The Blacklocks – Mark, Katie and daughters Amelia, 6 and Sophie, 4, had just arrived for a well-earned break at Longleat Forest in late February.
Katie was 8 months pregnant and Amelia and Sophie were eagerly anticipating their new brother or sister arriving in March. The family had settled into their Lodge, the children were in bed and Mark and Katie were relaxing for the evening when suddenly Katie’s waters broke.
With his wife going into early labour in the lodge, Mark called their midwife who was 100 miles away in Worthing. She suggested they start the long drive back to the south coast.
Next, Mark called the Security Lodge at Longleat Forest, who dispatched team members Alec and Michelle to Villa 402. “We were so lucky to have Alec,” Mark explains. “He had worked for the Ambulance Service for years before joining the security team at Center Parcs, so he knew exactly what to do.” Alec took a guest going into labour in his stride and set about timing Katie’s contractions. “He was calming, informative and very professional,” adds Mark.
As the contractions sped up, it was clear that driving back to Worthing was not on the cards – Baby Blacklock had its own ideas, and they didn’t involve carefully worked out birthing plans.
The next plan was a dash to Bath or Salisbury Hospitals, 20 and 27 miles away respectively. Mark went to collect their car in preparation, and his parents set off to Longleat Forest to look after Amelia and Sophie – who were still sleeping obliviously in their beds.
A call to Salisbury Hospital confirmed that they were happy to take them, but as they waited for Mark’s parents to arrive –close to 1am – Katie’s contractions only got stronger and closer together. With no time left to waste, Alec called an ambulance, which arrived at the same time as Mark’s parents.
Katie was given gas and air and the ambulance team declared it was too late to make the 40 minutes to Salisbury Hospital. There were only two choices left: Frome Community Hospital, just 6 miles away with a small birthing unit for low-risk mothers, or bring Baby Blacklock into the world right there in the lodge.
Mark and Katie decided to take their chances at the hospital. Mark followed along behind while Alec drove in front, guiding the ambulance through the tricky, winding landscape surrounding Longleat Forest. Once they hit the main road, the flashing blue lights came on and off they went – “at this point, we were still in absolute shock!” says Mark.
They arrived at the hospital, which Mark says was “the most amazing hospital I have ever encountered.”. Midwife Ann led them through a quick but smooth escalation to full labour.
Henry Blacklock was born at 6.22am on the 21st February 2015 weighing 7lb 9oz in the birthing pool at Frome Hospital.
There were rounds of tea and toast at the hospital, a quick refresher course on nappies and baby grows, before the proud parents were told they could take little Henry home.
Only, where should they go? Over 100 miles back to Worthing, rallying the children and Mark’s parents, who had already driven through the night, to follow them all the way back again?
No – they went back to Longleat Forest for the rest of their break! After all, it was only Saturday morning, there was plenty of time still to enjoy themselves. “By 10am we were en route back to the wonderful Center Parcs,” explains Mark. When they arrived at the Village, they, and the youngest guest – just 4 hours old – who everyone was dying to meet, were welcomed back by security.
The team at the Village offered another lodge for Mark’s parents to stay in, but they decided to bunk up with the rest of the family – all the better to be close to little Henry!
Word about the four-hour-old guest had spread around the Village, and some of the managers at Longleat Forest stopped by with a hamper, balloon and card for the family.
Alec also paid a visit, taking a teddy bear and a special VIP security pass he had handmade for baby Henry. Mark says: “It was all so wonderful and I can’t thank everyone enough. We were able to enjoy the break together, and I just want to thank everyone at Center Parcs.”
Mark, Katie, Amelia, Sophie and little Henry are now all safely back home and doing well. Amelia and Sophie dote on their little brother.
“I will never forget how you helped us and you’re lucky to have such wonderful people working for you.”
You’re right, Mark, we are. Why not read about some of our other Center Parcs superstars?
Jane Bunyan: her secrets behind Winter Wonderland
Jill Broughton: Guest favourite at The Pancake House
Helen Wharley: Nurse at Longleat Forest