|Dumps ready to take on Wilderness Festival 2011|
It's been a week since we've been back from Wilderness Festival, and still I find myself thinking fondly back to our time there and wondering whether parts of it were just a dream (clean toilets! that smelled good! Even on the Saturday night! I mean come on...).
Things had gotten off to an ominous start before we even left home. As the husband was packing the rental car he noticed that he was being watched rather too intently by a local 'hoodie' (sorry, I mean local youth who may or may not have been a delinquent involved in the recent riots, and who happened to be adorned in a tracksuit top with the hood concealing most of his face) standing on the street corner. As he brought another load to the car he mentioned in passing that he wouldn't be surprised if we got broken into while we were away.
Well that was all I needed to affirm my own uneasy instincts, and what followed was a frantic half hour delay as I ran around the house gathering up assorted laptops, ipads, and random electronic gadgets and sliding them under sofas, whilst simultaneously grabbing handfuls of jewellry only to end up stashing them in entirely obvious places that practically screamed 'LOOK HERE'. Finally, despite envisioning some local teenager adorned in all my rings and bracelets, we attempted to leave (a mere three hours behind schedule at this point) when suddenly, half out the door, it dawned on me that we didn't yet have contents insurance.
What followed was (strictly in retrospect) a comical race to procure one of the stashed laptops, followed by me being locked out of my account with the wrong password, an increasingly irate husband, one child parked lazily in the pushchair in the entrance hall and the other pacing the streets outside with his bear talking quietly to himself, and the frantic typing in of facts and figures (how on earth am I supposed to know when this place was built?!) resulting in the signing up for a year of expensive contents insurance set to become in effect immediately. 'Hoodies' be damned :)
Two hours later as we neared the Oxfordshire destination it became apparent that the husband would be setting up the tent in the dark. He was not well pleased about this. Egg kept up a moaning monologue from the back seat that he was sick after having gulped down several of his beloved cheese and pickle sarnies and having long since abandoned his 'Sea Bank Sickness Bracelets' (which Dumpie wore contentedly in his sleep) I had the sinking feeling that this was not going to end well.
Sure enough, in the parking queue to the festival entrance, Egg threw open the door and jumped out, proceeding to projectile vomit all over the side of the road - in full view of the stopped festival goers behind us. I jumped out (momentarily repulsed and necessitating a prompting from the husband), stood in the drizzling rain and began to question the wisdom of a family camping adventure in my pregnant state.
I'll tell you what though. The moment we walked into the festival, welcomed by funny, laid back gate staff, through gorgeous grass and amongst happy smiling people, that all changed. No queuing in the mud, no rude staff, no jostling drunkards knocking over tired children. It was all simple, easy, clean and organised. I was quietly impressed.
Once inside, the husband took Egg off to scout for a good camping spot and Dumps and I sat down on our luggage and people watched. (At this point, if I could go back, I would have reminded the husband that regarding toilets, NEAR was good and FAR was bad. Considering that it's not uncommon for a pregnant person to visit the loo on average a total of five times a night, this perhaps should have fared higher on the 'things to look for in a good camping spot' rating chart. oh well...)
At other festivals (I'm thinking Glastonbury and The Big Chill here), if you are not one of the first people in, you end up having to camp in awkward spots, virtually on top of others, and it's not uncommon to have your entrance face the rear of another's tent. Not so at Wilderness. The family camping area was not only green, vast and spacious, but the giant trees scattered around had lovely fairy lights dangling from branches, turning the whole area into something out of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. I kid you not.
Leaving the husband to get on with the task of putting up our shambolic tent (more on that later) I took the boys on an exploratory journey through the grounds, excited at all the cool tents, art installations and live music playing everywhere. It truly felt magical, and I was loving the fact that there were enough people (3000 odd it turns out) to make it feel like an exciting gathering, but not too many (like 190,000 at Glastonbury) to make you feel like you were in a rather hectic rural city. People were laughing, dining, drinking, strolling, dancing, dressed up, and there were enough parents and children about to reassure me that I wasn't a bad mother for not having the monsters already tucked up in bed somewhere - but not enough to make me feel like I was in a giant creche.
An hour later as we rocked up back at the tent, the husband stood sipping a beer with his new mate. His new mate had apparently taken pity on the husband, watching him struggle for ages with two wrongly coded, mistakenly mismatched tent poles, before taking pity on him and climbing out of bed to come help construct the rest of the tent. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers (especially booze toting ones). Turns out he was a keen cyclist as well, and the two sat comfortably in the dark, sipping whiskey and speaking 'bike-anese' whilst I begged off to bed and fell asleep in a cozy heap.
Wilderness Festival felt like a couple of festival aficionados had gotten together and decided to start the best festival ever - eliminating all the horrible parts and adding all the coolest elements they could think of. Turns out I was not far off.
Gone were the disgusting unhygienic toilets which are often a source of freak show revulsion at festivals ("You saw what in there?!). I personally have been known to flirt with dehydration over a weekend in order to limit my visits to the onsite pits of hell to as few as possible. If it means I lie about feeling mildly ill and lacking in energy so be it. Not so here. The toilets were not only cleaned regularly, they smelled good(!), had working antibacterial spray gel inside and always (with one exception) had full rolls of toilet paper! On the last night I even found a set of loos that were mirrored and carpeted and wouldn't have been out of place in a pub dining room. It blew my mind.
The other thing they got so right was the Boutique Babysitting on offer. With day or night slots (7:30pm - 2:00 a.m.) your little ones, for a fee, could be taken into a mini-festival of their own and cared for by loads of staff while you got on with the business of partying...how good is that? Finally - someone looking out for the poor parents, and realising that life as we knew it (and loved it) doesn't end with the onset of tiny pitter-pattering feet. Amen.
I haven't even gotten to the best part: THE FOOD. You know how after being at a festival you feel positively ill from all the junk food you've imbibed? Well at Wilderness, they had taken care to choose decent food venders and as a result I had the pleasure of partaking in delicious cream teas, homemade pasty's and soup...not to mention THE BEST COFFEE i have ever had in the UK. Go figure. Proper luxe gourmet lattes in the morning couldn't be beat, and if you fancied a picnic by the gorgeous manmade lake (I kid you not) you could simply purchase a tapas selection of cheese, olives and other gourmet delicacies...it was inspired.
Not only that, but each of the three days a giant banquet was held in a huge white marquee, where for £27 per person you could dine on a sumptuous several course gourmet feast prepared by top chefs, complete with banqueting tables, wine, and serving staff. It all looked and felt terribly decadent. (Sadly the tickets to this sold out before we could get our hands on some, but next time it's a definite.)
But about the lake: there was free boating, swimming and general cavorting amongst the trees on shore whilst indulging in glasses of refreshing Pimm's if one wanted. Honestly it felt like being at someone's posh stately home for a big weekend party. That was the vibe. Rolling green hills straight out of 'storybook land' spread out on all sides of the gorgeous stately home. The main musical stage was decorated in woven twigs, perfectly blending in with the theme of Wilderness and there were plenty of places to sit and chill out if you didn't feel like plopping yourself on the ground to listen to the likes of Laura Marling, Toots and the Maytals, and Antony and the Johnsons.
On the Friday night there was a Secret Garden Party in a hidden location in the woods, complete with bunting, giant campfire and amazing sound system which went until the wee hours of the morning - ending in an explosion of fireworks. On the Saturday night there was an exciting Masked Ball which also went on till the wee hours, and watching everyone dressed up in outrageous costumes and resplendent in exotic masks throughout the evening was something to behold. There were several places where you could dress up and borrow fanciful costumes, some of which were for sale if one so desired to take their 'new look' back into real life. Hats, waistcoats, bustles, gowns, masks and assorted outlandish costumes were there for the taking. They had it all.
The monsters loved their time at the festival. They made loads of friends, loved dancing around to thei music, and enjoyed hours of free entertainment in the Kid's Field (circus shows, craft and drama workshops, even a place where they could examine bugs close up in microscopes and handle real snakes and lizards). Over the course of the weekend they developed a rather severe hot chocolate addiction, but came out of it feeling like they'd had a great adventure - Egg even having a go at walking on a tightrope and learning some magic tricks. Simply put, they had a blast (and the husband and I got to indulge ourselves with gourmet lattes on the green grass whilst poring over the weekend papers a fair distance away...ah bliss).
Frankly, I don't have a bad word to say about Wilderness Festival. Not a one. In fact my only horrid moment was brought about by my own foolishness. The toilets were so clean (yes, I know I'm going on about it, but seriously I'm still blown away) that when I took the boys to use them for the first time I mistook a set of urinals for a hand washing latrine and tried to get the boys to follow my example of rubbing the big yellow chunks of what I mistakenly took for hand soap onto their wet hands. (I think at some point my hormonally-addled brain cottoned on to the fact that the 'soap' simply wasn't lathering up, and moreover, the suddenly distinctive acrid smell alerted me to my horrid faux pas).
Anyway, if that was the worst thing to happen at a festival that's something I can totally live with. Not only are we definitely going next year, but this time we're going to drag all our friends with us as well...and anyone reading this would do well to follow suit - kiddies or no kiddies. It's an incredible weekend with something for everyone, and can even please the fussiest of campers. Is it a bit posh? Only in the best way possible: no drug zombies wondering around at dawn, crashing into your tent and freaking out the kids with wasted eyes. No bands of drunken yobs puking up all over the place and no needing to sidestep passed out lasses with last night's knickers in a twist.
Just an up for it, cool all ages crowd of people who want to have fun but don't necessarily feel you have to be filthy, wrecked and steeped in last night's vomit to be able to say you had a blinder of a time.
And like all good festivals, there are enough hidden delights on site that you can't possibly sample them all in a weekend. Whether it's gastronomic delights, breathtaking scenery, or having a daily swim in the gorgeous lake, where it's possible to wash the daily grime off before dipping into an outdoor hot tub, having a massage at the spa or sipping a glass of civilised wine as the sun goes down....
Anyway you look at it, Wilderness Festival rocked. And I feel so lucky to have sampled it on it's inaugural run. Bet this one goes and goes...
|Proper GOURMET coffee...at a festival...(now that's what i call heaven)|
|The boys get to grips with their morning smoothies|
|Egg gets hit on by a wee lass who will minutes later sidle over to Dumpie and steal his biscuits...little minx!|
|Big one the night before...|
|I wasn't joking about the breathtaking scenery....|
|Egg contemplates an art(ful) installation....|
|"Mama and Dada...I WILL go to the (Masked) Ball!"|
|Festival Die-Hards...(sponsored apparently by Gap)|