3 years after its last outing, Festival Kidz were delighted to return to the stunning Piercefield park on the Wales/England border. So with car packed and sun hats adorned, Adam and family attended their first Green Gathering to check out why this award winning, eco-conscious, festival was consistently praised among the festival masses.
This will be the 4th time Festival Kidz have attended Green Gathering; please also read the reviews from 2014 , 2015 and 2019 as they cover much of the details that have remained the same or similar. This review will diary our highlights from the weekend.
Location and Camping
We live in Mid-Wales so getting to Chepstow Racecourse was just over an hour for us, but the location is perfect for lots of folks as it’s right by the M4. As we were staying in the caravan field next to the campervan area we had to park in a holding area and then queue for our wristbands. This seemed a little different to the usual campervan process at festivals, where you are wristbanded in the vehicle on the way into the field but I assume it stops traffic from backing up onto the roads.
Foot passengers park in the racecourse carpark where another box office is to collect wristbands, then catch a shuttle bus to the entrance to the festival site.
After unhitching our home for the weekend the steward advised us that the car also needed to be parked in the carpark. So I headed off and got a ride on the shuttle bus back myself with the foot passengers. These buses ran regularly all throughout the weekend and every so often one would also swing down to the train station in Chepstow.
The campervan and caravan area was on a gentle slope inside the actual racecourse and the festival was accessed via a very short walk up to and over a walkway across the course. Tent campers were scattered about inside the festival site itself amongst the rolling hills and small wooded areas, with dedicated family and quiet camping areas included. All in all the campsites were well provisioned, with toilets, bins and water points all well placed.
I had a look around the assisted access campsite which was situated centrally inside the festival on a large flat area, providing immediate access to the festival itself for those camped there. They had showers, disabled access compost loos, a welfare tent and access to a sign language interpreter.
Around the site
Thursday was a settling in day with a few venues playing music and food vendors/bars open, great for having a look around to get our bearings before it got too busy, and on Friday the festival started in full.
We were pleasantly surprised by the site’s large footprint, but the use of space was good, with the majority of venues, bars and vendors set around the ‘rim’ of a large greenspace natural bowl meaning everything was only a short well pathed walk away but with wonderful views over the severn estuary.
There were distinct areas setup – the village green, the permaculture woods, the healing field, the craft ‘island’ and the campaigns field amongst others.
It was a very hot, dry weekend and there was lots of welcome shade in the woods around the edges of the site. One little copse contained the 3.5% bar, which we only explored on the Sunday. They had a dj both playing reggae and dub, loads of trees for the kids to play in, and lots of seating dotted around to chill out under the dappled light. Had we have found this earlier in the weekend we would have spent much more time chilling here, its was lovely.
Litter was non existent throughout the whole weekend at any point as the attendees never had to walk far for a bin. By which there were a dozen or so large bags to sort your waste for easy recycling, toilets were mostly composting loos and were always clean and topped up with paper. There was also a ‘moon toilet’ for ladies who needed extra facilities for periods which is great to see. Certainly one of the cleanest and tidiest festival sites we’ve ever seen! We also never had to walk far to top up water with taps dotted around each area.
The kids’ area was a shaded clearing just off the village green and contained a number of tented activity areas. A craft area, a big top tent, a face painting tent, a nature play tent, a willow weaving area, kids only compost loos, a swap shop where people could swap items for new treasures like clothing, books and games. Kids seemed to love rummaging through the tubs looking for new things to play with, and grown ups flipped through the clothing rails, this was a great idea to help reduce waste.
There was always something free to do throughout the day and the schedule of activities for each tent was on the chalk boards next to the tents. We enjoyed learning how to make clay pots and bowls while watching the little ones make music in the little big top.
We also enjoyed watching the performance from Professor Chaos who had a huge contraption in the centre of the area constructed from recycled materials. He told the story of how a voice told him to make it to find the answer to everything and over the course of an hour he told jokes, created chaos and taught kids the importance of being sustainable and reducing our impact on the earth. It was a lovely message, well delivered to a huge crowd of families.
The Permaculture woods also had forest school play sessions with mud cooking, hammock swinging and Nature Mandala making, though we didn’t partake in these.
For Teens there was a great Teen space setup, away from the kids area on the other side of the village green. They also had a huge range of activities here, again all free. I stopped by and watched for a while to see archery, yoga, circus skills, open mic and aerial hoop all being enjoyed by a few dozen teens, it really looked a great space.
At the end of each day from 6pm there was family cabaret in The Raconteurs’ Delight big top tent which we all enjoyed while eating our dinner. We watched bubble magic, vocal olympics and learned how to make a saw sing!
With our boys being 8 and 11 some of the kids area activities were a bit young for them and being too young for the teen area we were glad of the many different craft stalls offering workshops either for free, small donation or by booking onto a payable course. There was an amazing range of things on offer here and you really could spend the entire weekend crafting and learning new skills. Woodwork, blacksmithing, stone carving, textile work, ceramics, weaving, leather tanning, painting and life drawing the list was almost endless. We took part in stone carving, pebble painting, sketching and slate pendant making – all for only a few pounds which were optional donations to the stall holders who were all amazingly friendly and generous with their time.
The campaign field was full of good causes looking to make positive changes to the world with people ready to chat, engage and educate all ages. They also had a large speakers forum tent offering talks on all sorts of subjects from activism, equality and sustainability. In the evening they showed short films and had the film creators on hand to answer questions. The Radical Family tent had a great itinerary of entertainment, crafts and games for children from 9am – 5pm and telescopes astronomy after dark! We loved looking at the craters on the surface of the moon.
We took a stroll through the healing field one afternoon and looked in on the numerous massages, palm readers, yoga instructors and therapists on offer. It was a lovely calm space with beautiful natural art in the centre of the circle of yurts, tipis and geodomes. There was a daily programme of free workshops here also with Yoga, Gong Baths, Tai chi, Dance, Singing and lots of other wellbeing activities.
At night the site came alive with colour with projections on the ruined mansion that overlooks the site, lit trees, lit sculptures in the forest, firepits sprung to life and we randomly stumbled into a silent disco while taking a short cut across the lawn one night much to the kids enjoyment.
By far the favourite free activity our youngest son enjoyed was ‘Moth Spotting’. After dark at the far edge of the site, near the reggae bar, a bright light was setup over a white groundsheet and a crowd gathered while knowledgeable Lepidopterists (Moth experts) were on hand to identify moths and educate us all in the ways of this nocturnal animal. Well worth staying up after bedtime for.
Food and Drink
The food at Green Gathering is veggie/vegan only with minimal dairy also onsite. Most stalls request you use your own plate and cutlery too. Or you can put a £1 deposit down to borrow a set and return it afterwards, which was a great idea to cut single use items down.
There was a wide variety of global tastes accounted for with Sri Lankan, Indian, Mexican, Italian and much more in between. Our boys mostly survived on Pizzas from a great little pizza stall near the main stage serving fresh kids 6″ pizzas for only £5. Other favourites were the pancakes and Dad had a different plate of curry each night. Those with tastebuds wanting less exotic flavours may struggle to find simple dishes here but we did spot a stall doing jacket potatoes and the Monmouth Bakery stall was always piled high will delicious breads, pies, cakes and buns with long queues spotted all weekend.
The other vendor with massive queues all weekend – as it was a scorcher – unsurprisingly was Iced Green a vegan ‘ice-cream’ truck serving oat milk ‘ice-cream’ in amazing flavours like Apple Crumble, Rhubarb and Custard, Mango Lime and Coconut. We had one every day as a treat!
There were a plethora or bars across the site serving mostly locally sourced beers, ales, meads and ciders – again, a reusable drinking vessel was required here, or you could put down a deposit on a funky reusable pint cup.
Final thoughts on Green Gathering
I realise I haven’t even touched on Music in this review. Green Gathering had curated a fantastic line up of musicians from multiple genres with festival favourites like 3 Daft Monkeys, Funke and the two tone Baby, Benjamin Yellowitz and Holy Moly & the Crackers to name a few. This isn’t by any means just a music festival so while we did pop to sit and listen to a few bands over the weekend they were more a beautiful background soundtrack while the kids rolled in the grass or sat reading books.
The crowd who attend Green Gathering and the crew make it feel like one big family community, with everyone complimenting each other on outfits and smiling at each other. Spontaneous song broke out around every campfire or randomly placed piano and everyone was considerate of their impact on the people and environment around them.
Overall we really enjoyed our first visit to Green Gathering, There was so much to do and get engaged in if you want to, but we found it was a perfect opportunity to experience a slower pace of festival life. So often at festivals with kids you are dashing from one venue to another trying to cram in all the sights. Once we got in the mindset that this wasn’t that type of festival we really enjoyed being able to relax and chill out together as a family in a beautiful location while dipping in and out of new experiences when we felt like it.
Thank you Green Gathering for showing us that festivals can be clean, relaxing, entertaining, educational, inspirational and most of all sustainable.
Tickets for 2023 will be released in due course so keep an eye on the Green Gathering Website
Take a look at the Festival Kids Green Gathering Fact sheet for more information too.