Top five activity breaks in England

by Sandy Pebbles

Bursting with energy and looking for somewhere to work it all off? Check out this guide to five English adventure centres, where you can try your hand at anything from archery to dragon boating

GO APE, BEDGEBURY FOREST

WHY GO
There’s free fresh air and not a BlackBerry, gizmo or kebab stand in sight, plus it will keep cheeky chimps occupied for hours – bliss for parents. Bedgebury Forest is the big new wild adventure in East Sussex, with bike trails, the Go Ape course and a fab children’s adventure play trail. The more peaceful National Pinetum is also nearby. Go Ape is for 10-year-olds and above, but an adult will need to attend for under-18s. Here, you will be called a baboon (child) or gorilla (adult). It’s a compliment.

MUST TRY
The high wire – a mere 13 metres up. Face the fear and wobble anyway.

WHEN TO GO
Open daily from 27th March to 31st October (closed on Tuesdays during term-time) and weekends in November.

WHERE TO STAY
If you don’t want to exceed your excitement quotient, try the Ramada Tunbridge Wells. But if you think your body might be in need of some soothing and pampering after putting it through jungle hijinks, then check out The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells. Prepare for more oohs and aahs than a Blackpool panto.

DERWENTWATER ADVENTURE CENTRE, LAKE DISTRICT

WHY GO
It caters for the picky, with everything from kayaking to abseiling to gorge scrambling to archery. Budgeting is simple because activities, instruction, equipment, insurance, accommodation, adrenaline and three meals a day are all thrown in. They try to make holidays for single parents as stress-free as possible, too. You sleep in (provided) tents, but they have metal-strung beds and solid floors.

DON’T MISS
The chance to do "Mission Impossible!” No idea what that is, but what other holiday throws it into the mix? Plus, there’s every chance you may have weaned your kids off their PlayStations and Nintendos by the time you head home. Not to be missed.

WHEN TO GO
Summertime. When you’re in for a dunking, you’d prefer the sun to be shining, wouldn’t you?

WHERE TO STAY
On site – the centre is in a secluded part of a larger campsite set in some of the Lake District’s most spectacular scenery, two miles from the old medieval town of Keswick. You’ll be in a tented village – basic, but cosy.

MANOR ADVENTURE, SHROPSHIRE

WHY GO
Now here’s a clever thing: you get to holiday with your kids but also have your own space, as they’re in bunk-bedded dorms and you’re in wooden lodges. Clever. They can also go unaccompanied if you want to stay at home. But if you do go, there are activities for you, too, although they’re not compulsory! On the activity front, you’re again spoilt for choice - from obstacle courses to video film-making to a mini Olympics and something called a “confidence course”. Now come on, you know you want to…

DON’T MISS
The chance to have a mud treatment at a fraction of spa prices.

WHEN TO GO
School holidays – for the simple reason that schools take it over at other times.

WHERE TO STAY
On site at Manor Adventure, but apart from the children - close enough to keep an eye on them; far enough away that you can't smell their dirty laundry bag.

LITTLE CANADA, ISLE OF WIGHT

WHY GO
It’s a lovely location, in 48 acres of woodland on Wootton Creek. Think Swallows and Amazons. Boredom is simply banished here, with a list of activities as long as a piece of, well, extremely long rope – keel boat sailing, dragon boating, high ropes, eco trail and aeroball, to name just a few.

DON’T MISS
Camp craft. Alan Carr and Graham Norton tribute night it ain’t.

WHEN TO GO
Summer hols if you fancy taking to the water.

WHERE TO STAY
On site - accommodation at Little Canada is in log cabins, each with its own bathroom. They’re grouped together in small villages at the heart of the centre. Rooms are basic, but every family has their own ensuite bathroom, and children and parents share a room.

CENTER PARCS LONGLEAT FOREST VILLAGE

WHY GO
It’s all-action without too much roughing it. After all, it boasts a French-style Village Square and an alpine-style Pancake House, not to mention the subtropical swimming paradise. That’ll be the indoor pool, then. Again, children will be entertained to the max, with canoeing, golf, falconry and the perhaps unfortunately titled “flu flu” shooting activity. You, meanwhile, might consider sneaking off for a pamper day at the spa here.

DON’T MISS
The various tournaments – proof that children and their parents love to compete, despite all attempts at school sports days to suggest otherwise. Let the games begin!

WHEN TO GO
The usual school holidays if you have children. Avoid these if you haven’t. As well as week-long trips, there are weekend breaks, mid-week ones and special event holidays.

WHERE TO STAY
There are various types of villas and lodges at Center Parcs, depending on what you want to spend and how many of you there are – the smallest is for two people, the largest for eight. The poshest have an outdoor tub and free wi-fi.