Those that know me will tell you I’m quite the sentimental type. I feel very privileged to have been taking you all on the journey of Woburn Forest, from the first spade in the ground to the last pane of glass being polished. I’ve met the team and watched as it’s grown from one to 1,500, seen some of the creatures and have spoken to designers and heard the pride in their voice when speaking about their work on the project. I’ve seen some amazing milestones and I have to be honest, while you’re all excited about the Village opening, I’m feeling emotional about the project coming to a close.
Coming to life
When all the families start arriving on Friday, the Village will really come to life. Where the gentle soundtrack of nature– punctuated by noises of construction – used to be, there will soon be the ringing of bike bells, the excited squeals of children whizzing down the Wild Water Rapids with the constant undertone of families chattering.
In preparing for the press preview the PR team organised recently, I was sitting in our temporary press office (the lovely Lodge 209) when I heard something that sounded like dripping. As I tentatively crept to the patio door which was slightly ajar, I scanned the patio area and there, on the edge, was a little squirrel nibbling a nut. It really brought a smile to my face – this is really what it’s all about. Woburn Forest is really coming alive. When I told Martin [Dalby, CEO] his face lit up. He exclaimed: “I saw my first deer on my patio the other day!”
“Every area I venture into reminds me of the people, the time and the effort involved in bringing each aspect to life”
As I sat back at the dining room table, the sun streamed in through the window and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something skimming the ground at the top of the path leading to my Lodge. Like a scene from Back to the Future, eight people adorned in high visibility clothing and safety gear glided past on segways, complete with the biggest smiles on their faces.
The great thing about Woburn Forest is that it regains the natural beauty of Center Parcs, but has an added futuristic touch here and there.
The final frontier
The best example that comes to mind has to be the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The clam is nestled in the landscape but glimmers in the daylight, like a spaceship has landed so elegantly upon the ground. I remember the architect, David Gallimore, telling me that someone had asked him whether he got his inspiration from Star Trek. He chuckled and quickly added: “Certainly not.”
But as I took some time to explore the Village, it’s clear that this most certainly is the final frontier; it’s completely finished and ready for guests. Every area I venture into reminds me of the people, the time and the effort involved in bringing each aspect to life. Each person brings with them their own story: the designer who had shared the Lodge designs with his children who in turn pleaded with him to take them to Woburn Forest one day; the Rangers who have been looking after the forest and calling me with regular updates on animals they had seen; the new starters whose enthusiasm beams out of them with every word, and Jean Henkens, our Tropical Plants man on a rescue mission.
The design and construction process over the past two years has been amazing. But even just thinking about what’s to come is giving me goosebumps, and I for one cannot wait.
This is not the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
See you next time,