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    Our UK Travel Plans for 2019

    This is a collaborative post with Vogue.

    Now that we’re starting to emerge from the depths of Winter, and the bank balance is starting to look a bit healthier after the Christmas bashing, it’s at this time every year that my attention turns to what our travel plans should be for the year. read more

    Camping, Lifestyle, UK Travel
    / March 7, 2019
  • Cornbury Music Festival 2018

    A Weekend at Cornbury Festival 2018

    As we drove through winding roads and pretty little villages on our way to Cornbury Festival 2018, I felt increasingly more relaxed and chilled with every passing country pub and hanging basket. The sun was shining, our car was packed full with our camping gear and the toddler car seat was noticeably empty. We were off on our first baby-free trip away, and I couldn’t quite believe we were finally getting some time to ourselves.

    Ahead of our Cornbury Festival experience, we debated whether to go as a family or not. On the one hand, I’d read some wonderful reviews from fellow parenting bloggers that made me feel reassured that Cornbury caters very well for the family market, but I also knew how much LPD and I could do with a break away just as a couple. Unlike our time at Timber Festival, there were artists in particular at Cornbury that I would have been distraught to miss – and the one thing I’ve learned in my time as a parent is that you can’t guarantee being present for anything. I’d have cried hot bitter tears of resentment and anger if we’d have missed Marc Cohn’s set, and I didn’t want to risk it. With the offer of weekend babysitting from my parents, it didn’t take us long to make up our minds. We were doing it. We were turning back the clock and going to enjoy the weekend without needing to parent.


    I never set off for holidays at the time I hope. I have all the best intentions to be fully packed the night before and to set off at the crack of dawn, but in reality, I’m still scrabbling around trying to find clean and dry towels at 11am. This weekend was no exception, but as we headed off less than 2.5 hours after my original target – I’m taking that as a success. With a stop off at Aldi on the way to pick up some basic snacks and stock up the camping drinks supplies (absolutely gutted that they’d sold out of G&T tins… had to settle for Pimms instead), it was only a short hour long drive to the festival. Without having to placate and navigate Pickle, it didn’t take us long to set up camp and acquaint ourselves with the surroundings.

    As it quickly becoming the norm, I pitched our tent on my own. It speaks volumes about the ease of pitching our Kampa Paloma 5 Air that I can erect this beast by myself. God bless the air poles (although, I’m considering getting a battery operated pump as the hand pump is a bit hard work on the old back).

    For anyone interested, this is the camping gear we took with us for the weekend:

    • Kampa Paloma 5 Air tent (with the carpet, but not the footprint)
    • Double blow-up mattress
    • Foot pump for the mattress
    • Double sleeping bag
    • Our two Kampa XL high back chairs
    • Deluxe Kitchen Unit (link isn’t the exact one we purchased last year, but it’s ridiculously similar)
    • Single Campingaz Stove (used only to make tea, currently only £10 on Amazon)
    • Whistling Camping Kettle
    • 2 enamel mugs (used to drink tea)
    • Folding washing up bowl (which we didn’t use, except to store books in)
    • A massive thick scarf I bought from Asos years ago that I use as a rug
    • Our special camping blanket

    Settling into the Vibe

    I can’t speak from reams of festival experience, but one constant with each of the ones we’ve been to is that it takes a while to settle into the vibe of a festival. It takes a bit of time to acclimatise. I felt a little prickly at the start, constantly comparing the size, the atmosphere, the layout to the previous week’s festival before I quickly realised that was completely futile. All festivals are different. They cater to different audiences, and once we’d taken some time to have a look around and figure out the offering, we better knew how to make the most of our time.

    The Kids Area

    We automatically found ourselves in the Kids Area first. Partly this is because it was fairly close to the entrance from the campsite, but also because I really wanted to know what was on offer for future reference. Parents will be parents. The first thing we were greeted with was the sounds of a drumming workshop, and I grinned because I knew Pickle would have loved that.

    The whole Kids Area was riotously colourful, with a very clever kind of rag tent that offered a bit of shade for families too. The crafts tent was open for two long sessions every day, and I was so tempted to go in and do some for myself but feared I might look a bit weird without a child in tow. There was all sorts on offer though: from colouring to cross-stitch.

    The circus section was particularly popular, where all and sundry were invited to give various circus activities a go for themselves – I saw a lot of plate spinning and juggling attempts! There was also a face painting tent (with a range of designs available for just a donation to go towards buying more supplies) and a lovely display called What is Love? that kept being added to over the course of the weekend.

    My absolute favourite though was The Rig: a delightful set up of noise making implements that was keeping children and adults of all ages entertained. I know we could have quite happily left Pickle to play with the pots, pans, spoons and more all day long and he’d have had a whale of a time. We may have even had chance to sit down and enjoy a rest whilst he did so (or maybe that’s wishful thinking).

    The Music

    But what we were really there for, was the music. There weren’t many acts that we were desperate to see – but rather we were really happy to meander between the two main stages, the little Riverside stage and the Caffe Nero tent and listen to whatever ticked our fancy. I couldn’t quite believe how lucky we were when sat, with a milkshake each, under a parasol outside the Caffe Nero tent listening to Joe Slater play a cracking acoustic set. I could have sat there for hours. It was such a treat to be able to take in our surroundings without entertaining a two year old and panicking about upsetting anyone around us with the inevitable tantrums.

    The highlight of Saturday’s line up for us was, without a doubt, Amy Macdonald. Not only did she come across as very grounded, genuine and grateful, her music was just right for me on a Saturday night: upbeat, a bit rocky and with a storytelling core. Exactly my cup of tea, and I really enjoyed listening to the songs I knew, as well as the ones I didn’t. I’ve been listening to her albums a lot since we returned, and I’m so glad we’ll always have the memories of her set to look back on, and I’d love to catch her live again.

    Camping, Lifestyle, Reviews, UK Travel
    / July 22, 2018
  • Image Credit: Ben Phillips Photography

    The Family-Friendly Festivals on my Radar

    As someone who’s been camping every year of my life, it’s probably quite difficult to believe that I’ve never been to a festival. Not once. No wild weekends as a teenager at V Festival. No jumping in muddy puddles at Glastonbury. And no late night music sessions under the stars at Bestival. I didn’t used to think they were ‘for me’. I’m not much of a party animal, and from what I knew of music festivals, they were loud, expensive, alcohol fueled all-night parties without the ability to shower, and nothing about that sounded appealing to me. But as I’ve gotten older (and some would argue wiser), I’ve realised those aren’t the only type of music festival around. There are literally festivals to suit all tastes, styles and interests, and it’s definitely time to experience one for myself. Here are some family-friendly festivals I’ve got my eyes on.

    Timber Festival

    When I first heard about Timber Festival, I couldn’t believe just how up our street it sounded.

    Timber is a joint venture between Wild Rumpus and the National Forest Company who are coming together to create a family friendly weekend camping festival exploring the transformative impact of forests, through a diverse programme of wellbeing activities, sustainability, music, art, theatre, ideas, talks and debates, and adventures. The ethos behind the festival is to re-connect young minds and the young-at-heart with our natural surroundings, promoting curiosity, learning, courage, personal development, social skills and familial bonding within the context of wild landscapes.

    I’ve not shied away from talking about how much spending time outside means to us as a family, and so the ethos of Timber speaks to me, and it’s exactly the kind of message I’d like Pickle to be surrounded by. I’m imagining a weekend spent exploring nature, with magical, ethereal surprises galore. I’m particularly excited about the premiere of Seek, Find, Speak, an outside theatrical adaptation of Robert Macfarlane’s book The Lost Words: a forest theatre-trail for all ages, featuring 3D installations like spells wrapped in gold lettering around trees, and guided by Goldfinch performers. Oh, and there’s a whole outdoor spa section with hot-tubs, a dry Finnish barrel sauna, hot showers and a beauty corner with mirrors, hair dryers and GHDs. Sounds like heaven.

    When? 6th – 8th July 2018

    Where? The National Forest, Swadlincote, DE12 6DQ

    Cost? Adult day tickets start at £35, Adult weekend camping tickets are £130, Under 3s are free.

    Find out more: Timber Festival

    Cornbury Festival

    I first heard about Cornbury Festival when I worked as a barista in Caffe Nero, as they’re one of the festival’s sponsors. I always quite liked the mix of music we played in the coffee shop, and so that’s the musical vibe I imagined Cornbury Festival would have, and judging by the line up for this year, I’m not far off the mark. A couple of months ago, whilst we were having a family afternoon at the Arrow Valley Lake, I spotted a flyer and one name in particular on it caught my interest. I passed it over to LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) and tested him to see if it’d mean as much to him as it did me… It did stump him a little bit, but he got there in the end!

    You see, playing on Sunday at Cornbury Festival is Marc Cohn. His song True Companion was our first dance at our wedding. And I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me to stand in a field, arm in arm with LPD, dancing to the song being played live. The festival is much more family friendly than I had imagined too – there’s a whole kids section in which all the activities are free (music to any parent’s ears) and there’s also a dedicated hangout tent for teens. Add the Hairy Bikers to the mix, and it sounds like a wonderfully vibrant, exciting weekend.

    I’ve been reading lots of reviews from other family bloggers to see what it’s like taking your children, and it all sounds really positive! This lovely review from Travel Loving Family is practically glowing, and I just love this video from What Alex Did.

    When? 13th – 15th July 2018

    Where? The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire

    Cost? Adult day tickets from £84, Adult weekend camping ticket from £226, Children aged 0-2 are free.

    Find out more: Cornbury Music Festival

    Underneath the Stars Festival

    Camping, Countryside, Lifestyle, Parenting, UK Travel
    / June 25, 2018