To celebrate my imminent birthday we arranged a big family holiday to Centre Parcs. The last time we went to one of these places my daughter was a baby. I thought it was quite nice but hugely overpriced for what we got out of it. Now my children are older, I have become a complete convert. As long as I completely ignore the fact that I could go on a two week all inclusive holiday to Greece for the same price as a Bank Holiday retreat to a forest, I love it! There’s loads to do and the atmosphere is one of relaxation and family fun.
We certainly packed in a lot. I am incredibly grateful that my parents and my siblings and my siblings’ families were all willing to travel such a long way to join me. On the first night we had a disco in our house and the screening of a story and movie made for me by nephews (both are brilliant). Day 2 consisted of swimming, geocaching, meals with surprise cakes and balloons, den building and gifts of fancy pens and a photo album of just a small selection of the times I’ve dressed up in costume. Day 3 we had an owl encounter, swimming, spa time and an aerial adventure (come back to that in a minute). Day 4 we ate pancakes, played pool, rowed a boat, went swimming and came home. It was exhausting, fabulous fun.
I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and used to be a member of Brownies and Guides. I liked Brownies but wasn’t as keen on Guides. We made a lot of dolls out of polo tubes and Easter treats out of cooking chocolate. I also remember a game where we had to be really quiet in order to steal keys.
My brothers were in Scouts and always seemed to be doing a lot more exciting things than me. There was climbing, hiking, water fights and burying dead sheep in farmers’ fields (true story). Sometimes I used to sneakily join in when my parents helped out. I loved it! Although I did get annoyed if anyone told me I could sit out if I was too scared or that I might not be strong enough to join in. Sometimes I was both these things, but I did it anyway. Luckily girls were allowed in the Venture Scouts and so I joined that as soon as I was old enough. I also signed up for Duke of Edinburgh awards and anything else that would have me.
However, that was all a long time ago. For ages I’ve looked at these Goape type things and wanted to try them. I’ve always had good excuses such as, it’s too expensive, I’m pregnant, I haven’t done any exercise in 15 years. When I saw that Centre Parcs had one of these treetop challenges I knew I had to do it. My daughter couldn’t wait to do it too. Our enthusiasm must have been contagious because we also convinced my husband, brother and nephew to join in.
As I’ve said, I enjoy a good challenge and was feeling very excited about this one. We were all very pleased with our matching helmets. I was so excited I even offered to go first.
The thing about being first is that you have the pleasure of working out how to do everything for everybody else. You even get to be the first person to check that all the ropes are still attached; the first person to work out how to get on and off all the various zipwires; the first person to work out how not to get hit in the face by the metal attachments; and even the first person to realise just how high you are in tall trees that wave about in the wind. I also had to work out how to hold on to the wobbly trees so I could film and photograph everyone else. I only nearly dropped my phone three times.
There was a series of different rope bridges interspersed with small zipwires. Each rope bridge required a different type of balance and each zipwire required you to hold your breath and jump. Just as you thought you were getting to the end, the bridges went even higher again and the trees became even wobblier. Eventually you ended up on the top of a very tall tower. The children were particularly brilliant and took it all in their stride. Which was good, as in some places their stride was particularly stretched.
The whole course ended with one giant zipwire over the lake. This was by far my favourite part. I now really want to find all the biggest zipwires in the world and go on all of them. I also thought it was particularly funny that both children had to be pulled back using a large stick after bouncing too far back over towards the lake.
At the end we were all pretty proud of ourselves and gratefully accepted the pin badges offered as evidence of our great accomplishment.