At the end of a long forest track that snakes its way through 270 hectares of Forestry Commission beech forest, Blackwood Forest – one of Forest Holidays’ nine UK locations – was the perfect place for three generations to get together for a surprise 70th birthday celebration.
From relaxing in the outdoor hot tub to getting competitive in the archery session, here are some of the highlights from the weekend.
‘Is reaching 70 years of age an achievement? Is the biblical threescore years and ten a cause for concern? Or perhaps my family’s desire to take me away to celebrate is a bigger threat!
‘Unable to avoid the event, I found myself incarcerated in the back of a son’s car with increasing feelings of dread about our unknown destination. These, however, slowly diminished as we turned from a quiet country road to travel down a leafy lane through unspoiled woodland, arriving at a superb lodge.
‘Parking space outside where the car can remain throughout our stay. Uncrowded – not overlooked. This was beginning to feel relaxing!
‘Inside, the rooms were spacious and well equipped with all the facilities you could ask for. Already thinking 70 may not be so bad, I stepped outside on the balcony hoping to find a barbecue – but there was more! A hot tub!
‘I was enjoying being 70 and continued to do so as I cycled around the woodland, joining an archery session, having a snack at the café-bar-shop and sleeping deeply at the end of the day!
‘Hope they take me back when I’m 80!’
‘This was the perfect place for a big family birthday celebration. On arrival you really notice what an authentic forest holiday set-up they have managed to achieve; it didn’t feel over-developed or commercialised. We were really surprised by how accessible the place was from South East London – a little over an hour and a half’s drive – and, after arriving late, it was nice to have the designated car bay by the lodge.
‘The whole family loved the activities; what really stood out was that these were run by real experts who were passionate about what they did – particularly the forest rangers and archers.
‘The kids loved the leaf and bark rubbings, finding and eating wild strawberries and looking for slow worms under the stones. For most of us it was our first time at archery but we had fantastic coaches and before long we were all getting quite competitive! We could have easily spent much longer in their company – an excellent combination of encouragement and good humour.
‘We weren’t sure how we’d get on with the bikes as our kids spend most of their time on scooters, but Lucy’s squeals of delight as we rode round with her tag-along bike attached to an adult bike soon ended that concern. And the tracks were really well set out and signposted, suitable for all abilities.
‘Is there anything we’d have done differently? Well perhaps paying more attention to the address before we left might have helped us avoid driving half-way through a field before realising we’d gone wrong (although the family of rabbits we spotted was a nice surprise).
‘We could also have extended the stay and explored more of the local area and countryside: we made it as far as the pretty village of East Stretton and had an excellent meal at the Northbrook Arms, but otherwise found that there was plenty on site to keep us busy and entertained for a weekend.’
‘I loved Forest Holidays because all of the activities we did were so fun. I especially liked the archery. It was amazing to have our own hot tub and I really liked going on the tag-along bike.’
‘Our weekend in a Golden Oak three-bed cabin was so brilliant it almost leaves me speechless (but not quite!). We had a truly memorable time celebrating Himself’s special birthday, enjoyed by all 12 family members, ranging from five months to 70 years old.
‘On arrival we noticed that our cabin was sympathetically positioned in the forest environment, surrounded by Nature and affording space and privacy to all. And how convenient to be able to park outside our cabin throughout our stay!
‘Inside it was light and spacious, with a real wow factor. Everything from the beautiful oiled wood dining table to the smallest item was spotless, luxurious and so well maintained as to look unused. Add to that two bathrooms, a wood-burning stove, huge windows with forest views, piles of fluffy white towels, slippers, robes, crisp linen on comfortable beds and – the pièce de résistance – the hot tub, with its own towels! Relaxing in there, with a canopy of leaves overhead, we felt like the only inhabitants of our own forest world. Truly magical! And how beautiful it would be in winter, too – especially in snow.
‘This was such a great place for all our family to get together (sometimes literally – all in the hot tub!). Totally uncommercialised yet with everything we could have needed, including a big barbecue which we used on the last night before setting off on our separate ways the next day.
‘A small but well-stocked shop-bar-café with outdoor seating made for enjoyable light snacks and drinks. Curry or pizza could be ordered in but we weren’t there long enough to try that – maybe next time! We enjoyed hiring bikes and activities were available for all ages; we booked archery and bug hunting, which were great fun for all.
‘A fabulous place – can’t wait to go back!’
‘I loved the archery and going in the bike trailer and the hot tub. I liked it when we got muddy and it was fun looking under stones for centipedes and slow worms.’
There are nine Forest Holiday locations to choose from, each set in exclusive woodland owned by the Forestry Commission.
Click here to find out more about Forest Holidays, including locations, rates and availability.
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