As a keen eater of food, I can think of few things more exciting than going to a food festival, particularly a food festival on a glorious July weekend in the grounds of one of the great Cheshire estates – Tatton Park. We had VIP tickets for the day, so on Sunday we made the short trip from Didsbury to Knutsford to enjoy the Foodies Festival 2017.
If you’ve never been to the Foodies Festival before, it’s a bit like a giant farmers market, with lots of street food stalls and beer tents as well as little stalls selling kitchenalia and other foodie items. They also have some marquees where you can book to see various demonstrations, kids cookery, wine tasting and yoga if you’re so inclined.
The Foodies Festival does an annual summer tour around the UK, but sets up camp in Cheshire each July. It’s a real celebration of global food with stands and stalls from all over the world, plus local UK producers keenly selling their wares.
It is and it isn’t a family event. Both times we have been we have taken the boy and he’s quite liked it, mainly because he gets ice cream and a good hour in the excellent adventure playground afterwards. I guess being dragged around a busy festival while your parents swig samples of gin and nibble excellent cheese doesn’t really do it for most six year olds. Which is why booking tickets for one of the kids cookery demos would have been sensible idea had we thought of it earlier.
I’m reliably informed that Friday is the day to go to avoid the crowds, Sunday was busy but we picked our queues carefully and tried our best not to be too greedy. Between us we ate some delicious dishes; nibbling Spanish cheeses and meats, Paella, Calamari and er, chips and garlic mayo. We found homemade cakes and bags of fudge for pudding. Along the way sipped prosecco, mateus rose (it’s still a no from me), gin samples, raspberry juice and a lovely gin cocktail.
If you enjoy good food and discovering new and interesting things then the Foodie Festival is for you. It is busy, especially on the weekend days and the tickets are not so cheap that you’d just pop in for a quick bite for your lunch (VIP tickets are £35 each). With an additional £6 to park your car at Tatton Park, the costs of the day soon mount up.
Next time I think I will find a foodie friend to go with, rather than take the boys. That way I can explore things at my own pace. It’s certainly the place to go with a picnic blanket to sit on in the sunshine; listening to the live music and getting pink-cheeked merry on pimms or prosecco from the Bus Bar.
Click here for more information about the Foodies Festival 2017.
Note: I was given a pair of tickets to the Foodies Festival 2017 in return for this blog post. All images and opinions are my own.
The Just So Festival is now in its 8th year and 2017 promises to be a vintage one for this award-winning family festival. Produced by Wild Rumpus and taking place on 18th-20th August at Rode Hall in Cheshire, the Just So Festival is a wonderful melting pot of music, literature, arts, theatre, dance, comedy, storytelling, magic and adventure, with new and exciting sights, sounds and things to do. This annual, intimate, weekend-long family festival is an imaginative outdoor adventure like no other.
Just So veterans will recognise the familiar festival goings on, such as tales from storyteller extraordinaire, Ian Douglas as well as campfire music and songs in the Spellbound Forest. There’s a full programme of extraordinary events happening throughout the weekend. Experience the wonder of the Woodland Theatre. Encounter lands, creatures and characters beyond your wildest dreams in Tales of Animalia. Visit Away With The Fairies, an enchanting secret fairyland where sprites make mischief up in the trees and you could with luck meet the Fairy Queen.
Sing and dance your socks off at the Footlights stage with over 20 brilliant artists and bands performing over the weekend, including Just So legends The Baghdaddies. Dance the night away in the Jitterbug tent where you can learn to dance the CanCan, Charleston, Circus Swing, Flatfooting, Bollywood, Ballet, Tap and Jive, not forgetting the retro disco.
Explore the universe at The Observatory. Learn about the constellations with Star Gazing sessions led by an astronomer, make an array of star and moon shaped lanterns to parade against the twilight sky. Explore the High Seas and enjoy some family yoga, tai chi, meditation and take a wooden rowing boat out on to the tranquil lake.
The littlest Just So adventurers should head directly to The Peekaboo Garden – an entire area of art, music, paint, clay, dens and bubbles and top notch facilities for the under 4’s.
This year Just So are introducing some exciting new areas to explore. By the lake you’ll find the Silver Screen – an area dedicated to your favourite family films, recreate iconic dance scenes, join in a chorus line or become an extra in a Just So production. In the Social Barn next to The Social you’ll find insect eating, foraging and the first ever Just So jelly fight. Not to mention peculiar picnics, barmy dinner parties, a food funny face challenge, plus the legendary Just So Midnight Feast and The Great Just So Bake Off.
Discover the new Forgotten Courtyard.Tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall is Rode’s beautiful Italian Garden complete with a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. Find this secret spot in the grounds of Rode Hall and take part in workshops, provocations, debates and talks. Meet some of the UK’s favourite children’s authors and find out more about the world around us.
Take yourself out of your day-to-day lives and experience a weekend of pure magic and wonder. At the heart of Just So is the now famous Tribal Tournament. Join in with the most bonkers competition in the land as festival goers of all ages dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and compete throughout the weekend to see which tribe comes out on top.
Whether you’re visiting for a day, or camping for the weekend, the Just So Festival is just the ticket for fantastic family fun. Get creative with clay, make a paper lantern, sing, dance, explore and immerse yourself in the magic and creativity of this wonderful family festival.
Families planning to come to Just So 2017 are being advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year, with tickets selling at a record rate for the 5000 capacity August event.
The Just So Festival is an annual, intimate, weekend-long family festival is a wonderful, creative, arty, family outdoor adventure like no other. We go each year and it is such a highlight. I look forward to it all year long; we can’t wait to get there and we are always sad to leave.
Now in its 8th year, the 2017 this award-winning family festival just gets better and better. Each August the Just So Festival pitches up in the gorgeous grounds of Rode Hall in Cheshire, filling three days with music, literature, arts, theatre, dance, comedy, storytelling, magic and adventure. We always leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.
Produced by Wild Rumpus, the Just So Festival this year takes place on 18th-20th August. You can go for a day, or you can camp for the weekend. We have done both. We loved camping at the festival so much, being under canvas really adds to the adventure.
Why should you go to the Just So Festival this year?
ONE – Around the campfire There’s so much to do at Just So, it’s hard to pick favourites. But we loved being around the campfire before bedtime, singing our hearts out with Scout Master, Ian Macintosh and listening to stories told by Just So legend, Ian Douglas. It sends you off to bed feeling happy, content and smelling vaguely of wood-smoke.
TWO – The first ever Just So Jelly Fight! This year for the first time, in the Social Barn next to The Social you’ll find insect eating, foraging, jelly bean architecture and the first ever Just So jelly fight. Get ready to join in with the messiest, stickiest and most ridiculous of food fights.
THREE – Tribal Tournament Just So veterans will know all about the famous festival Tribal Tournament. Festival goers of all ages dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and compete throughout the weekend to see which tribe comes out on top. Join in the Wild Rumpus Parade at the end of the weekend where the winners are crowned!
FOUR – Food, glorious food! The range of food available at the Just So Festival is incredible. The Social area is where most of the food stalls are, but there are more on the Village Green and in the High Seas area. If you wanted to you could eat something wildly different for every meal at Just So. Our favourites are the grilled sweetcorn from Cotswold Corn Roast, ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and hot dogs a-plenty from Piggy Smalls. Though other food vendors are available.
FIVE – Do the Jitterbug! Strut your stuff at the night time retro discos in the Jitterbug tent – dressing up is encouraged! If daytime dance is more your thing, you can learn to dance the CanCan, Charleston, Circus Swing, Flatfooting, Bollywood, Ballet, Tap and Jive.
SIX – The wonderful Rode Hall Estate The Rode Hall Estate is beautiful and absolutely perfectly designed for the wonderful goings on at the festival. Explore the grounds and find hidden magic around every corner. New this year is the Forgotten Courtyard, abeautiful Italian Garden tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall complete with a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. Find this secret spot and take part in workshops, discussions, debates and talks, plus meet some of the UK’s favourite children’s authors there.
Plus this year the Rode Hall Tea Rooms will be open for homemade breakfasts, lunches and cakes made from the organic produce grown on the estate. I heartily recommend their Staffordshire Oatcakes and steaming mugs of tea!
SEVEN – Carry on Camping, or glamping if you prefer I didn’t think I’d be a happy camper, but I was. In our first family camping weekend, we whispered into the night under the canvas, cooked sausages on our little camping stove and snuggled up like caterpillars in our sleeping bags.
With toilet blocks and actual real life showers with hot water, the facilities are excellent. If you have tiny tots they have their own special baby bath time available in Peekaboo.
For campers who fancy a touch of luxury, there are a range of glamping options available to pre-book and campervans and caravans are welcome. Come for the weekend, camp, have fun, go off grid, get twigs in your hair, let go, have fun.
EIGHT – Award winning Accessibility
I have chronic pain and nerve damage. I can’t really feel my feet and legs, so accessibility is important to me. The Just So Festival organisers have thought of everything; from accessible camping, refrigeration for medication, wheelchair charging points as well as accessible toilets and changing areas.
I used many of the accessible facilities last year I can say hand on heart they accessibility is excellent and is seamlessly woven into the fabric of Just So. It’s a truly accessible event. And that’s exactly how it should be for everyone, everywhere.
NINE – Lively live music!
Down by The Social, you’ll find the Footlights stage with over 20 brilliant artists and bands performing over the weekend, including Just So legends David Gibb, The Baghdaddies and singer, Laura Oakes.
These are my nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year. These are only nine of about 900 wonderful reasons. There’s so much to see, do and experience there. Immerse yourself in the magic and creativity of this wonderful family festival. Leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.
Tickets for this intimate and fabulous family festival are selling fast, so make sure you book your tickets as early as you can.
One of our family highlights of 2016 was going to the Just So Festival in Cheshire. It was our first year of camping at the festival and it was a wonderfully magical family weekend. We decided before we even packed the car up to come home that we wanted to go to the Just So Festival 2017, and that we definitely want to camp as that was so much fun.
Just So is an annual, intimate, weekend-long festival – an outdoor adventure like no other.Each year Just So seems to grow and change, with new and magical new elements being added. This year is no exception and the line up is already giving me goosebumps.
With Early-bird tickets for the festival being released in January, we take a look at what’s new for the Just So Festival 2017.
The glorious lakeside Silver Screen glade is a large-scale area dedicated to all things cinematic. Recreate famous dance scenes from favourite musicals, join a musical chorus line and become extras in a Just So epic production. Expect marvellous music, theatre dance and circus all themed around the big screen. Bring a blanket while night falls to the beautiful outdoor cinema here and snuggle up to watch the best silent movies and family classics together.
Inquisitive family explorers can discover the new Forgotten Courtyard. Tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall is Rode’s beautiful Italian Garden. Expect to stretch your knowledge of the world around you and take part in workshops, provocations, debates and talks. Experience soundscapes and spoken word events here against the backdrop of the beautiful fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees.
Head to the new covered Social Barn for a completely crackers celebration of fodder. It’s located next to The Social (with its incredible array of street food and drink) and home to the colouring cafe, midnight feasts and The Great Just So Bake Off.
Back by popular demand for 2017 is Away With The Fairies – deep within The Spellbound Forest find a secret fairyland. See if you can spy some fairies making mischief up in the trees and meet the Fairy Queen.
Together with these new areas, family festivalgoers can also re-visit much loved and established Just So areas such as Peekaboo, Spellbound Forest and the Woodland Theatre. Adventure into Tales of Animalia, dance the night away in Jitterbug and enjoy the Footlights stage. Not forgetting the wonderful High Seas and the wonderful Tribal Tournament.
Just So is set in woodland clearings, rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire. It’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK, with limited public access the rest of the year.
Families planning on going to the Just So Festival 2017 are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year, with tickets selling at record speed for the 5000 capacity August festival.
The Just So Festival 2017 takes place on 18 – 20 August 2017 at the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire and we can’t wait.
As a child I spent a lot of time in Blackpool. Living in Manchester it was our nearest bit of seaside and we had family there, so it was a regular haunt. We thought Blackpool was probably the most amazing place on earth. We never really did the Pleasure Beach, but Blackpool Tower, with its beautiful ballroom, circus and million mile views was somewhere we seemed to visit quite a lot.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend we took the small boy to Blackpool. Our first stop was SEA LIFE Blackpool, which was brilliant. After we’d left SEA LIFE he was keen to hit the beach, but I wanted us to have a quick trip up the Blackpool Tower before we all got covered in sand.
Although the Blackpool Tower is home to several famous attractions including the Ballroom, the tower circus, the tower dungeon and Jungle Jim’s, what we really wanted to see and do was the tower itself.
As Merlin Card holders we showed our cards and got into the lift up to the Blackpool Tower Eye. This is a fairly recent addition to the tower. The first stop was the obligatory before attraction photograph. I always say yes to having these taken out of politeness, but we never buy them and they always look awful and/or really unnatural. The people in front of us declined, so we decided to as well and we were just waved through.
We joined a short queue for the 4D cinema experience. There are no seats in this cinema, so be prepared to stand for the short showing. The short film shows you the history of the tower and is a whistle-stop tour/flight around Blackpool complete with wind through your hair and foamy bubbles being blown at you. I found it quite exciting, the small boy wasn’t quite as keen. I think he was a bit nervous about going up the tower.
Once you’ve watched the film you join the queue for the lifts up the tower. We had already decided to stay on the glass SkyWalk platform rather than climbing the stairs to the top. Both of my boys are a bit windy about heights and we thought we could go back another day and push it a little bit further with them.
They were very brave and both eventually managed to step out onto the 5cm thick glass. To be fair, the tower is 380ft tall and it is very strange standing on glass and being able to see all the way down.
I wonder how they clean the windows
It was a gloriously sunny day, the sky was a beautiful blue and you could see for miles and miles. On a clear day you can apparently see the Lake District, Liverpool and across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.
We spent quite a bit of time walking around on the SkyWalk platform, admiring Blackpool and beyond from all angles. We talked about going even higher up the tower, but we decided to leave that for another, slightly braver day.
I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the attractions at the tower, but the boys were very keen to get on the beach, but we will be back another day soon for a proper look around.
For more information visit the Blackpool Tower website.
The Just So Festival has a very special place in our hearts. This year was our third year, but our first year of camping. We’ve never camped before as a family, so we knew we were in for an adventure. Mix that with the magic of Just So and we managed to make a million memories and several hundred smiles, which was just what the doctor ordered.
We arrived on site on Friday afternoon, the festival was just beginning and as we pitched our tent in the Accessible Camping area, the heavens opened and we got our first soaking of the weekend. The folk at Just So aren’t easily put off having a good time, so I was sure rain would not stop play, and it didn’t.
There is so much to do at Just So. There are fixed areas like the Spellbound Forest (a forest with a campfire, a small hidden theatre and lots of activities and crafts happening all around); The High Seas with it’s travelling barn of merriment, huge pirate ship and sandpit, lantern making and more. As well as areas like the Village Green, Peekaboo (a tent village for babies and little ones), The Social, and brand new for this year, Tales of Animalia – a theatre hidden in the woods. As well as the Jitterbug Tent, Head Over Heels, Footlights and The Observatory.
Before we arrived we were sent a programme of events and I dutifully highlighted all the things I fancied, knowing that I would probably largely ignore my plans and just go with the flow, which is exactly how things should be.
We explored the site, grabbed a few things to munch on for our tea, waved goodbye to daddy (he had to go home but promised to be back the next day) and we headed into the Spellbound Forest to listen to the Just So legend which is Ian Douglas and then take part in some singing around the campfire with Ian Mackintosh. The Campfire Song sessions soon became a firm favourite of ours, so we took part with gusto all three nights.
Throughout the weekend the early evening around the campfire sessions also included the exuberant David Gibb, Geoff Bird and terrifying and amazing (in equal measure) scientific experiments from the fantastic Dieter Wadeson.
We woke up on Saturday to a smattering of sunshine. Daddy returned and we headed off to explore. We headed straight for The High Seas to watch a performance of the laugh out loud “Shark Legs” and then for a quick play in the pirate sand pit. We walked through Sailcloth City – an avenue of sailcloth, with sailcloth dens and passageways to explore, and went to look at the lake. It was raining fairly hard by this point, so we watched the rowing boats on the lake for a short while and headed off to find some shelter.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was Les Enfants Terribles – The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory. Sadly we missed the first few minutes, struggled to get a decent spot to watch it and the sound wasn’t that great, so we did struggle a bit to keep up. The small boy climbed on my knee and we huddled together in the drizzle and watched the show. The performers bravely continued through the showers and we giggled at the madcap antics of Les Enfants.
After the performance we headed back to the relative shelter of the Spellbound Forest. We watched as willow was woven into beautiful creations and nearby children were toasting marshmallows on the fire.
Out of the corner of my eye I spied a creature with terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo. A very friendly Gruffalo who was very happy to meet all the children. He is a Just So favourite and it wouldn’t be the same without meeting him in the deep dark woods.
I managed to persuade the small boy to visit the Theatre for One in the Spellbound Forest. In the middle of the wood, under a canopy were six miniature theatre shows, each for one or two viewers. He settled down and watched a short puppet show about a mouse in a house and then watched an artist who painted his portrait, this is something which he loved. We are only sad that we didn’t managed to see all of the different performances over the weekend, but they were incredibly popular.
I was very keen to make a clay face, throughout the forest the trees are adorned with clay faces people have made. I watched the introduction by Barefoot Ceramics, then I look my lump of clay and made a lion head (with some additional help from the small boy). I had lots of messy fun with this and it’s something I’d like to do at home on one of our trees.
Another on my must see list were the Baghdaddies. I’ve seen them play live before and I adore them. They toured the festival playing their vibrant, upbeat, infection music, drawing everyone in like musical Pied Pipers. I really do suggest that as soon as you’ve finished reading this you go check them out on YouTube.
A wander through the woods to the Tales of Animalia area found us watching a very popular performance of Reynard the Fox. The boy was enchanted by it and was very excited to meet the performers afterwards. They were excellent, really chatty with the children and very happy to take photos. Later on that weekend we spotted Cyclops and his naughty flock of sheep making mischief around the festival site. It’s the never quite knowing what weirdness and wonder might be round each corner which makes Just So so special.
The food and drink at the festival was of an excellent standard. We ate incredibly well and it wasn’t outrageously expensive either. My festival favourites were the steaming cups of amazing hot chocolate (to keep me warm) and the corn on the cob. Things so simple but utterly delicious. We did spend a lot of time carefully choosing what we would eat and then each of us having envy over what the other had. There was lots of different types of food to choose from and lots and lots of choice for veggies and vegans which pleased me greatly. It was good to have a choice and not just an option.
It rained a lot over the weekend. It could have made us all miserable but in many ways we hardly noticed it. The muddy paths were managed so they didn’t become dangerous. I didn’t slip once. The festival toilets were quite nice (compared to the horror of festival toilets I remember from the 90’s). Just So was relatively small and friendly with a really lovely chilled and happy atmosphere. I think I would live there if I could.
We had a really magical time at Just So. We’ve had a horrible few months and spending off the grid time together, doing and seeing weird and wondrous things has done us a lot of good. It’s helped build confidence, expand horizons, it’s made us laugh and (me) cry a little, but in a good way. It was without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of our summer, perhaps even the highlight of the year.
If you can only go to the Just So Festival for the day, do it. But if you can go for the weekend, then you really should. It’s magical.
Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for 2 day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s free.
One of our annual summer highlights is the Just So Festival which is held for three days every August at Rode Hall in Cheshire. The festival began in 2010 and this will be our third year there. It’s a weird and wonderful melting pot of music, storytelling, theatre, magic and adventure. We love it and this year will be our first full weekend there.
The Just So Festival 2016 takes place on 19th, 20th and 21st August. You can dip your toe in and go for a day, or fully immerse yourself in the festival experience and get a weekend ticket, or even book a camping ticket so you can stay over and enjoy the night time adventures including the lantern parade, pillow fights, the night sky spy and a magical midnight feast.
The Just So Festival from Wild Rumpus is a three day treat for all the family, guaranteed to fuel your imaginations, it is packed full of wonderful sights and sounds, things to see and do and it’s a truly memorable event for all the right reasons.
This year there’s the outdoor cinema showing Labyrinth, Swallows and Amazons and The Wizard of Oz as well as circus workshops, Suitcase Stories, Travelling Treasury and other theatrical treats, such as the latest show from festival legends Les Enfants Terribles and stories around the campfire from the wonderful Ian Douglas.
This year we’ll be camping and I’m very excited about that. I’m already picking out some of the things we simply cannot miss at the Just So Festival 2016. Here are my top picks –
Sky Spy – join the Whizz Pop Bang magazine team for the ultimate bedtime wind down. Spotting patterns and shapes in the stars and trying to get a sense of just how vast our universe is.
Ian Douglas – Campfire Stories
Les Enfants Terribles and their new outdoor show The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory
Samba Drumming Workshop
The Gruffalo visiting the Spellbound Forest
Midnight Feast on the Village Green with stories from Ian Douglas, songs from David and midnight shenanigans
Making Clay Faces and Bushcraft Wands
The Baghdaddies – one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live!
Circus Skills Workshop
Relaxation workshops including Indian Head Massage, Tai chi, Family Yoga and Laughter Yoga.
There are hundreds more things to do at the festival, with something going on for all ages, from tiny babies to adults.
One of the fun (but non-compulsory) elements of the festival is the famous Tribal Tournament. You and your family can dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and take part in the Tribal Parade on Sunday night to see which tribe comes out on top! Some of the costumes are amazing and it’s something we’ll need to put a bit of thought into as the festival approaches!
The Just So Festival is a wonderful, creative, imaginative, fantastic weekend for the whole family. It’s a lovely opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, meet some mermaids, dress up, be silly, be creative, learn, enjoy, explore and just be together as a family. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
The Just So Festival 2016 will take place at Rode Hall, Congleton, Cheshire on 19/20/21st August. For more information, or to book tickets for the Just So Festival 2016 visit their website.
If you’re off on a day out, or you’ve got tickets to a family festival or event, it makes sense to plan ahead and prepare yourself for all eventualities. In the UK “all eventualities” essentially means prepare yourself for the weather, all of the weather.
We live in Manchester, which is not known as the rainy city for nothing (though it doesn’t actually rain as much as you’d think). We try to get out and about as much as we can, which often means standing in a muddy field getting rained on, but still managing to squeeze some fun out of our precious family time together. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying outdoor events in the UK.
Check the weather forecast. This will give you a vague idea of what the weather is likely to do on the day of the event or festival. Although if it says it’ll be sunny I’d still stick a brolly in the car just in case.
Pack a Picnic. Regardless of whether the event has food on offer or not, I always pack some emergency provisions. At the very least a couple of bottles of water and enough snacks to tide a hungry tum over until a pulled pork burger can be foraged from the nearest street food vendor.
Plan your day. Check out what’s on, what time it’s on and where it is. If there’s something you especially want to see or do, then it helps to know where on the festival site it’s happening and when. It’s often worth printing out a little map of the site and an events listing, or taking a screenshot on your phone to refer to if you need to.
Take something to sit on. Festivals, events and days out can be a loooong day and you can guarantee there won’t be enough seating for everyone. Take something to sit on. A picnic blanket with a waterproof backing is invaluable, but if you don’t want to carry that around, a bin bag for each family member to sit on works just as well and is much lighter and easier to carry. I have a bad back so can’t sit on the floor, so I take a little camping chair to sit on and my son often climbs on my knee for a cuddle. I wouldn’t be without my chair.
Wear suitable clothing. Rain or shine if you get a couple of thousand people in a field you will need to wear wellies or good stout walking boots. If driving rain is predicted and you’re still going to the event, then pack a mac and wear waterproof clothing. Be prepared to get wet and have dry clothes waiting in the car.
Take a change of clothes. If you’re going in your car it’s easy to pack a change of clothing and leave that and a cosy blanket in the car. My son always snuggles under a blanket on the way home and we wouldn’t be without it. The thought of being able to change at the car if you need to can get you through an afternoon of dampness.
If you can’t take a change of clothes (including dry socks and shoes) to change into for the drive home, then I’d recommend packing a pair of dry socks sealed in a plastic bag. Dry feet can make the difference between abject misery and a tolerable bus ride home.
Bring a brolly. We keep a big golfing umbrella in the car as well as a small one to slip into my bag. When we arrive at the festival we make the choice which, if any to bring with us. If it’s raining then the golfing umbrella, especially when teamed with my camping chair makes a nice little shelter from the rain, and when it’s very sunny the brolly offers a little shade.
Use sun cream. Even if it’s cloudy in the UK, you can catch the sun by standing in a field all day. Slap on the factor 30 and top up regularly. Wear a sun hat and keep hydrated.
Bring some baby wipes. As a parent I’m never more than 2 metres away from a pack of baby wipes, they are an everyday essential and invaluable at events and festivals. From cleaning sticky fingers before lunch, dealing with the worst of the mud, for toilet times and for making yourself presentable for the journey home. We don’t leave home without them.
Take cash money. Festivals and events can very easily be done on a budget, but once you’re in you’ll have to buy everything you need and it probably comes at a premium. We tend to pack a picnic and then buy some treats like ice cream when we’re there. Just don’t turn up thinking you can pay for everything with your card, cash is king and most events don’t have ATMs on site.
If you’re prepared for the changeable and sometimes really miserable UK weather, you’ve thought about food, transport and you’ve planned your day then hopefully your family day out will go off without a hitch. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I’ve started to have low expectations of what an event or festival will be like before I get there, that way I’m rarely disappointed and often surprised and enchanted by what happens on the day.
I have a bit of a go with the flow attitude to life and almost everything I do, which does mean that you can sometimes find me dancing in the rain. You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you prepare to spend a day in that weather. Come rain or shine you will find us having fun in a field somewhere this summer and I hope you won’t let a little rain stop play either.
Do you have any top tips for surviving family festivals and events?
Most people will be familiar with the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire as the place where Stargazing Live is filmed. Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It is open to the public and has a lovely new visitors centre as well as exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close and personal.
We visited Jodrell Bank one sunny but bitterly cold day in February. It’s not actually that easy to find as the signposting is few and far between, but if you look for the giant telescope and head towards that you’ll eventually find it (or just use sat nav like normal people). There was ample parking in the car park and it cost £7 per adult and £4.95 per child to get in, which we felt was good value for money.
The visitors centre is not huge, it houses the cafe, shop, reception and a display room with information about various parts of the universe as well as a clockwork Orrery, something I’d never seen before but instantly wanted to have one in my house. An Orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. There was a handle at child height which we turned and watched the planets and the moons on the ceiling move around. It was something quite special and we spent a lot of time looking at it and talking about the planets.
From the visitors centre we went outside, there were gardens to explore, but as it was very cold we decided to head straight for the outdoor science experiments area. There were a number of large scale experiments to try, each with a plaque explaining what to do. We particularly liked the “Whispering Dishes” or parabolic reflectors, two dishes opposite each other, but some distance apart, one person would whisper into the dish and the other could hear it. It was brilliant and very popular.
We were close to the base of the telescope, there is a large fence around it so you can’t actually go and touch it, but you can get very close. The Lovell Telescope is huge and the dish measures 78 metres across, I was in awe of the size of it, even though I remember visiting as a child.
Having spent around an hour outside conducting experiments in the cold, we headed into the Space Pavilion to have a look at some of the indoor exhibits and to discover how the scientists at Jodrell Bank use radio telescopes to learn more about distant objects in space.
There were lots of hands on exhibits to look at and play about with, as well as a little room where you could sit and watch a film about space. The boys loved it in here, the was lots for them to look at and learn about. I felt the Space Pavilion would have benefited from having someone there to help explain and demonstrate some of the exhibits, but I like to have things explained to me.
After a few hours exploring we felt ready for a hot cup of tea and some cake, sadly the Planet Pavilion Cafe was heaving, so we headed to the shop to buy some space souvenirs and experiments we could try at home, then hopped in the car and left.
We’d had an especially lovely afternoon at Jodrell Bank. We’d explored both the observatory and the outer edges of the universe, learned a little bit about science and got some fresh air. It was a great afternoon out and we are planning to return in the summer when it’s a bit warmer.
For more information about Jodrell Bank visit their website.
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, The University of Manchester, Macclesfield, Cheshire, Sk11 9DL
It’s fast becoming a family tradition to spend a post-Christmas frosty afternoon at our nearest National Trust property, Dunham Massey. We like Dunham because it’s great for “family” walks, meaning it’s flat and well paved, perfect for bikes, scooters and the wobbly legs of small children. They also make an excellent cup of tea. Add to that we’re National Trust members so it’s free entry, what’s not to like?
We went on 30th December, it was largely a dry, windy, very cold day, but that didn’t put us off and Dunham Massey seemed quite busy with families out for a walk, or testing out new bikes and scooters. We went obstensively to see the deer, but they were hiding somewhere in the woods, so we walked the paths instead. We found a little den someone had built, a “stick house” which we explored, much to his delight.
There were also some small patches of snow left over, enough for a few little snowballs and a well ordered snowball fight (I lost). Although we couldn’t find the deer, we did spot lots of deer poo which the boy found quite interesting.
The small boy was beginning to tire, so we headed back to the big house via the duck pond, the low winter sun was shining on the pond and the light was incredible. I wish I’d taken my proper camera with me. Winter skies are so special, the clouds all fluffy and a little bit moody. I love this picture.
It was a short but lovely jaunt to Dunham Massey, he’s not great at walking distances and I do miss going on a long winter walk, all wrapped up against the elements. But a winter walk with a small child is full of different types of joy. Small details; clouds that look like dragons, stick houses, deer poo, tiny snowballs, conversations with the ducks, splishy sploshy muddy puddles. I love it.
Dunham blew some of our Christmas cobwebs away. I adore a winter walk, all that bracing fresh air and country views makes the tea and cake afterwards all the more enjoyable. You know me, there’s always tea and cake.