So Timber Festival has been and gone and what a festival it was. The first year of this new Family Friendly Festival set at Feanedock, in the heart of the National Forest was a rip roaring success.
NB: We were invited to Timber Festival as their guests but all views and opinions are my own.
Timber Festival is a joint venture between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus (the team behind Just So Festival) and the collaboration wanted to create an international festival exploring the transformative impact of forests. Feanedock forest itself where Timber Festival took place is part of the UK’s boldest environmentally-led regeneration project: the creation of England’s first new forest in a thousand years which spans 200 square miles across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, over abandoned coal mines; it seemed the perfect location for a festival celebrating all that is wonderful about the forest.
The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness
— John Muir
We arrived at Timber Festival late afternoon on Friday after an easy journey down from the Wirral. We had tried to pack lighter than we usually do for camping as I knew we had to carry everything from the car to the campsite. We wouldn’t be able to park right next to the tent like we usually do, but we just had to take a few* home comforts and so it wasn’t exactly light packing – ok it wasn’t light packing at all! I don’t recommend this though! It took more than a few trips down the hill with all the kit. This was ok in the dry sunny weather we had but I can imagine it would have been a lot trickier if wet! If you’re planning a trip in 2019 (which you should) pack light!
We set up our new Vango airbeam tent quickly, (check out our video for how quick!) and unpacked the rest of the furniture. A double camp bed for us (epic albeit pretty heavy to carry from car to festival site) inflatable sofa, chairs, camping stove and table, roll mats and finally the Coleman Event Shelter.
*Ok when I said we packed light I lied, we really didn’t.
We were at the festival with two other families (including How to be a Dad) and we set up our tents around the event shelter. I really might have only expected this to be useful for rainy camping days but the reason why we packed it was because the event shelter provided brilliant cover from the sun which was fairly extreme at times over the weekend.
So all set up and ready to go we ate a quick tea of sausage butties and burgers and made our way into the festival itself around 7. We didn’t do much that first evening apart from enjoy the late summer evening whilst listening to music at the Nightingale stage. The kids spent hours running up and down the huge hill and we sampled the rather nice gin and prosecco from the Nags Head horse box cart!
The festival instantly felt friendly and safe and the kids loved the freedom to run wild. They ran, they danced, they flossed and we all relaxed into the festival vibe.
The music on the Nightingale stage seemed to finish at 10 (although later we realised that it was going to re-start) and we mooched back to the campsite via the light show…. this was something else and incredibly beautiful to watch.
Whilst most of us then made our way back to the tents, as we had pretty exhausted kids, part of our group meandered back a different way and found the English festival premiere of Tree & Wood by leading artist Jony Easterby which was a team of international artists, musicians, performers and foresters playing in the woods. I have to say I was a little envious when they explained the premise and sad that our route hadn’t taken us that way! Stumbling across different things was however the theme for the weekend. There always seemed to be something else to discover around every corner.
We had a very lazy start to the morning even after waking at 6.30am. We sat around in the sun, played a bit of cricket, ate bacon and egg butties, drank lovely coffee, put on glittery festival make up and enjoyed a warm shower! Yes people if you’re thinking of camping at Timber Festival please don’t worry about the toilets and the showers. In the campsite toilets like marquee wedding toilets were available. They were cleaned regularly, there was always soap and water and toilet paper and not once did they smell. The showers were also warm and clean. When your friend lends you Clarins for your morning shower on a campsite you know you’ve discovered the epitome of festival camping. I fear we have been spoilt forever about festival camping, albeit I’m assured that the facilities at Just So are just the same.
Anyway I digress. Back to the festival itself.
We walked into Timber Festival on the Saturday morning into the As The Crow Flies area and the first activity we took part in was Marshmallow Laser Feast’s award-winning VR experience – In The Eyes of the Animal – where the kids could discover what it’s like to be an animal in the forest. It was really funny to sit and watch the kids squirm away from the mosquitos and try and remember it wasn’t actually real!
Marshmellow VR was followed swiftly by the willow weaving which was a complete hit. We plaited willow into lots of snails. I think it was the most successfully crafty I have ever been.
Most of the stalls at Timber Festival were on message, with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and eco electricity all having stands. There was a couple of off message unicorn and fairy stands but not too many tat stalks that can be ubiquitous at other festivals.
We decided not to indulge in the spa as at £30 a head it would have cost our group just under £300. But for couples wanting some respite from the beating Sun I could certainly see the appeal.
Round the next corner was a woodland trail with installations taking about ravens and magpies and Heather and bramble. We read these whilst eating incredible ice cream from Shepherds. Not over priced either at only £2 a cone for the kids. I’d recommend the virgin mojito sorbet or the iced coffee! The installations were part of the Lost Words Theatre production (an outdoor theatre companion to the enchanting, best-selling illustrated book of acrostic poems The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris)which we took part in on Sunday but they also provided some amusement as we made our way to the woods.
One of the nicest things about Timber Festival is that even when you think you’ve ‘done’ an area you haven’t. What’s there at one time of the day, will change later in the evening. You may have climbed some trees on Saturday morning but on Saturday night you’re in the same area sitting round the campsite listening to stories of Storyteller Ian Douglas telling stories about escaping bullets and watching fireworks explode from peoples heads!
Health & Safety seemed to have relaxed with the festival vibe at Hammer & Chisel, a unique woodland playground. Obviously the kids loved hammering large nails into wood with heavy hammers or mallets and attempting to build a ladder. I panicked at the potential for injury and left them in friends capable hands whilst I stared in awe at the large moon. Art being displayed exactly how it should be. Another installation that was equally impressive at different times of the day.
We caught the end of a couple of shows on the Eyrie Stage and I have highlighted that as a place to spend more time next year. One of the shows we caught the end of, was on later on that evening and we decided to head Back. Jason Singh was fabulous and someone I’d make a bee line for if I saw him performing anywhere else.
Moving round from the Eyrie stage we grabbed lunch to eat on the hill at the Nightingale stage, but at the last minute decided against the hill and took to hiding in a tent for some well needed shade.
It has to be said that the weather was incredible for the full weekend which always helps a festival, however at times (when people couldn’t sit on the hill to watch the main stage as the sun was pounding down), I did feel for the acts playing to an almost empty hill whilst everyone took shelter on the edges of the common around the corner.
The Common provided another area of varied activities. Wood whittling ( an extra charge) free wand making, flower mask making, and the most incredible company who provided free clay for the kids to make countless things, we have literally brought home enough clay pottery to start a shop! Huge thanks go to them for their tireless effort. It was appreciated. Each stall on the common did something that little bit different and it was also the backdrop for various little bits of theatre throughout the day. Pif Paf Bee Cart was just brilliant with not only very funny hosts but educational too. I even found myself dressed as a rather large bee!
Saturday’s festival activity was interrupted with a certain England match (yes the one where we thrashed Sweden) and we actually made our way back to our own event shelter and lap top set up to avoid the crowds at the hastily erected big screen in the bar. Whilst it was awesome to see our team win it was also good to head back to the tents for a little downtime before hitting the festival again. It’s a tip to remember if the kids are crashing a little.
At about 6pm we went back to the festival and carried on the party. More gin and prosecco from the Nags Head and an explore of the Coppice area with a sheltered maze, the rock building and the real life bees. This was also the location of the cycle powered merry go round (The Bewonderment Machine) which was powered by someone cycling which we headed back to when it was open on Sunday morning.
We finally crashed out at about 10pm that night after a lot more fun.
Sunday was just as much fun, but we found different things to entertain us. Straw Bale house building, The Lost Words show, more clay making, a bug hunt with a very patient chap from the RSPB, monsters in the woods, watched bees make honey, and terrorised the lion from the theatre troop wandering round in a rather warm suit playing the accordion. As you do!
Timber Festival was a lot of fun and has set the bar pretty high for our Summer of family friendly festival fun with Deer Shed, Camp Bestival and Just So to follow!
If you’re looking for a festival with a very relaxed vibe, a festival that truly is family friendly and one where you will feel instantly relaxed then Timber is your festival. If you’re looking for Mr Tumble, neon lights and famous bands then you’ll need to head elsewhere. Timber Festival we absolutely LOVED you!
You can see our video our Timber Festival weekend here!
Why not sign up to the Timber Festival eNews to make sure you hear about next year’s dates and ticket booking. You can find out more information over on the Timber Festival website.
If you’re wondering how to go about choosing a Festival for your kids why not check out this piece I wrote for Toddler Fun Learning earlier this year.
If you’d like to find out what others thought of Timber Festival why not take a read of these reviews:
Our First Camping Festival as a Family of 5 – How to be a Dad
TIMBER FESTIVAL 2018 – FAMILY FESTIVAL REVIEW – We’re going on an adventure
TIMBER FESTIVAL 2018: OUR FIRST FAMILY FESTIVAL – Little Pickle’s Mum