Valley Fest review 2021

The most beautiful festival views in the world!*

Valley Fest is the perfect combination of music, food and family fun for all ages.

It’s been many years since we’d visited Somerset and I had completely forgotten what a very special area it is. Yes, the countryside is stunning, but it’s more than that… After only a few minutes of arriving at Valley Fest I remembered what a super friendly welcoming bunch the Somerset folk are.

Valley Fest is held at Chew Valley Lake with the rolling Mendip Hills providing the perfect background. From the moment we arrived, we felt immediately relaxed and in good company. Considering it was just a few weeks after Covid 19 restrictions on events lifted we’d expected some elements of delay but the organisation was excellent.

Camping & facilities

We were in the live-in vehicle field and after showing our NHS apps to comply with Track and Trace requirements we were welcomed quickly onto the festival site. A friendly steward explained there had been a lot of rain so they were taking extra care parking the vehicles due to ground conditions and apologised for any delay. On top of all the last-minute unknown pandemic-related stress, this extra challenge didn’t seem to phase the organisers. Being located on a working farm, mud and bad weather were not a problem at all.

The general campsites were in two locations with glamping on the other side of the festival to the campervans but we took advantage of the free tractor rides from the car park to take a look and enjoy the views around the farm. If your kids like tractors then they’ll love Valley Fest as there are several dotted around the festival they can climb aboard.

Thursday

Back in 2017 Festival Kidz editor Naomi reviewed Valley Fest and the only comment made that wasn’t 100% positive was that they wished it was longer. Well, this year guests were welcome to arrive a day early for a small extra charge and get settled in. This is a big plus for families, especially after 18 months of lockdown when some might feel cautious of crowds and a large number of little ones may not remember being in festival environments. It’s a great way to help kids get their bearings and even though the whole site wasn’t open, there were food and drink options and even free ice cream on the way in! What’s not to love about that?

Food

Arguably more important than music at Valley Fest, food is high on the list of things to do. Locally produced and organic, if you haven’t already stuffed yourself silly by Sunday then the BBQ feast will finish you off. £15 for adults and £10 for kids but the portions were plentiful. We shared our adult portions with the kids with a lunchtime pint of Thatchers (produced just down the road), enjoying the brilliant Festival Kidz favourite Beans on Toast. Slight guilt when he sang ‘The Chicken Song‘, but at least our lunch was well-sourced, and for a family who rarely eats meat, it was a real treat.

Festival partners Yeo Valley had several sampling opportunities over the weekend and a great little farm shop on site. We appreciated the free coffee each day and also probably sampled more than one cider from Thatchers so the kids could play their ‘spin the wheel’ game. I’m not usually a fan of brand activation at festivals but it was low-key and all fitted really well with the ‘shop local’ ethos.

I could write all day about the delicious food we ate from all the stalls on site but that would just make you hungry. Let’s just say, there is something to suit all diets and tastes and if you have kids with you, you are likely to find yourself at The Hippy Chippy at least once. For those with more adult tastes and budgets, the fine dining options cooked up by brilliant chefs and served banquet style under canvas and candlelight looked amazing.

Music

Being only 10 miles from Bristol and Bath a large number of the performers are local which adds to the sustainability of the event. Bristol’s live music scene is massive so they really aren’t short of some top acts, both well known and up and coming.

I’ve mentioned Beans on Toast above. Again, he was one of our festival highlights and quite emotional listening to this born performer’s clear joy at being back out entertaining crowds after such a long forced break. Well done for keeping the swear words to a minimum Jay!

Other highlights were the late-night offerings of dance music including Eva Lazarus and the Arcadia set up. This was a real surprise for us at this little gem of a festival. The well-thought-out layout of the site meant you could dance well into the night to loud music if you wanted to, without upsetting the campsites.

Our own family favourite of the weekend had to be Junior Jungle in the pouring rain. A soaked crowd of anoraks and umbrellas on Sunday morning can’t be the easiest audience to get moving but these guys succeeded with style. Helping a few select little ones really release their inner Kate Bush, they are always such a joy to watch perform.

Everything else

We loved the smaller hidden venues and quirky corners of the festival. The Queens Head festival bar had a great tipi kicking out some top tunes if the main headliners weren’t for you and the food demo area seemed to transform into a drum n bass venue in the evenings. Although there were a lot of teenagers enjoying this area we felt really welcome with the kids and were grateful for the reclining sofas around the edge.

The big wheel, helter-skelter and funhouse may relieve you of a tenner each day and if you have kids who like to shop then pocket money is recommended but our girls loved the little shopping village. For families new to festivals the site was a perfect opportunity to give older kids freedom while knowing they were pretty easy to find again.

The cashless wristband system allows you to top up your kid’s wristbands via your phone and the cup deposit scheme at the bar keeps little down and the site beautifully clean. Another ‘eco’ bonus on top of so much being locally sourced.

There’s plenty to do for free and lots of thought has gone into putting extras around the site for kids to play on while parents relax and enjoy the entertainment. A fair splattering of silliness also gives families the opportunity to join in. This year’s theme was Queen and huge numbers of guests got involved which was really funny to see. Sadly we missed the main fancy dress event and the last-minute Abba tribute band addition (covid related I believe) due to Monday work commitments.

Special thanks to the brilliant organisers who worked so hard making this year such a success straight off the back of a global pandemic. Also for being so patient with our review after I broke my wrist straight after the festival so was unable to type. Thank you 🙏

We’d recommend Valley Fest to any families who love great food and music and are looking for something new or somewhere to start their festival adventures. It’s a super easy festival with a great loyal following of lovely friendly people.

Valley Fest is back next year. Check out our factsheet here for more info.

*I probably need to caveat this statement as even though I’ve visited a lot of festivals over the last 30 years, they’ve mostly all been in the UK. Anyway, it’s a pretty spectacular view 😊


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