Today, I was sent an artist’s impression of Center Parc’s new Woburn Forest Village, which is set to open in Bedfordshire next year. The very idea of Center Parcs used to make me go all misty eyed when I was young. When my sister went with a friend and her family, I sat at home, mournfully imagining the forest frolics they’d be having while I played with my doll’s house in a sulk.
We did once all go on a family holiday to Yosemite, but I was too terrified by the thought of bears breaking into our log
cabin at night to appreciate fully the magnificence of this geological Californian crumple (I’d go back now that there’s a lovely, safe-looking new lodge there, the Little Ahwahnee Inn, pictured).
Even in adulthood, the magic of forests endures – the sunlight filtering like gold dust through the boughs and wildlife scampering about unseen, but heard. Perhaps it’s that they catapult you back to childhood, even if your childhood woodland experiences were more akin to riding your bike through drizzle and mulch on East Sheen Common in South West London, falling off every time you hit a leaf-covered log.
Now, some of my favourite hotels aren’t on pristine beaches, but tucked into spectacular sylvan settings, such as The Pig and Lime Wood in the New Forest. North-west of Chicago and south-east of Milwaukee, the Wandawega Lake Resort looks rather special too – a Wes Andseron dream of boy-scout tents, camp fires, cute cabins and crochet bedspreads set among the trees in rural Wisconsin (below).
Then, there’s the spectacular Tree Hotel in Sweden, where you can sleep incognito in a mirrored treehouse, or a giant bird’s nest (left) or UFO north of Lulea – the realm’s of a child’s imagination transposed to the tree-covered far north of Scandinavia.
But one of my top tree-top stays was at a place called Finca Ixobel near Poptun in Guatemala, which seemed to transport its guests to another time and place with its laid-back charm and lack of fancy facilities. It was simple, back-to-nature stuff: just four wooden walls, views of the forest and good wholesome food. Pure magic.