Earlier today Blackwood Forest, a new Forest Holidays site based near Winchester, had a blogger event. We were invited and I was pretty excited. We first heard of Forest Holidays after seeing an ad on tv recently – I googled and saw this one was opening soon and funnily enough H had been telling me how much she’d like to go on holiday in a treehouse… what appeals to me the most is the eco side of this place. The Forestry Commission are partners in the company, and the sites are built very much with the environment in mind.
Blackwood Forest has taken six years to complete – from the planning permission stages to where they are now. At the moment the treehouse cabins aren’t built (sob!), so we didn’t get to see them, but we did get to have a wander around the site – considering we were told it was a bit like a building site last week, it looks pretty good now! They’re two weeks from opening and there is one VERY important thing you need to know.
Don’t write the directions there while trying to entertain your child. You may miss the crucial sentence ‘leave the M3 at Junction 8’. Had I done this correctly we’d have turned up on time – and on turning around and looking for Junction 8, it doesn’t exist!! Northbound has a Junction 9 though (which I don’t think southbound does).
We found the site easily enough once we got on the A303 – if you view Larkwhistle Farm Road in Google Maps then the site is just off there.
We headed to the Forest Retreat (large restaurant and shop area) to settle in and get ready to go to one of the cabins for a nosey around. We had a look in a three bedroom Silver Birch cabin, and were impressed by how warm they are – they have under-floor heating. The hot tub wasn’t installed but is in a good place and it felt private – most of the cabins back onto woodland. Next to the hot tub in the entrance from the kitchen is an outdoor dining area which seats up to 8 people, so plenty of space.
The kitchen was a good size, the lounge and tv area again spacious, and there’s good storage too. Our cabin also had two bathrooms – handy if there’s six of you staying there (one double room, two twin rooms).
Outside the ground was still quite new, and hadn’t turned back into the natural undergrowth you’d expect in a forest, though the trees were very green and leafy – it’s a beech forest (with one pine tree which we didn’t find!) – though they expect this to change by the time the site opens.
In each cabin you can preorder food for when you arrive, as well as booking treatments while you’re there (like a massage!), or even just someone to come and cook your evening meal. They’re also keen for you to get away from the site and discover local places – Winchester isn’t far away, and even Peppa Pig World isn’t that far if you were thinking of going there.
Bike hire is available and there are loads of tracks and trails you can take – there’s a park ranger or two who can take you on guided tours as well. After a quick lunch of some fabulous home-made pizza we headed out with the other preschoolers for a bug hunt. They’ve built a bug hotel so the kids were encouraged to pick up things they could add to it. On the tour they got to see some baby mice in a nest, as well as various bugs. Our ranger had a couple of bug inspector tubs where H got to have a look at a millipede (we bought one in the shop afterwards and she’s already been hard at work since we got home) – before putting it onto the hotel.
Then there’s the play area – just the right size for smaller kids, it has a slide, two swings (not baby ones), and a climbing frame area, plus sliding pole. H loved this the most, although loved so many different things that when quizzed she had at least fifteen favourite things she’s done today! The play area is well fenced in, with a secure gate. There’s going to be an older kids play area built soon, and they have a deal in place with a local GoApe site as well as a few other places. There were older kids climbing trees with ropes and sliding down which looked like LOADS of fun – we didn’t get to try it obviously!
“How buggy-friendly is it?” I bet you’re wondering – we spotted a few buggies but most mums carried their babies – the roads are stones and might not be suitable for some buggies, though overall I can’t see it being a problem if you needed to use one.
Any bad points? Nothing I could see or think of, other than it’s quite pricey – but even then there are deals and I’m patient enough to save up and wait for a good deal, plus the cabins will be really warm in winter – obviously we didn’t stay over (now that would be nice!) but it felt like a lovely quiet area – and it really creeps up on you – as we drove up the road we wondered where on earth the forest was, until it kind of sprung up.
Our total journey time back was just under an hour and a half, and that’s to the Croydon/Sutton area. It’s the kind of place I could see us going to for a weekend family break to get away from London and have a bit of a rest.
Eventually it was time to leave – a fun day with loads of activities, the staff were really nice and friendly – you could tell the people who worked there were really enjoying what they do and where they were. Everyone on site was really friendly and eventually I couldn’t work out if they were staff or just regular customers like us! They went out of their way to help – it really is the kind of place you’d go back to because of how nice people are.
So yes – we’ll definitely be back – it’s great we have something like this which is so easy to get to, now to start saving!
We were invited to a blogger event, we paid all costs ourselves, all opinions are our own.