An aerial view of the Center Parcs Sherwood Forest site in 1987, the year it opened
An aerial view of the Center Parcs Sherwood Forest site in 1987, the year it opened

A popular forest holiday destination that attracts more than 400,000 guests a year celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

Center Parcs opened its Sherwood Forest Holiday Village at Rufford in 1987 with 609 accommodation units.

By the end of this year there will be 900, including three luxurious Treehouses, nestled amid the flourishing forest.

The English Tourist Board hailed the opening of Center Parcs Sherwood — created on the site of a former Scots pine plantation — as “the most important innovation in British tourism since the war.”

It was opened initially for trial breaks and then official breaks across July and August 1987. Its Country Club was built the following year, along with an extra 100 lodges.

In September 2002 the Aqua Sana Spa opened in a purpose-built building at a cost of £3.9m, replacing facilities previously located in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.

The Nature Centre was opened two years later giving guests the opportunity to learn more about the wildlife and natural habitats of Sherwood Forest.

The grand cascade raft water ride opened in the subtropical swimming paradise in 2005. Three years later its dome roof underwent a £4.6m structural upgrade. A temporary roof made from reinforced PVS sat inside the outer shell while a 50-man team worked through the night on the exterior so the pool could remain open throughout the work.

The village is set in 400 acres of woodland, of which 70% is undeveloped forest.

There are 20 different tree species including English oak, sycamore, beech, western hemlock, coast redwood, Douglas fir, birch and grand fir.

Thousands of bicycles

Most visitors get about on bicycles that are available for hire. When Sherwood Forest first opened there was a fleet of 500 bicycles — now there are 3,000.

The village welcomes 4,000 guests each break with many returning annually.

Each year million of pounds is invested in refurbishments.

This year saw the opening of the newly-refurbished Aqua Sana Sherwood Forest, following an investment of more than £3m that created a Forest Spa concept complete with tree-top sauna and outdoor hot tubs. 

Other recent projects have included the refurbishment of all the retail outlets — Just Kids, Store Room, Spirit, Time For Shade, Sportique and Aquatique — between 2012 and 2015.

The Leisure Bowl was refurbished last year, along with the on-site supermarket ParcMarket and Sports Café.

Bella Italia opened last year in place of Strada, and Café Rouge was refurbished.

Huck’s reopened last month with a new look.

Center Parcs offers a huge range of activities including abseiling, archery, quad biking and water sports.

Recently-introduced activities include mini trek, off-road explorers, crazy science and family putting.

Future projects at Sherwood include Center Parcs’ first six-bedroom Woodland Lodge, which will be open in January, and a new mini captain’s adventure activity, set to open later this year.

Center Parcs has five sites in the UK — Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Longleat in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.

It achieves an average annual occupancy in excess of 97%, and welcomes 2.2m  guests each year.