Valley Fest was one of the most perfect family friendly festivals I’ve ever been to. It had everything – a beautiful setting, loads of activities, great music for adults, a friendly vibe, excellent organisation and the most lovely stewards you will ever meet. It’s difficult to find anything about it we didn’t like, except possibly that it’s too short – one more day please!
From the moment we arrived we were made to feel welcome. The stewards were so friendly and helpful, it made such a difference to the surly security guards we often meet. We had entered the wrong gate so they allowed us to drive in and go back for our wristbands at the front gate.
The way from the car park to the front gate was a 20 minute walk or, so much better, a 5 minute tractor ride! The children were given vouchers for free ice cream and then we jumped on the tractor to the campground. From there it was a very short walk to the campsite.
The campsite was beautiful – lush grass, wonderful views, and proper toilets which were kept completely clean, with paper, soap and hand-washing water all weekend. I can’t remember the last time we had this at a festival, it’s very rare and a welcome luxury especially for the children!
It was also great to see marked out fire lanes and proper fire points. Security was always present so it felt safe but very laid back. Everything was perfectly organised.
Food and Drink
Food was 100% organic, which although made it a little more expensive did mean it was all wonderful. Honestly I don’t mind paying a little bit more for food that is wholesome and tasty. It was foodie heaven.
We tried the pizza, the ‘Hippy Chips’ (gorgeous chips!) and the ‘sheep dip’ from Off the Hoof (a heavenly combination of slow roasted lamb roll with a gravy dip), but we could quite happily have eaten there at every meal.
Many of the stalls also had side salads you could order – something usually lacking at festivals. One of the stalls gave out fruit and there was no sweet shop, which was a relief for us as we go to a lot of festivals and it’s hard to say ‘no’ to the constant demand for sugar!
There were lots of options for vegans and vegetarians too, which is always good to see. The Yeo Valley stall sold organic milk, butter and yoghurt (as well as their lovely ice cream) which was great for those of us cooking most of our meals.
The bars served local ale and cider, so although at £4.50 it was a little pricey at least you got a full proper pint instead of a warm can of red stripe!
The Community Farm
The festival was set on a community farm which is open throughout the year and well worth a visit on its own. They held a variety of different workshops from the ‘Family Pick and Cook’ for families through to more complex activities such as their Pickling Workshop. We joined them on the farm tour for a history of the farm which was interesting and informative, and the girls loved climbing through all the vegetable tunnels to see it growing.
We also did the apple tree workshop, very interesting for those like me who love gardening; we even got given a just-picked cucumber and a bottle of cider at the end for our efforts! My children wanted to come back to volunteer and were very sad that we live too far away. It was a brilliant way of getting children interested in growing.
Hogsnorts Farm Academy
The farm academy was at the top end of the field, so the children could play with the animals while you could still (just about) watch the main stage, which we appreciated! They had several pens with a variety of cute animals that they could stroke and feed, and lots of demonstrations and talks about the animals. There were also tractors and hay bales to climb over, and was our children’s favourite part of the festival.
There was only one field, which meant that you could watch the Lake Stage while the kids ran around, climbed the tractors or played with the animals.
The Lake Stage was simply spectacular, with a view over the surrounding hills. The sound was clear and the light show wonderful at night. I have seen DJ Yoda many times now but I’ve never seen him given a headliner slot with all the audio visual effects which was absolutely brilliant and one of my highlights of 2017.
Tipi Valley was a large covered over stage, with matting on the floor which we would have spent more time in if the weather hadn’t been so lovely! The music in there was excellent though, with a variety of live bands and singers. Then there was the Once in a Blue Moon Cafe, easily my favourite place in the festival, with a tiny stage for live music and workshops (we had lots of fun at the beat boxing one), and a stand selling toasties.
The Yard was a huge open space running silly games such as a hobby horse high jump, cricket and circus skills workshops to the backdrop of excellent music from a DJ in a fire engine. This became a bit of a rave at night time (I say ‘a bit’ because it never got that crazy) but I managed to get a jump around in after the kids went to bed.
Bed Talks was a truck with covered seating offering storytelling and poetry. They did bedtime stories for children which was hugely popular, but as with everything at this festival there was always space to sit and enjoy. There was also a tent with food talks and demonstrations, including a midnight feast on the Saturday which we missed but looked amazing. With so many activities was hard to pick which things to do and which to miss, but the sign of a good festival is to leave wanting more!
Junkfish were there with their huge variety of arty crafty stuff and a great place for the kids to entertain themselves (and right next to the bar!) They’re guaranteed to keep the children happy and we are always happy to see them. Most of the activities across the whole site were kid friendly so they were never stuck for something to do.
We did pay for the girls to make mosaics, but they spent over an hour doing them and it was something they had never done before so was a highlight of the festival for them, and they had beautiful art work to take home. It’s good to book this early as they need time to be grouted and dried before you can pick them up, and the workshop filled up in advance. Apart from that and the swing boats all the activities were free and it was amazing to be somewhere without the larger fairground rides!
There were also fun activities running throughout the day. The Lake Stage ran a morning zumba class which we enjoyed so much on the first day we came back the next morning to do the whole class. Walking around you came across little ‘pop up’ activities, like a line dancing class in the main bar – to give that proper festival atmosphere.
The fire show at night was a lovely addition to end the evening for the kids and allow us to stay up a bit later to see the bands.
It was very friendly and a good mix of people, mainly families, and there were no queues for anything. There were a lot of advertisers there, but they were all organic and good causes so that wasn’t a problem for us. The vibe was very laid back, very safe, although that will mean that people who want a party festival would be disappointed. Having said that there were plenty of opportunities for a dance, and the pub was busy at night – it just ended at 2am. Which wasn’t a problem for us and the other families there!
There were a few fire pits lit at night which was great for someone like me who likes to sit down and chat with people. I went out on the Saturday night and stayed up until 2.30am but then I was incredibly happy to go to bed in a quiet campsite in the very early hours! (and yes I still made it to zumba at 11am the next day)
Would we go back?
Valley Fest is one of those amazing finds you’re not sure you want to tell people about for fear of ruining it. But I hope that it sells out every year and never tries to get any bigger. We’ll definitely be back!
Please see our factsheet for further information on Valley Fest.