Are you still looking for somewhere to take a break this half term? Well, why not try the new Forest Holidays site in Blackwood Forest, Hampshire?
On the first Bank Holiday weekend in May – you remember, the one where the weather was fairly kind! – Grace, Ross and I were invited along to a bloggers day out at the new Blackwood Forest site for Forest Holidays.
Our drive there was a rather wet one so we didn’t hold out too much hope for the weather. Upon our arrival we made our way to the up a long and bumpy road to where our hosts awaited us. The benefit of a long and bumpy road? It takes you far from the hustle and bustle. Just don’t eat too much before you get there! We were greeted at the Retreat with some cheerful faces and offered complimentary drinks and had a bit of a chat. The Forest Retreat is the hub of the site where you can check in, buy provisions and hire bicycles amongst other things.
We then had a talk from Gary Fletcher, the CEO of Forest Holidays, explaining to us that they were in partnership with the Forestry Commission and that their sites were on their land and in keeping with their rules and regulations. For example, all their heating was run using wood pellet boilers. The Log Cabins are built on low impact piles which give a raised effect and are eco-sensitive as a result. They also have no guttering, instead a pipe takes the water into a butt in order to make it reusable and have the best in class cabin insulation.
After the talk we were taken by Minibus to one of their beautiful cabins in the forest where Jill showed us around. The one we saw was a Silver Birch cabin. They have 4 different levels of accommodation from one bedroom sleeping up to a total of 10 people. The cabins are so well equipped with a fabulous size lounge, fantastic kitchen and dining area, an outside patio and hot tub, 3 good sized bedrooms, en-suite and separate bathroom. I told Jill I would be happy to live there, that really is no word of a lie. There is also a chance to order different packages for the cabin including a chef to cook for you, massages and romantic packages with champagne and chocolates as well as pizza and movie nights.
We decided to take a lovely walk back through the woods to the Retreat where Ross and I got a drink and Grace ran off to play on the swings (again!). A very delicious lunch was provided to us hungry bloggers which consisted of their own stone-baked pizzas and salad and the children were all give a bag of sweets for afters.
After lunch Grace was given the option of going on a Nature Survival course with Ranger David or a bug hunt with Ranger Colette – this was age-dependant but knowing Grace so well and the fact that she fitted into either category, Ross and I prepared ourselves for the bug hunt! Whilst waiting, Ross picked up a stick and proclaimed himself ‘Gandalph’, Grace’s stick meant she was ‘Yoda’ and with the size of mine, I decided I was ‘Hermione’!
The bug hunt took us firstly to the Bug Hotel which Colette had put together, on to a nest of very cute mice where we were all told to be quiet as mice. A feat that the younger members of the group found hard to manage! Our walk took us through some beautiful woodland where the bluebells were just coming out and the sun was shining. Perfect!
I feel that the Forest Holidays are a good opportunity for families to reconnect and have some time to themselves. The cabins are spaced nicely so as not to be intrusive. I also feel that the Holidays may be better geared toward older children and adults who enjoy things like woodland walks and cycling, archery and kayaking. There are no pools, discos or organised activities like Center Parcs, just lots of lovely peace and quiet. If you are interested then visit their new blog here.
Please note that we invited to Blackwood Forest for the purpose of this review and given complimentary food, drinks and activities. All words and opinions are my own. Some of the photographs are courtesy of Elizabeth Halford at Gracie May Photography. With thanks to all the organisers and staff at Forest Holidays.