Off we go on another adventure!! Our next route takes us around the north of England and we plan on seeing a lot more cities than the coastal drives on the south coast.
After a stressful, whistlestop tour of Cambridge city centre we had a night in a very budget friendly hotel in Peterborough. I think the less said about that stay the better! We then drove to a very small town (village?) called Stamford which Marcus’ family has links to. Not much to see here, a few old churches, quaint little high street – and for Molly a fab soft play centre!
We stayed in the Bull and Swan, an absolutely gorgeous boutique hotel just on the other side of the river. This hotel would be my only reason for coming back to Stamford. It was amazing! The food was delicious, the staff couldn’t have been more sincerely friendly (without being OTT), and our room was huge. The bathroom had a roll top bath, extra large shower and was full of fluffy towels and white company toiletries. The bed was ginormous with sumptuous linen, we had our own nespresso coffee machine, tea pigs tea, biscuits, a smart tv and excellent wifi. Can I move in permanently?!
Thank goodness for our relaxing evening as our next stop was action packed, nature loving – Centre Parcs!!!
En route we stopped in Mansfield to stretch our legs in their impressively child friendly museum. In the main part of the museum it describes the history of the town and has a section dedicated to conservation, recycling, waste etc. There was a school group taking part in a particular task which allowed them to run around the space to find clues – Molly loved chasing them, perhaps she’s ready for school already 🙂 ?!
They also had a special exhibition on Nick Sharratt, who I know from my pocket money saving days as he illustrated the covers of my favourite Jacqueline Wilson books.
As the check in time to centre parcs is pretty late in the day we also had time to squeeze in a trip on a miniature railway. The steam train wasn’t running but we gladly climbed aboard the electric number. Molly loved it!! Definitely something I’d recommend for little ones or train lovers if you’re in the area.
Finally it was time to check in to Sherwood Forest Centre Parcs. It’s quite a slow process with lots of queuing but eventually you get to your cabin! We massively lucked out in terms of location as we couldn’t have been closer to the centre. As well as this we had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms! So much space! The wildlife came and greeted us at the back door straight away with ducks, geese and a swan all pecking at the window (didn’t sit well with me and my bird fear!!).
We hastily unpacked the car and ran to the swimming pool!
The aquatic complex is exactly as I imagined; one main pool which has a wave machine every 30mins, two flumes, an outdoor pool with the river Rapids, the grand cascade (a flume which you go down in a raft), jacuzzis, a toddler pool, a child’s pool, activity pool and a spa pool…I think that’s it!!! There’s plenty of family changing rooms and the whole system runs very smoothly. Also worth a mention are the lovely lifeguards who do a stirling job. We took Molly to the ‘Baby Dolphins’ session which is when they open the pool up early and have a few inflatables for little ones to get used to swimming and the surroundings. Molly didn’t really need this as she’s a fish and was quite happy going down the adult flumes with us – she did however enjoy the singing, especially the aqua version of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’.
Centre Parcs love an up-sell and after booking the stay Marcus was inundated with emails encouraging us to pre book activities. There’s not that many for the under 2 age bracket (that also aren’t eye wateringly expensive) so we signed her up for toddler sensory and baby balance bikes. Toddler sensory was run by, quite frankly an awful woman, Donna. She couldn’t have been less passionate and it all was a little flat. We sang a welcome song and then basically we were allowed to roam free in the room. Not quite what we thought we’d signed up for, maybe because at home in London the classes are phenomenal (e.g. The lovely Lottie who runs Heartbeeps, a 45min baby rave who has an abundance of stimulation and energy).
The following day we were excited to try again with the baby balance bikes – oh good lord it was deplorable Donna again. Once more, the welcome song (which is completely unnecessary for a class like this) and then with very little instruction you just roam free. Some of the children were upset from the word go as to use the balance bikes you had to wear a helmet (nothing was mentioned about this in any of the literature I came across), fortunately molly is ok with headgear. She didn’t quite get the hang of driving (takes after her mother) but nevertheless enjoyed filling her car up with petrol.
Our family activity was Geocache – orienteering with a GPS. I was all over this! Absolutely loved it and my true competitive side was unleashed like a beast. We strapped Molly into her new rucksack carrier and we were off racing around the resort following clues and waypoints. It’s a great way to see how big Centre Parcs is and all of the facilities that are on offer. We came a very, very close second place which I’m pretty proud of!
Finally we also dropped Molly off in the crèche for a session to give us some responsibility free time – we headed straight for the pool and then toasted our successful break in the bar. As she’s yet to start nursery I was of course emotional at leaving her, especially with strangers, however I can hand on heart recommend any parents doing this during their stay as I had absolutely no qualms about the lovely staff looking after her.
Centre Parcs is already geared up for Christmas and has their Winter Wonderland all decked out. This means a multitude of festive activities which you pay extra for (Santa’s Grotto, horse and carriage rides, elf academy etc) – but also a lovely walkway full of twinkling lights, fake snow and animated puppet/robots. It was a lovely touch and has made us feel quite excited for the festive season. They had fireworks on during our stay and they were on early enough for Molly to watch – she loved them – the louder the better.
Since she was already up past her bedtime we took her to the children’s disco where she could bust her signature moves, the bum wiggle and stomp! She certainly slept well that night.
And now for ‘The Grand of Duke of YORK’….
(5-11th November 2016)