Otter-ly brilliant: pair of otters spotted at Whinfell Forest
We love it when guests send us photos from their break – especially when they’ve captured something cute and furry on film.
So cue squeals of excitement when Sarah Freeman’s email, complete with magnificent otter photos from Whinfell Forest, arrived in our inbox.
The presence of otters is always good news at a Village. They’re still a fairly rare creature in England and prefer their habitats as natural and undisturbed as possible. Happily swimming around at Whinfell Forest tells us that the lake there is a healthy, balanced ecosystem with plenty of fish for them to nibble on.
All about otters
Otters love to play – they’re one of very few species that have been observed to engage in behaviours purely for enjoyment, such as building their own waterslides on the banks of rivers!
They may look cute, but otters are one of England’s top water predators, feeding on fish, amphibians, waterbirds and crustaceans.
Their babies, called ‘cubs’, are born in undergrown burrows, usually on riverbanks.
Cubs are excellent swimmers, taking their first dip at just 10 weeks old.
Otters use noises like whistles and twitters, as well as spitting, to communicate
There are two main types of otter: those that live in fresh water (rivers and lakes – like the ones at Whinfell Forest), and sea otters, which live in saltwater.
The Pancake House breaks Guinness World Records™ title
Q: What’s the best pancake topping?
A: More pancakes.
We’ve always known it to be true – there’s nothing batter than a good pancake. And now we’re putting it on the record. Today we’ve taken our theory to new heights by breaking the Guinness World Records title for the tallest stack of pancakes.
The previous record, held by a theme park in the Netherlands, was 91.2cm. This morning that record was shattered by The Pancake House at Sherwood Forest, where the team built a towering pillar of pancakes to a flipping marvellous height of 101.8cm.
To ensure this tall order didn’t fall flat as a pancake, Center Parcs’ Group Executive Head Chef, James Haywood, and and Executive Sous Chef Dave Nicholls have been practising their stacking skills since January. The final, successful attempt took 45 minutes, with the pressure mounting to the final five seconds when the tower had to stand straight and unsupported without toppling. If it all collapsed now, we may have flipped out.
“After the longest five seconds of my life, I’m so proud to say that we’ve set a new Guinness World Records title. The Pancake House is not just a nod to Center Parcs’ Dutch heritage – it’s something that is enjoyed by many families. Since we opened our doors in 1987, we’ve served enough pancakes to reach the top of Mount Everest, so it seems right that we now hold the Guinness World Records title.”
The stack consisted of 213 pancakes, which used…
14 bags of flour
26 pints of milk
After our adjudicator officially called the success, the team set to work dismantling the stack and handing them out to guests, topped with plenty of tasty treats.
Have your pancake cravings crêpe-d up on you while you read this? Check out our incredible stuffed pancake recipes, just in time for you to try on Puncake Day. Sorry, Pancake Day.
Boek nu je tickets voor Where The Wild Things Are 2016!
Where The Wild Things Are is het enige festival in Nederland waar je drie dagen lang kunt opgaan in rammelende gitaren, avontuurlijke popmuziek en indie electronica, met al het comfort en gemak van een bungalowpark.
Alle podia en locaties zijn op het park zelf, waardoor je favoriete act, een spontane afterparty of een frisse duik in het tropisch zwemparadijs op slechts een steenworp afstand ligt van je eigen knusse bungalow. Dat kan alleen bij WTWTA!
Dit jaar bestaat de line-up uit: De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, Balthazar, Fresku, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Golf Panda, Junior Boys, Weval, Larry Gus, Petite Noir, Dollkraut, Birth of Joy, The Jacques, The Homesick, The Kills, Seinabo Sey, Hunee, Fat White Family, My Baby, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Baio, Pumarosa, Klyne, The Magic Gang, Son Mieux, Canshaker Pi, Joep Beving, Jarryd James Music, HAEVN, Clean Pete, White, Sjamsjoedin, The Holydrug Couple, Whitney, en St. Paul!
En er is meer!
Verwacht naast (live)muziek en waterpret ook een verrassende randprogrammering met oa. literatuur, films, bowling, de altijd populaire pubquiz of een muzikale speurtocht door het park. WTWTA is genieten van alle festivallusten, zonder de festivallasten!
Als bezoeker boek je een bungalow inclusief toegang tot alle festivallocaties. De grootte van de bungalows varieert van minimaal 2 personen tot maximaal 12 personen.
Ben je op zoek naar een nieuwe uitdaging in een internationale omgeving? Heb je ervaring in Trade en B2C sales en beschik je over een proactieve houding? Dan heeft Center Parcs een interessante vacature voor jou op het hoofdkantoor van Center Parcs Europe in Capelle aan den IJssel. Voor de Sales afdeling zijn ze op zoek naar een:
Als medewerker Sales Manager NFM realiseer je de commerciële doelstellingen voor de selectie van NFM landen, zoals Scandinavië, Oost- en Zuid-Europa, voor travel trade en lokale online travel agencies (OTA)/affiliate accounts. Daarnaast realiseer je directe en indirecte inkomsten en branding voor een effectieve en efficiënte samenwerking met (nieuwe) online en offline resellers en partners. Je coördineert de commerciële planning voor Centerparcs.com en NFM direct marketing.
In deze functie houd je je onder andere bezig met:
Implementeren, beheren en optimaliseren van relaties met resellers en partners.
Ontwikkelen van nieuwe partnerschappen en zorg dragen voor voldoende innovatie in huidige partnerschappen en onze merken.
Aandrijven van inkomsten en het optimaliseren van rendement.
Ontwikkelen en produceren van het sales jarenplan en het vertalen van het plan naar een activiteiten plan.
Monitoren, analyseren en rapporteren van de sales resultaten op wekelijkse basis en monitoren van de statistieken op de website Centerparcs.com
Plannen en evalueren van de maandelijkse email campagnes.
Kennis ontwikkelen over de positionering van Center Parcs en Sunparks.
Functioneel overleg met de business line Center Parcs Europe en met het hoofdkantoor Groupe Pierre et Vacances Center Parcs in Parijs.
If you’re planning on booking a short break to Elveden Forest this year, your accommodation options just went from tiptop to treetop.
Today we can reveal that four luxury Treehouses are being built in the Suffolk Village, due to be complete this summer.
Work began on the Treehouses, which will be located on the secluded far west side of the Village, in December. They are due to be complete in the summer and set to be on sale to guests later in the year.
Currently only available at Sherwood Forest and Longleat Forest, the popular Treehouses are the most prestigious accommodation type we offer at Center Parcs. Take a look around our Google tour, and you’ll find stunning contemporary décor in each of the four bedrooms and living areas. Floor-to-ceiling retractable doors open onto a large outdoor terrace, where you and your family can either relax in the bubbling hot tub and soothing sauna, or head to the private games room to play pool and video games.
Created for up to eight guests, families can take their pick of three en-suite rooms on the lower level or the master suite on the upper level, separated by an awe-inspiring carved spiral staircase. Whichever room you choose, each one has a private balcony so you can soak up the forest views as you wake up, or stargaze before slumber.
John Nicholas, Accommodation Projects Manager, said: “This is the biggest new-build project I’ve worked on in the 8 years I’ve been here.” He added: “The Treehouses are on the absolute premium end of the scale. Their addition to Elveden Forest adds another level of accommodation and service to guests, and they’re the ultimate environment for families to enjoy their time together.”
Keep visiting Under the Treetops for updates on the Treehouse build, or subscribe here to get monthly news and competitions direct to your inbox.
Let us take the hassle, the stress, the expense and the last-minute dash to the shops out of Valentine’s Day. We’ve picked out two beautiful rose gold pieces – a ‘his and hers’ if you will – from the beautiful range at Time for Shade.
And you could win both – so not only do you get all the brownie points for a beautiful Valentine’s gift, but you get something stunning for yourself too.
The Star Dust Bead Bracelet from Links of London is made from diamond cut rose gold-hued sterling silver, with tiny planes and surfaces that catch the light as it moves. A cylinder encrusted with cubic zirconia hangs “like an orb in the galaxy”, sparkling at its centre, while the sleek magnetic clasp makes it easy to secure.
Henry London designs are the epitome of vintage-meets-modern, inspired by a watch found at Portobello Road market with ‘Henry, August 1965’ engraved on the back. The ‘Richmond’ chronograph is based on that same timepiece, with a classically proportioned 39mm case in rose gold.
The pair of you can ever-so-subtley co-ordinate with these his and hers pieces.
Accessories like these plus much more besides are available from Time for Shade on each of our Villages. There, you’ll find sunglasses, watches, jewellery and perfume from luxury brands such as Michael Kors, Dior, Ray-Ban, Gucci, Citizens and Emprio Armani.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply tell us: why your special someone deserves a bit of designer arm candy this Valentine’s Day. Email your answer along with your name, contact number and postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org
The competition will close at midnight, Wednesday 10 February, 2016.
*Terms and conditions
The Center Parcs ‘Valentine’s Day competition’ competition (the Promotion) is open to UK residents only, aged 18 and over, except employees of Center Parcs (the Promoter), their families, agents or anyone professionally connected with the Promotion.
To take part in the promotion, email your name, address and why your Valentine deserves to win, to email@example.com
There is no entry fee and no purchase is necessary to enter the promotion.
The promotion will run from 10am (GMT) on Thursday 4th February 2016 until midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10th February 2016. This period will be known as the Promotion Period. Any entries outside the Promotion Period will not be counted.
The prize winner will be selected by the Promoter.
There is one prize of one Links of London rose gold bracelet and one Henry London rose gold watch.
The decision of the Promoter in relation to the promotion is final. No correspondence will be entered into.
No information regarding entries or judging will be disclosed to any third party not involved in the conduct of the Promotion.
The prize is not transferable, re-saleable or exchangeable. There is no cash alternative.
The Promoter reserves the right to substitute any of the prize products subject to availability.
The winners will be contacted by Wednesday 10th February 2016 by email.
The winner must respond to notification of their prize by Friday 12th February 2016. If the winner does not respond by this date, the Promoter will select an alternative winner.
The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material.
By entering, the participants consent to receive news, offers and promotions from Center Parcs via email, SMS, phone and mail.
By entering, participants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by the Terms and Conditions. All entry instructions form part of these Terms and Conditions.
No entries from agents, third parties, organised groups or applications automatically generated by computers will be accepted. No incomplete or corrupted entries will be accepted. Any entries not in accordance with the entry instructions will be rejected.
In the event of unforeseen circumstances the Promoter reserves the right to offer alternative prizes of equal or greater value.
The Promoter reserves the right to amend, alter or terminate this promotion at any time due to circumstances beyond its control.
The Promoter’s decision is final and binding in all matters relating to the Promotion.
The Promoter can accept no responsibility for, and reserves the right to refuse, entries which are corrupt, incomplete or fail to arrive by the closing date.
No social media website (such as Facebook, twitter or any other such website) are sponsors of the Promotion and have no responsibility or liability regarding the conduct or administration of the Promotion.
These rules are governed by English law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
The Promoter of the Promotion is Center Parcs (Operating Company) Limited, registered in England, company number 04379585. The registered address is Head Office, One Edison Rise, New Ollerton, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG22 9DP.
So with Pancake Day rolling around again, it seems only right that she picked two spectacular stuffed pancake recipes from opposite sides of the world.
The blintz is a centuries-old recipe originating in Russia and Eastern Europe, filled with sweet and tart fruit. The Nutella-stuffed buttermilk pancake, on the other hand, is an American invention and a Pinterest favourite.
Psst! If you’ve tried this particular one before and ended up with a burnt chocolate mess that you had to scrape out the frying pan and eat anyway because now you’re not only hungry but also annoyed at your lack of culinary prowess (I may be speaking from experience here) then fear not! Claire has a trick that ensures they turn out perfectly every time.
Claire’s stuffed pancakes
These Cherry Blintzes ooze with cool ricotta, sweet cream cheese and tangy cherries. They’re as great for weekend brunches as they are for a special Shrove Tuesday treat if you have a sweet tooth.
Meanwhile, if you have a whole set of sweet gnashers, my second recipe might be right up your street. To fill anything with chocolate seems to be an American passion, so I couldn’t resist trying Nutella-filled buttermilk pancakes. My ‘chocolate coin’ technique came around by trial and error, and it makes everything a whole lot easier.
Let us know in the comments which one you’d prefer.
Note: the blintz batter is slightly thicker than a normal pancake mix, with an extra egg. This makes it hold together better so you can fill and fold it.
Serves two (double up the quantities for four)
For the pancakes:
30g icing sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
120g Ricotta cheese
120g cream cheese
40g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cherry compote, cherry jam or fresh cherries
1. Mix the flour and icing sugar in a large bowl then gradually whisk in the eggs and milk
2. Leave the batter in the fridge for an hour to rest
3. Mix all the filling ingredients (apart from the cherries) together in a bowl and chill these too
4. Lightly grease and preheat a non-stick frying pan until fairly hot
5. Pour in enough batter to thinly cover the bottom of the pan
6. When the edges turn golden, flip and cook the second side
7. Cool the pancakes on some kitchen paper
8. Place a generous spoonful of the cream cheese filling on each pancake near the bottom (you can add some cherries here too if you like)
9. Roll the pancake over once, fold in the sides and then roll until you have a little pancake burrito Tip: you can prepare them to this stage, refrigerate and then cook as you need them 10. Warm a little butter in the pan and cook each blintz gently on each side until extra golden
11. Dust with icing sugar and serve with your cherries/compote/jam
Chocolate filled buttermilk pancakes
Tip: you can make a big batch of chocolate spread ‘coins’ and keep them frozen in a container for whenever you fancy a melting, chocolate stuffed pancake.
Serves two – double up the quantities for four
For the pancakes:
125g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150ml milk (or 75ml milk and 75ml buttermilk)
For the filling:
Chocolate or hazelnut spread
1. Spoon tablespoons of your chocolate spread onto a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper. Flatten them out with the spoon until they are like big chocolate coins – around 1/2cm thick. Place in the freezer for a couple of hours.
2. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl then gradually whisk in the eggs and milk
3. Lightly grease and preheat a non-stick frying pan to a medium heat
4. Add a large tablespoon of batter and drop a chocolate spread disk into the centre
5. Cover the chocolate with a little more batter and spread it out to cover any gaps
6. When golden, flip it and cook the other side
7. Repeat until you’ve used all your batter
8. Serve with whatever you fancy; strawberries, blueberries and, of course, messy chocolatey faces
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but if you’re less than familiar with the myriad settings of your camera, sometimes those words are “blurry”, “you cut off my feet” and “why does my face look like that?”
A few simple tips and hints can transform the way you take photos. Our staff take photos for guests every day, so we were keen to offer them some training. We brought in professional photographer Matt Brodie to take some of our staff through the ins and outs of photography, from smartphones to state-of-the-art DSLR cameras.
After a bit of theory in the morning, the group was split into teams and sent into the forest, armed with a camera, and tasked to put what they’d learned into practice. Maxine is a water sports instructor at Sherwood Forest, and said:
“Working at the lake, we take photos of guests 15 or 20 times a day. Now I can take a photo that looks a bit better than the usual standard. I’ve learnt some great tips today, from basics like turning a phone landscape or even just holding a big DSLR properly so I don’t feel like I’m going to drop it off the edge of the jetty!”
I asked Matt if it really is something that anyone can pick up. He said: “There’s an art to photography, no doubt. But in large part, it’s a skill set like anything else, so it can be learned. If you’ve got the right teacher, absolutely, anyone can be taught to take a decent photo.”
By the end of the day, our staff were snapping away with confidence, having been taught how to compose, frame, focus and expose a good photo.
If you want to upgrade your holiday snaps next time you join us for a family break, follow Matt’s tips…
Matt’s top ten tips for improving your family photos
Using a smartphone or a digital camera? Try using flash – a little bit of light will fill in the shadows in faces and help them ‘pop’. The flash automatically stops when there’s enough light so your shots won’t end up over-exposed.
Never work with children and animals…
…from your height! When photographing your children or pets, always get down to their level. It gives prominence to the subject.
Focus, focus, focus
When using a smartphone, you might notice the focus change right when you’ve set up the perfect shot. Tapping the screen sets the focus, but holding your finger down actually locks it, so you can adjust or reposition the shot without losing the perfect focus.
Consider the environment
Unless you’re intent on taking a close-up, don’t go super tight with your framing. Show some of the environment around your subject. You can always crop into a photo later but you can’t crop out!
Give yourself options
Unless you’re shooting something obviously tall and thin, then landscape is generally the best orientation because it imitates our field of view (our eyes are next to each other, not on top of each other). But if in doubt, take one landscape and one portrait option – you can always delete one later.
If you’re handed a DSLR camera to take a photo with – or you’ve bought one yourself and are still getting the hang of it – then the ‘auto’ setting is your friend. Look for the little green ‘A’. It takes care of exposure, focus and aperture, leaving you to only worry about framing and zooming.
Back it up
Our photos go on a memory card which lives in a drawer. We end up losing, forgetting or overwriting the card and the photos are lost forever. Put them on a computer or hard drive as soon as you can.
Touch it up
Most computers have some basic photo editing software (such as iPhoto or Windows Photo Viewer) which can help you lighten, brighten, crop and resize images without the need for anything as advanced as Photoshop.
We take more photos than ever but we never look at them anymore. When you get back from your holiday, go old school and actually print a few out to put up around your house, or make a photo book online to remind you of your time together forever.
Don’t get hung up on technology and technique – there’s a reason we love photos. They can take us back to a wonderful moment and that should be treasured. Even if technically a photo may be poorly composed or executed, if it makes you happy when you look at it, it’s a great photo.
We need your votes! Center Parcs nominated for ‘Best UK Holiday Provider’ award
The number 13 may be unlucky for some, but we’re hoping for some good fortune after being nominated in the coveted ‘Best UK Holiday Provider’ category of the Tommy’s Awards. Last last year, over two million parents nominated the brands and companies that help make life a little easier for families with young children and babies.
Offering short breaks that the whole family can enjoy – without all the hassle and stress that often accompanies travelling with small children – we were honoured to be nominated once again.
We are proud to have won the Tommy’s Best UK Holiday award for the past 12 years. But that’s down to your votes, and we can’t win it again without your continued support.
Voting is open until 5pm on Wednesday 10 February, 2016, and everyone who votes will have a chance to win a holiday at Flamingo Beach Resort, Lanzarote, courtesy of First Choice.
If you have something great to say that you want to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You could be featured here, shared to our readers and receive our ‘This Month We Love’ Center Parcs badge to display on your blog or website.
1. Caught on camera
Shayna uses her Instagram account, @ruffledsnob, to tell the story of her family’s life, with all the magic, humour and whimsy it involves. The immaculate dress sense and inspiring interiors are just the backdrop to perfectly captured family moments – like her three-year-old starting wistfully at a suspiciously finger-print-marked birthday cake she isn’t allowed to touch (again).
If you love @ruffledsnob, Shayna also writes a beautiful blog, Pirates and Peonies, with more of the same.
2. ‘Free from’ food for families
What Lucy of Lucy’s Friendly Foods doesn’t know about ‘free from’ cooking isn’t worth knowing. Her recipes have featured on the Waitrose website and in the Guardian’s Cook magazine. Oh, and she trained at Le Cordon Bleu in cuisine and patisserie.
Her daughters’ food allergies have forced her to become creative, developing her own original recipes that are free from the most common food allergens. If you think that sounds like no fun at all, check out her dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegan jammy doughnuts and prepare to eat your words.
Her blog is full of recipes, reviews, inspiration and honesty. Take a look at her review of her first Center Parcs break with her family. She went in expecting “forced jollity in a fenced-in camp, a hark back to Hi De Hi!” but came away bitten by the Center Parcs bug, metaphorically speaking. Which is exactly what we like to hear.
3. Pick up a Puffin (podcast)
Whether you’re a self-confessed podcast addict (guilty as charged) or totally new to the whole thing, The Puffin Podcast makes lovely listening. Perfect for “bookworms, dream weavers and story lovers alike”, they talk all things children’s books, including interviews with authors, story extracts and competitions.
Find out more and download it here if you use an Apple device or if not, try the Puffin blog for download links, videos and more exclusive content.
4. Being Toby’s Mummy
Rach’s blog, Being Toby’s Mummy, tells the story of her life as wife of Joel and mother to her boys, Toby and Teddy. Toby has autism spectrum disorder, and Rach talks about the challenges, frustrations and moments of joy this brings to their family’s life with a generous splash of north easterly honesty and frankness.
She recently blogged about “doing Christmas differently” in 2015 at Whinfell Forest, and we’ve been sharing her inspiring words around the office:
“Center Parcs feels like a different world. Life happens at a much difference pace and I think Toby enjoys the peace and safety of being in the forest. Having very few cars on site keeps the noise levels down and when out and about in his pushchair, Toby decided he didn’t need ear defenders – he just sang happily away to himself… The difference between this year and last Christmas couldn’t be greater. I remember feeling completely exhausted and overwhelmed by Toby and his behaviour and needs last year and sitting in tears booking Center Parcs for this year, promising myself that we would actually enjoy Christmas…and we did!”
We’re up for any strategy that will help to banish the January blues, be it recipes, hugs or breaks. Sammy, of From Mamma With Love, took her family for a break at Woburn Forest to get over the post-festive season come-down. And it seems to have worked wonders. The rest of Sammy’s blog is filled with bright and beautiful photography documenting her life, her home and her adventures.