Center Parcs' new Waterside Lodges in Elvedon Forest, Suffolk: Travel news
By Claire Spreadbury
When you choose to stay in the middle of a forest, in plush family-friendly digs, you don't expect to be woken up in the middle of the night by a brawl. A pitch-black sky overlooks the rippling water, where things are starting to get nasty.
Shouting and wailing is swiftly followed by physical force, so much so, I sneak out of bed and peek behind the curtains to see what's going on. It's hard to say exactly, but at a guess, I'd plump for a love triangle. Three geese are really going for it; screeching, flapping and disturbing the peace in an otherwise completely quiet part of the park. Young love, eh?
If this is the price to pay for staying in Center Parcs' brand new Waterside Lodges, I'll take it. Being this close to nature, it's completely worth the broken sleep.
Part of the reinvestment of £90 million, which will be spent across the year at all five UK villages, the three lodges are now available to book at Suffolk's Elveden Forest, and they're the first type of Center Parcs accommodation to be situated directly on the water's edge.
With two storeys, stunning lakeside views and a central location, they're singing with the scent of newness. Here are seven reasons to book in while you can...
1. The nautical references
The second you arrive at the Waterside Lodges, the nautical references are everywhere. I'm staying in Sloop (which is a type of sailing boat) with my family and as you head into the top floor, where the three en-suite bedrooms (Starboard, Port and Aft Cabins) are situated, they just keep coming. Cushions are adorned with ships, gorgeously round windows sit proudly both up and downstairs, a set of differently knotted ropes are on display in a glass frame and there are painted oars on the wall; there's a proper theme here, which takes the decor up a serious notch from anything I've seen at Center Parcs before now. The main colour scheme is blue and white, with pops of yellow, red and hessian trimmings, all set amid beechy beams and stripy carpets.
2. There's useful stuff that families need here
A set of coat hooks welcomes you as you step in the front door, with a bench to store your shoes on. There's a telly in every bedroom, encouraging younger ones to stay slumbering for longer in the morning - giving frazzled parents a much-needed lie-in.
The four toilets, three massive showers and bath tub (with jets) means there's no hopping about or queuing for the bathroom, and the all-important wine and beer fridge is certain to get filled up. There are lots of big mirrors too, so we can make sure we look like presentable types who might spend £2,000 on their accommodation for the weekend. Oh - and you get to keep the car in a parking space outside your lodge, rather than having to drive it back to the main car park (a rule employed to make sure the roads are as quiet and safe as possible in all the villages), which is a lovely smug touch.
3. The open-plan living space is enormous
Center Parcs is known for decking out its lodges well, but because the entire downstairs is devoted to open-plan living, it's huge.
The kitchen is big (there's space to dance in the middle of it - I tried), with all the stuff you'd expect here - fridge, microwave, cooker and dishwasher, plus a Bosch Tassimo coffee machine, stocked with Americano pods. Not forgetting that wine fridge, and the Bose speaker blasts out a really decent, deep and crisp sound, too.
At the end of the kitchen, there's a breakfast bar with two stools. My daughters Rosie and Poppy love playing 'bars' and eating in their own special spot. It looks out into the main dining area, with a sofa bench and chairs to seat seven, and bags of space for us all.
The enormous corner sofa can seat everyone in the house, but if you prefer to spread out, try the chunky chair or benches either side of the log burner. There's a coffee table and side tables for drinks and feasting, and a TV that's more than double the size of mine at home - it's literally the size of an entire chimney breast. I'm not a big fan of massive tellies but watching six-year-old Poppy singalong to Hold Back The River while gazing lovingly at a life-sized James Bay on the big screen like she's at a concert, is pretty adorable.
4. Even the smart candles are cool
It's not something you'd need at home - an actual scented candle is always going to win over an electric one - but when you come to places like this, real candles (for obvious reasons) aren't allowed. Instead, two giant glass lanterns sit fancily on the fireside and inside each of them is a huge cream smart candle, which flickers like a real one after being charged up. It's a nice touch, which adds to the ambience of the living space.
5. There's a very private hot tub
Tucked around the side from your main deck, shaded in the privacy of the lodge is a lovely wooden hot tub. Perfect for after dark, and there are plastic champagne glasses you can fill up and take in with you, too. The tub is huge, with four large, moulded seats in each corner, but there's plenty of room for more bodies. If you don't mind squeezing up, eight of you could climb in comfortably.
6. There are sunbeds
On the deck, you can sit around a circular wooden table and dine by the water. And there's a gas BBQ on hand for any budding outdoor chefs.
If the sun shines, you can laze about on the four plush wooden loungers, each complete with comfy cushions and a plump head pillow. They even have wheels so you can move them about easily.
The bifold doors let the outside in and the railings ensure everyone stays safe.
7. You can spot wildlife from your balcony
Waking up to a waterside view is always on the wishlist, especially when you can sit outside on the balcony while slurping a cuppa.
Over the course of just a couple of days - with a fair bit of time spent within the actual village and away from our lodge, we spot scurrying grey squirrels and listen to the loud tapping sound of a coot snapping its beak together as it sits in its nest just next to our deck. Geese and ducks splash about in the water too, plunging their faces into the murky depths in search of some tasty grub, while skinny baby coots swim about, and butterflies waft in with the wind.
Getting close to nature without even trying is definitely the biggest selling point of the new lodges.
How to get there
A weekend break in a Waterside Lodge starts from £1,799 in June. They're available to book now at centerparcs.co.uk.