We have been going to Center Parcs nearly every other year for quite a few years. The main reason is that it is a great place for families and friends who live far apart to come together for a week of socialising and fun. It is a bonus to me that I can use the few days in the woods to make use of the programme of activities to tick things off my bucket list – and this time I gave paintball a go.

We booked a session ahead of time for three of us during our break at Elveden Forest, which meant we would be joining other people for our session. On arrival we naturally had to sign our lives away (albeit within English law…) and declared any medical issues before we got kitted out in our gear for the hour-and-a-half activity. We put on some lightweight body armour to protect our chests and back (actually just our nipples but you know, it was worth a try!), and then some overalls. It was an incredibly warm day and so the overalls were not welcome, but were totally necessary so we just got on with it. For our heads we had a hood – a loose balaclava – that covered our head and neck, and then some full face goggles that would hopefully protect the face, especially eyes, from attack.

Safety was clearly very important and there were rules we had to follow, naturally, but everything was explained clearly and without being patronising at all. There as a “safe zone” where you are allowed to remove your goggles and no guns are allowed, but other than there you were to leave your goggles on at all times. Signs were very clear and none of the group of nine had any difficulties understanding or following the rules.

We were each given an air gun and a pod of paintballs, and after some instruction on safety catches and the like, we shot at a couple of targets a few times just to make sure we had the hang of things. The guns were a little heavier than I imagined but super easy to use. Like shotguns, it’s less about aiming and more about pointing, but it was easy to see where the paintballs were heading and adjust accordingly so you could be reasonably accurate if you tried.

We were split into two teams – blues and greens – and played four games. Capture the flag, an old favourite wide game, was first. We started at one end of the field and had to get the other team’s flag from the other end. The field didn’t look that big to start with but it was actually quite a distance between the two flags. As we made our way forward, using the various trees, barrels and structures to take cover when needed, the other team were doing the same in the other direction – and shooting at us of course. I tell you, when those paintballs hit you they smart a bit; each time we got hit we had to make our way back to our team base before starting again towards the flag. Our team won, naturally, and the game was done.

Not many photos as, well, we were shooting paint out of air guns. But this gives a bit of a view of the playing area.

Then it was “raise the flag”, this time with the field being split into two halves with flags in the middle – the aim of the game was for your flag, which was in the centre of the playing area, to be raised at the end of play. This one was loads of fun; someone had to run to the centre of the area and raise the flag, putting themselves in the line of fire good and proper, and the rest of the team provided cover as they could. Our team decided that a couple of us would race for the flag as soon as the game started, before the other team had a chance to work out what they were doing. The tactic worked and we raised the flag within a few seconds. We played this one twice; it turns out that the team with the castle had a distinct advantage as they had the higher ground to defend, so we won one and lost one.

Our final game was a “simple” football match. The rule was that you had to keep the football out of your half when the final whistle was blown, but we wouldn’t know when the whistle would be blow so we had to keep defending and get rid of it every time the ball came near. This was definitely the best game, there was unlimited lives and we all had full pods of paintballs – we weren’t bothered about whether we got hit or not so we just ran and shot and ran and shot. We won by default because the other team kicked the ball out of play and into a construction site oops! It was time up anyway, so it didn’t matter – although I think the ball was genuinely lost forever!

Our session, which lasted an hour and three-quarters in total, was so much fun. Another bucket list item ticked off and added back on again; I would very happily do this one again. I should note that the bruises remain even now, at least two weeks later, but they’re worth it! They also do laser combat here which would be less painful although no less energetic – although with no splattering paint I can’t imagine it’s quite as fun! I would definitely book it here again, or look for a centre closer to home with friends for a session.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest.

Cost wise, activities at Center Parcs really are not very cheap at all – but you know this and when you compare them to activity companies it’s not much different. We paid £25.50 per person including 200 paintballs each (I believe activities prices vary by day and time, we booked for 2.30pm on an off-peak Tuesday). You may know already that paintballs don’t last long if you are even a teeny bit trigger happy, and you can buy 100 more for £7 or 500 more for £30 during your activity. As there were only a few of us on our session and it was very VERY warm, the guys running the activity gave us free top ups, which was jolly nice of them – we filled up after every go and easily went through 600 paintballs each and so the added extra was very much appreciated.

My bucket list is something of an untamable beast. If you have any suggestions of things you think I should add, or can help me tick anything off, drop me a line in the comments below!

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