Travel: Deep in the Darwin Forest, modern life is far away
Richard Jones and his family visited Darwin Forest in the Derbyshire Peak District
The four of us carefully negotiated the slippery log steps hand in hand, as the rays of golden sunshine arrowed between the statuesque pine trees.
Making sure our daughters didn't slip and fall 1ft down to the forest floor was arguably the most stressful thing we did all weekend.
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My wife Rachel and I, along with our two daughters Isla and Evelyn, were halfway through Trim Trak, a selection of outdoor obstacle stations designed to help visitors keep fit as well as enlivening family walks around Darwin Forest.
This woodland setting in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District is a haven of peace and tranquility, and perfect for groups of weary visitors looking to unwind.
Darwin Forest, part of family holiday company Hoseasons' extensive portfolio, is up there at the top of the tree when it comes to UK short breaks.
It was voted the third best holiday park in the UK in 2012 out of 392 entries sent to judges at VisitEngland, and the 47-acre park hosts 15,000 holidaymakers a year in its 120 pine lodges, all built by Bakewell-based owners Pinelog.
Long leisurely walks or bike rides around the well-marked woodland and countryside throughout the day are perfectly preceded or succeeded by a visit to the park's state-of-art Evolution leisure centre which includes a large indoor swimming pool, gym, spa, steam room and sauna, as well as massage and beauty therapy facilities.
Meanwhile, the pine lodges themselves are pristine and cosy, with luxurious comfort and all the mod-cons you'd expect including an outdoor hot tub, dishwasher, TVs and wi-fi connection.
Despite the relaxing setting and slow pace on the park, that doesn't mean adventure is not right on your doorstep.
Darwin is also home to an array of sports and leisure facilities including tennis courts, orienteering trails, an outdoor adventure playground, a mini-golf course and mountain-bike hire.
Situated just a short drive or bike ride from Matlock and Bakewell, the lodges are an ideal base for exploring the local Derbyshire countryside, picturesque villages and historic buildings such as the grandiose Chatsworth House and Gardens, the evocative Calke Abbey and the Robert Adam interiors at Kedleston Hall.
There is also Matlock's world-famous Heights of Abraham – a hilltop park on the top of Masson Hill which can be reached by the Alpine-style gondola cable cars.
However, the four of us found more than enough to fill up our long weekend on site. As well as our jaunts around the "deep dark wood" in search of squirrels, pine cones and Gruffalos, Isla and Evelyn also spent a few hours running, jumping, sliding, climbing and making friends in Little Monkeys, Darwin's multi-level indoor children's play centre.
In the modern era of tediously long working weeks and frustratingly short weekends, many families can't see the wood for the trees and fail to recognise that, once in a while, everyone, young or old, needs a break from the grind.
And Darwin Forest is a perfect destination to do just that.
After a one-hour drive across the A46 and A617 through Mansfield from Lincoln, families can be in what seems like the middle of nowhere with the freedom to do as much or as little as they like, come rain or shine.
The four of us returned to work, school and playgroup in a much better state of mind and body.