Take your littles on a forest adventure: Thorpe Forest, Norfolk
Words Pendle Harte
Forest Holidays are the Forestry Commission’s own holiday facility and Thorpe Forest, on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, is one of their nine UK sites. Here, the main attraction is the forest itself. Accommodation is in stylish, Nordic-look wooden houses designed to fit subtly with the landscape; each cabin is luxuriously finished and well-equipped – spacious and comfortable, with under-floor heating and an enormous sofa as well as vast windows offering fantastic forest views. The organisation is part of the Green Tourism Business Scheme, the certification scheme for sustainable tourism in the UK, so its credentials are clear.
Arrival is through a discreet turning into the forest – you’d never know that it led anywhere, and even then it’s only just possible to detect the cluster of wooden cabins nestled beneath the trees. This site isn’t as densely foresty as some of the other ones – in fact some of these cabins overlook an open glade – and our cabin backs onto a field that’s just visible behind a cluster of forestry. It’s a sensitively designed spot and the natural beauty is in no way diminished by the presence of the cabins. A no-noise policy ensures that those seeking the full back-to-nature experience won’t find the birdsong drowned out by the neighbours’ music, and a discreet Forest Lodge is the only central hub, offering a small selection of things to buy and a small café and pizza menu, plus a wealth of information from the supremely helpful and friendly staff.
Things To Do
So what to do? Hiring bicycles is the first thing; there are cycle trails all around the site, taking you through the beautiful foxglove-lined landscape. Low-key organised activities on site include a ‘twlight walk’ and a course in ‘Bush Skills’ (subtitled ‘If you lost your cabin key could you survive for a night in the forest?’). Den-building is a staple and there are lots of opportunities, while there’s a nearby archery site for the adventurous. A short drive away, Thetford Forest is a brilliantly organised facility with children’s attractions including a Gruffalo trail and multiple playgrounds with lots of creative wooden equipment and – best of all – an outpost of Go Ape, the treetop walkway adventure activity.
But the highlight of the holiday for our children is the hot tub. The cabin’s outdoor hot tub is always ready and waiting, providing endless entertainment. There’s also an extensive menu of small luxuries – in-cabin spa treatments, for instance, and packages for lazy nights in that include pizza delivery and films. As a starting point from which to explore the forest, or simply as a place to hole up and hide away, Forest Holiday’s cabins are just the thing.