This was the third Into the Trees for my family. We absolutely adore this perfectly chilled out little festival because it just seems to get everything right. As in previous years, we chose to visit for one day rather than the whole weekend.
Once again, we wished we had camped for the entire festival. The setting in Ashdown Forest is truly idyllic, and whilst there are easily enough activities to keep a family busy for three days, it is simply a gorgeous place to camp.
Into The Trees actively encourages families to enjoy, explore and respect our natural environment. The message is such an important one, and delivered in the best possible way, in a beautiful place.
Camping at Into The Trees
I went to explore the campsite as we wish we had spent longer at the festival. We will certainly consider this for next year. Campers never had more than a couple of minutes walk from their car to their tent as the site was small, and the car park was right next to the campsite.
Camping was in a field right next to a clearing in the woods, so children had a wonderful area to play in without going far from their tents.
The showers were free of charge, and the chemical toilets were kept clean and well stocked. Guests that were camping were exclusively invited to attend the camp fire along with a star gazing session hosted by the Seven Sisters Astronomical Society.
The first thing we did and what we were most looking forward to was having a game of Disc Golf. It is basically golf but with frisbees, and net buckets instead of greens and holes. We went round the whole course with our score cards, trying to watch how better players threw their discs for hints and tips. (It’s best to keep low!)
Schools Without Walls
Schools Without Walls are a regular activity provider at Into The Trees, and we were pleased to do more with them this time. Into The Trees have many free workshops and play areas, while others need to be booked.
We signed up for the coracle building as soon as we arrived at the festival, and paid the small fee (to cover material costs) of £5. The tuition was excellent, with just the right amount of encouragement and support. The children worked together in a small group, each of them happy to let everyone work at their own pace.
My son isn’t particularly crafty but his efforts paid off when he got to have a ride across the lake in their coracle. At the end, the instructor asked how he had enjoyed it. With a big smile my son replied, “My bum’s wet!”
I saw many families with nets and containers exploring the life in its natural pond habitat. They caught what they could and referred to a collection of pictures and descriptions to investigate what they had found. We didn’t join in this year, but it was very popular and free!
Water Geeks on Tap
South East Water provided an activity with Schools Without Walls which involved connecting pipes to create a network to transport water – hopefully with no leaks! This was a lovely opportunity for potential plumbers to put their skills to the test.
There were two ways to get out on the water with the Kayak Coach. Firstly, in one part of the festival, they were giving kayaking lessons. My son had just finished building and sailing his coracle, so instead we chose the more relaxing second option of canoe hire. We donned our helmets and life jackets, and cautiously entered the ‘divorce’ boat, and off we went. However, we neither fell out of the boat nor fell out in it.
The weather and the lake were equally beautiful and as a result we had a wonderful relaxing time. We saw a giant mushroom, loads of lilies and lily pads, and even a kingfisher swooping down for his lunch. The most memorable experience was when a dragonfly landed on my son’s finger.
The Great Big Tree Climbing Company were back for another year sending children up ropes into a tall tree. I have always found this to be an absolutely fantastic set up. To start with, they put the children in the safety harnesses and helmets.
The instructors then explained the technique and sent the little climbers up and on their way. Whilst they supported anyone that needed it, they assisted as little as possible. As a result, the students felt an enormous sense of personal achievement when they got as high as they could.
Build our Own Playground
Woodland Tribe are simply amazing. At the beginning of the festival, they erected the basic framework for the construction. Once the festival was open, they supplied budding builders with wood, nails and tools, and then it was up to the children what they created.
The result was, of course, a large number of very proud families and a fabulous climbing frame. Woodland Tribe also set up a superb zip wire in the woods, which was predictably popular.
If canoeing, tree climbing, zip-wiring and playground building wasn’t enough, there was also archery with the Archers of Herstmonceux, cricket, axe throwing, slacklining and Mountain Boarding. These were all amazing but we just didn’t have time to fit them in.
Arts and Crafts
Into The Trees is a very attractive festival, and clearly has a wonderful creative team behind all the artwork. The woods always look beautiful with all the dreamcatchers and other colourful creations hanging from the trees. Despite all the decoration, it all seems very respectful of the natural environment, rather than an invasion. The beauty grows throughout the festival as children create their own pieces.
As a result, this is one of the few festivals that look even prettier by the end of the weekend. Workshops included lantern making for the parade, pewter casting, natural printing and painting, tie dying, weaving, wood sculpting and weaving. Children were encouraged to appreciate their environment while learning new skills.
There was just so much to do at this little festival, and so many of the activities and workshops were unusual that Into The Trees created a unique opportunity to experience them. Twisting Space had brought along two giant wooden marble runs; there was yoga for children and defrazzling for grown ups; tree listening; story telling and much much more.
Food and Drink
The bar was surprisingly quiet in the afternoon, given that it was also home to the face painting. The staff were friendly and very knowledgeable and great at making suggestions to people like me who can never make up their minds when there is such a great choice. Prices were reasonable and there was a deposit on the plastic cups to discourage single use.
Foodwise, there was plenty on offer for every diet and taste, with smaller options available for children. I loved my curry from Manjula. Other food outlets were pizzas, pastas and barbequed meats. For treats, we could choose from icecreams, waffles on sticks and mini Dutch pancakes.
There were plenty of toilets around the festival that were kept clean and well stocked. Each block included an accessible toilet.
Into The Trees is a wonderful and beautiful festival to finish off the season. The picturesque site in the Ashdown Forest is a perfect location for this lovely little weekend of family fun and relaxation. Everyone is so friendly and refreshingly respectful of their surroundings. We had a great day and will be back for a fabulous weekend in 2020.