Center Parcs

What a lovely day so far. Dropped off mister Parker McGrath at the airport and drove through a bright and sunny Manchester and through the rolling hills of Derbyshire.  The rental car was due back for 3pm so we geared up to take it on home. Because the Smalley’s live out in the shire, and no where near a car-hire depot we had to get the kind and generous Richard, but you can call him ‘pops’, Smalley to pick us up and from the rental agency. Phoneless, and loving it, the only way for us to warn Richard that we were ready for a pick-up was to swing by the shire first. I sat patiently in the car and Thom ran in to tell him. Now these two fellas work almost exclusively on ‘Smalley-Time’ (we have our own timezone) and for anyone who doesn’t know this runs somewhere between ‘I just have to grab my hat’ and ‘I’m just going to re-align the tires, calibrate my computer monitor and count the hairs in my beard.’ (during tourist season this number triples…)

I sat and waited….patiently.
Eventually our hero emerged from the gap in the shrubbery and off we zipped into town.

“Is your dad coming?”

“Oh…yeah. He’s got some stuff to take care of, but I’m sure we’ll see him soon.”


So there we sat in the comfy parking lot; laughing, recounting stories of our youth, counting beard hairs, when all of a sudden Mister Smalley came barreling around the corner peeping the horn, cranking the tunes and waving the union jack (doesn’t everybody?).

“Get in kids!”

Now let me paint a picture of the roads in the shire. These narrow winding shrub lined roads are pheasant death traps with a reckless speed limit of 60mph. I know that doesn’t sound so bad; give em the ol’ grin & bear it Tessie, but its hard to focus on a grin when you’ve lost all feeling in your hands from your white-knuckling death-grip on the seat in front of you.

So we’re twisting and turning, Thom’s pointing out relics of this childhood and eagle eye Richard is busy spotting a chaffinch in an oak two miles away. Needless to say I’m distracted. The Smalley gents do a great job of taking my mind off the scenery because before I know it Thommyboy is slowly rotating in the front seat to face me Richard is peaking in the rear view mirror at me.

“Do you know where you are Tessie?”


“Look” as he points to a sign reading


Cheeky Monkeys!


Giddy and very proud of their covert operation they explain that we’re going to be staying here. In fact the whole family was going to be staying here. In fact they were already here and were going to continue to be for the next 5 days!


“wait.. but I don’t have anything packed”

Ah ah ah…these sneaking mums thought of everything! They had already packed up my bag right after we left for Manchester and when we stopped at their place on the way home they weren’t dilly-dallying, but were packing up the car with my backpack….SNEAKY MUMS!

I love surprises. Usually more than I actually like what I’m being surprised by. But this was one super wonderful combination!

Center Parcs is a holiday resort built into the Pinewoods of Sherwood Forest. Little cottage/cabins pepper the site – similar to the layout of a provincial park.  Small footpaths wind around giving access to nature hides, a fowl-filled lake, rock climbing, mini-put and la-piece-de-resistance: The Bio-Dome.

A glass dome sits in the center of the park and is referred to as the subtropical swimming paradise. And buoy-oh-buoy was it paradise.

The Jungle within…

A wave pool, hot tubs, FLUMES, and thommytown’s specialty: the jungle river (which insisted on bruising my hips, arms, back, knees, face, chest, neck and bum. Not for me thanks.)

The waves in the pool announce their arrival by the call of Tarzan, which can be heard park wide. I suppose this once mighty call has lost some luster over the years and now sounds more like the Smalley family cockerels….on their death beds…of hay… or something fowl like that.

Thames and I ran into the cabin and whipped on our ‘swimming costumes’ – ha! – faster than you could say ‘Smalley family cockerels.’ Swimming time for Tessie Town! Straight into the wave pool without a second thought. Swimming, laughing, splashing, drowningdrowningdrowning. Maybe more waves later. We found another pool; warmer and less murderous. We bobbed around there for a while until Toma took us through to the exterior! Three cheers for heated outdoor pools!

The Loch Tess Monster

Les Orreys dans la Piscine

To the Mooooon!

Tessie tried the Jungle River several times, it’s a Smalley favourite! But each time would only result in tears, she was fine down the first part which is all outside (and pretty tame) but the transition back indoors is a bit of a tricky slide that whips around a corner and through flaps, if you’re too far left you get bashed against the outer wall, if you’re too far right you get sucked under and stuck in an eddy current going back the other way. To be honest even if you’re in the right spot it’s a pretty rough ride so I’m not really surprised she didn’t want to do it anymore after bruising herself up pretty good. It was awful. I was sad. I was sore. I was bruised.

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Flume Time!

Wow. That flume sure aged Tess

On one of the days we were there we noticed that there was a duck swimming along with us, this is pretty common in the open air outside pool but this one was inside the dome, sometimes you see little birds up in the trees but for a whole duck to be swimming in the pool is a bit weird. We didn’t really think much of it but when it showed up the next day and the day after that, we started to wonder what was being done about it. Surely it can’t be healthy for neither the duck nor the swimmers. There was a decked out militant man running around with a net but he was next to useless. The duck could spot him coming a mile off and just flew away…as ducks do, it was quite comical to watch. Hopefully the duck got bored and left the same way it got in, but it was still there, swimming merrily around, the day we left.

I’ll call her Chloriney and she shall be mine

The great thing about the dome is that you can pack yourselves a little (or extensive) picnic and be in there all day, without really doing anything. You can swim between reading and napping, eat between swimming and lounging and nap between lounging and hot tubbing. There are flumes and slides and the “lagoon bar”, there’s a big raft ride and kid’s pools. It’s a really cool place and seeing as how the weather wasn’t brilliant (surprise) for outside activities, we decided to spend most of our time in there. We also had to test out our wonderful little new camera that is waterproof up to 10 meters and can shoot slow-motion video… needless to say we had a lot of fun with that.

oh she’s mad

underwater gram cam

There were 8 of us altogether; Me and Tess, Mum and Dad, Gran, Katelyn, Ellie and Jay.  So we could all go and do our own thing and then meet up whenever to do things together, like Robin Hood and Little John’s crazy golf adventure!

Watch out for that tree hazard
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Time always goes too quickly at Center Parcs and before we knew it, it was time to pick up and get ooot. We had one last meal at Rajinda Pradesh, a delicious Indian restaurant in the village square and that was that. My family have gone almost every single year since I was born and I hope they continue to, who knows when I’ll be back there myself but I hope it won’t be too far in the future…

Say Cheese!!

All in all this wacky British adventure park was an absolute pleasure to hang out in and I can’t wait to go back and flume the good flume.

check out our flickr for more photos! (just click on any picture and it’ll take you right there:) )

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