A First Timers Review of Center Parcs at Sherwood Forest

Center Parcs

I think that I have wanted to visit Center Parcs for about 20 years, maybe longer. I always thought though that you needed children to come here and really enjoy Center Parcs, so I didn’t plan a holiday here till I had a daughter. Last April I booked a weekend break to coincide with my husband’s birthday. I don’t usually book holidays 11 months in advance but I’d heard that you got better prices by booking early. Not sure if this is true but the price we paid wasn’t too bad and we got the accommodation that we liked the look of best.

The excitement started before the weekend with the downloading of the Center Parcs app and choosing and booking some activities and restaurants. Not a perfect app but pretty good and a great way to remember when and where you need to go. I needed to make some alterations to the activities a few days before going and a phone call to Center Parcs sorted it out very easily and no admin charges. Within minutes my app had been updated too.

Friday came but before we even thought about leaving for Sherwood Forest, we had to celebrate my husbands birthday – presents and cards (with a toddler helping to open everything), balloons, croissants for breakfast and a cake (Mary Berry’s Malted Chocolate Cake) and candles after lunch. In between the celebrations, ironing, packing the cases and the car. We had booked the early arrival but it wasn’t long before we realised that we weren’t going to make this. Never mind celebrations and family illness couldn’t be helped.

Finally we were on our way, car packed to the rafters for 3 nights away. Just after 3pm we turned into Center Parcs and thankfully (despite what I’d previously read) the queue to get the accommodation key wasn’t too long.

We were lucky enough to have a reserved parking space with our apartment, although when we arrived, there were plenty of spaces but a few hours later and people were squeezing their cars in anywhere.

First impressions of our apartment were very good. It looked modern and was large and spacious. It had everything that you needed for a break away. It came with some basics in the kitchen – cloth, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid. You couldn’t hear any of our neighbours, so you could easily forget that someone was staying very close by to you.

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Perfect for my 2 year old daughter was the chalk board on the wall. Who can draw better, mummy or daughter?

Chalk board photo

She also thought it was amazing that both bedrooms had a tv. Oh to think like a toddler!

But best all were the ducks, birds, squirrel and rabbit that came to our patio area. Our daughter enjoyed feeding them and waving and saying hello. Some fun doesn’t have to cost much. Seeing a happy toddler, makes happy parents too.

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We were staying in the Pine area and were about 5 minutes from guest services, the cycle centre and Jardine Des Sports. Aqua Santa spa was only a few minutes walk across two car parks. The village square and Subtropical Swimming Paradise were about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. The lake and Nature Centre were further out beyond the Village Square.

Strangely, neither of us liked the taste of the tap water, it wasn’t as lovely as Yorkshire water. My tea just didn’t taste nice, so we had to go and buy some mineral water to use. Some people won’t obviously mind the taste but worth noting that it might not be to every bodies taste.

Plenty of people brought along bikes or hired them but we decided to walk, especially as it was only 3 months since my operation. I found walking around really easy and didn’t miss not having a bike to ride. Certainly, walking everywhere was easy from where we were staying. If you do want to cycle, Sherwood Forest is fairly flat, so would be good for little kids.

I can’t fault any of the staff that we encountered. Everyone was customer focused. From the housekeeping staff emptying or putting on the dishwasher, to the restaurant staff who were lovely with our toddler. No one we spoke to said, that’s not my job, they just helped.

We booked some activities. Learn Balance Bike, as I am keen for my daughter to love the balance bike that we bought her. I don’t know what I expected for the 45min lesson but it was well thought out and Callam the instructor was great with all of the  toddlers. Daisy even rode a balance bike with encouragement from Callam. No such luck a week later at home!

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On the Sunday morning we did The Really Wild Treasure Hunt, which was designed for 2 years + with mummy and daddy’s help. It was a lovely walk, following a map and looking out for question points on trees so that we could spell a word and get a prize. It took about 1 hour, and we did most of this with our daughter being carried in a baby carrier as she was tired but we still all enjoyed being outdoors, and walking. The prize was a badge and some sweets, not much but ok and we only paid £4 something.

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That afternoon we had a game of ten pin bowling booked but discovered that with our daughters afternoon nap the time we had booked was not going to work. A quick phone call and our bowling and restaurant bookings were moved. We all had a lot of fun bowing. It had been years since I had bowled and still wasn’t great! It worked really well with a toddler too, who obviously won. After the bowling we spotted a small soft play area in the Jardine de Sports and stopped to let our daughter have some pre dinner fun. It was busy but not too busy for her to still make use of it and enjoy herself. Best of all it was clean!

So everyone mentions the swimming at Center Parcs and no we did not forget to swim, although we had trouble fitting it in. We did manage a short swim before going on the treasure hunt. We had a lot of fun, my only criticism would be that the changing rooms could do with a bit of modernising. I would have liked to have spent more time in the Swimming Paradise. Sensibly, we kept our swimming stuff in a locker whilst we went on the nature trail and collected them afterwards.

I had booked my self a massage at the Aqua Sana Spa on the Saturday. This was a lovely experience overall. Disappointingly, I wasn’t allowed to have the aromatherapy massage as I had an operation 3 months earlier, this was despite phoning a few days earlier to check. As an alternative, I was offered a manicure instead. A bit disappointed but it was a deluxe manicure, including massage, soak and mask and I got a delicious hot chocolate to drink with cream and flake, as well as time to relax in their relaxation area afterwards. The only downside to this spa was the changing room which was crowded. There were plenty of lockers but not enough space for everyone to change. I would definitely recommend treating yourself to a treatment at the spa if you are coming to stay. I would have liked to spend longer at Aqua Sana but had a toddle r and husband to go back to. Luckily for hubby, I managed to book this across our daughter’s nap time, so he go some F1 time to himself.

Eating at Center Parcs was hit and miss for us. We tried The Pancake House, Huck’s American Bar and Grill and Strada, alongside a coffee at Starbucks.

Starbucks

Well, Starbucks was Starbucks, so absolutely fine.

The Pancake House

I had read good things about The Pancake House, so I was looking forward to lunch here. This restaurant serves dutch style pancakes and  omelets. My first impressions were that it looked old fashioned. That said my daughter was happy to get a balloon. We enjoyed the omelets that we ate for lunch and my daughter ate all of her pasta. We did not like the pancakes, tasted odd to us and my daughters fresh fruit desert did not look in great condition. Hubby was given a Mother’s day card to take away, colour and give to me. That was a nice Center Parcs touch.

Huck’s American Bar and Grill

This I had read mixed reviews about and my overall opinion wasn’t great. This is an American style restaurant serving burgers, stakes, chicken wings, onion rings etc. Children can do a kids buffet, which is great to get them eating straight away, only I didn’t think much to the quality of it but my daughter enjoyed the pasta and peas that she chose. We had burgers, which were disappointing, given the standard of burgers that on offer these days at most restaurants. The waitress was lovely and again 2 balloons for my daughter were greatly received. They had a soft play area and computers to play on. As my daughter was involved in food and balloons, she did not notice these. I can see how this could be useful with older children.

Strada

This was my favourite place that we ate at. This is an Italian restaurant that lots of people will know from seeing or visiting one locally to them. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal here. My daughter got crayons and a menu to colour in to keep her occupied. I would definitely eat here again.

I would eat more meals in our accommodation next time. We had all our breakfasts, one dinner and one lunch in the accommodation. All easy to prepare in the kitchen that had just enough equipment to make everything and a dishwasher to ease the cleaning up.

We did go to the on site supermarket, which wasn’t cheap but not too expensive. My daughter loved the mini shopping trolley. all supermarkets should have these, it kept her interested in shopping and was much easier to shop with her with her own trolley.

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We only went for a weekend but both my husband and I said that we felt really relaxed at the end of it, so much so, that we have booked another weekend to celebrate my hubby’s birthday again next year, and we’re staying in the same apartment too!

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Being Mummy – The Best and Worst Job in the World

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It’s Mother’s Day. That day once a year, when we take time to appreciate our mothers.

Mine died 18 years ago, so until my daughter came along this was a sad day for me. Now I’m a mummy to a 2.5 year old and can enjoy this day again.

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Today my daughter is under the weather and has needed more carrying cuddles than usual. She is a keen walker these days, so there aren’t as many of these opportunities these days. This has reminded me about how much I love being a mummy but also how hard it has also been.

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I may have gone in to motherhood with rose tinted glasses on (most of us probably do) but I soon got to see the not so great and difficult times as a mother too. The heartache of your day old baby going in an incubator due to an infection, the not knowing what to do with a crying, colicky baby, the sleepless nights, the painful breastfeeding, the weaning worry, going back to work after maternity leave sadness, not settling in to the child minders worry, toddler tantrums and lows (and highs) of potty training.

Time ebbs most of this away and there are more happy mother and child moments than sad / difficult on. Like a toddler coming to me this morning with a bag saying Happy Mother’s Day  and clapping mummy when I’ve done a wee ( you can tell we are potty training). Watching a baby develop and gradually learn new things and knowing that they are becoming what they are because of the time and effort you are putting in. The first time they smile, kiss you and tell you that they love you. Now that just melts your heart and you realise parenthood is one of the best things in the world.

Happy Mother’s Day

The Resiliance of Toddlers

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Having recently been in hospital for a hysterectomy following on from a Cancer diagnosis, I have learnt how resilient Toddlers are.

I worried before I went in to hospital about how my 2 year old daughter would cope. Who would look after her when my husband came to visit me? After all visiting time falls right across a toddlers bedtime. Who would look after her when I normally did and then who would still be able to visit me? Should she come to visit me in hospital?

I wouldn’t be a good mummy if I didn’t worry but I needn’t have. Not only did people rally round and offer help, but toddlers understand more than you think and get with it very quickly.

My daughter did not bat an eyelid that a different person – grandparents, Aunty, friends – bathed and put her to bed each night. In fact, I think she thought it was great, getting to see family and friends when she wouldn’t normally. No fuss caused by her either. When my husband reported this to me in hospital, it made me relax. Knowing she was ok meant that I could forget about her and get on with getting better.

In the end she never visited me in hospital. I had post op complications and didn’t feel up to a toddler visiting me.

When I got home, she very quickly understood that mummy couldn’t pick her up and was fine with that. The fact that mummy was around was enough. We had work arounds too. If she joined me in my bed, then I could still read her bedtime stories. When I was able to sit back on the sofa, she worked out how to climb on me to sit on my knee. A step helped her to climb on to my bed or a dining chair.

The only things I couldn’t find an alternative for was putting her in the car seat, bath or cot. For this my husband or family or friend were on hand to help and she has never moaned when I have said that I can’t do something. In fact she often says “I’m heavy.”

I will shortly be able to lift her again and both her and I will not need to rely on others help any more but it’s good to know that none of this seems to have affected her. I’m sure having a routine kept the same with lots of love from people help a lot.

My Favourite Clothing Brands for Little People

No one is sponsoring me to write this. I just thought that as I have always loved fashion and clothes for myself, that it was about time that I wrote about one of my favourite things. You can spend relatively little on baby and toddler clothes, you can also spend a fortune. I sit somewhere in the middle and like a balance between quality, style and price. I’m always up for buying my favourite brands if discount is offered or it’s sale time. Plus don’t forget cash back sites like Quidco or Topcashback.

Jo Jo Maman Babe

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Nearly everything I have bought from here has been in the sale. I like that you can buy girly clothes with out looking too twee or pink! The quality is lovely and you can buy dresses which look smart but not too partyish, which you need sometimes. Most of the best offers tend to be online but their shops are lovely and the shop assistants have always been very helpful. Fit wise, this is between true to size and a bit small. At the moment my daughter has just turned 2.5 years old and is wearing 2-3. It still has growing room but isn’t huge.

Boden:

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Modelling Boden

Some people have a funny idea about this company, thinking it is only for rich people. Well at full price, things can seem expensive but you could restrict yourself to a treat. What some people don’t realise is that there are continually different discount offers going around, a clearance section, and town hall sales pop up over the country. I like the quality – it washes well and the their prints and use of bright colours. Fit wise, it is a bit on the large size. I had to size down on a pair of trousers as they were way too long. This is more true in the Baby Boden section rather than Mini Boden. (Model wearing current season Baby Boden)

Frugi:

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A Cornish based company, that started by making organic clothes “cut4cloth” for cloth nappies. I discovered Frugi when I was looking for a breastfeeding top and the one that I bought from them was one of the best that I had. Then I saw that their clothes were cut to take cloth nappies, so I had to get some trousers and leggings. All their clothes are clothes are so cute too. If we had more money, my husband said he would buy all her clothes from here. They seem to be getting more popular year on year, so their sales sell out very quickly. Fit wise, Frugi has always been on the more generous size. My daughter fitted her 12-18 month snuggle fleece until she was just over 2 years old. Gap: The American brand isn’t always cheap but often has 30% off or a sale on. You can find great clothes here, especially t-shirts, jeans and leggings. Great for going to the child minders  and messy play clothes. Fit wise, Gap comes up a bit small, so I always size up in Gap. I have just bout age 4 for my 2.5 year old and the t-shirts are still not huge but should be fine for the summer.

Boots:

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Before my daughter was born, I would have never thought that Boots would be a good place to buy her clothes from, but each season, I could almost buy her one of each item they make for the Mini Club range. Again, they make clothes with out having to use too much pink. There is often a club card offer or baby event offer on. Fit wise, large! I have sized down in trousers recently and they have still got to have turn ups.

H&M:

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This is a cheaper shop than most but is one of the more ethical high street shops. I haven’t bought loads here but have recently discovered that for cloth bottomed children their baby clothes fit better than any other high street shop. Size wise they are definitely on the generous side. I have bought 18-24 month jeans and jumper from here and they still fine on my 2.5 year old.

Part Two: The Bexley Wing, St James Hospital, Leeds

Bexley Wing, St James Hospital
It’s taken me a bit longer than I expected to write this post, a bit like the time it is taking to recover.

I spent 6 days on Ward 98. This is a ward just for ladies with gynecological Cancer. Overall the experience of my stay was good, everyone was lovely, maybe they didn’t always seem to know the right thing to do, which wasn’t always helpful to me the patient or have enough time to help. This is my own personal story of my stay and recovery from radical hysterectomy surgery.

On 16th December, mid to late afternoon, I was back on the ward in my bed having spent 3-4 hours in surgery and then time in recovery. I was hooked up to painkillers and fluids and catheterised. Oh what joy!

Morphine seems to be the strong painkiller of choice in hospitals, which I was allowed to self administer, so when I felt pain, I could press the pump for another dose of the drug. It then had a 5 minute safety cut out so that I could not overdose. I initially thought that this was a great idea and pressed every time I felt in need of some more pain relief. Now I’m sure that this usually works well for people but it didn’t for me. On that first evening/night in hospital I began to feel very very strange. I think I even thought that I might die at one point. I called for nurse help and eventually didn’t want to be left on my own. Luckily, a nursing assistant was able to stay with me for a bit. It turns out that I was high on Morphine and if that is how you feel after taking drugs, then I can’t believe that people would want that sensation for pleasure! A nurse said that looking at my charts and adding up how much Morphine I had been given during surgery, in post recovery and now back on the ward, it was too much. I have no idea what my fellow ward mates made of me that night shouting “help”. They didn’t say anything negative to me though, only understanding kind words.

My next hurdle was sickness that revealed internal bleeding. Yikes! Generally this sickness happened at night time. The worst time for this to happen, if for nothing else than you can only see a junior doctor, who didn’t always suggest the same thing as the consultant who I saw in the morning. I was given anti sickness meds to help, of which one turned out to also make me sick.

To check the internal bleeding out, all in one day, I had a stomach X Ray at my bed, blood transfusions, CT scan and a vascular thing where something was put in my leg so that a Consultant could look for the bleeding pount – after an hour he couldn’t find anything and concluded it had already healed itself. Phew. I wasn’t looking forward to the vascular thing at all but the consultant and nurses had done this for years and were so good that not only did they move me painlessly on to the table but it was pain free.

I still had to have fluids intravenously for a few days. Eventually they did stop and I started to drink or rather sip as this was all my body could cope with.

Now the sickness did continue till after my discharge and it was explained that because my bowels had gone on strike following surgery, until they started working again food didn’t have anywhere to go apart from back up. This made recovering tricky. I needed to eat but what I ate wouldn’t stay down. This really didn’t get better until the laxatives got sorted out after I was discharged.

The thing that no one told me about before the op was gas. Gas was more uncomfortable and painful than the operation that I had just had. Who would have thought that this was possible, but it was. Peppermint water (yucky) or peppermint oil capsules can help and did a bit, as can walking around, which is difficult after this major op. It was uncomfortable that sleeping was difficult and it had me in tears at times. This horrible gas stayed with me for nearly two weeks and only really left when my bowels started to work again.

Not feeling up to washing was awful as I hate looking a mess. I think I had a shower 3 times in hospital, as it was an effort with a catheter in and feeling awful. It was difficult to bend too, which didn’t help. One day a nurse helped me which was great but in general no one had time to help anyone wash and your not allowed visitors in the morning who could help. My poor visitors who had to see me in this state. I hope I didn’t smell!

I found visiting time so so important to me, that when my visitors did not arrive on time, I was upset. They all had valid reasons for being late but in my just operated state my head could not compute rationality and the world outside ward 98, especially as I had no oomph to feel like reading to while the hours away.

My husband visited me every evening, although I don’t always remember him being there as I was so tired. He bought me food to eat – better than hospital food but my appetite had both gone and taste buds changed. It was always great to see a friendly face though.

I can’t fault my consultant, who on the a Thursday, gave me her mobile phone number, so that if I had any problems on her day off and over the weekend I could call her. I’m not sure many consultants would do that.

The sub ward I was on had just 4 beds and luckily for me I only shared with lovely (poorly) ladies. It does help if you are staying in hospital that you have bed fellows who you can chat to for a bit. You also hear some sad illness stories too. The only thing that I didn’t like listening to was the tales of chemotherapy, which at the time I did not know if I had to have. I’d have rather been a bit more blinkered at that stage.

Sleeping was very difficult. Discomfort played a big part but being in a warm hospital didn’t help either, together with early wake ups for medicine, then breakfast. I may have even done some internet shopping during one sleepless night! It took a few further weeks at home for sleep to get back to normal.

I needed to start exercising. After all, the leaflets say that this is the road to recovery. First I could only make it from my bed to the window and back holding on to my mother in law. Then I made it to the dizzy heights of a circuit around the ward. It is amazing to think that I could barely walk only 2 1/2 months ago and now I almost back to normal.

On Sunday afternoon 5 days after my op, I was allowed home. I’m not sure that I was ready for home but I knew that I would recover better at home. As usual, the drugs were the hold up to going home. I changed in to my comfy clothes, put my coat on but couldn’t do it up and I had to wear my slippers as my swollen feet wouldn’t fit in to my boots. I must have looked such a funny sight.

Best of all, I hadn’t seen my  2 year old daughter for nearly 6 days.