Still a perfect family holiday

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The man who oversaw the pioneering construction of Sherwood Forest Center Parcs 25 years ago says he enjoys holidaying at the popular forest village himself.

Don Camilleri was working for a consultancy firm in Birmingham in 1985 when they were approached by Sporthuis Centrum, the Dutch company responsible for developing Center Parcs in Holland.

He said: “It was their first forest village to be built outside of Holland.”

“They had approached the English Tourist Board to ask about a suitable location and it was suggested they try the most famous forest in the world, which is Sherwood Forest.”

Don’s team were taken on as project managers and consultants to develop the site, which at that time was commercial woodland of low value.

He was taken over to Holland to look at their other villages to understand the concept of Center Parcs, which was started by Piet Derksen.

“Piet’s dream was to get people out of the cities and into the countryside to enjoy nature and sport and being active. He also conceived the idea of a short break holiday.”

“Sometimes I come on holiday here with my family and sometimes with my friends, there is something for every age group.”

Don said the 400-acre Sherwood site was very workable, with well draining sandy soil.

He said the idea of a forest village was a pioneering one because it was a year-round location. Tradtionally holiday parks in this country had been at the coast and geared towards the summer months.

Construction began at Sherwood Forest on 17th March 1986 and took 15 months to complete.

The conifer woodland was transformed, with different species of British trees and shrubs being planted to encourage a greater diversity of plants and animals.

Tracks used by lorries through the woods were later made into waterways and the tree canopy was thinned out to let more natural light into lower levels of the forest.

The statistics involved in creating the village are staggering.

Six million bricks were used to build 600 villas, leisure buildings and paths. The centrepiece was, and still is, the subtropical swimming paradise, which was completed a few weeks before opening to guests on 3rd July 1987.

The lake, where visitors can try their hand at water sports, was filled in May 1987. An indoor sports centre was also added on to the original plans.

As the Sherwood Forest village was nearing completion in June 1987, such was the company’s confidence that Elveden Forest in Suffolk was already being considered as the location for a second Center Parcs.

That confidence wasn’t misplaced.

A year after Sherwood Forest, a country club, driving range and 100 more villas were added as visitors flooded in.

And the winning formula continues, with a new park currently being built at Woburn.

Look out in next week’s Guardian for a chance to win a family short break at Center Parcs.