Darwin Forest Country Park

Last month, just before the mayhem of the Christmas festivities ensued, the four of us set off for a short break at Darwin Forest and we had the most relaxing weekend we’ve had in a long time. Early nights, forest walks, fresh air in abundance, afternoon naps and quality time as a foursome meant that we really did switch off and recharge the batteries.

Tucked away between Matlock and Bakewell, Darwin Forest Country Park is set in 47 acres of mixed woodland and is considered to be one of the UK’s best holiday parks. Offering over 120 lodges in various shapes and sizes, Darwin Forest recently achieved a VisitEngland Silver Award for Excellence in 2016 and it’s really not hard to see why. The setting is idyllic, the lodges are comfortable and stylish and there are a whole host of family-friendly activities on site to keep the little ones entertained.

The Lodges // 

The lodges at Darwin Forest Country Park all vary in shape, size and price ensuring that there really is something for everyone. From the traditional redwood Classic lodges with all the modern comforts you’d expect to The Meadow; an exclusive small development of three luxury lodges on their own private road that are just lovely!

We were lucky enough to stay in the 3 bedroomed Skyline, one of the three luxury lodges that make up ‘The Meadow’. I’ve stayed in a fair few lodges over the years and it’s fair to say that the Skyline is one of the nicest lodges we’ve stayed in.

Located down a private road, the Skyline lodge was spotlessly clean, beautifully furnished and despite being a world away from our home in look and feel, it had all the home comforts we could have asked for during our stay.

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The Skyline lodge was deceptively spacious with plenty of space for the little ones to roam around and the open-plan living area offered a dining table with seating for 6, a lounge area with flat screen TV and a super efficient faux woodburner and a fully integrated kitchen that housed all the essentials including a dishwasher (with tablets), microwave, oven and fridge/freezer.

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There was even a little utility/cloakroom that had plenty of space for coats and muddy boots and contained a washing machine that we found to be invaluable after our long roams in the woodland.

Along the hallway from the open-plan living area there was a stylish family bathroom with a separate shower and a super deep, freestanding bath that the kids had a hoot in!

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Further along the hallway, there were two twin bedrooms, both with plenty of wardrobe space and flat screen TV’s (which delighted the littles!) and our master bedroom with its quirky wooden bedhead, spacious wardrobe and lovely en-suite shower room with a brilliantly powerful shower.

Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkThanks to the large windows in every room, the lodge was flooded with light all day long and throughout the lodge it was very apparent that only high quality, practical yet stylish fixtures, fittings and furnishings had been used.

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Outside, there was a large verandah along the front and one side of the lodge with garden furniture for alfresco dining and one of the biggest highlights for the kids – a hot tub!

Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkEach lodge has parking for two cars (ours were opposite our lodge), but if you are a large party and need more, there’s additional parking on site near the main reception.

Darwin Forest Country Park

As you can see from the map below, Darwin Forest Country Park  is pretty spacious yet none of the lodges are too far away from the on-site facilities which is essential when you have small children in tow.

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The lodges are also well spaced within the forest, some more so than others, offering guests a peaceful stay no matter where you stay. This is essential for me as I do like my own space on holiday, so the more private the better.

Facilities // 

Aside from the lovely lodges, Darwin Forest Country Park has plenty of family-friendly activities and facilities to suit the family come rain or shine.

Indoor heated swimming pool // 

Despite the inclement weather, we enjoyed playing outside so much during our stay that we only made use of the on-site pool once but the kids loved it.

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Located within ‘Evolution Health & Fitness‘, the pool is the ideal temperature for little people, spotlessly clean and the family changing rooms are great. There’s also a spa and gymnasium for grown ups and treatment rooms where you can take advantage of a range of beauty treatments and massages. Complimentary use of the indoor swimming pool is included in your holiday and over 16s are welcome to use the spa and gym facilities for a small charge (£3.75 each or £6 for both).

Little Monkeys Soft Play Centre //

Open from 10am to 6pm daily, Little Monkeys was a huge hit with Jack and Phoebs and Andy and I were really impressed too. It’s the perfect size and layout, ensuring you can keep an eye on your little ones at all times from the cafe area (if you’re lucky and not being asked to climb up with them!)

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Little Monkeys is open to the general public and not just families staying at Darwin Forest, however they do offer discounts for guests staying on the holiday park and they are great at monitoring numbers ensuring it never gets too busy. You can also enjoy a drink or a bite to eat at the Explorers café which is open all day for breakfast, a light bite or lunch.

I didn’t take any photos inside Little Monkeys as there were obviously lots of other children around, but you can head on over to the Little Monkeys website to see it in all its glory.

For a free soft play option, you can head to the Activity Den that houses a complimentary soft play area for guests to use with children under 5 years of age. Although small, Phoebs loved it (especially as she had it all to herself most of the time!) and we had fun doing the short circuit whilst Andy and Jack made use of the other features in the Activity Den including pool tables, arcade games, air hockey and table tennis.

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Darwin Forest Country Park

Outdoor play areas //

The Outdoor adventure playground wasn’t utilised as much as we’d hoped due to the rain, but we did have a short play one evening before dinner. With slides, fireman poles, ropes and climbing walls it was the perfect place to build up an appetite!

 Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkWe also spent a LOT of time over the weekend on the Trim Trak! It was a brilliant way of encouraging the kids to head out and explore the beautiful surroundings and they loved trying out all the different obstacles en route.

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Woodland walks // 

With an array of woodland walks on your doorstep at Darwin Forest, you really have no excuse not to head out and explore. We spent many an hour in the woods, splashing in muddy puddles, throwing leaves and having a giggle.

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Other activities //

Other on-site activities include mini golf, tennis on the all-weather tennis court and Darwin Forest also offer a planned programme of activities aimed at older children and adults. This is the current timetable of activities on offer…

Darwin Forest Country Park

Eating //

If you want to give yourself a break from cooking, I can highly recommend a meal at the Foresters bar and restaurant. We ate there both nights and the food was really delicious and very reasonably priced. The extensive menu offers fresh, locally sourced quality ingredients and there is a children’s menu that covers all the classics too. A takeaway menu is also available if you wish to dine in the comfort of your own lodge.

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There is also an on-site convenience store, ‘The Woodland Store’, that sells all the food staples you might need plus a vast array of extras, including art supplies, balls and toys for all ages. It is worth mentioning however that it was quite limited on fresh produce (and expensive) so I would recommend either taking it with you if space allows or booking an online delivery from Tesco or Ocado to arrive once you have checked in.

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend at Darwin Forest Country Park. It was the perfect setting to relax and enjoy time as a family without the distractions of day-to-day life. The lodge was really lovely, more so than I expected, but above all it was functional and comfortable (the beds in particular!). The site itself was also immaculately maintained and had the perfect combination of family friendly facilities on offer to keep little people entertained.

Darwin Forest is also ideally situated, with a whole host of attractions and villages nearby if you can tear yourself away from the site including Matlock Farm Park and Bakewell. We also spent a lovely morning at Chatsworth House browsing the Christmas Markets and having fun in the adventure playground which is only a few miles away.

We had a truly brilliant stay, and will definitely be returning soon,  so if you’re looking for child-friendly accommodation in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside, I can wholeheartedly recommend Darwin Forest Country Park.

Here’s a little video of our weekend…

Disclosure: We were very kindly invited by Darwin Forest Country Park to stay for the purpose of this review, however all opinions are my own.

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  • Claire at Tin Box TravellerJanuary 15, 2017 - 10:36 pm

    Your lodge looks so cosy. I love all the beams and the hot tub! Bliss! The location, activities and different options for eating sound ideal for families. The last time we were in the Peak District was when I was expecting Tin Box Tot. It’s a beautiful area and one with lots of special memories for us. By the way, your photos are wonderful!ReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 16, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      Ah thanks Claire. We had the most wonderful weekend despite the weather and I definitely want to head back soon xReplyCancel

  • Lauren Belle Du BrightonJanuary 16, 2017 - 5:54 pm

    This place looks amazing! So much to do, and I think I’d happily live in the accommodation full time! Going to bookmark this review for when we’re looking at holidays later in the year!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca | AAUBlogJanuary 16, 2017 - 6:27 pm

    this looks so lovely – what a great little break away. The lodge is decorated just in my style. Love that there is a hot tub too! xReplyCancel

This time last week, Andy and I bid a fond farewell to 2016 with numerous games of pie-face, a delicious meal, and fun and frolics with good friends and all our little ones. It was the perfect end to a brilliant year.

A year that seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye.

A year full of adventures and fantastic holidays.

A year of fabulous friendships, old and new.

A year that saw Jack starting a new chapter without us when he started ‘big school’ in September.

A year that Phoebe became Miss Independent(!)

A year that will be hard to top…

But i’m excited about 2017. We have lots of lovely things to look forward to on the calendar already (namely holidays – whoop!) and I’m looking forward to witnessing the growing bond between Jack and Phoebs. They utterly adore each other and I pray that their friendship and reciprocal adoration remains as they grow up.

And what about resolutions I hear you cry?? After all surely a New Year and resolutions go hand in hand?? Well I’m normally terrible at keeping New Year’s resolutions and they usually last a few weeks tops, but this year is going to be different for me and I have set myself some ‘goals’ rather than resolutions which I have every intention of sticking to.

1. I am determined to get fit again (and lose weight!)

Since having the littles I have piled on the pounds and I want to get back to the old me. The me that was at least 2 stone lighter. The me that was happy in a bikini. The me that didn’t shudder at her reflection in the mirror. The me that was a lot fitter and could run a half marathon. The me that didn’t feel completely done for after a netball match.

2. I am determined to be healthier

I go through phases of eating lots of fruit and veg and ‘cutting the crap’ but I really need to be more consistent and eat well every day. At the moment I am most definitely not eating ‘5 a day’, so I’m going to use my trusty Nutribullet to help me on my way and I will be sharing my favourite ‘recipes’ with you over the coming months.

3. I need to look after my skin

Now I’m in my thirties I really need to look after my skin a little better. I need to drink a LOT more water to start. Some days I can go for hours without drinking anything and it’s only when a headache kicks in that I remember to drink! I also need to maintain a better daily skin care routine, as at the moment its a bit haphazard.

4. Spend more time as a couple

Since having two little ones in tow, there are days when we are just parents and forget that we are a couple! A whole day can pass by with us barely uttering a word to each other as we are both so busy but now that Phoebe is more settled at night, I want to get back to our date nights and spending more quality time together. I have kick started this goal already. For his birthday last week I bought Andy a little mini-break away, just the two of us. We are both approaching it with mixed thoughts; super excited as the prospect of lazy days and lie ins but we will miss the kiddies terribly and will probably pine for them until we return!

5. Be tidier

For the sake of my husband’s sanity I’ve added this to the list! He is the tidy one in our relationship and constantly clears up after me.

6. Relax

In 2017 I really should spend more weekends relaxing at home with the husband and the kiddies. Over-planning every second of spare time tends to be one of my major flaws and sometimes I’m sure they all just want to relax at home rather than playing in another park or feeding more ducks!

7. Be more organised with the blog

I started my little blog in 2014 and I am absolutely loving it. It has been my creative outlet and although it’s hard work and most of my spare time when the kiddies are asleep is spent writing and researching, it has brought us some wonderful opportunities and I am very grateful to the lovely brands and PRs that have been very kind to me over the last few years. In 2017 I want to grow my blog further, but not to the expense of family time, and I must must must become more organised with my planning and scheduling.

8. Enjoy life with my family

It goes without saying that family is my number one priority and maintaining a happy home is, and always will be, my number one goal. I want to continue creating memories, have wonderful adventures as a foursome and make the most of every minute spent with them.

Happy New YearHappy New YearHappy New YearHappy New YearHappy New Year

Happy New Year everyone, here’s to a healthy and fun-filled 2017.

Have you made any resolutions / goals for this year? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments.

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  • DonnaJanuary 8, 2017 - 1:13 pm

    Happy New Year lovely! I can’t wait to meet you at Blog On :) I love your aims for the year, they’re all so achievable and realistic xReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 8, 2017 - 7:53 pm

      Happy New Year to you too hun. Yes! Me too!! It will be long overdue. xReplyCancel

This is just a very short post to say THANK YOU for all your support this year, and to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I’ve had a brilliant 2016 with the blog, with lots of wonderful collaborations and opportunities but I’m really looking forward to having a break with my gorgeous family over the next few weeks and not having to worry about impending deadlines and writing until the early hours!

Although my last post of 2016 has been written, I will still be over on Instagram and facebook over the coming weeks, so head on over there if you want to see what we get up to this Christmas.

Have lots of fun, stay safe and I will leave you with one of my favourite Christmas songs of all time!

Merry Christmas everyone, and thank you.

xx

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Andy and I are really lucky that Jack has a real thirst for knowledge and a willingness to learn. He’s just finished his first full term in reception and having settled brilliantly into school life, we’re both hugely proud of how conscientious he is with his school work.

Every day when he comes home from school, he’s desperate to get cracking on his homework and is as proud as punch when he gets it all correct.

I’m in no way a pushy mother, far from it,  but I’m obviously over the moon with his eagerness to learn, and try to encourage it as much as possible. We read a lot together, practice his ‘tricky words’ daily and recently we’ve been doing some of the brilliant quizzes from Education Quizzes which he really enjoys.

Education Quizzes

The Education Quizzes website is a brilliant resource for children throughout their school years and is dedicated to helping children of all ages be more successful at school. From KS1 all the way up to GCSE, there are quizzes for all ages and abilities covering a variety of subjects and all of the quizzes are written by teachers with a good knowledge of the curriculum.

Education QuizzesAs Jack is currently in reception (just outside KS1), we decided to have a go at the KS1 quizzes to see how he got on. Not only did he do brilliantly considering his age, he also really enjoyed them.

There’s a huge variety of subjects to choose from but we started with an English quiz on the Alphabet and despite the fact that he’s only just getting to grips with the difference between lower and upper case letters, he did brilliantly and scored 10 out of 10 (with me reading the question to him).

Education Quizzes

The quizzes are all multiple choice and relatively short (10 questions), which means learning can be done in bitesize chunks and as each answer is marked instantly (and corrected if necessary), children come away with a score and the understanding of where they went wrong.

Over the last few weeks I’ve tried a fair few of the GCSE quizzes myself and it’s rather worrying how much knowledge I seem to have lost since my school days! Despite having an A-level in Biology, I failed miserably in recollecting the ins and outs of Osmosis and Cloning and but surprisingly my Stem Cell knowledge is still tip-top!

I’m really impressed with Education Quizzes and think it could be a really useful learning tool for Jack (and Phoebe eventually) throughout his school years. Not only are the questions relevant to the school curriculum and age appropriate, they are also very clearly explained with supporting text for adults explaining what skills the child will be supporting by completing the quizzes.

A monthly subscription (which can be cancelled at any time) costs just £9.95 per month, which I think is brilliant value for money considering the resources available. Membership gives you one log in for the whole family to use and offers unlimited access to all the content on the site. Multiple children can be logged in at the same time and the website can be accessed on any device which is ideal if you want to keep them entertained away from the home. 

Education Quizzes have also released a package for schools. With this Schools’ Subscription package, parents and teachers can work together and students can access the quizzes in lessons and at home with their parents. The more students a school signs up with, the cheaper the subscription and it’s even possible for parents and teachers alike to benefit from this resource from as little as £2 a month per child.

For more information, or to subscribe, head on over to the Education Quizzes Website.

Disclosure: This post is a collaborative post but as always all opinions are my own. 

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There’s no two ways about it, parenting is a tough gig.

Being responsible for the wellbeing of a small human being is a hugely daunting task and whether you’re a first-time parent blindly navigating your way through the early days or if you’ve travelled this path a few times before, it’s an overwhelming, all-consuming job.

Thankfully there’s a whole host of sanity-saving, stress-reducing resources on the market that make parenting that little bit easier including the brilliant new Smart Nursery range from Motorola.

Available exclusively at John Lewis for the launch, Motorola’s award winning Smart Nursery range is a collection of six new products with innovative technologies that make up the world’s most intelligent connected baby nursery, offering unrivalled levels of analytics and interoperability.

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The hero product in the range is the Smart Nursery 7 (£349.99), a portable Wi-Fi video baby monitor that comes with the market’s first rechargeable camera with remote pan, tilt and zoom Wi-Fi connectivity (for remote viewing). It includes a 7-inch high definition touch screen viewing monitor, and offers a number of smart analytic functions. The camera provides two way communication, snap shots, video recording and sharing, infrared night vision as well as a baby care timer for feeding, changing & sleep monitoring. Smart Nursery 7 also tracks temperature, humidity, sound and movement for real time monitoring for baby sleep analysis.

This ingenious baby monitor, along with all of Motorola’s Smart Nursery products, is powered by Hubble Connected to create the most interactive, intelligent nursery in the market. The Hubble Connected app allows you to see and hear what’s going on at all times remotely from your own device, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or PC and through Hubble you can also track sleeping patterns, monitor nursery conditions, send alerts and much more.

The other items in this fantastic range include:

Motorola Smart Nursery Camera (£199.99)

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This portable Wi-Fi video baby camera with a rechargeable battery features HD (Up to 1080p) video streaming, smile and cry detection and sleep quality monitoring. The camera is included with the Smart Nursery Connect 7 but it’s also available to purchase separately as an additional or standalone Wi-Fi camera.

Motorola Smart Nursery Dream Machine Projector (£99.99)

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The Dream Machine is the perfect addition to your little one’s bedtime routine to help your child fall calmly asleep. With a connected sound and light show projector with a night/mood light setting, the Dream Machine also features a selection of three animated scenes and traditional lullabies to soothe your child to sleep. In the off chance that these don’t work, the Dream Machine also features two-way communication so you can try and calm them down using your own voice, or there’s the option of downloading additional lullabies.

Motorola Smart Nursery Humidifier (£99.99)

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Humidity can play an integral part in the quality of your baby’s sleep and adding humidity to the air helps babies lessen cold and flu symptoms as congestion is often relieved with humidity. This connected humidifier features air and water purification to help breathing easier and it includes four levels of cool mist diffusion and three timer settings. Thanks to its Wi-Fi Connectivity, parents can control and adjust the settings remotely from a compatible smartphone, tablet or Smart Nursery Connect 7 to improve babies breathing and quality of sleep.

Motorola Smart Nursery Baby & Me Scales (£79.99)

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The Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Connectivity Baby & Me Scales can track a baby’s weight using the data to track daily, weekly and monthly progress, as well as utilising the in-app growth chart to monitor a baby’s development. This connected scale can also be used by the whole family, as up to three additional adults can chart their progress.

Motorola Smart Nursery Alert Sensor (Single – £34.99, Twin – £64.99)

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This alert sensor works as both a sensor and an alarm, by sending alerts to compatible smart phones and tablets when the two parts of the sensor are no longer aligned. It is a connected door and window sensor alert that can be used to detect when doors, windows or baby gates have been opened, to help keep your little one safe. These real time alerts are ideal for allowing peace of mind.

Smart on their own, smarter together.

As you can see Motorola’s Smart Nursery is a brilliant, integrated ecosystem, capable of being monitored and controlled from one place. Ingeniously, parents can remotely move the camera, change the lighting/sound on the dream projector, turn the humidifier on and off and will be notified if the door sensors are activated.

This is a huge step forward in the world of Nursery technology. I just wish it had come to the fore five years ago when Jack was a baby, so I could’ve controlled his nursery environment remotely to keep him more comfortable when needed and taken comfort through the app when I was away from home.

For more information, or to buy products from the Smart Nursery range visit the John Lewis website.

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  • DonnaJanuary 1, 2017 - 10:20 am

    I didn’t even know Motorola did baby monitors – let alone the rest of this range. It all looks so innovative and definitely something new parents could really invest in xReplyCancel

  • BabyfooteJanuary 1, 2017 - 10:36 am

    The dream machine sounds ace, especially because of the remote access, it can be turned off when they’re asleep without waking them by fumbling for a button on the machine!ReplyCancel

  • RACHEL BUSTINJanuary 1, 2017 - 10:57 am

    I love the look of the Smart Nursery 7. We are just about to move our baby girl into her own room. So this would be very useful. A great range of products here. xxReplyCancel

  • Claire at Tin Box TravellerJanuary 1, 2017 - 11:04 am

    I can’t believe how much more advanced nursery moinotinf equipment has become, even in the few years since I’ve had my girls. It really is worth having if only for the peace of mind!ReplyCancel