IT IS Saturday morning and I should be sitting quietly somewhere, sipping a frothy coffee and flicking through the weekend papers.

Instead, I’m wearing an oversized boiler suit, inhaling petrol fumes and having mud flicked in my face as my fellow quad bikers spin their wheels and tear off down the dirt track.

Fast forward a bit to Sunday morning and I am finally having that cappuccino, this time sat in a fluffy bathrobe at a spa, having my toenails painted while I absorb all there is to know about the latest must-have autumn hairstyles.

Welcome to Center Parcs, ladies and gentlemen, where you can be scaring yourself witless (and shrieking with laughter) one minute and relaxing to the point of unconsciousness (and snoring) the next.

It’s a bit of a hackneyed saying, but this place really does have something for everyone, regardless of their age or interests.

Our party ranged from my youngest niece (age seven) up to the oldest wrinkly of them all, me (age 45), with my two children (18 and 20) somewhere in between, but as we packed up to travel home from the Longleat Forest site it was with heavy hearts across the board after a weekend of non-stop activities — high octane and otherwise.

There’s no such excuse as being too old for anything at Center Parcs — hence I found myself astride a muddy quad bike clinging on for dear life as I tried to keep up with my daredevil sons. But, it seems, you can be too cautious.

“After a few minutes getting used to the quads, we’re going to divide you into two groups,” explained our instructor as we revved up. “One group will be for the people who are a bit faster, and one for the slower ones.”

All I’ll say is there were five people in our quad bike session but only one singled out for the slow crawl... something I’ve yet to live down with the rest of the family. Oh well, I always knew I was a bit special.

There were no excuses later that day either, when we ventured to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise — the pool to you and me. I could have spent my time wallowing in the heated water, bubbling in the Jacuzzi or bobbing around the lazy river, as befits a woman of a certain age.

But no. It was me giggling and gasping for air in the rapids, me hooting down the water chutes and me racing the children to be first in the plunge pool. I drew the line at a dip in the icy dunk tank though. I haven’t completely lost my mind, only my nerve.

One of the great beauties of Center Parcs is the lack of cars on site. Aside from arrival and departure days, transport is strictly on foot or by bicycle and we hired bikes for all eight of us.

After establishing that I can’t ride no-handed or pull a wheelie — sorry, kids, for being so boring — we settled into a routine of the younger ones racing off ahead, then doubling back to fall in with the oldies at the rear.

So vast is the Longleat site that you could spend a whole morning or afternoon just cycling around the forest, circling the central lake and puffing up and down the hills (you have been warned).

Instead, we chose to do our exploring by way of a geocaching session, a kind of treasure hunt using GPS to navigate your way to each of the points.

This international trend has been given a twist by the Center Parcs team, so that rather than finding trinkets to take away you hunt for clues which spell out an anagram.

The first team back to base with the right answer wins a game of bowling, and remarkably, despite a few disagreements and certainly no urgency on our part, we won the prize.

The route took us past the site’s luxury tree houses, which as the name suggests are perched up in the treetops. These top-of-the-range lodges have four en-suite double bedrooms, a hot tub, games den and their own Treehouse Host to wait on guests, but prices start at £2,199 so you’d better start saving.

That said, our own Woodland Lodge was nothing shabby: four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen better equipped than my own at home, with prices starting from a much more achievable £339.

All that fresh air builds an appetite and the choices are endless.

In the interests of economy, we chose to eat in for breakfast and lunch, but headed out to the American diner Huck’s for a one-venue-suits-all evening meal.

While the adults piled into sharing platters, steaks, burgers and ribs, the little ones could help themselves to the kids’ buffet before running off to the soft play area.

The third (yes, third) swimming session of the weekend was my opportunity to slope off to the Aqua Sana spa for a bit of quiet time.

The spa is a destination in itself for day visitors and with its 15 different experience rooms — saunas, steam rooms and the like — it’s easy to watch three hours slip away in a flash.

With time to collect my thoughts I tried to decide which I preferred — the crazy adrenaline rush of the quad bikes or lying completely still on heated bed in the spa. I never reached a conclusion.

I was already asleep...

 Michelle Tompkins stayed at Longleat Forest in Warminster in a four-bedroom Woodland Lodge for up to eight people. Prices start from £339 (based on a mid-week break in January 2016). Conditions apply. The price covers accommodation for the duration of the break and access to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise only.

  • Mid-week and weekend breaks are available all year round along with more than 100 activities to choose from. Activity prices vary but start from £5.25 per person (face painting) to £46 per person (for quad biking). 
  •  New activities at Longleat Forest in 2015 include the segway experience, den building and decorating, indoor climbing (with new themed walls) and forest crafts for children aged over three years old.
  •  Work has also started on new rides for the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and a toddler water play area which is due to open in 2017.
  •  Go to to book your break