Elderflower Fields continues to get better and better – a truly magical woodland adventure.
We have been massively excited in the run up to Elderflower Fields this year as it always feels like the start of summer. Last year’s weather was a bit amiss so we decided to go all out and hire a motor home. Typically, the run up to the festival this year predicted the first May heat wave! We have been to Elderflower Fields before but it seems to be growing and growing in popularity with the festival fully selling out at a 5000 capacity well before the event.
The location of the site is beautiful. It’s nestled in Pippingford Park in the Ashdown Forest. If you are lucky enough to have a camper van (like us this year), you can purchase an extra pass for £40 and drive right in to a huge market out pitch. Otherwise parking is FREE – unusual for festivals these days. Once parked there is a short walk down into the site or the festival provides a golf buggy type bus to transport people and belongings to the campsite. Perfect.
Elderflower Fields bills itself as a family festival which we totally agree with as it felt like 100% families to us. There are a wide variety of things for kids to do, both on their own and with their parents. Little touches like extra things for kids to do by the stages such a swing balls or archery mean parents can relax and take in the music while the kids are happily entertained.
One of the best features of this festival is that nearly all of the activities are free of charge and you simply turn up. This is a great feature as some festivals we have been to before charge for nearly everything which can add a massive chunk to the overall cost of a festival.
We pre-booked 2 more risky activities for our older children (aged 11 and 10) which there was a charge for (£10). One was The Great Big Tree Climbing Co. who get kids right up into the canopy of the trees. A big hit for our 2 girls who had never done anything like that before.
We also managed to get a slot on the mountain boarding on Dragonfly hill which we’d tried to book before but was always ways sold out. (Book early if you want to do these or any of the other extreme activities as they sell out early). This was also loved by all although one of my girls found it a bit hard and preferred the bum boarding option rather than standing up!
Our younger son loved the new addition of The Woodland Tribe in the Urban Woods area. Their team bring a huge amount of wood, nails, hammers and saws and with parent help and support guide the children to build a collective fort of their dreams! Despite what sounds like a health and safety nightmare the children love this freedom and adventure and it was massively popular all weekend. In this same area are rope swings, trees to climb and slack lines. Many children appeared to spend the whole weekend in this beautiful area.
The size of the festival site and the relaxed atmosphere means that we were every comfortable for the kids to wander pretty freely around the festival. This gave them a great sense of freedom and us some freedom too!! Our eldest tried a go at high wire slack lining which there was a long wait for but really worth it.
Even though it’s great to let the kids wander about on their own, we really enjoyed spending time walking about the festival with them. We explored the art trail, which is run by Schools Without Walls and had some really creative installations from local schools.
There was also a variety of talks put on by The Wildlife Trust as well as local experts and eco system enthusiasts. All things over and above the usual festival fare and fantastic to have in one location which we could explore together as a family. At the entrance to the art trail was a creative and fun mud kitchen from Holmes Wood Play which the small children were loving making cakes and getting totally dirty!
My kids have asked us to make a special mention of the magician Mr Marvel. They were wandering the festival and found his stall by the arts and crafts centre. All of them were held enraptured by his slight of hand and close up magic! They could not stop talking about him for the rest of the festival!
Although many of the activities at Elderflower Fields are aimed at children there were a number of things adults could get stuck in to. Sewing and craft workshops, nature hunts, yoga, treatments at the Woodland Spa. Also the wonderful woodfired hot tub and sauna which I took full advance of this while the kids went mountain boarding with their dad.
Food and Drink
Like many festivals these days the food was incredible, however this festival seems to go further. It’s organised by the So Sussex crew who seem to make a real effort to keep food vendors and the bar products as local as possible. Some of our family favourites were ‘Waffle on a Stick’; Ollies Fish Shack for the best fish and chips and the Woodland Cafe and Pizza serving the best pizza.
Most of the vendors do half price kids options which means much better value and less wastage. The highlight of the whole weekend is the So Sussex Sunday picnic. You need to club together with friends old or new and gather 12 picnic bands, you then get a delicious bag full of local delights which you can share together while listening to lovely music on the main stage. Our favourite picnic nibbles were Sussex Charmer Cheese from Bookham Fine Foods, Salmon Pate Veasey and Sons Fishmongers, and of course, The So Sussex Chocolate cake. Yum! The picnic is a great touch and makes Elderflower Fields that extra special small festival.
Another great addition this year was the Campfire Cookout. This woodland venue provided a space for local food and drink producers to give demonstrations and talks about their products. My husband attended the brewing demonstration run by local brewers Lost + Found. It was a fun and informative demonstration of how craft ale is brewed to produce the distinctive flavours of their various ales. The cherry on top was the tasting session after the demonstration!
Our only criticism of the festival are queues but you can avoid them. It is worth planning when and where you want to eat before the kids get hungry as there is often a wait at meal times. We also waited for an hour to go on the climbing wall and the high wires, and the face painting queue was ridiculous all weekend.
This weekend has never billed itself as a music festival, however, we have always really enjoyed the variety and style of music provided. There are two main venues, the open Dragonfly Stage and the hidden Woodland Stage aswell as a cocktail bar with DJ’s. The Magic Numbers played a surprise headline gig on Saturday night and it was great seeing everyone dance about to their hits. They also had some fabulous music on Sunday whilst families tucked in to their picnics. The Woodland Stage featured some great acoustic music including also Ben Ottewell from Gomez. Other acts we enjoyed were the Moulettes and Holy Moly and the Crackers.
Elderflower Fields continues to get better and better. I’ve nearly forgotten to mention the eco credentials; this year banning all sales of bottled water and also only allowing reusable plastic cups at the bar. These simple initiatives reduce so much wastage and help the site remain beautiful and clean. We left a totally spotless campsite which is a rare site at festivals these days. They even invite The Real Junk Food Project on site to reclaim any unwanted food from catering vendors.
Although we’ve only been back a couple of days I hear all the super early bird tickets have almost gone. We will be buying ours quick. Elderflower Fields is a truly great little weekend. Set in such a stunning and picturesque estate, parents can’t help but relax, and the extra little details set it above many other family festivals.
Maybe see you all next year! Visit the Elderflower Fields factsheet.
Kate and family