Travel: A world of pure imagination
I think Willy Wonka said it best with the words 'Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination, take a look and you'll see into your imagination.'
But that’s just it isn’t it. We don’t stop to delve into our imaginations anymore, certainly not often enough. In this world of iPads and smartphones many of us - myself included - have forgotten how to relax, how to unwind, how to have fun and how to use our imaginations.
Even when you go to Center Parcs, where there is a plethora of activities for people of all ages and tastes we can be forgiven for thinking we have to cram as much into the visit as possible to somehow make it worthwhile or to glean the most value for money from it.
Of course with so much to do from high wire treetop trails to cycling, bowling, Segway experiences and pottery you are spoilt for choice in that regard.
In truth you could fill every waking minute of your free time at Center Parcs with some form of activity.
But sometimes it is great to just sit back and take a moment, let our imaginations flow and be a little bit old school with our free time.
The company’s newest village resort at Woburn Forest, just a short driving distance for any of the Home Counties and literally down the road from Milton Keynes, is looking more comfortable in its surroundings with every passing year.
The wildlife is growing more accustomed to having us humans in and around the place and have cottoned on to the benefits of hanging around us, namely getting scraps of food here and there - although I’m sure they love the cooing as well. We had seven squirrels visiting us together regularly during the course of our stay and the kids took great delight in naming and feeding them (they swore they could tell the difference).
Opened in 2014, Woburn Forest is the most compact of the villages and is already comfortable in its environment. It has all the usual amenities, thrills and spills and the chill factor with the wonderful Aqua Sana Spa too.
There is a balance to be struck between free time and activities but Center Parcs is just as keen for families to think outside the box too as anyone who has seen their quirky new ad campaign will testify.
To that end, selected guests have been surprised with a Book of Imagination across a period of breaks. Placed in their lodges at the start of their stay, this limited edition book was designed to give repeat guests some inspiration and fire up their imaginations in line with the ad campaign, challenging families to strip life back and enjoy some good old fashioned fun.
The book features everything from a pouch to collect and press leaves from around the forest to games, puzzles, drawing activities and scavenger hunts.
So we made a conscious decision to put away the iPads and the smartphones and we eased off on the conventional activities and embarked on our own little family adventure using the Book of Imagination.
Yes we did some cycling, and treated ourselves to some relaxation in the pristine spa. We even had a couple of meals out at the ever dependable Hucks and Strada (we couldn’t resist some pancakes at the Pancake House either).
But our weekend focused on this book. In fact it took on almost mythical proportions for the kids, like the Neverending Story, as we trekked around doing tree rubbings, scavenging and even built a den near our lodge nestled away in the forest hill.
Some people may overlook Center Parcs, thinking their money is better spent taking to a foreign clime where the odds of good weather are perhaps more favourable. But that is to miss one of the great holiday destinations the UK has to offer and there is no question you get your value for money no matter how you attack it.
I was lucky enough to visit Center Parcs a couple of times as a child and to this day those memories eclipse many of our trips abroad. It was where I bonded with my parents the most, and that quality time is priceless, more so than ever in this fast paced world.
It all depends what value you place on different aspects of your holiday. Sun, sea, sand your bag? Well Center Parcs has got a beach, a beautiful lake full of water sports and if you’re lucky the sun will be shining. But that’s not what it is about.
It is about adventure and making memories which last a lifetime. If I were to hand over this article to the children to finish, it would probably read “We don’t want to go home” written through eyes streaming with tears.
The little one physically held on to the doorframe she was so in love with this wondrous place. If you do choose Center Parcs for your next break, just pear life back for a few days and remember what’s important.
This magical place has a way of making you forget all your troubles and you might only be half an hour from home but it feels like a thousand miles away.
I opened on that great thinker of our time Willy Wonka so it seems apt to close with him too...
If you want to see magic lands, close your eyes and you will see one, want to be a dreamer, be one.