A couple of weekends ago we were very lucky to be given a free press pass to Camp Bestival – the family-friendly music festival held at Lulworth Castle, Dorset. I had heard good things about it last year but,largely due to the prices, hadn’t got round to booking any tickets. I was also a little wary about camping with Faith – as a fearless and inquisitive 3 year old, I was worried she might make a bid for freedom in the middle of the night!
The excitement built as we wound our way down country lanes, following the very helpful signs, and we stared wide-eyed as we saw the fields packed full of tents and cars! I seriously have never seen that many tents in my life! We paid for our parking (£15, or £10 if you booked in advance), gathered up a few belongings (our first mistake) and headed down the hill towards the mass of tents.
All seemed to move very quickly at the entrance and we were quickly shepherded towards a table where volunteers made sure that we all had wristbands, which included our mobile numbers (not much use as the signal was awful) to make sure if the children were separated from us that they would be easily identifiable as ours. They also took time to explain to the children what they should do if they got lost. Grace is sensible enough to take this on board – I didn’t even want to think what we’d do if Faith got lost!
Next came a very long and increasingly panicky walk around the campsite looking for a space to pitch our tents. I began looking for a space large enough to fit us and some other bloggers who we knew were going, but after much whinging (from us and the children) we eventually found a space to set up camp. The only downside being that we were next to the bins and surrounded by large groups of teenagers.
We soon realised our mistake of just bringing a few belongings with us to begin with. The car was miles away and we still had many trips to make. Lots of people had trolleys to cart around their stuff – and their children! This is a must. You could also hire one when you got there (for around £20).
Once we were all set up it was time to explore. The sheer scale of the place is overwhelming to begin with but we soon got our bearings and visited the Big Top, Main Stage, Jousting Ring and Children’s Area. Faith was very taken with the knights on horses who were doing jousting demonstrations and Grace was itching to get her fancy dress costume on, which was Medieval themed this year. She made her costume herself and was incredibly proud of it!
There was a huge variety of music and other acts throughout the weekend, catering for all tastes. The girls really enjoyed the performance of The Gruffalo and Faith was excited to see Mr Tumble and the Zingzillas. Grace loved all the activities available in the children’s field, including the circus skills and range of weird and wonderful bicycles to try out. We especially enjoyed listening to Newton Faulkner, who was brilliant, and watching Grace take part by walking the high wire (not that high!) with the Flying Seagull Project (who were amazing performers and had the audience captivated). The girls also got to try out new things, including drinking coconut water from the shell then scooping the flesh out with coconut shell scoops.
There is so much more I could mention but suffice to say, the entertainment was great, as was the general atmosphere. It was busy and the stage areas were crowded, sometimes making the children frustrated when they couldn’t see properly, but this is to be expected at a music festival I should imagine.
The loos weren’t great and the queues were often huge, but they were making every effort to empty them regularly. My top tip is to carry some loo roll round in your bag – there often wasn’t any left! The food was pricey (often around £7+ per head) but there was a good range and definitely something for everyone. We took a little camping stove and some easy to cook meals to keep costs down.
The large number of teenage groups made it a little noisy at night (anyone found Alan yet?), as was the fact that the group next to us were searched by security and had some form of drugs removed from them. Not something I want my children to see at a family friendly festival. However, the security guards were doing a great job and seemed to be on top of issues before anything untoward happened.
On the whole, we had a fun weekend, Faith didn’t escape from the tent, I coped with all the grass and nasty loos and we all had a ball listening to the music and trying out new things. If you’re looking for a good festival, with a family atmosphere to go next year, we’d highly recommend it.
Disclosure: we were given free press passes by the organisers of the event.