AD/Press Trip. Last year we went to the first ever Timber Festival and it really wowed us. We were keen to return again and return we did. Timber Festival is held in the National Forest at Feanedock in the Midlands, it’s a beautiful place and a great spot for a festival.
The National Forest has been growing since the early 1990s, over the last 25 years or so millions of new trees have been planted. It makes sense then, with climate change and climate emergency being high on the global agenda, that Timber is a family festival with a distinct environmental bent.
For me it was a chance to have three days of chilling out, having fun and getting back to nature. For my outdoorsy son, he was looking forward to running around with his friends, building dens and learning more about nature. As ever, before we arrived I went through the programme and circled all the things I wanted to see and do, but as usual I missed quite a lot of those things, went with the flow and still ended up having the best time ever.
If you’ve ever been to the Just So Festival, Timber is a bit like that, but with a lot more things for adults and older children to do. The layout of the festival is a little different to last year, something which I approve of. It’s a large site, which is great because you don’t feel like you’re with hoards of other people, there’s a real feeling of space.
We arrived late on Friday afternoon and pitched our tent in the accessible camping section between our two friends, Jenny at The Brick Castle and Rachel from Marvellous Mrs P. Each of us has our own physical challenges, so the accessible camping area was great for us all; and our kids get on very well together so spent much of the weekend playing beautifully, which was really nice.
After a quick meal we ambled off to wristband exchange and had our first look at the site. There’s a beautiful viewing spot at the top of a slope (which all the kids loved rolling down) and we arrived just in time for the start of a glorious sunset. We had a look around, got our bearings and a drink, had a little dance to the Woodland DJ on The Eyre Stage, and watched the sun go down. We had a plan for the next day, and nothing was going to stop us.
Except when we woke up, the glorious sunshine had turned to rain. It was pretty heavy rain too. We sat in the tent, drank coffee and surveyed our options. We waited until the rain abated, then scuttled down to Field Notes because I really wanted to see Phill Jupitus. I managed to find a spot inside the tent, so I was at least dry while the rain hammered down outside. Phill was fantastic, interviewed by Radio 4 stalwart, Geoff Bird, Phill talked us through his six favourite Wilderness Tracks and regaled us with some great stories about his life and career. An hour very well spent.
By the time Phill had left the stage, the rain had more or less dried up. I found the boys in Cardboardia and we headed over to the Shivelight area, where I had high hopes of finding some chill. Shivelight is where I found my people. It’s a quiet area, tucked away from the hubbub where you can indulge in some yoga, forest bathing, tai chi or all manner of chilled out things.
The tai chi tent was heaving, which was a bit of a shame. Instead I headed to the guided meditation tent with Rachel, and made myself extremely comfortable. I put the headphones on and while a mediation played, I drifted off to a faraway chilled out place in my head. Rachel, being the wonder that she is had booked us both in for a relaxing hand massage afterwards in the Weleda shed. It was a perfect hour and a great way to go into the afternoon.
Saturday afternoon involved lots of exploring. My son REALLY WANTED to make something in Cardboardia, it was busy and we had to book in, but that was a huge highlight for him. Cardboadia is a new area and was a huge tent where you could go and make cool things out of cardboard for the Cardboardia Parade on the Sunday, more of which later.
After a late lunch, we headed to As The Crow Flies to listen to some Forest Folk Stories from Tom the Tale Teller. While we were under the forest canopy, we explored the area a bit. It’s a great spot for kids especially, what with the Giant Marble Run, Hammer & Chisel and the Shadow Lanterns. There was also a great programme of performers including the inimitable storyteller, Ian Douglas and Professor Pumpernickel, as well as the Ukulele Chorus and a great selection of Campfire Bands and Storytellers.
As the day turned to evening we all settled around the campfire. At some point throughout the day I’d managed to eat something which disagreed with me, so I retired back to my tent for the evening and the rest of the gang partied into the night. I’m not really sure about what happened while I wasn’t there, I just know that my son came back full of happy and pretty filthy. Thank goodness for the excellent festival shower block nearby.
Sunday morning arrived and I realised the clock was ticking on our festival experience (seriously, these things always need an extra day or something), so we breakfasted and then scampered down to the festival site. We headed to the Elemental area and we were wowed by the Shimmer tree, a sound and light installation where cymbals are turned into speakers and as the wind blows through them, the tree makes a beautiful and haunting noise. I could have sat under there for hours, it was magical.
From there we explored the small but lovely Timber Maze. Ben enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do it again and again, so I left them to chase each other through the maze and found the Seams tent. The tent paid tribute to the coal seams which run underneath the Timber site. Inside you experience a multi-sensory journey inspired by the evocative names and diagrams of the geological seams beneath your feet. Through sound, light and smell you get a feel for underground life and emerge viewing the area in a new light.
From there we went over to Halcyon Days, an area tailor-made for families. There were circus skills to be tried and enjoyed as well as Maypole dancing, archery; and a whole host of other things. The area we enjoyed the most was Beginners Luck, which was a selection of huge games, like Scrabble, Guess Who, Ludo and Tiddlywinks. It was great fun and we played in there for a good hour or so.
I can’t not mention the food at the festival. Though we were on a budget and catered for ourselves quite a lot, we allowed ourselves a couple of meals and some lovely ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort. They really do make the best ice cream in the world. My lunch on Sunday was a really very excellent vegetarian momo from the Tibetan Kitchen, something I would be very happy to eat over and over again.
The range of food available was excellent, with really good vegan and vegetarian options. You could eat a different thing for every meal and never get bored. Plus Sunday was roasting and the beer tent on The Common was well stocked with ice cold cans of soft drinks which really hit the spot!
After lunch we wandered back over to the campfire for some more quality time with Ian Douglas and his stories, the boys descended on the nearby Hammer & Chisel and spent a happy hour hammering and sawing. We sat for a while, absolutely transfixed by If The trees Could Talk, a collection of fairy tales written by the LGBT+ community in South Derbyshire. It was incredibly moving and there were very few dry eyes around the campfire at the end. Beautiful stuff.
After our early afternoon chill out in the woods, we set off for the Cardboardia Parade. We didn’t really know what to expect from the parade, but the crowd was split into two rival factions, Miners and Trees. Everyone brought a cardboard weapon they’d made, and other cardboard things were handed out (it was much cooler than it sounds). Led by the brilliant Baghdaddies the parade marched through the site and up the hill where they was a bit of a mock skirmish. It was brilliant, my 8 year old loved it and was really sad when it was over. I think it was one of his highlights.
It was very very hot on the Sunday afternoon; so after the parade we retired to the shade for an ice cream and a little rest. We looked back on all the things we’d seen and done over the weekend; there was so much going on I feel like we missed most of it, but still packed in so much of the good stuff. The boy loved the As the Crow Flies area, Cardboardia and Halcyon Days. I was thrilled to see Phill Jupitus. I loved the music, the meditation, the whole chilled out vibe of the festival. Timber is just three beautiful, chilled out, educational, environmental days in the woods; and I can’t wait for next year!
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We were invited guests of Timber Festival 2019. We were given tickets in exchange for a review, but we paid for everything else while we were there. All images and opinions are our own.