Things have been fraught recently; I hate this time of year finding it really depressing, life has been monotonous, we've been knackered, and our summer holidays seem such a long way off in the future. I declared that we needed a break and investigated a couple of different options. I have only once been to Butlins (Pwllheli, Noth Wales) when I was in Year Six and I am sure that it has moved on a great deal since 1988, but I looked on TripAdvisor and was not overwhelmed with the standard of accommodation, which was a shame because the entertainment looked fabulous. Centre Parcs was the obvious choice but not at £800 for 3-night weekend break!
Then I remembered that my brother had been to a Forest Holidays site in the past. The one at the Forest of Dean opened in September 2010, and being only an hour away seemed ideal because The Boy is like his mother and does not travel well. We booked a Copper Beech cabin for the tidy sum of £250!
Today was the day for our mini-break. We've never actually been away as just a family before. We've been away with my parents, but not just the three of us. We finally managed to pack everything into the car and I withheld The Boy's sleep so he could doze off on the journey. Did he? Did he heck! He normally sleep for two hours during the day, he had 16 minutes in the car. He was distraught, I was distraught, hubby wasn't happy either!
We rocked up to the Bracelands site mid-afternoon. Check-in isn't normally until 4pm, but we were there an hour earlier and they were happy to hand over the keys. The cabins are at the top of a hill nestled into the middle of a forest which has carefully been cleared in strategic places to make way for 77 cabins, a Forest Retreat welcome centre and a few gravel tracks connecting them together.
This is the main difference between Forest Holidays and Centre Parcs; there is no swishy swimming pool, no soft-play, no chain-restaurants, nothing like that. There is a reception centre that has a mini-mart and there are the trees. That's it! Make your own entertainment together as a family. And this is exactly what we need.
We've already made a start at having fun together, just the three of us. The Boy has already experienced something new: splashing in puddles. Don't get me wrong I have taken him out but puddles in tarmac aren't quite the same somehow. He has thoroughly embraced the concept and we almost had to drag him away from them! The Boy was absolutely captivated with the cabin and the whole idea of trees being right outside. From the moment that we pulled into the space outside our Copper Beech cabin and opened the door, all that could be heard was the rain falling through the canopy of the evergreen forest and the birds singing in the trees. He was enthralled! It's due to rain tomorrow, but it's not a problem; we've got our wellies and waterproofs.