So this time last week I was heading down to Dorset with the car packed to the rafters, roof-box on, and the kids squashed into the windows like Garfield toys. I was filled with excitement but also quite anxious about attending our first family festival with two children under 6. We’d taken the boy to Latitude a year or so ago for just a day and trialed both kids at Common People in Oxford, but for both occasions we knew a hot bath would be waiting for us at the end of each day… it was time to step it up a gear!
We live in Norfolk so the drive was long but we had heard so many wonderful things about Camp Bestival that we were prepared to make the journey down south. We went with with two other families which paid off straight away as soon as we’d arrived Wilba and the boy were happily playing with the other kids while we all put up the tents. Throughout the weekend the kids happily tent hoped, shared their belongings and were responsible for each other’s glitter, face-paint and wardrobe. Fancy dress is a must. The Saturday is dedicated to the nautical fancy dress theme but even so, everyday the kids would what to get in the party spirit and it was brilliant letting them run wild with their imagination. They also enjoyed helping us decorate the tents with fairy lights and bunting – some family’s had made their own flags which I would like to do next year.
We stayed in Camping Plus – Andy has only been camping once before so I think having the maintained showers and flushing toilets (not just port-a-loo’s) was the little bit of luxury we needed. The showers were especially great; hot, powerful and complete with a mirror, shelf and coat-hooks with room to dry and spotlessly cleaned after each visitor. There was also a Toastie Van right next door which had an array of filled toasties (you might have guessed) as well as coffee’s, tea’s and the most refreshing watermelon – a great way to start the day! Depending on where your pitch is there might be a bit of a walk from your tent so make sure you have a festival potty/bucket of some kind if your likely to need a wee in the middle of the night and don’t fancy the walk and tent post dodge. As it worked out we were about 5 mins from both the loo’s and festival site in either direction. It was a bit of a walk to the car but as that’s only done twice we’d rather be nearer the action.
We got to the festival later than expected on the Thursday – never lend your bank card to your blister the day before just in case they forget to give it you back and you’re left wondering how to pay for petrol half-way there!! I would have liked to have gone into the festival just to get my bearings as it’s so big and there’s so much to do. We were a little bit overwhelmed on the Friday so spent quite a lot of time wandering around all the amazing attractions – that’s not to say I’d overly plan next time, it’s great that you can just wander into the various areas and see something completely different, I just wanted to make sure we had really experienced all there was on offer. That said, I’m sure that’s why my friends having been coming for years – 4 days just ain’t enough! It was Ruth’s 5th year going and I still don’t think she’s seen it all – but that’s the attraction and why so many return year after year.
The festival bags and lanyards for £10 (from the merch tents) are really good as you can then plan your day with the ‘Captain’s Log’ and they double up as a nice souvenir, but you can also download the info off the website before you go. Phone signal, 3G and 4G were good so you can always stay ‘connected’ if you forget. There’s also some brilliant merchandise, I got Wilba a t-shirt and the boy a cap – although we only came back with the t-shirt after the boy lost the cap in the dark 🙄.
Things To Do / Places To See
Dingly Dell: Tucked away within the woodlands was an area full of magic and surprise… with a singing bear, mud kitchens and water pipes that Wilba got thoroughly stuck into and a nice chill out zone for the adults complete with mole chandelier – well it should have been a nice chill out zone but the kids made great fun out of climbing over the chairs and tables whilst others got their hair braided and henna tattoos applied.
Upper Kids’ Garden: Hands-on entertainment with the Big Top Mania Circus – impressive and family-friendly with loads of circus paraphernalia for the troops to get rolling on.
Swings & Bouncy Things: Chair swings, big wheels, rocking walkways and the BIGGEST BOUNCY CASTLE IN THE WORLD were all tried and tested much to the delight of the boy and not ridiculously priced either so we both had a smile on our face.
The Bollywood Tent: This was very popular, always full to the brim and so colourful with streamers raining from the ceiling. The kids enjoyed being fully part of the action and with ear defenders on were able to bop along with us or catch up on some sleep in the cart.
Food & Drink: There’s no way you’re going to go hungry or thirsty with the sheer amount of lovely food stands around. Our nighty fav’ soon became Holy Cow for it’s amazing topped fries and well stacked burgers. Even bumped into Andy Day from CBeebies who was more than happy for a quick chat and hello in between bites.
The majority of stalls now take card transactions and there are cash machines on site so there’s no need to wander around with your bank account in your back pocket.
If you have little ones a festival/camping cart is a must. Not only do these come in handy for transporting tent supplies they also make the perfect bed-on-wheels for when the kids get sleepy. There’s also a place on-site where you can get it ‘pimped up’ if your not feeling that creative yourself. I definitely burned off some toastie calories. Make sure you bring fairy lights for your trolley for when it gets dark to avoid any crashes.
On the Friday night we were treated to Rick Astley on the main stage, who was amazing. He knew just how to get the crowd going and didn’t disappoint by finishing off with ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. There was also a very surprising guest appearance from Mary Berry… yes, that’s Mary freaking Berry, and she was playing drums… mind blown! There really is something for everyone and on the way back to the tent I was desperate to crowd-surf into the Big Top to listen to Jaguar Skills and Basement Jaxx’ DJ Set.
Saturday night brought us Clean Bandit on the main stage, and with the kids tucked up in the cart we were free-ish to dance away without embarrassing them – sadly no sign of Mary Berry but equally as good.
One of the main plus points of the festival is how safe you feel. We definitely had a FULL experience of the festival, even trying out a few things we hadn’t planned to… On the Friday the boy decided to wander out of site and for 10 heart-dropping minutes we had lost him. Thankfully I had put a phone-number wrist band on him and a family were able to contact us. We’d informed the security team who were straight on it and had a description of what he was wearing etc zipping around the whole site within seconds – that certainly helped knowing that with all the help we’d be back together soon. On the Saturday an accident with a bread knife meant that we had to rush to the Medi-Tent which was like a mini hospital on site. They had everything, including amazing bedside manner and were able to tidy up the wound and send us on our way to enjoy the rest of the festival.
This year the festival was cut short due to really bad weather – 30+ days of straight sunshine and this was when it decided to end. It goes to show the organisers always have your safety at heart and I think it was the right decision, although a difficult one. The fact of the matter is Camp Bestival is the premier family festival from the moment you arrive and in our eyes will take some beating. Just hoping (for Andy’s sake) that the weather holds out next year so we get to spend more time exploring and enjoying all that Lulworth Castle has to offer. Lets hope there’s a good tent sale on somewhere soon.
Tickets for next year’s event are already on pre-order, just visit www.campbestival.net for all the info.