When we heard Camp Bestival were holding an additional gathering, we were thrilled! We have been to Camp Bestival Dorset and loved it, however, living in the West Midlands it’s a fair old trek to get to Dorset and this was literally on our doorstep!
Our first observation was how easy it was to get on site (we arrived around 11.30am on the Thursday); I recall queuing for quite a while in Dorset but for Shropshire, we just drove straight on site and parked up – we were even relatively close to our campsite which was again, completely different to our Dorset experience.
After lunch (take a packed lunch for the Thursday lunchtime) and setting up the tent, we took time to chat to people around us while the children chatted and played – one noticeable thing was how friendly everyone was, I am sure people were equally friendly in Dorset but this really stuck out to us across the whole weekend, from festival go-ers to crew/security staff.
The site opened around 4pm so we headed up, map in hand, to get our bearings and work out where everything was. There are a few vendors and rides open on the Thursday evening but this is very much the calm before the storm in the weekend! It’s a really good idea go get up into the arena though as it gives you a taster of what is around and helps you build the excitement for the weekend! Our first impression was how close together everything was compared to Dorset and we were excited to explore the next day.
A great night’s sleep was had by all (we recently invested in ‘Pod’ sleeping bags for myself and the little one – we are both quite wriggly sleepers – and they didn’t disappoint with much more room than our previous sleeping bags). We were also using our Coleman Blackout Tent (there is a review for this here). I still maintain its brilliant for festivals and keeps the children sleeping much longer without the early morning sun streaming in! We had breakfast at the tent (we tend to breakfast and have another meal at the tent as festival food is great, but incredibly costly for a family of four), and headed out.
Our first stop was to head to Temple Woods – this is something that Dorset doesn’t offer and unique to Camp Bestival Shropshire. We are locals so know Weston Park and the train and playground well (you can see a review of Fairy Hunting at Weston Park here) so the little one needed to get this out of his system before we explored the rest of the festival! It was a lovely calm start to the weekend and the children happily played on the park while I sipped my coffee. We then had a go on the train and were helped out by a fantastic member of the train staff who went back up the line to collect my son’s Disco Dinosaur mask when it flew off!
Next we went out into the wider festival. Although it is much closer together than Dorset, I still found it tricky to get my bearings and find out what was on offer across the site and the weekend. It is well worth getting a lanyard programme – not only do you get a great lanyard for future use, you are also able to keep tabs on what is coming up on centre stage and make sure you don’t miss the things you really want to see! I did manage to get away on my own for an hour on the Saturday to quickly whizz round and make sure I knew what was on offer, this was impossible to do with the children and made a big difference so if you can, try and ditch the kids early on for a quick recce!
I found that at Weston Park there were more free things on offer than in Dorset. This might just be what we noticed though! Weston Park had free paddleboarding and wild swimming for a start and this was something again, completely different to Dorset (the Park was also free but the train was £3 a person!). There was also a ton of activities and Science shows in the H&M Science Tent. This is something we didn’t discover till Saturday afternoon and I wish I had found it sooner…Obviously the main stage has ‘free’ acts and there are lots of other shows and music sets going on around the festival but there also seemed to be more circus activities, more variety in terms of story related shows rather than music performances and unusual activities like Rimski’s Yard.
One downside I noticed was the number of rides on offer – this might just be because my youngest is a little older than our last Camp Bestival and therefore more prone to pestering to go on rides this time! The rides were £3 or £3.50 a time and around every corner, so very tempting! Last time we did Camp Bestival we went armed with Bubble Guns, Glitter and Glow Sticks to keep costs down and we did similar this time. Biodegradable face glitter (apparently I saved my daughter and her friends a fortune here!) then neon face paints for the evening (again, the ‘teens’ were thrilled with this!) and Dinosaur Cape and mask purchased prior to arrival, however, we ended up limiting the rides to one in the morning and one in the afternoon to manage the situation and even doing this, with an adult and child riding most times, it was one of our biggest expenses!Bubble Machine Bubble Gun f...Shop on Amazon Premium Glow Sticks Party P...Shop on Amazon The Glowhouse Premium Ultra...Shop on Amazon Biodegradable Luxe Glitter ...Shop on Amazon DKINY Dinosaur Cape Kids Co...Shop on Amazon The Glowhouse UV Neon Face ...Shop on Amazon
My eldest was also of an age where she was keen to go off and explore with her friends (again, another bonus for us was as it was a local festival, she had lots of friends there to hand out with!). The fact the site was close together and with strict instructions to stick to the main arena and get to check in times promptly, she had an absolute ball! The whole site was cashless, which meant she could be independent with her bank card and learn to budget for her own meal at lunchtime and activities (still some work to do there!). She also got to have the most incredible experiences with her friends right at the front of the stage. Becky Hill and Fat Boy Slim were highlights for her where she was right at the front with her friends (we were also there watching!) as were, surprisingly, Mr Maker and Mr Tumble (I think they found this all quite nostalgic) and the Horrible History show. It helped us all to be able to focus on the younger one and know she was also enjoying the festival without having to tag along with us all the time.
Camp Bestival is a family affair and it was great to see families together watching all the headline acts. However, enjoying The Proclaimers at teatime on a Friday afternoon needs great preparation if you want to enjoy listening without being pestered by a child who isn’t such a fan! We didn’t take our trolley this time as our 7 year old outgrew ours, however, I regretted not investing in a larger trolley as he got really tired by Saturday afternoon and we needed to head back to the tent for some down time. Though pulling them around is a pain, knowing you can snuggle your 7-year-old in there with snacks, ear defenders and some phone time means you get to rock out to whatever you want with no complaints! However, although there were lots of families by the time Fat Boy Slim was on, we opted to swap round with hubby and little one at the tent while the eldest and I headed out again!
I think we managed to strike a balance between heading to planned events, for example, the main stage acts, paying for activities, the ‘make a space rocket’ for example was £5 well spent as the activity took a good hour, and generally wandering around. One thing we all really loved was the impromptu bands…there was a brilliant band on stilts outside the Pravha tent across the weekend and the Old Time Sailors on Thursday night was a real highlight for us all and set the tone for the festival. I was a little frustrated to miss some of the bigger names at times because we were engrossed in other activities but you really can hear them from wherever you are!
Overall, we loved Camp Bestival Shropshire and although we really enjoyed Dorset, we are now firm converts to the Shropshire version! We loved the variety of what was on offer as well as the proximity of all the activities and camping. Camp Bestival Shropshire is promising to be even bigger and better next year so watch this space! Early bird tickets have just been released and I have a feeling it is going to be a popular event!