We were invited to visit The Lanterns at Chester Zoo and were given complimentary tickets.
Last year we visited The Lanterns at Chester Zoo and we were utterly enchanted. We returned again over the weekend in the hopes that an evening surrounded by lights and magic would get us all ready to start celebrating the festive season, and that it did. It’s a really different way to see the zoo, with all the animals tucked up for the night, you get to explore a luminous magic world created for you by Wild Rumpus.
When we arrived it was raining a little; but we’d wrapped up warm against the cold and being from Manchester, a little bit of rain wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. Visitors are let through every 15 minutes, but we’d timed it perfectly, so we just walked through as a slot opened up.
We grabbed steaming cups of hot chocolate from the cafe and began exploring. We were met by a troop of illuminated zebras, who high fived us and posed for selfies, this set the tone for the evening very nicely.
The Lanterns follows a set route through Chester Zoo. It’s all lit up, so it’s impossible to get lost; and early on you get given a lantern to carry around. The smallish boy got a small metal bucket with an LED tealight in it and we got a large pyramid lantern on a stick.
There are a number of different themed areas; from the Basecamp you move to the Moonlit Meadow, to Underwater, Cloud Cuckoo Land to Tropical Dreams. Then on through the Enchanted Woodland and Northern Lights; then to the Night Sky Adventure and to Shangri La and then home in time for tea.
We made our way the the Moonlit Meadow; a wonderful snow covered spot filled with illuminated animals, from giant giraffes, graceful cheetahs, to a family of funny little penguins. All of the Chester Zoo favourites were represented there. We moved past the meadow and quickly encountered my favourite creature of all, a sea of brightly coloured jellyfish, wafting about in the breeze. We stood and watched them for a little while before moving off.
The boy loved the Tropical Dreams area best, with its brightly coloured frogs and waterfall, that was until he found the snow machine! He stayed and played under the snow machine for a good long time. He danced under the swirling foamy snowflakes, scooped up the foamy snow into balls and threw them at us, he was transfixed and it was wonderful to see.
There were a number of Christmas market style sheds in one area, all selling very temping smelling food and drink. We’d worked up an appetite, walking around the zoo, for hog roast and mulled wine were the order of the day; and very delicious they all were too.
We loved exploring The Lanterns, around every corner there was a new delight. We each had our favourites and the car journey home (and the next day or so) were filled with chatter about all the things we’d seen. The Lanterns is fast becoming a family tradition. It’s a great way for us to get in the mood for Christmas.
The Lanterns are running until December 23rd at Chester Zoo. Tickets start from £5.50 per child and £10.50 per adult.
AD/ Press Trip. We have been going to Just So since 2014 and we are huge fans of this wonderfully magical family festival. Each year is different from the last, sure there are some of the same things going on, but each year is delightfully different. Just So Festival 2019 was their 10th festival and memorable for a million reasons.
This summer has been a bit damp, we’ve had fairly extreme rain and some sunshine. I was hoping for a sunshiney weekend, but as we packed up the car on Friday morning, the heavens opened and over the next 12 hours dumped about a months worth of rain on the North West. We arrived at Rode Hall during a huge deluge and despite the best efforts of the organisers, we had to wait for about 45 minutes to get on site, which was fine.
We were camping in the Accessible Camping area and despite the rain we managed to pitch the tent and go and get our wristbands. By the time we were unpacked and settled, it was 8pm and the boy was asking to go to bed. It was still raining so decided to turn in early in the hopes that the morning would bring some sunshine.
Saturday did bring sunshine, so we put our wellies on and headed onto the site to explore. I’m not going to lie, it was very muddy, pretty slippy and quite treacherous in parts. I have limited feeling in my feet, so this made things harder for me to get about. My husband lent a steady arm and we explored as best we could. A lot of families were recreating the “squelch squerch” pages from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which tickled us quite a lot, maybe they need a Bear Tribe for next year?
Saturday at Just So Festival 2019 saw us enjoy a whole load of fun things; the Silent Disco, the Woodland Library, Sirin, Toast, Campfire Stories and Campfire Songs, the Woodland Playground, The Retrosettes and a wander down to the lake to watch people go for a row. We met up with some wonderful friends and had a gossip, a catch up and a play. We sat down a lot because I was finding walking on the mud a bit hard going, but it didn’t dampen our spirits too much. Squelch squerch.
Sunday arrived and the site had dried up a treat. It was still muddy, but not as slippy as it had been and I found I could get around an awful lot easier. We launched ourselves into our last day and walked around looking for all the small things which bring us Just So joy, like the Dream Antelopes, the rollerskating flamingos and Boudicca on her chariot.
We ventured down to Footlights again for lunch and a listen to Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. Wandering through the woods past the queue to meet the Fairy Queen, up to the Spellbound Forest and around the campfire with the very incredible Professor Pumpernickel (not pumpy knickers, as he corrected us). The blue haired professor is always a highlight. His collections of whizz-banging experiments are not to be missed and the boy was rapt. He even went up to him afterwards and had a chat with him, which demonstrated a huge leap in his confidence.
He loved the Giant Marble Run and Hammer and Chisel. We didn’t make Clay Faces this time, but we can do that at home too, so it’s no hardship. We listened to Hurrah for the Pirate King and danced to the ukulele orchestra. Together, we did all kinds of brilliant things and we filled our hearts up with a enough magic and wonder to last us a while yet.
I always find it takes a day to unwind, shake off our real world stresses and properly get into the rhythm of Just So. Our evenings by the campfire, listening to stories and singing our hearts out are a highlight. We love the live music, we love dancing down the Flamingo Lounge. We love the bits of magic around every corner.
It’s such a shame that the heavens opened and cast a cloud over the festival. There were a few grumbles and I did retire early on health and safety grounds on the Saturday night, but all the staff were really helpful and did their very best to make sure the show did go on.
It would have been nice if the sun had shone a little more, but we made a whole lot of muddy memories and my son had such a brilliant time. One of the most important things about our Just So weekends are that they really make us disconnect from our busy lives and reconnect with each other. It’s not just about the magic and the wonder, it’s about slowing down, dressing up as an owl (or a fox, or a stag, or a fish) for a few days and just experience life through the eyes of my child.
I hope next year it’s drier and a lot less muddy, but no less magical. I take my hat off to everyone who worked at Just So Festival 2019 and everyone who managed to bring joy to the weekend in spite of the weather.
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!
Sign up to the eNews at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird release tickets for 2020.
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.
AD/ Summer is coming and festival season will very soon be upon us. We love nothing more than packing up for the weekend and heading off to a festival somewhere. Immersing ourselves in music, theatre, arts and culture of all kinds is just a brilliant way to spend a family weekend. I’ve picked out five family festivals for summer 2019.
Timber Festival – 5th, 6th and 7th July, National Forest at Feanedock
The 2018 Timber Festival was really special. There was a huge moon in the woods, amazing music, storytelling around the campfire. The boy went on adventures, climbed trees, built a den, explored and grew in so many ways. It was an experience we are very keen to repeat, so we’re going again this year.
The festival programme has just been released and it looks fantastic. There’s something for everyone, I’m especially looking forward to slipping into a hot tub in the woods, then checking out the willow maze, the woodland cinema, some of the great music and woodland crafts going on. My son will love stories by the campfire, foraging for food and just generally kicking back and enjoying some time off grid in the woods. You can read our full preview here.
Bluedot Festival – 18th – 21st July, Jodrell Bank, Cheshire
Bluedot is an awesome four-day spectacular combining music, science, cosmic culture and more beneath the Lovell Telescope. The headliners include Kraftwerk 3-D, New Order and Hot Chip, ground-breaking sets from the Grammy-nominated likes of Jon Hopkins and Tokimonsta, science and culture talks from Liz Bonnin, Helen Pankhurst, Jim Al-Khalili and Tom Shakespeare, and much more. As well as top-notch music, there are all kinds of brilliant family things to do. You can find the full line up here.
Deer Shed Festival, 26th, 27th & 28th July, North Yorkshire
I know several people who go to Deer Shed every year and absolutely rave about it. Deer Shed is three days of family friendly music, comedy, sports, arts and science in North Yorkshire. It’s almost sold out for this year, but you can find more information here, and maybe bag the last remaining tickets!
Just So Festival – 16th, 17th & 18th August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire
We’ve been Just So enthusiasts for as long as we can remember and this year sees the Wild Rumpus team celebrate their 10th Just So Festival. Just So is an incredibly special place, it’s a really laid back, brilliant family festival, with so much going on for all ages.
There’s always too much going on to cram into three days, but there are a few completely unmissable things, such as; Hope and Social, Bushcraft in the Spellbound Forest, The Moth Hotel, Circus Skills, Family Yoga, the Rowing Boats, Bollywood Dancing, David Gibb, Ghost Caribou, Bubble Hour, Midnight Feast, Ministry of Games and the biggest ever game of Pass the Parcel! You can read our full preview here.
Lakes Alive – 6th – 8th September, Kendal
Lakes Alive is a free annual festival centered around Kendal in the Lake District. We went along for the day last year and we were astounded at the amount of free events available during the festival. This year’s Lakes Alive promises to be a weekend of amazing installations, vibrant illuminations, intimate performances and digital delights. If you’re in the area, do make a point of going along. You can read our review of last year’s festival here.
What family festivals will you be going to this summer? I’d love to hear where you’re off to, please do comment below!
Disclosure: I have included some festivals we will be going to where we have been given complimentary tickets in exchange for a review.
AD/ Last year the first ever Timber Festival was held in the beautiful and unique surroundings of the National Forest at Feanedock. It was three days of music, arts, creativity and philosophy in the woods. Timber Festival 2019 is returning this year on 5th, 6th and 7th July, and we are excited to be going along for the ride!
Timber is located at Feanedock, a 70 acre woodland site in the Midlands. The woodland has been transformed from a former coalfield to be part of the first forest to be created in England for over 1,000 years. It’s a truly unique site and it’s growing by the day.
The 2018 Timber Festival was really special; there was a huge moon in the woods, amazing music, storytelling around the campfire; the boy went on adventures, climbed trees, built a den, explored and grew in so many ways. It was an experience we are very keen to repeat, so we’re going again this year.
The festival is divided into eight distinct areas; The Eyrie Stage, Field Notes, As the Crow Flies, Elemental, Halcyon Days, Shivelight, The Canopy and The Common. Each area has its own thing going on, so for example, the Eyrie Stage is dedicated to the best in spoken word and live music and in Halcyon Days you’ll find all kinds of circus skills and woodland games.
If you’re planning on going to Timber as a family with children, then your plan for the weekend will probably be very different to an adult group. Last year there were a number of really memorable things which we all loved; I’m pleased to see a lot of them back again this year.
Unmissable things to do at Timber Festival 2019!
Bushcraft Survival – Discover your inner Bear Grylls in these handy workshops!
Visit the Perfectly Edible Binner Table for ‘Binner’. They will be cooking up a vibrant 2-Course Dinner made entirely out of food that would otherwise have been sent to landfill.
Foraging for Modern Humans will show you how to do it safely and ethically and explores why she believes that foraging is still important for 21st century living.
Visit Shivelight and relax with some Laughter Yoga;Tai Chi; Reiki or Forest Bathing; or just chill out with a book in the Woodland Library.
Shimmer in the Elemental area is an immersive diffusion system includes a 12-channel sound experience that uses copper-alloy cymbals as speakers to control the intensity of light to manipulate pattern and shapes.
Families would enjoy the Willow Maze and the Woodland Cinema, both in the Elemental area.
Inside the As the Crow Flies area, you’ll find storytelling legend, Ian Douglas perched around the campfire telling his tall tales. For a bit of mad science, Dieter Wadeson is hilarious and dangerous in equal measure. If you are around the campfire as the night draws in, get your toes tapping to the Campfire Bands.
Visit the Moth Hotel have a go one the Giant Marble Run. There are also Slacklines to balance on, trees to climb and the ever popular Hammer & Chisel area, where kids can get building.
The Eyrie Stage was a bit of a hidden gem last year. Tucked away in the woodland, this stage was really popular with an eclectic mix of music and artists. This year you can enjoy BBC Radio 3’s Elizabeth Alker curating the Saturday programme; The Coal Tits; The Screeching Bluejays; Woodland DJs;MUHA and The Roots Community Choir.
In Field Notes, you’ll find the best of nature writing, storytelling and cutting edge ideas; from Stuart Maconie talking about writing his book, The Long Road from Jarrow; Gwenno who is Single-handedly raising the profile of the Cornish language and music from Another Sky, Otto & The Mutapa Calling and Cut A Shine.
There are a million more things to see and do at Timber Festival; and new acts are being added all the time. To see the full line up and for more information about Timber Festival, visit the website.
Timber Festival 2019 will take place on 5/6/7 July 2019; at Feanedock, near Ashby de la Zouch, in the National Forest.
Disclosure: We been offered tickets to the Timber Festival 2019 in exchange for a preview and an honest review.
With the nights drawing in and Christmas just around the corner, we’ve been filling our diary with lots of festive fun. Top of the list was The Lanterns at Chester Zoo; an evening of magic and sparkle, full of lights and with something special around every corner. I’m not even exaggerating.
Regular readers will know that we are massive fans of the Just So Festival which is organised by Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus have sprinkled their magic all over Chester Zoo and The Lanterns and it’s a real multi-sensory experience.
Tickets are timed entry, so there’s an even flow of people throughout; it’s busy but not uncomfortably so. As you make your way to the entrance there are people flying huge neon butterflies and giant snails scooting about the place to entertain the kids and give you a little hint of what is to come.
Once through the gate you step into the Garden of Delight and you’re immediately transported into an illuminated magical world full of giant flowers and colourful lights. Make sure you make your way to the people who are giving out lanterns; the children get a little bucket lantern with an LED tealight and each family gets a larger lantern to carry too. It’s a lovely sight, looking ahead to see the makings of a lantern parade ahead of you.
Marvel at the giant giraffes, lions, elephants and tigers of the Moonlit Meadow. Meet the friendly ostrich and emu in Cloud Cuckoo Land, there’s so much to wonder at. I loved watching my son’s face as we walked around, he was in awe. Go through the Northern Lights where you can say hi to Father Christmas and meet some illuminated reindeer, you’ll soon find the food market where you can have something to eat and drink to set you on your way.
It was at the market we bumped into some friends and we carried on our journey together. The Enchanted Woodland was just that; with people operating flying barn owls, squirrels and deer, the trees were all lit up and it took my breath away. Around the corner you’ll find a snowy wonderland; with snow machines pumping out snow-showers, much to the absolute delight of everyone there. I confess we hung around that area for quite a while because it was just so lovely.
The Wonderland area was a space dedicated to Alice in Wonderland, complete with a giant rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. One of my favourite areas was Rainforest Glow, which just took my breath away. There were giant rainforest flowers hanging from the ceiling, glowing in the lights, plus illuminated rainforest sloths and grubs.
The Ice Kingdom was a great way to finish off the journey. The kids were queuing up to feed the lantern penguins fish and each were given special glasses to look at the lights through which turned all the lights into twinkling rainbows. We were sad to leave. I want to live in The Lanterns.
I really don’t want give too much away about the whole experience, but around each corner you’ll find something really special. It’s festive without being too overtly Christmassy. You will see Father Christmas and some of his elves in passing, but it’s really more about the lights, lanterns and illuminated sights. It’s a real sensory treat from start to finish. We were in awe from start to finish and I’m really ready to fill my own home with sparkle.
In terms of accessibility, the whole trail is on footpaths. There are no steps or stairs and if you’re pushing a wheelchair or a buggy, you should be fine. There aren’t a great many places to sit down, apart from near the food market, so you might want to consider that. It took us around 2 hours to walk around.
There are timed admissions between 4pm-7.45pm and it closes at 9pm. Children’s tickets are from £10-£15 and adult tickets from £12-£17.50.
At the start of the summer, my Facebook timeline was full of memes about how we only get 18 summers with our children and how we need to make the most of them. This is summer number 8 for us, and the annual highlight of our “making the most of our time together” is always the Just So Festival. It’s three days away together, entirely unplugged; learning, exploring, enjoying and just loving everything the festival has to offer.
The Just So Festival 2018 has had a tiny shake up. All the old favourites were there, but just enough things had changed to keep it fresh for the families like us who come year after year.
Back in July we went to the Timber Festival, run by the people behind Just So, but aimed at a slightly older crowd with more of an ecological bent. There were some really fabulous things at Timber which thankfully made their way to Just So too. Things like The Lost Words, The Moth Hotel, Hammer and Chisel and the Coppice Maze.
A couple of the areas had been jigged about, the (fabulous) Flamingo Lounge was up near the Village Green and seemed more popular than ever. Hurrah for the Pirate King was a surprising but wonderful opera-ballet-pirate mash up with added unicorn. Modern Warrior was a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in a spot of martial arts style dance and The Silent Disco was a particular highlight (do not miss this if it’s on next year).
Down by the lake, there was a re-named area called Roll up! Roll up! which had more of a circus theme. There were circus skills workshops running throughout, trapeze artists, a custard catwalk, the amazing Band at the End of the World and the incredible Bullzini Family running high-wire workshops and putting on a spectacular performance.
I really enjoyed the Idlewood area this year, the Woodland Library had moved in and there were lots of colourful hammocks lashed to the trees where you could recline and relax with a good book. There were also theatre performances, Tai Chi and a chance to meet the Fairy Queen.
The highlight for me, was as always the Spellbound Forest. Tucked away in the woods, perched on a log around the campfire, listening to ancient stories told by Ian Douglas, watching Mr Foppletwig and Professor Pumpernickel variously perform amazing magic tricks and scientific experiments and campfire songs with Ian Mackintosh. It’s so comfortable around that campfire, it often feels like hard work to tear yourself away and explore what else is going on.
And there is so much going on. There are three packed Just So days and it’s almost impossible to get round to everything you want to see and do. I always end up having Just So regrets about things I have missed. Things people tell you about after they’ve happened. You make a mental note of it for next year and hope for the best.
Just So is such a remarkably safe space for families. It’s safe in a way that you can send a pair of 8 year olds off into the woods to do a Barefoot Walk for 10 minutes and know that they will come back filthy, with damp socks and full of the spirit of independence. It’s safe in the way that you know that everything they see and do will enrich them in some way. It is safe, because it just is.
We sang, we danced, we ate, we laughed, I might have had a little cry of loveliness too. We had late nights, early mornings. We were filthy, we were covered in sand, custard and feathers, but we were happy and we were free. Just So is three wonderful, magical days a year which we remember incredibly fondly and look forward to above and beyond anything else.
Over the weekend we went to the Timber Festival 2018. This was the first ever Timber Festival in the National Forest and we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We’ve been to other festivals organised by Wild Rumpus, such as the Just So Festival, so we expected something fairly fantastical and we were not disappointed.
We arrived in the National Forest on Friday afternoon and we were directed to the small accessible camping area where we pitched our tent and then went to pick up our wristbands. We had a quick look around the top end of the festival site, but I had to go back to the tent to change out of my sandals and into my walking boots as the site was hillier and rougher under foot than I was expecting.
After an evening of merriment with our friends, we were raring to go on Saturday morning. We consulted our festival maps and decided to explore the more far-flung areas before the sun rose too high. We headed off to Halcyon Days so Ben could go on a bug hunt with the RSPB and then over to The Coppice to try our hands at stone balancing and to explore the coppice maze. The Coppice was a lovely area with some really interesting things to do, but it was quite far from the main areas, so we only went there once.
After exploring the upper area of the festival site, we walked down the hill, past the Nightingale Stage where there was a dance class going on and into The Common. This was where there were lots of rural crafts going on, such as whittling, clay crafts, willow weaving etc. The group of small boys went straight to the straw bale house building area and got stuck in. It turns out that a good grounding in LEGO building can help you when it comes to building a house out of straw. Just keep an eye out for hungry wolves!
Beyond The Common was Field Notes; an area packed with food and drink vendors and a lovely beer tent (at reasonable prices). It was here where we found most of our meals. There was a large marquee in this area which hosted discussions, speakers and the keynote speaker – Stuart Maconie. I saw Stuart a few weeks ago giving a talk about one of his books, I was excited to hear him speak again and I was not disappointed. Interesting, thought-provoking, honest and funny, if you get the chance to go and see him, do.
One of our favourite areas at the Just So Festival is the campfire area in the Spellbound Forest. The Timber Festival 2018 version of the Spellbound Forest was The Canopy. Just So favourite, Storyteller Ian Douglas was around the campfire several times each day and into the night, delighting everyone with his wonderful stories. It was a smaller, more intimate gathering than at Just So, which made it extra special. Ian is frequently accompanied by Dieter Wadeson aka Mr Foppletwig, who delights everyone with his slightly mad science experiments. Also around the campfire were some brilliant bands and singers, most notably Fishclaw and The Concordia Ashby Choir who performed their version of Africa By Toto and had everyone joining in. Brilliant.
Near the campfire there were three other wonderful little areas of note. The boys loved the Hammer and Chisel area where children (supervised by a parent) could get their hands on real tools and worked together to build a wooden play area. The Museum of the Moon was incredible. Hidden in the trees was a giant moon. There was a subtle soundtrack on a loop playing music and the sound of a rocket launching. It was incredible and it looked stunning lit up at night.
Just past the moon was the Eyrie Stage; a small woodland stage which hosted the most wonderful, eclectic mix of music. It was a real treat to listen to the music; especially Jason Singh who played some wonderful music based on birdsong, insects and environmental sounds.
If I had stuff to complain about, it would be that the site isn’t quite as accessible as it could be. The hills were a problem for me and my chum who both have some mobility issues. Things felt a little bit far apart; so the wonderful Coppice area only got visited once because twice would have been too much for me.
I’m not going to complain about the weather, this was the first festival I’ve been to where I’ve not suffered from rising damp, but it was so hot. I was very thankful they’d made drinking water freely and plentifully available at lots of places around the site. Plus there was a shower block close to where we camped, which was bliss in this heat.
Timber Festival 2018 was a wonderful experience. We felt immersed in nature and the surroundings; we spent time with our wonderful friends, the boys all ran about playing; getting filthy, battling with sticks, learning about insects, whittling, building straw houses, balancing on slacklines. They experienced life as a virtual reality owl; they listened to ancient stories around the campfire, learned some mad science stuff; danced to incredible music and generally got filthy and went a little bit feral for a few days. It was brilliant.
As ever, we were sad to leave, but absolutely delighted to have been part of such a wonderful festival. I would say although it is family friendly, it’s not really pitched at really little ones. The boys in our group were aged 7-10 and they were in their den-building, stick-fighting, adventurous element. It’s the family festival to go to when you feel you’re too old for Just So. I think we’ve got a couple of Just So years left in us, but we also cross over well into Timber. We loved it, we’re already looking forward to next year. Timber Festival 2018 had such a cool, folky atmosphere; it was the perfect way to wind down and have some summer fun with the family.
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This July sees the first ever Timber Festival which is located in the stunning surroundings of the National Forest. Timber is a family festival which is taking place on the 6th – 8th July in Feanedock, in the heart of the National Forest. Brought to you by Just So Festival organisers, Wild Rumpus, the Timber Festival is set to be a thought-provoking three days in the forest.
Timber will be three days of music, arts, creativity and philosophy in the woods. With lots of different areas in the woods where festival-goers will be able to learn, relax, experience or just be. There will be live music, workshops, discussions, a chance to really chill out, great food, light and fire installations as well as storytelling and a lantern procession. Timber has seven themes to explore, with lots of different things happening in each one. The themes are; Gather, Provocation, Sound, Light, Breath, Feast and Time.
The Breath theme includes family yoga, Tai Chi, Indian head massage and forest bathing. I am in dire need of some serious chill out time, so I think I know where I’ll be spending the weekend!
You can camp in the forest, learn more about the woods, reconnect with nature and have a really special weekend with the family. We are Just So Festival veterans and our favourite part of Just So is spending time in the Spellbound Forest; so I have high hopes that Timber Festival will have all of the wonder of the Spellbound Forest and more!
With den building, crafts, woodland workshops, campfire songs, tree climbing; as well as famous faces such as Stuart Maconie, Geoff Bird and Robert Macfarlane; Timber looks set to be a fabulously thought-provoking and fun weekend for the whole family.
Come along to the Timber Festival this July where the peaceful tonic of the wildness rules supreme!
Timber Festival is on the 6th – 8th of July 2018. Tickets for Timber Festival are now available at £130 /£45 for a weekend ticket; £40 /£15 for day visitors, under 3’s free. People who live within the National Forest get an additional 10% off their ticket price.
Have you got your tickets for the Just So Festival yet? If you haven’t, you’ll be missing out on three days of weird, wonderful and incredibly magical family fun. We went last year and had the best time, it was the absolute highlight of our year. Three days and nights off grid, spending time together with family and friends; walking barefoot in the woods, having insane pillow fights and dressing up as bees (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). Here’s what’s new and wonderful this year.
Taking place on 17th – 19th August at the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire this year’s Just So Festival is packed with familiar old favourites and an array of exciting new things to see, do and experience. Step out of your everyday life and enter a wonderland of world-class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits together as a family. Immerse yourselves in a weekend full of magical midnight feasts, curious creatures, raucous pillow fights, hidden retreats, top-notch food, drink and boutique camping options and breathtaking beauty.
Join the Tribal Tournament – the most bonkers competition in the land! Dress up as a fox, owl, stag, frog, fish, bee or a lion and compete to win gold pebbles,. Take part in the glorious Tribal Tournament and the tribe with the highest score wins. Who will lift the Tribal Trophy this year?
New for 2018 there is the intriguing and enthralling Playground of Illusions. This is a new area full of mystery and trickery from Travelling Light Circus – see the world in a new light in this hypnotic fusion of science and art.
Roll Up, Roll Upwill be a glorious large-scale area by the lake, dedicated to all things circus and seaside. Expect tumblers, somersaults and aerial mastery from the best performers in the land including a spectacular high wire show Equilibrius and tightrope workshops from The Bullzini Family.
There’s also The Flamingo Lounge, an area filled to the brim with all things dance. Strut your stuff at Silent Discos and summon all strength for Power Ballad Yoga. Whirl, swirl, disco, cancan, jig, jive, rhumba, spin, strut, shimmy, swing, two-step and throw all kinds of shapes in this gloriously kitsch wonderland. When night falls you can boogie the night away here too.
Step into the extraordinary Spellbound Forest for tales from storyteller extraordinaire Ian Douglas. Enjoy a Barefoot Walk, or nature and bush crafts; den building, tree climbing, campfire tales and bonfire bands and sing songs as dusk falls and the forest really comes to life.
Visit a living Weleda garden to discover more about the amazing healing properties and powers of our native plants. Join the Weleda team for a tea party and sample Weleda’s pure and 100% certified natural products. Enjoy some grown-up relaxation time with complimentary Weleda Skin Food hand massages.
The Just So Festival is set in woodland clearings; with rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire; one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK. Families choosing to camp at the festival can experience the stunning boutique camping area in Landpods, yurts, bell tents, tipis and vintage tents; or bring your own tent or camper van.
If you’re planning to come to Just So 2018 you are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year. Tickets selling at a record rate for this limited capacity event.