Camp Bestival 2014 – 9/10.
This weekend my family and I were fortunate enough to attend Camp Bestival, the “little sister” of Bestival, which is held annually, at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. Winner of best Family Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2013 it is the festival of choice for parents in denial of missing out of on the fun, where adults and children alike get to party and enjoy the summer festival vibe. As I fit nicely into this market I thought I should see what all the fuss was about…
So first a bit about me and my family. I am Anna, 32, I work full time in recruitment (don’t judge me please) and am Mum to Eva 4 ¾ , Zack 3 ½ and wife to Greg 49 (plus a few). We are by our own admission not “outdoorsy”, until this trip I had not owned a pair of wellies in my adult life. So why attempt a festival? Well in spite of our dislike of wind, rain and walks of any significant distance, my hubby and I love live music and in our life before children regularly attended concerts and festivals (day ticket only of course, and close enough to home to establish the weather forecast before leaving the house). This year is the first summer that both children are walking, talking and out of nappies and so it seemed like a feasible time to explore the concept of the family festival. I fell in love with the vision of my adorable children skipping barefoot with daisies in their hair, whilst I look-on, a vision of festival chic sipping Dorest cider. My husband was sold by the promise of beer and Jonny Marr. So that was it… We roped in my old friend from uni Bev and her 4 year old, Zion, and we started planning our adventure.
In the days and weeks prior, we were extremely anxious about what to expect and more importantly what to pack to cater for all weather and eventualities, and in the end settled on taking EVERYTHING or at least, everything we could fit in to the car, though my picture of floaty summer dresses and jewelled flip flops had sadly been replaced with leggings, fleece and my first pair of wellies As soon as we arrived at 11.30pm on Thursday night we immediately regretted the car load of stuff we had deemed necessary, at the prospect of it all having to be transported to our tent (well actually a huge yurt, with 3 double blow up beds, and Egyptian cotton sheets), of course we had opted for boutique camping/glamping on the insistence of my husband who was adamant that there was no way Beverley nor I (or him for that matter) would cope in a tent. Of course he was right… as I said we are not outdoorsy – one step at a time!
After a good night’s sleep we awoke and properly saw our surroundings for the first time, a field full of beautiful and wacky camping alternatives from gypsy caravan to tipi, with a bright red and yellow big top tent lurking in the distance and flags of every colour beckoning us to explore what was beyond. After the essential morning coffee, made by hubby with much love and attention on our borrowed camping stove, we packed our bags with drinks and snacks and headed out to explore. Within minutes we had passed two different coffee vendors offering everything from cappuccino to chai latte as well as every standard breakfast/snack item you could want… I wouldn’t be needing that bacon sat in the coolbox after all, and I was secretly relieved to know that that was to be the last lukewarm, mediocre instant coffee of the trip.
Camp Bestival is not on a huge site, it was was a pleasant 10-15 minute walk into the main area, and it looked like all camping areas seemed to be of a similar distance if not less. The site is made up of 4 main areas, the Magic Meadow, Soul Park, Castle Field and the Kids Garden (huge! Divided into top and bottom), being our first time we decided first of all to do a “wrecky” , get our bearings and take it all in. The magic meadow included big top, an inflatable church (holding weddings!) a flamingo bar, cinema, and Bollywood hall is next to the castle field which was home to the main stage. The kids garden was exactly that, an array of acivities including the added benefit or a carousel and a helter scelter, whilst the Soul Park had the air of being much calmer with quiet craft activies and home to a huge bonfire at night time. Whilst I knew this was geared for families I was genuinely astounded by what was on offer.
So can you really keep 2 pre-schoolers entertained in a field for 3 whole days? Yes! Where do I start, arts & crafts, shows, talks, discos, soft play, bed time stories circus workshops plus bountiful activities and tents for teenagers, honestly the list of activities is endless , we could have spent a week there and we would not have done everything. Upon realising that to cover everything (and we haven’t even started on adult entertainment) we would be stressed and need a timetable and that wasn’t what this trip was about, we decided to go with the flow, have a couple of key activities or acts for each day and otherwise see where the day took us, and that was the tone for the weekend. This worked for us and allowed us plenty of opportunities to soak up the atmosphere where whilst chilling on the grass with a drink we would inevitably be surprised by a pop up act , from German circus acts, traditional choirs to indian acrobats within moments we were suddenly part of an audience in awe, as passers-by stopped to see what all the excitement and commotion was about.
Now for the adults, well anyone who has children will know that happy entertained children will automatically mean happy parents but on top of this there was great line up of acts for us to enjoy too. Between us we enjoyed great sets from Jonny Marr, who delighted my husband with his Smiths back catalogue, James, Chas and Dave, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Sinead O Connor and the weekend finale Basement Jaxx. If I am honest though my highlight from the main stage was possibly being part of a 28,000 crowd singing heads, shoulders, knees and toes to Mr Tumble on the Saturday afternoon. So us adults have happy children, great music what else do we need?… oh yes the food and drink! There was not a “dirty burger” in site, forget about greasy food vans and think more gourmet food market, with foods from around the world we delighted in the offerings from luxury sausage rolls, indian naan wraps, paella and tapas and pulled pork at every turn from independant pop ups to Nandos and GBK, there was absolutely no need to self cater with a camping stove. We had to be strategic to try everything we wanted too, sadly 3 days was not sufficient for this either, and I will regret not having that chicken and mushroom sausage roll for a long time. There were main bars in most areas which were very reasonable priced with your usual offerings, as well as other independents, special mention for the bramble cocktail by the guys at the jam jar bar though – delish!
As with all festivals they thrive on the weird and wonderful and this is no different. Some families thoroughly embraced the circus theme with fancy dress, and the pimp my trolley competitition saw some fabulous creations. Ah yes the trollies, they are everywhere, you can bring our own or hire them from Mr Trolley (if you get in early or ideally pre book) an essential for unloading camping gear, transporting food/drink and all weather clothing and acting as a cosy resting place when it all gets a bit much for children.
Other key points – Safety, it is safe very safe, this really is not a festival that tolerates children, it is a festival for the children – their enjoyment and safety is paramount. Toilets/Showers – I saw good toilets and not so good toilets, the compost toilets were something I politely declined on but my daughter seemed to think an amazing adventure….. if however worst comes to the worst you can pay £2 for the most impeccably clean and tiled toilets next to the stage – lovely!
So suffice to say this “not outdoorsy” family had a ball! Despite variable weather, we not only survived our first family festival we loved it. I am sat writing this on the way home, and in spite of the standstill nose to nose traffic on our way back to the motorway this has been one of the best and most memorable weekends of my life. My children have experienced so much, the joy on their beaming faces at every turn tells us that we have given them some treasured early memories. I have learnt so much about camping and festivals and how to be a “bit outdoorsy” I whooped at the flyer left on our windscreen advertising next years early bird tickets, I will be booking asap and see this becoming a traditional annual family trip for many years to come – I am already excited about putting into practise all the things that I have learnt next year… oh and of course having that chicken and mushroom sausage roll.
Earlybird tickets for 2015 are available from Friday 8th August 2014. Just book, you will love it – hopefully see you there!
All words by Anna Humphreys.