Tag Archives: camping

Planning a festi-holiday: How to festival with family and a Camp Bestival 2012 preview

INSTEAD of searching the internet for prices of lovely sunny holidays abroad, I’m Googling levelling blocks. Not nice new swimsuits or sun-lotion, but levelling blocks.

These big cheese-shaped plastic blocks stop camper vans and caravans rolling off down a hill or all the blood rushing to your head when you have to sleep in one.

And for the fifth year in a row I’ll be spending my precious family break in a field, as we’ll be holidaying in our knackered old Japanese Bongo camper van.

Are you fired up for a home Olympic holiday, or planning to jet away to avoid it all this summer?

We had considered something different for our family holiday this year, other than our usual trip to a festival. But our bank balances never stretch far enough to take six of us abroad, and our annual trip to Dorset works so well we’re doing it all over again for the fourth year on the trot.

If you have children, or even if you don’t, I heartily recommend you look at what’s on offer at www.campbestival.net even if you feel like you’ve ‘done’ every festival or can’t face camping, let alone camping with kids.

Camp Bestival is the family-friendly little sister of the September Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. It’s held each year over the last weekend in July after the schools have broken up for summer. The venue is the specular Lulworth Castle on the Dorset coast.

It’s a great combination of live music spanning the tastes of parents and teens, with a load of extra stuff for kids including the Gruffalo, Shrek, Dick & Dom, Mr Tumble and a Wall of Death! There’s a massive skatepark, street dance and DJs, comedy and jaw-dropping jousting. And as this year it coincides with the opening of the London Olympics, there’s a silly sports theme, which means you’ll see lots of families dressed in identical sports-related dressing up outfits. You can choose whether to join in or stick to the standard shorts and wellies combo.

If like us you have children spread in age from teens to tots, the site is contained enough to allow the older ones off the leash to go feral for an afternoon, while you wander around the kids’ field watching your younger ones test out ball pits and painting tents, dressing up stands and circus skills workshops. There’s something bonkers around every corner. You can also just opt to slouch about on one of many four poster sofas dotted around the festival site, cider in hand and watch the music on various stages.

Settling in

I’m not sure I can ever get as excited about a musical line-up after last year’s dream Friday-Saturday-Sunday offering of Blondie-Mark Ronson-Primal Scream. But there’s always something you’d like, whatever age or taste, from pop to classical.

The kids have already seen acts at Camp Bestival their mates are ‘well jell’ about, including Wretch 32, Katy B, Labyrinth, Florence and the Machine, Tiny Tempah, Friendly Fires and  Calvin Harris.

Camp Bestival’s music is fabulously eclectic, and this year is no different, with everything from chart stars (Hot Chip, Stooshe, Josh Kumra, Rizzle Kicks, Delilah) to old-skool classics (Happy Mondays, Kool and The Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, Adam Ant) and the downright bonkers (Rolf Harris, The Cuban Brothers).

There’s very little you wouldn’t let your kids see (except perhaps the comedy tent where we once, accidentally, exposed our under tens to Frankie Boyle in full-flow . . .). This year’s comedy offerings include the tax-dodging Jimmy Carr, which could be a lot of fun. Rufus Hound and Andrew Maxwell are regulars too.

“Daddy, they’re singing my song”

If you are camping, rather than coming in on a day ticket, there are several options. You can simply bring a tent, or you can actually pay to have someone put one up in advance for you. You can bring a camper van or even hire a teepee, or a Yurt, a Squrt, Cloudhouses, Podpads, Bell Tents, gypsy caravans or even a massive Airstream Trailer (if you have a couple of grand to spare). If you bring a car and a tent you can hire a trolley to drag your kit from car park to camping field. Or bring your own.

Camping with kids isn’t as bad as it sounds once you’ve got used to the idea of possibly wearing the same clothes for three days straight and eating crisps for breakfast. With six of us in the family, and no posh cooking or refrigeration devices, I usually bring a camping stove, kettle, gas lamps, wind up lamps and head torches, plenty of gas canisters, a frying pan, a saucepan, and many, many tins of beans and pouches of soup as I can, plus lots of packs of tortilla wraps, and bags of fruit. Milk is UHT and in bottles with screwcap lids. That way everyone gets something to eat or a cup of tea back at the tent so we aren’t always paying the best part of £30 each meal.

You’ll need wellies and warm waterproof coats as well as thin summer layers and plimsols. The weather, believe it or lot, is tentatively predicted to be good the last week in July, but even if we are spared the rain, it can get cold at night when you are sitting watching bands or traipsing back to tents, so blankets, coats and woolly hats are worth bringing too.

We invested £50 in a big metal garden trolley last year with pneumatic tyres. We left it at the tent during the day and took it out each evening loaded with blankets, drinks bottles, packets of tissues (for the loos) and coats, and when four-year-old Bonnie got tired, she sat/slept in it. It was a workout to get it up the hill to the site each night but well worth the effort and money.

Bonnie may only be four but she’s been to five festivals and survived. One year we did bring a pram, which was just a lightweight McLaren buggy. It got battered and mucky but did the job in the days before Bonnie could walk long distances. I’d leave any heavy or expensive, non-off-road prams at home. We were relieved when our heavy travel cot wasn’t needed to contain her in the tent anymore, and now we use two blow-up Ready Beds for the smaller two and camp beds for the older boys.

The most complicated and stressful parts of festivaling with family is the packing. You’ll need less than you think, and yet probably leave something essential at home. There are general stores on site selling everything from nappies to tent pegs, so don’t panic. Get there as early as you can and give yourself time to set up an organised camp. By the Sunday or Monday you’ll be stinking and tired and won’t care which groundsheet goes in which bag, but it would be good to remember where you put them.

Mobile phone reception at Lulworth is terrible, so be prepared to give up the Smartphone for a couple of days. Make sure you have regular times and places to meet up if you should separate and remember each child has a security wristband in case the get lost.

And most of all, enjoy it! It’s not that often these days we get to spend time with our kids without distractions and worries. You’ll probably find they pal up with the kids in a neighbouring tent very quickly and you may even get on well with other grown-ups too. The Camp Bestival website has a good forum section where you’ll find advice from regular festival goers.

Festival not as exciting as my phone

When you arrive it’s worth getting a programme as soon as possible to plan what you really want to see. You won’t necessarily get to see everything and need to factor in ‘down-time’ to let you recharge, especially if you have younger children who will get tired quickly. Don’t worry if all your normal routines go out of kilter, you’re on holiday.

There are a limited number of day tickets available if you wanted to try out the festival vibe without the camping (although make sure you book any external accommodation fast as everything will be booked up).

Adult festival tickets, including camping, cost £175 (add an extra tenner if you want to camp from Thursday July  rather than Friday).

Students pay £170, teens aged 15-17 pay £110 and 11-14s £95 (all under 18s must be accompanied by an adult and camp with their families).

Anyone aged ten or under gets in for free but you MUST book a ticket for them anyway.

Reviews of previous Camp Bestival outings can be found here (2011) and here (2010)


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Fifty things for kids to do? Don’t try this at home

THERE was a report (tenuous press release) this week about the ‘bucket list’ of 50 things children should do before they are 12, which included making mud pies, flying kites and collecting frogspawn. My lot, despite being townies, have ticked off most of the things on the list (except perhaps hunting fossils and ‘geocaching.’)

They take great pleasure in getting as mucky as possible at the allotment, have to camp every year, get let loose in parks and gardens at every opportunity and love beach exploring at their grandparents.

I mentioned to the kids that there were many things I did as a child that I certainly wouldn’t want them doing before they were 40, let alone 12. Then I couldn’t actually tell them for fear it would give them ideas.

However, for your eyes only, (look away kids, and my Mum and Dad) here’s a few things you won’t see on a children’s must-do list:

Make a ‘death slide’ over a fast running stream while trespassing on an angry farmer’s land;

Search the ashtrays in the cars in the village garage for used fag butts – and then dare each other to smoke them,

Remove half bottles of dad’s homebrewed wine and top it up with water, replacing the corks with a hammer,

Accept rides from older teenagers on motorbikes, even if it is ‘just across a field,’ or

Lie under jumps while your horsey friends – on their horses – jump over you.

It’s a wonder most of us with free-range childhoods are still here to tell the tale.

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Why our family gave up on Glastonbury

HOW many of us watching the annual Glastonbury mudfest were thinking, actually, I’m quite happy seeing it from the sofa, thanks?

That’s quite hard for some of us to admit. Bloke and I were regular Glasto-goers in our pre-parenting years, but have only been once since.

And it’s not one I’d go to again with the kids.

Something about seeing those pictures of muddy, knackered-out little urchins being dragged around by adults either DETERMINED to have a good time, or looking as though they were about to cry, just made me think, take them home, have a bath, watch the rest on TV. Leave them with Grandma next time.

The Glastonbury site is just vast. Nothing you see on telly can actually make you understand how exhausting and confusing it can be if you’re a grown-up and relatively sober, let alone a kid. Even in good weather.
I think the next Glastonbury-goers from our house are more likely to be our elder two boys, and even then I’m thinking “not until you’re 18.” The idea terrifies me, but I guess it won’t be long before I don’t have much of a say.

But in the meantime there are festivals that are great to visit with kids, and for the last few years we’ve attended the likes of Womad and the excellent Camp Bestival with the entire brood.

Bonnie had been to three festivals before her third birthday. 

You must bear in mind that going to a festival with family in tow isn’t like going to one on your own, where the only person you’re responsible for is, er, you.
At a family festival you can still enjoy the live acts, the music, the outdoorsy freedom and even a cider or two, and your children can do the same (minus the cider). You let them stay up later than usual and experience music and art in a way that our generation couldn’t.

But you also have to admit that when it’s dark, muddy, chucking down with rain and blowing a gale, its kinder to everyone if you head back to relative safety and comfort of a tent or camper. It might feel defeatist but you’ll be grateful in the morning. Honest.

There’s plenty of firework finales or headline acts we’ve missed because we’ve just bottled it and stayed dry. That’s the beauty of going to a festival over a conventional music gig. If you miss something, you’ll catch something else that’s good too.

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We’re all going on a festi-holiday

SEEING as we’re all skint, and booking an overseas family holiday seems a thing of the past, we’ve started planning this year’s Festi-Hol.

Blessed with an oversized family and an ageing Bongo campervan, our trips away in recent years have included one of my big dislikes – camping.

However, throw me at a festival and somehow the discomfort and hassle seems to lessen. Slightly.

Add a few bottles of cider and some brilliant live bands at sundown and I’m yours for the duration. I’ll even bring my own supernoodles.

The mother of all family festivals is Camp Bestival in Dorset, which drew us in a couple of years back with promises of Mr Tumble, Zane Lowe and Florence and the Machine.

Combining the weekend with a few days exploring beautiful Dorset from a windy campsite, we felt we’d killed two birds with one stone. The kids slept in a tent, played on beaches and ran around at a festival being either cool and detached, arty and dancy, or just watching mesmerised from the comfort of a pram (depending on their age).

This year we’re tempted back to Camp Bestival as they appear to have booked headline acts specifically with us in mind: Blondie, Primal Scream, Mark Ronson, Wrench 32, Katy B, the Gruffalo and Mr Tumble. Add in the skatepark, comedy tent, zoo in the woods and fellow families-in-the-same-boat, and it’s already sounding better than a week in Majorca.

If you’re nervous of festi-holling with kids, then do your research. We used to do the festival circuit regularly pre-parenthood, and some we’d avoid. While Glastonbury does cater well for families, it is dauntingly huge. V, Reading and Leeds are not really aimed at a junior audience, and you tend to see more than you bargain for at the more rock or dance music festivals.

Some of the family festivals offer payment plans, but charge extra for boutique camping, parking and camper passes.

If you don’t have a campervan, the festival experience isn’t too hideous. You can park up and transfer all heavy tent stuff to a pull-trolley (most festivals will hire you one), and the toilet facilities are much, much better than they used to be.

As long as you’re prepared to carry a few packets of tissues and wash with wet-wipes for a couple of days, sleep badly, eat far too many chips, and bribe your children with over-priced ice-creams, it’s a great experience. There’s so much to see, as well as people-watching the wild dressing-up outfits and the Boden-clad Yummy Mummies who get their nannies to watch the kids while they pretend to like poetry.

Finish your weekend with a visit to Monkey World or the Tank Museum, and a festi-hol can tick more boxes than your average family trip ever could.

Family-friendly festivals for 2011

Larmer Tree, July 13 – 17, near Salisbury. 5 days £197 adult, £158 aged 11-17, £127 5-10, day tickets available. Line-up Joolz Holland, Imelda May, Seasick Steve, Asian Dub Foundation.

Camp Bestival – July 28-31, Lulworth Castle, Dorset, Adult £170, Ages 11-17 £85, under 11s free, Line-up Blondie, Primal Scream, Laura Marling, Mark Ronson, ABC, Katy B

Womad, July 29-31, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, £135, £70 aged 14-17, under 13s free. Line-up: Very much world/jazzy

Guilfest July 15-17, Stoke Park, Guildford, £120 , aged 12-15 £70, under 12s free. Line-up Razorlight, James Blunt, PIL, Peter Andre and Erasure

Beautiful Days, August 19-21, Devon, adult, £110, 14-17, £60, under 14 £30. Line-up Big Audio Dynamite, Cater USM and founders The Levellers

Latitude, July 14-17, Beccles, Suffolk, Adult £170, £5 for 5-12 year olds. Line-up, The National, Suede, Paolo Nutini, Waterboys, OMD, Paloma Faith

Bestival – September 8-11, Isle of Wight, £170, aged 13-15 £85, under 13s free. Line-up The Cure, Primal Scream, Magnetic Man, Grandmaster Flash, loads more names

Shambala, Aug 25-28, Kelmarsh, Northants, £119, 15-17 years £79, 5-14 years £29, under 5s free, no names, no advertising, no sponsors, good fun.

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Aloft, in the loft, sits. . .camping stuff

  WELL, here we go then. We’ve got to entertain our kids for six weeks. It’s the holidays.

Actually, it’s five and a half weeks for some. And the next fortnight must be the quietest on local roads, as just about everyone with children will be off.

So what do we do with them? In the current economic climate, do you do two weeks in Spain? Visit the relatives? Or just stay at home and do over-priced day-trips?

At some point we’re going camping (which I hate) in our decrepit campervan (which I hate slightly less). Not only do I have to do the dreaded clothes packing for six, but there’s all the camping kit too.

Bloke is putting it off, because he knows he’s got to face The Loft.

The loft, in our house, is actually a big cupboard with poor lighting which is stuffed to the brim with. . .well. . .stuff.

Somewhere under the piles of empty boxes, broken computer parts, outgrown baby items, a dismantled kitchen table and the Christmas tree, is an enormous tent/awning, several inflatable mattresses, a camping kitchen, burners, lamps, sleeping bags and a folding table.

We aren’t organised. The stuff will have all the muck and mould from being packed away last year. Our dread of The Loft will mean we won’t have time to check, and it will be just thrown in the back of the van along with too much luggage, too much baby stuff and too many kids.

Then we’ll get there, unpack it all, have a lovely-albeit-wet-when-it-inevitably-rains time, pack it all back up again and head home. Where we’ll end up shoving it all back in the loft.

I think the next few days had better be spent having a loft clear-out, welly-trying session and round-up of waterproofs. Oh, and someone needs to dig through the shed to find the camping toilet/bucket with a lid. There you go kids, who says the school holidays aren’t fun?

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