When I heard that Wood Festival had sold out for the first time ever, I was really happy for the small team of hardworking organisers. My only concern was whether the intimate, spacious little festival would be able to cope and be just as fantastic as last year at maximum capacity?
I needn’t have worried. The camp site was definitely a lot busier but other than that, there were very few negative signs of the extra people.
Arrival and set-up
We arrived at about 6 p.m. on the Friday and we did find it surprising how many tents were already up. Last year we had our pick of the field and tents were very spread out. This year, although nowhere near the jam-packed level of Glastonbury, we found it tricky to find space together for us and the two families we went with.
We managed, but if you want to camp with other families, I’d recommend getting there as early as possible.
The 10 minute trek between the carpark and camping field is a bit annoying, given how small the festival is. But it’s hard to see how this could be overcome and so we made the best of the four trips there and back. I’ve given up trying to pretend I can reduce our festival load these days and just accept it.
When it takes a long time to set up and you know you are going to be doing the same in reverse in less than 48 hours, you need a lot of good down-time inbetween to make up for it. We definitely found that at Wood.
The camp site and facilities
The camp site, although busier, was just as lovely as last year and pretty much spills into the main festival site, so once you’re set up it’s so easy to move around. Nipping back to the tent is exactly that, and never feels like a mission.
The compost toilets were a hit again, and both my children (aged ten and six) prefer them hands-down to portable chemical loos. So do us adults!
At the beautiful handwashing stations, it was lovely to find a constant supply of ethical soap-on-a-rope. It’s a real luxury to wash your hands with running water and lovely smelly stuff at a festival.
The toilets did run out of sawdust a few times this year and, very occasionally, loo roll, but it was never long before they were replenished. They stayed in good condition over the weekend.
I didn’t try the wood-fired showers last year, but they looked so inviting, smoke billowing out from the stove that powered them, I had to give them a go this time.
I ended up having a shower both mornings and there was pretty much nothing resembling a queue. They were absolutely lovely. The structures are gorgeous and well thought out, and each private cubicle has hooks and a small bench / changing area.
On the first day, the temperature was consistently wonderfully hot, but on the second, I found it really hard to get the it right. It was either boiling or freezing. Still, it was a rare treat as I mostly can’t be bothered to shower at festivals.
I even managed to throw the children in one day and they enjoyed showering in the open air. As much as kids ever enjoy showering anyway!
The festival site
The main site was laid out very similarly to last year, with one area mainly for the workshops, bar and second stage (all which take place within yurts and tipis), the healing area and then the main Wood stage, which is outside. Food and goods stalls line the two sides of the main stage.
It is easy to get around the site and you could walk around the whole thing in around five minutes.
Nothing felt crowded, although at times there were slightly longer queues for the toilets this year. To put this into perspective, I don’t remember waiting more than about five minutes for one.
The Giant Redwood was a beautiful addition at the top of the camping field. A stunning wooden, double pyramid-style structure that rose up above the tents, it was a lovely space to partake in workshops or just relax inbetween.
The Vaults and Garden Cafe provided a great space to chill, and for when the weather took a turn for the worse. But it’s easy to hide yourself away somewhere dry at Wood.
Because there are so many yurts hosting amazing activities, there is always something to do under cover.
This year, I was determined to cram in as many of Wood’s wonderful workshops as possible. I love the fact that, as well as a wealth of children’s activities, there are interesting things for adults to partake in all day long. Children are not excluded from any of these, and welcome to join in as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
This worked really well for us, as we were able to be involved in some great workshops that entertained all four of us.
We loved waking up to Qigong sessions which opened up our bodies and minds for the day ahead.
The drama improvisations were a major hit and all four of us braved them together. They were great fun and very inclusive. The children have been telling everyone they know about the time Daddy had to talk like Donald Trump for two minutes on the subject of football! My ten-year-old has decided she wants to be an actress off the back of these workshops.
She and I also took part in the creative writing workshop and we absolutely loved it. We did some stream of consciousness writing and some descriptive work where we wandered the festival site for inspiration. We finished off with a really fun collaborative storytelling exercise. It was a two-hour class but it whizzed by.
We both vounteered to read out our work to the others (that was completely optional). Taking part in the drama improvisation and reading out my written work were both things that required bravery on my part, and so felt like huge achievements. They were lovely moments to share with the children and we all felt very proud of ourselves.
The expressive drawing class was another relaxing experience. It was interesting to see my six-year-old completely stuck when he was told he could paint any marks at all that he wanted to represent a person.
He spent the first ten minutes asking, “Can I make stripes, Mummy?”; “Can I do dots?”; “Can I do circles like this?”, seemingly unable to process the idea that, unlike in school, there were no rules, only expression.
When they settled into the flow, it was lovely to see the liberation that it afforded the children. And while I can say with safety that my finished piece will not be adorning any galleries any time soon, it was a very enjoyable and eye-opening experience.
We also did the reflexology session as a family and the children enjoyed having their feet played with and working on Mum and Dad’s feet. We learnt some great tips for how to use reflexology at home for all the family.
My husband and daughter were keen to take part in the ‘Introduction to Shamanic Journeying’, although my daughter left before the end and my husband fell asleep! So neither managed to ‘climb the ladder’ or meet their spirit animal as the others all did.
I think I’ll try it next year as I heard rave reviews about it from others. However, I was entertaining our younger child at that point who didn’t fancy sitting still when there was a football to be kicked around!
My youngest would have been happy kicking a ball around all day long, despite the amazing activities on offer. He loved having our friends’ children to play with and, through the universal language of football, made lots of new friends over the weekend.
In fact, he burst into tears on the Sunday evening when we had to pull him away from his new friends to go home. One of the joys of Wood is that, because it’s so small and the people so friendly and easy-going, the children can pretty much have the run of the site. Everyone just seems to fit alongside each other so well.
People can be engrossed in a band while children run around playing tag or with a ball. And all the while the communal fire glows.
But for my older child, who needs more than a ball to stimulate her, there were a wealth of activities to entertain her over the weekend.
As well as joining in with us in the sessions already mentioned, she wove sheep wool into a piece of rope that she hung from her belt loop. She did a screen-printing session where she made some lovely cards, and also built dens in the woods.
There was so much to do, we could never have fitted it all in. Just a few of the other activities specifically aimed at children were a Spanish singalong, musical carrot making, baby yoga, edible bouquets and nature weaving. There were also workshops aimed at older children and teens, such as poetry writing for 10-16 year-olds and a teenage mindfulness class.
We often go to festivals as a family by ourselves, and so it was a real treat to have two other families with us this time. It meant we could swap around children and one parent could take a couple of them to do a craft activity, while another took others to the woodland park, and another could be chilling with tired kids back at the tent.
We didn’t watch very much music at all this year. I’m sure it’s obvious from the above account of all the workshops we involved ourselves in why that was. We thoroughly enjoyed what we did see, though.
The Magic Numbers were a great headliner for the Saturday night. They’re always a good festival band, who, as well as playing some lovely new material that went down well, certainly never show any signs of being bored by gratifying the crowd with their more familiar numbers. They seemed to really enjoy the set and got the crowd dancing.
Our other favourite was The CC Smugglers, headlining on the Sunday. A renowned festival band who we haven’t caught before, their folksy bluegrass Americana was just the ticket to get everyone up on their feet. Lead singer Richie Prynn jumped and jerked around the stage, grinning and encouraging the crowd to join in. They were great fun.
The food at Wood is of a good standard, but not hugely varied. There was pizza, fancy burgers and chips, the yummy Taste Tibet curries and the Vaults and Garden Cafe, as well as Shepherds Ice cream and a hot drinks van.
We ate almost exlusively from Taste Tibet and Vaults and Garden and our food was always lovely, but the caterers did seem to struggle with getting their stock accurate this year.
I had a Thai vegetable and tofu curry from Vaults and Garden the first night and my husband and daughter had the vegetable lasagana. The next day the menu was the same, but by the time we went to eat, the lasagna had sold out and my curry must have been right near the end as I only had one piece of tofu in the whole thing! On the Sunday, they had sold out of their vegetarian options by 7 p.m.
Similarly, we loved the Tibetan curries from Taste Tibet (in fact, my six-year-old wolfed down his spinach and chickpea curry happily every day). But again, there were problems with supply. On both the Saturday and the Sunday, I wanted the three vegeterian curry mix for £8, but the same two curries had sold out both days, so I was left with just the spinach and chickpea curry with dahl.
It was nice, just a shame to not be able to have a bit more variety. Hopefully the caterers will learn from this year and get their stock better for next year, although I would love to see a couple of extra food caterers added as well. My family would love the addition of a pie place, some Indian curries and a juice or smoothie bar. Of course, this might prove simply untenable given the size of the festival.
Our children are not fussy eaters and they loved the food, but our friends’ daughter struggled by on chips and rice for the weekend. Some more traditionally kid-friendly food like bowls of pasta would also be good.
Despite the supply issues, considering Wood is so small, as a gluten-intolerant vegetarian, it was fantastic that there were tasty things available for me to eat each day. Food is reasonably priced, between £6 – £10 for a main meal. Drinks were £4 a pint plus £1 for a reusable Wood souvenir cup.
Wood really shines when it comes to its environmental impact. A love and understanding of the immediate surroundings and indeed the world as a whole is evident throughout every aspect of the festival.
It boasts 100% reusable energy, which is very impressive. There’s the solar-powered stage with its living roof, the wood-fired showers and compost toilets. Recycling is available throughout the site and heartily encouraged (although different bags for sorting rubbish at the tent would have been useful).
Many of the talks and workshops featured explored environmental themes, such as the ‘How to Live and Love the Wild’ talk and the ‘Sensing Nature’ and ‘DIY Wormeries and Upside Down Tomatoes’ workshops.
Each year Wood has a featured animal that is present in its environment and this year it was The Year of the Hedgehog. ‘Hedgehog Crafts’ and ‘Crochet a Hedgehog’ were just two of the on-theme workshops available.
It’s lovely to be at a festival where the organisers are not only aware of the impact made on the immediate enviroment, but aim to promote the beautiful surroundings and encourage everyone to live in harmony within them over the weekend.
It’s obvious that another aim is for people to take home new skills and information to make them both happier and more in tune with the natural world.
Would we recommend Wood?
Absolutely! It’s a charming, tiny little festival with a wealth of amazing activities for all the family. If you like your festivals laid-back and interesting, green, clean and inclusive, you can’t go far wrong with Wood.
We learned a wealth of skills over the course of the festival and all four of us came back feeling relaxed and proud of our achievements. We’re already looking forward to next year!
Review by Kyla Mills, age 10
Wood Fest was yet again the best ever festival. It was AWESOME! I loved it!
The compost toilets were great – as always – and by far preferable to chemical toilets. This year, I didn’t make any friends as we had other friends coming. I did lots of different activities with them. I did plenty of workshops, such as drama improvisation, creative writing, weaving, den building and drawing. My favourite was the drama improvisation because it was lots of fun and we had to act out scenes on the spot. I got two glitter tattoos. We also watched some bands. My favourites were the Magic Numbers and the CC Smugglers as they were so entertaining and got everyone on their feet.
It was FAB! I would LOVE to go back next year!