Music and adventure in the woods…
23 – 26 May 2014
Review by Nikki Payne
If you have young children, who love a bit of adventure, outdoors, and want to be kept busy then this is a festival for them. If, as a parent, you are happy to spend most of the day watching and helping your children do stuff, hoping that by the evening they’ll be tired and satisfied enough to enable you to indulge in a fair amount of band watching, whilst they curl up beside you, then this is the festival for you too. Elderflower is designed for families with some lovely thoughtful touches like the communal free picnic on Sunday afternoon.
Our family highlights were the Night Jar walk, tree climbing with Climbing Wild and the Woodland Stage on Sunday evening.
The children’s activities programme is an integral part of Elderflower festival– running most of the day. Lots to do from art workshops, music lessons, woodcraft skills, nature walks and sports camp, with super friendly people, but make sure you book in advance. Many of the activities that you don’t book are very physical, including climbing, skate boarding and slacklining. All seem possible from the age of five up (if you were bold and agile). For the youngest children there is a dedicated under fives creative play area, regular storytelling and interactive performances, as well as the cinema, nature walks and Circle of Life woodland workshops open to all ages. No one under the age of ten could claim to have nothing to do as the woodland setting alone promised endless adventure potential.
Top tip: Book art & sports clubs online before you go. And then go to Festival HQ as soon as you arrive (having got your wristbands) and find out exactly what activities are on, at what time, and how you book otherwise you’ll miss out on lots of things to do. All bookable activities were fully booked by 12 noon on Saturday.
We have to confess to not having heard of any of the musicians before we went, many of whom were very local to the festival, although we are now avid fans of Miserable Rich, and Meow Meows (daughter’s favourite). Much of the music was folky or big band in feel. There were two stages, one near the food stalls, enticing you to sit, eat and chill until 10pm. The other stage, hidden in the woods, was more intimate, memorable (for us), went on later and was quite magical at night.
Many families arrived with an impressive array of kit and so naturally cooked much of their own food at the campsite. We didn’t and enjoyed hog roast, curry, falafels, pizza and twisted chips. Roughly £6.00 a head a meal. Fabulous free communal picnic on Sunday celebrating local produce and bringing people together – great idea, well organised.
For the first time, Elderflower was held in Ashdown Forest on a hilly clearing descending into woodland, with beautiful views and a variety of terrains, some quite challenging for trolleys and prams once the ground became sodden (which of course it did as the rain fell steadily on Saturday). You could be with hordes one moment, alone in with the ferns another.
We put our tent up first before getting the bands. We were given, by very smiley people, two water bottles, two bin bags (recycling waste, and non), picnic invites and a delicious glass of elderflower (alcoholic or non). It would have been VERY helpful if we’d been given a guide to what’s on or at the very least encouraged to visit Festival HQ to find out what’s on and how to book onto activities.
There was very little direction about where to camp. Most people could camp no more than a ten minute walk from their car but as the terrain was so hilly with long grass we were thankful for our wheelbarrow. The majority of the family camping was on a hill, at the top the great views compensated for a sloping tent and uneven site, lower down the hill was flatter ground and you were closer to the loos. Camper vans parked at top of site, intermingled with tents and awnings. The glamping site was elsewhere on flatter ground, largely comprising of bell tents, located near the woodland stage, in easy access of a great café and late night bar.
Loos were chemical. Largely the standard single toilets with hand gel, with some stand alone trailers and running water. Considering the amount of mud, they weren’t too bad although loo roll supplies were a bit hit and miss. The outdoor hand washing stations were great with a plentiful supply of soap – although we were surprised to see people merrily washing their crockery next to people washing their hands (couldn’t do it without a bowl!) Queues manageable. Showers, in trailers, not plentiful but we didn’t see queues.
There were genuine attempts at facilitating recycling but many festival-goers let organisers down judging by the indiscriminate rubbish in bins.
Disabled parking was available towards the centre of the festival site, and two accessible toilets as far as we could see. The hilly and muddy site looked difficult to navigate in a wheelchair though.
2014 Prices: Adult Weekend £105; Child (5-16) Weekend £50, Under 5 Weekend £0 all plus booking fee. Early bird prices cheaper.
For more information see our Elderflower Fields factsheet here.