Camp Kindling- billed as Summer camp for families is an activity camp by day and a festival by night. It sounded perfect for us: we had recently returned from an adrenaline-fuelled 3 years living in Colorado and a weekend together having fun to forget the stress of moving was just what was needed.
How doesCamp Kindling work?
There are 3 levels of tickets: Elementary, Standard and Dynamo. Each level of ticket allows for a certain number of credits that can be used to ‘pay’ for activities. There are early-bird offers and veteran discounts for those who attended last year’s festival. Payment plans are also available. Every member of the family needs a ticket and there are age-group tickets for kids. Babies are free of charge as most of the activities are not suitable for them, however there is a creche, nanny service and soft play, a sand pit and mud kitchen for the very small ones. I would say most activities are suitable for 5+, although to fully experience all activities I think 6-10 is the perfect age range for the festival. You enrol for activities before the weekend starts. Not all activities need to be paid for by your credits: there are many activities that are free and run on a drop-in basis. The events run on a timetable from 8am to 5pm, with music/comedy/talks/story-time starting from 5pm on a drop-in basis.
You can choose to camp in a tent or a vehicle or in pre-pitched tents. There is also a field of Boutique Camping with pre-pitched bell tents complete with beds, ‘luxury’ toilets, a grooming tent with hair dryers and mirrors, a baby changing/feeding tent, a 24hr concierge and its own bar.
You are encouraged to join a patrol – this is summer camp after all! You can choose to be a hawk, fox, badger or squirrel. These patrols compete against each other at the Camp games and you can earn patrol points through participation in activities. At the end of the weekend a patrol is crowned winners and earn the Cup! You can buy uniforms on site for each patrol to help you feel part of the tribe- and so you can cheer on fellow patrol members as you wander through the site.
Camp Kindling preparation
Our preparation for the Camp Kindling weekend began a few weeks prior with early bird enrolment for events and activities. This seemed easy enough at first but the booking system was confusing and not intuitive. I had to reach out for support from the team at Camp Kindling and access their helpful YouTube videos, but eventually managed to book a plethora of activities for all 4 of us. The team at Camp Kindling are very aware of the issues with the booking system and are in the process of creating a more intuitive, easier to use system for next year. We also received regular emails from the team to help us prepare for the weekend and these were invaluable – especially the packing list and arrival instructions. We felt ready.
Boutique Camping at Camp Kindling
Arrival on Friday was easy – the site is situated in Kent, close to the M20 in a collection of fields surrounding a beautiful forest. It is so easy to access. After check-in we were helped with our luggage to our bell tent in the boutique camping area. This was a field separate from the main site, although some activities do take place adjacent to the camping. The other main camping field at Camp Kindling is the opposite side of the site, and has activities within and around the tent pitches. The bell tent was beautiful, with beds, towels and toiletries included. The boys made themselves at home immediately and we cracked open the cans of G&T whilst they were still cold. Welcome drinks at the bar helped settle you into the weekend.
The weekend at Camp Kindling kicked off from here – a walking brass band plus energetic patrol leaders encouraged us to follow them to the Games Arena to officially open the festival with the first round of the patrol games. It was loud, colourful and just the right opening to the weekend. We decided to join the hawks, and so after the patrol games headed to the onsite store to buy the obligatory hawks t-shirt (good value at £10 for a kids t-shirt) and temporary Hawk tattoos. Fully enrolled in team Hawk it was time to head to the bar!
Food and Drink at Camp Kindling
The food options were scattered throughout the site and were many and varied. Our favourites were Moroccan Harissa and Lemon, The Crepe Stop, Bean & Gone for awesome coffee and cakes, Fabbro for frozen refreshing frozen yoghurt, and Oh Babu for filling curry. The food was of a good standard, healthy and not too expensive – we felt we had eaten well and crucially the boys enjoyed the food too so that was one battle won!
Each camping field provided areas for cooking. Due to the strict fire safety protocols cooking could only take place at these areas and no campfires were allowed. The cooking areas had running water, sinks, kettles, were covered and had tables/benches to eat at.
Camp Kindling is a no single-use plastic site. We were encouraged to bring our own enamel camping mugs, non-plastic water bottles to refill at the water taps and no glass was allowed on site. At the bar you were given a re-usable plastic cup for £1 that you had to bring back for the next drink. This is all well and good, until you have had too many drinks to remember your re-usable cup! Towards the end of the weekend commemorative plastic pint cups were given out to keep; these are a welcome addition to our camping equipment. Bar options were broader and more grown-up than your normal festival; cocktail or bottle of rose anyone?
Friday night at Camp Kindling
We were branded in patrol gear, had walked through the intrepid forest gloriously lit by fairy lights and were well fed and fizzy from perhaps one too many cocktails so after an hour’s respite in the tent we headed out to dance! There were two music venues on site: the discotheque and the clubhouse, as well as an auditorium for comedy and talks. Rylan was the headliner in the discotheque and he didn’t disappoint! You can see his teeth from the back of a very large dark tent and his dance moves and enthusiasm rivalled those of the inebriated mums filling the tent. I loved it and danced with absolute abandon . The boys weren’t so sure. This was the music highlight for me over the weekend. It is fair to say that the music is more of a backdrop to the daytime activities and a partner to the night time drinking. If you want a festival for the music, this is not for you.
Babysitting and the Sanctuary at Camp Kindling
We had pre-booked a babysitting slot for 2.5 hours using the onsite team. Babysitting, a nanny service and creche were available throughout the weekend. These were not connected to the credit scheme and had to be pre-booked and paid for in cash. Danielle met us at our tent at 10pm. She was professional, came armed with stories for bedtime and happily played games with our two boys who are 9 and 7. She listened patiently to their American stories until bedtime.
We escaped to the adult-only spa. This was a bookable but paid for separately luxury, hidden away in an area called the Sanctuary. Here there were two wood-fired hot tubs and a wood-fired spa. At night, lit by fairy lights with the disco tunes in the background, this was absolute heaven. It was quiet as it was the 10:30 -midnight slot after all, which meant we had a hot tub to ourselves.
We returned the following evening, having employed the wonderful Danielle again to babysit in the earlier slot of 7-9:30pm, for a wellbeing treatment. This was a massage in a bell tent paid for in advanced just like the babysitting and were bookable in a 20 or 50 minute slot. Disappointingly they were running late and my husband had to miss his treatment altogether, but my massage was a welcome 20 minutes of peace, even if it was set to a background of hardcore house music from the Clubhouse tent!
The babysitting team were very under-used at Camp Kindling. They are going to push for more advertising and an easier booking or drop-in system for 2023. The creche was a haven, with many qualified nannies (including a Norland Nanny in training) and plenty of toys for 0-5 years olds. I would recommend any parent to use the service. I think it is one of the best parts of our weekend.
Saturday at Camp Kindling- let the activities commence!
After a quick breakfast we dragged ourselves out of the tent, bleary-eyed and distinctly hungover and headed to our first activity African Drumming at 8am in the Intrepid Forest. We loved it. The instructor was knowledgeable, fun and everyone had their own drum. I learnt more than I expected too and looking back it epitomised what Camp Kindling is really all about; learning a new skill alongside your kids in a beautiful environment from an expert. From drumming we headed to Archery. The boys all got to fire 4 arrows at the targets. Next was Mountain Biking although my youngest was disappointed to learn that there were no bikes large enough for him which had not been flagged up at booking. Him and I headed to crazy golf, a free drop-in activity, whilst my eldest and his Dad sped around the field/forest route in 20 minutes.
Onto Rifle shooting where we were all given instruction on how to fire an air rifle safely- including the 7 year old- and had a go at target shooting, with lots of help from the instructors. Lunch and then onto Quad Biking- one of our family favourite activities. The boys were on the back of our bikes, and we rode the same mountain bike trail. This activity felt worth the time-slot where other activities such as Archery and Rifle shooting had not. Archery and Rifle were a 30 minute drop-in slot but due to the high number of people, the activity only really lasted 10-15 minutes which we felt wasn’t enough time to fully experience it.
Quad biking, like African drumming earlier in the day, were credit enrolled activities and felt worth the money. The afternoon ended at Zorbing another drop-in activity where we had to wait 30 mins for our 3 minute turn in the heat of the day with no shade; not ideal for tired small children. Zorbing was so much fun and another highlight, even though it was over far too quickly. We were booked on the water slide at 4:30 but the queue was huge and as it was closing at 5 we were told to try again tomorrow, which was again frustrating as we had pre-booked our drop-in time. By this time in the afternoon timings at drop-in activities had gone out the window.
It is fair to say that we were all exhausted after the first full day. The advice given when booking your activities is to not overbook and to give yourself time to enjoy the atmosphere of the site. I would totally agree with this the site is fairly large, it was a very warm weekend and what we hadn’t factored in is the walking between activity sites which really adds up. My advice would be to book between 4 and 6 events per day and try not to book back-to-back slots. I am assured by the Camp Kindling team that the issues with the timed drop-in activities is being addressed for 2023. This is a relatively young festival and I cannot fault the team for actively requesting comments on how to improve year on year.
Sunday at Camp Kindling- let the activities continue…
We gave ourselves a lie-in on Sunday and started the morning with coffee and cake whilst the boys crawled up the climbing wall. Onto Arcade games which was a big hit with my two- not only could they get tuition on how to ace the game but it was inexplicably a quiet drop-in so we kept returning to play them throughout the day. We dropped into axe-throwing before heading to Hip-hop dancing, one of our credit enrolled activities. Here we learnt a routine and after much cajoling the boys won a participation token each! These tokens were added to the Hawk’s tally as part of the Camp Games. We managed to find an oasis of calm in the board games drop-in tent, which also had lots of Lego. This was a much needed moment of peace, apart from the tumbling Jenga blocks. In the afternoon I headed to make a Flower Headdress. A fully mindful activity in a beautiful environment. The balance of beautiful woodland location and new activity is the key to Camp Kindling and was another highlight for me. The boys headed off to Nerf battle in the field; a highlight for them but for very different reasons! We finished the day with the water slide- arriving earlier than yesterday in order to get a go.
Camp Kindling ended with the group photo and as we gathered at the Games Arena the excitement grew to find out who would win the Cup! The patrol leaders did such a good job of ramping up the excitement and adorning us with patrol suitable face paint. Hawks were green. Hawks won the final tally of tokens but that only secured our place in the Final, which after a tense semi-final, Hawks battled against the Foxes who won! We were robbed! The final atmosphere was jubilant, if a little tired and was a fitting end to a very busy hot but fun weekend at Camp Kindling.
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