Having dipped our toe or more like our whole body 🌧 in the family festival scene last year at Camp Bestival, this year we journeyed to the other side of the country for Nozstock The Hidden Valley in Hertfordshire, along with 5 thousand other revelers, families and fun seekers.
The History Bit…
We were kindly gifted tickets in return for an honest review and showcase of the Nozworthy’s family festival. The festival started off in Pete’s back garden 21 years ago and kept on growing year after year until Ella, Pete’s daughter decided they should probably get all the relevant paperwork considering there was now thousands of people in attendance. The lovely thing is that even though they reached sell out capacity during the weekend it still felt very friendly, safe and personal.
One Big Happy Family
The festival may seem small in comparison to others but that’s half the charm of Nozstock The Hidden Valley. It’s ‘homemade’, rustic, atmospheric and full of fun. Everywhere you look young festival-goers and families are happily playing and partying together with smiles as wide as the valleys we drove through to get there.
This environmentally friendly festival is fully committed to improving its green credentials every year and this ethos was well considered and delivered across the whole festival in a way that was easy to achieve without it being too preachy.
From start to finish we were made to feel special and really well looked after. @rocknrollerbaby thought initially it might be because of our review but after talking to some seasoned Nozstock regulars it was clear that this is how everyone was treated. It was like being at one big family party (without the arguments). With everyone looking out for everyone else ensuring we all had the best time possible. When my trolley started to fly solo downhill (without the kids inside) I panicked as a day-glow youth grabbed the handle, but before I could yell “stop you hooligan” he’d returned it to my side and even threw Wilba a cheeky smile.
Nozstock The Hidden Valley
To make this easy, I’m going to break the weekend down into bite-size chunks of festival goodness and throw in a few top tips to make your stay even more splendid if it’s your first time.
Camping and Facilities
The weekend ticket price includes camping in the main campsites, but there’s also a family camping option which is a bit quieter. That’s quieter, not silent as you can clearly still hear the main stage lat on in the evenings. There’s no additional cost for family camping and the camp area comes equipped with a kids’ play area, child-sized ‘compost’ toilets which were perfect for Wilba, baby change facilities with spare toiletries and sun cream, a nearby cafe/crêpe stand and within a stones-throw of the showers. After a full-on day inside the festival my kids easily slept through the evening headliners but ear-defenders are a must for little ears the closer you get to each stage. Ear-plugs can be bought from the festival store should you forget.
For an extra layer of camping luxury you can hire yourself a Bell Tent from Zoo Bells. They helped us out when one of our pre-pitched tents started leaking and they were fabulous.
Camper vans, caravans and converted Transits have their own ‘Van Haven’ area and there’s room for ‘live-in’ vehicles in the family area too.
As a camper you can cook and drink your own food and alcohol within the campsites but remember no glass! They’re cow fields after all. If you do forget anything there’s a little camp shop on site for all the essentials.
Across the site you were never short of a toilet. The portaloo’s were clean and I never found one without a loo roll. At ‘Loo-tropolis’ you can find extras like wet wipes sun tan lotion and sanitary products, all available from an honesty shelf. what a great touch!
Music and Activities
There’s 11 stages and a varied programme of music, comedy, cinema, traditional crafts and stall sellers. Plus so much for the kids to make and do in Little Wonderland with free activities on all weekend. Make sure you take a picture of the itinerary so not to miss out on something.
There was so much to do, my two especially enjoyed making clay sculptures and willow-weaving a wand. Wilba had a go at beat-boxing, badge making and loved the free eco-friendly glitter face painting. The Boy had fun with the ball games, made a lantern (which included a battery tealight) and jumped around with other kids playing musical statues.
Fun Around Every Corner
You’ve got to be careful not to miss anything at Nozstock The Hidden Valley, as there’s entrances and walkways to the various areas behind every corner. With some more obvious than others. The Altered State area was completely solar powered with a Juice Bar that makes smoothies using peddle-power.
There’s a folk stage and more traditional arts and crafts going on. The kids made Wizard of Oz masks and whittled wooden mushroom decorations that look great in my living room. There was also time for some 1940’s dancing and a go or two on the coconut shy!
Our favourite stages were The Coppice, an ultraviolet trance wonderland in the trees, The Cabinet of Lost Secrets where we twirled to the Cambridge-based swing band ‘Year of The Dog‘. The kids enjoyed entering through a secret door into a mirror maze and were entertained by the lion staff most of the evening.
The Elephant’s Grave was a hit for the younger crowd. We enjoyed the acts on the Garden Stage and it had been incredibly designed to replicate Dorothy’s windswept home. The Main Orchard Stage was an impressive Emerald Kingdom castle and the Wizard of Noz looked on as we delighted in the Elvis fronted Nirvana tribute ‘Elvana’ (even though I did need to cover the kids’ ears a couple of times).
The headline DJ set by Rudimental had me and my mate @carolynne running through the crowd to the front to jump around like loonies as they sampled tracks like Gala’s ‘Free From Desire’. I still think it says “trumbelese”. Sadly we didn’t stay for the fireworks or Big Tower Bonfire on Sunday and missed out on Soul to Soul as work was calling. Even with the 5-hour drive home I would gladly do it all again for such an awesome weekend of memories. Maybe next year work can wait???
As I’ve said, there are 11 different stages with each one covering a different style or genre so there’s definitely something for everyone. What’s really great is that there nicely spread out so if hardcore rave really isn’t your thing then it doesn’t have to be.
Food and Drink
The food on offer is fantastic. We must have had at least three pizzas during our stay which were £10 but made-to-order and delicious. They easily fed us all with a side of indulgent chips from Pimp my Chips. Cosy Rosie’s was a warm welcome after a night in the wet. The vintage lorry with traditional board games was a hit with the kids as we drank our coffee before enjoying the best crepes in the world. I had the strawberry chocolate and mascappone.
There was lots of vegan and vegetarian options dotted about and most catered for food allergies. It was nice to see that all the packaging and cutlery followed the eco focus of the festival. Booze was a bargain with pints at just 4 quid in your £1 re-usable plastic festival cup. Wye Valley Brewery had also produced a specially commissioned Wizard of Noz brew!
Super Early Bird tickets for 2020 are available now and start from just £100 for the weekend with under 12’s going FREE! Over the three or four days it’s not much at all. And cheaper than some others considering all the free activities on offer free. If you’re taking the kids you really are quids in with this one.
Don’t Miss Out
The festival sold out by the Saturday so don’t delay as this festival continues to grow year on year. Car parking is £15 extra but they do run a free shuttle bus from the nearby town. Quick Tip… If you do take your car, remember to fill out the supplied info sheet to leave on your dashboard. A car parked near us had left its lights on but without the sheet listing their phone number we can only hope they found out before they needed to leave.
The dates to remember are Thursday 23 – Sunday 26th July 2020.
Nozstock The Hidden Valley Top Tips
Showers are £3 but they will let you in with your kids at no extra cost and open until 8pm. The shower unit only had 8 cubicles but they only really got busy on Sunday morning. Most of the other time there was barely a queue.
You were actively encouraged to stay hydrated and water stations could be found everywhere. There was even a troop of water-bearers carrying H2O around the festival site just in case. So don’t forget your water bottle or pick up a fresh new Nozstock branded bottle from the stores. We’ve got ours ready for next year!
There are cash points on the way in but there is a small charge for withdrawals as you’d expect. There’s FREE WiFi across the site and pretty good 3G/4G phone reception so most stalls will let you pay by card.
Forgot your sun cream, female products or even your nappies? Don’t panic! There’s a baby change table in family camping that’s well stocked and the for-mentioned Lootropolis (near the hill in between the Coppice and Elephants Grave) has it covered.
The general car park is at the bottom of the hill (my only quibble with families in tow) so if you have a family and can separate it’s worth dropping one member off at the top with your load and small children and dividing and conquering.
Why haven’t you booked yet? I honestly cannot say anymore about Nozstock The Hidden Valley apart from I’ll see you on the farm next year!
Thanks to Damo, the staff, the volunteers, and all the Nozworthy’s for making us feel part of your extended family for this truly epic weekend.
We were gifted our tickets but as always the words here are my own.