A birthday present for Woburn Forest

Here’s a sneak peek at the giant creative masterpiece winging its way to Woburn Forest this weekend…


Woburn is one! This weekend is exactly a year since we threw open the gates and welcomed the very first guests to our fifth Center Parcs village in rural Bedfordshire.

Since then, more than 250,000 guests have experienced the magic of a short break at Woburn. To celebrate the Village’s first anniversary, we’re putting on some special treats for those joining us for our Birthday Break this weekend.

One of Woburn’s birthday presents is a spectacular giant canvas produced by artist Maria Leyden. Maria’s company, Fancy Features, produces large scale interactive artworks for events. The illustrations are left partially in black and white, so guests can unleash their creative side by colouring in a section, resulting in a remarkable technicolour work of art!

We caught up with Maria to see how she’s getting on with her Woburn masterpiece, and to get a sneak peak at the canvas…

Your creations are so large and intricate – how do you get started on a new piece?

“Each artwork is an original design. We start by listening to what our clients want; they tell us about the places and stories they want included. Then I start to rough some ideas out. The best ideas become a draft design for the client’s approval, and once it’s approved it’s time for it to be hand illustrated onto a giant canvas.

“Getting started on the blank canvas is the hardest part. I usually mark the centre and then work out from there, pencilling in the design before drawing over it in a black paint pen.”

What have you included in the piece for Woburn’s first birthday?

“I wanted to capture the flora and fauna of Center Parcs’ woodland setting. The design is a view through the forest, featuring lots of birds, butterflies and other animals, looking towards the lake in the centre.

“In the background are the familiar sights of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and The Plaza. Families are cycling through the forest, rowing across the lake and walking towards their next adventure!

“The design is quite different to the other pieces we have made for Center Parcs. We’re pretty excited about it, hopefully people will love colouring it in and the final result is always spectacular!”

What are the most memorable pieces you have ever produced?

“We’ve worked on some fantastic projects over the years. Last year we made artwork for the Wimbledon Championships – Tim Henman managed to stay within the lines, Judy Murray coloured in her son Andy and even Peter Andre popped in for a go!

“The Woburn piece will soon be added to the most memorable list too…”

On that note, Maria had to get back to her canvas to put the finishing touches to the Woburn Forest illustration. Pop back next week to see the finished work after our artistic guests have added their own creative flair!

Fancy Features is run by artists Maria Leyden and Chris Mason. For more information, see www.fancyfeatures.com

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Maddy Potts

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Maddy Potts

As Marketing Executive at Center Parcs, I’m lucky enough to hear all the amazing stories that come from our guests, our Villages and the wider travel industry. I’ll blog about the best ones, bring you some fantastic competitions and update you on all the exciting new activities and goings on at Center Parcs.