’t put the micro-thug off, and this time he tries to slap SWP across the top of the head. However, by this time BTP’s had quite enough of this boy trying to hit his brother, and having had no success with just shouting at him, half-cuffs and half-pushes the other boy around the side of the head, sending him stumbling backwards.

And in the entire three seconds that it had taken for this sequence to have played out, I had put down my coke, and without taking my eyes off them for a scond, had headed round to the entrance to the soft play area just in time for my two kids to come bounding out with cries of

Daddy! Daddy! That naughty boy tried to hit my brother!BTP

Okay, so technically is wasn’t a punch-up, but it felt like one: watching one of my boys stand up for the other one and not allow him to be pushed around. I’m certainly not wanting my kids to get into fights, but I still can’t help but be tremendously proud of BTP for sticking up for his little brother like that.

And that was it, basically. On the final day, we picked up the car, said goodbye to the wasps, and just have time for one more trip to the swimming pool (where, as usual, we bumped into the Robinson clan), before another holiday was consigned to nothing more than memory, and I had to start sorting out things for work the following week.

That’s the main problem with holidays, and with posts like this though: they end suddenly.

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3 Comments to What I Did On My Autumn Holidays

  1. Rich Pedley says:

    October 9th, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve been there, a few years ago now.

    Our little ‘un was booked into to play football, but decided he didn’t want to after we got there. The pools were fun, though traipsing round after the little’un while he looked for a pool to use wasn’t funny. Especially as he always came back to the same place, one of the slides.

    We even went on the nature trail! And managed to do it all, well eventually. Unlike the middle’st son who got lost…

    We keep saying we’ll go back, though to which one I’m not sure.

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