Like a seasonal awakening and injection of optimism, Wood Festival is an intimate and perfectly programmed festival of music and nature that sees people gather in a glade too small to get lost in, to live, learn, and have fun, enjoying the simple, beautiful things in life for a weekend each May.
The music is largely folk and Americana. Local bands rub shoulders with international acts, though no one gathers a crowd like the legend that is Nick Cope! There is a full programme of free workshops for all ages, with activities ranging from bookbinding to yoga, whittling to harmony singing. The children’s tent hosts endless performances and activities; stalls are carefully curated (no flashing tat of questionable origin that you’ll be badgered to buy); the restorative healing area is full of people who genuinely care; the food is wholesome; the bar boasts locally sourced beverages; and a reflective moment can be caught in the talks tent. It all feels so good for the soul, and thought-provoking too.
The oak-framed main stage has a living roof that birds nest in, and is powered by an unmissable stack of solar panels. There are banks of recycling points, the only loos are long-drop earth toilets, and the piping-hot showers are wood-fired. You’re hard-pressed to spot any plastic on site, and there’s nothing to waste money on. It presents an interesting escape, and children pick up on this. The ethos of the festival effortlessly and unobtrusively influences children and adults alike to consider our choices as citizens and consumers intrinsically linked to nature. That sounds heavy, but it’s not. It’s basically like the nicest party you’ve ever been to, and that’s why it has a habit of selling out.
Children under 2 go free, and tickets for children aged 2–12 start at £20. Weekend tickets include three nights’ camping, or you can book fully kitted-out bell tents – I’ve already booked ours for 2024! Tickets are on sale now, so I guess I’ll see you in May! Sarah Mayhew
This is a beautiful festival centred around healing. The mission is to bring together communities and cultures to “inspire and ignite a deeper understanding of how we can tread lightly and live harmoniously”. There are lots of families, and people of all ages from various walks of life. Everywhere you turn there’s something different to experience: music, healing, workshops, meditations, and performance. Not to mention all the healthy, wholesome food and drink options!
I went to a few of the talks and particularly enjoyed Glennie Kindred and Sam Lee discussing our “interconnected relationship with trees”. The focus was on the ways we can feel more connected with and nurture our wild spaces. There was a shared sense of distress for the damage we have done to our planet, and for the general state and health of our woodlands. Lee pointed out that a forest floor thick with bluebells might look beautiful, but is actually a symptom of unhealthy biodiversity – where a monoculture has been able to establish where a myriad of different species ought to thrive. It’s not something I’d considered before, and I realised there’s invisible damage beyond what we see. But it was a hopeful talk. They talked about their own experiences and work, and the ways we can get involved in climate activism at a very local level. “Plant a tree and look after it,” was one of the simple messages. One of the audience members asked for a “breath for the grief, and a breath for the hope,” and it was moving to see that embraced by everyone in the moment.
The setting at Wasing Estate in Berkshire is stunning, with a lake surrounded by ancient woodland and parkland. It’s a beautiful place for a gathering – it felt like its own little world. I found it quite special to see so few mobile phones during my time there. The festival makes a point of not having an app, as most do. The line-up and timetables are found on noticeboards, which become a natural gathering place. Naked swimming in the lake is encouraged, but I didn’t take part – maybe next time. I came away feeling inspired and hopeful that so many people, with shared values, had come together for this unique festival. Jess Hazel
The Copper Pot Campsite
Irecently had the pleasure of staying at The Copper Pot Campsite, nestled in a quiet Cornish valley just off the River Tamar, and I must say, it truly excels in its commitment towards nature preservation. The campsite, while wild in its essence, is clean and well maintained. It’s evident that the owner takes great pride in keeping the site tidy and undisturbed. The tents are huge, with proper beds, which makes sleeping so much more comfortable than at other sites we’ve been too.
One of the highlights of our stay was the opportunity to cook our meals on a campfire. It added an authentic touch to our experience and allowed us to connect with nature in a unique way. The children absolutely loved this aspect and found it truly “awesome”. The campsite provided all the necessary facilities for a successful campfire cooking experience, which made it really enjoyable. (There was also a kitchen and gas hobs for those who didn’t want to cook on the firepit.)
James, the host at The Copper Pot Campsite, deserves special praise for his friendly and accommodating nature. He went out of his way to ensure that we had everything we needed to make our stay comfortable and memorable, from providing helpful tips on cooking, to local eateries, amenities and nearby walks and places of interest. James was always available and eager to assist. His warm hospitality added an extra charm to our adventure.
We highly recommend The Copper Pot Campsite to any nature enthusiast seeking a memorable camping adventure in a welcoming and well-kept environment. James Roberts
We’ve decided as a family to prioritise experiences and making memories together over ‘things’,
and one of our favourite experiences is going to Elderflower Fields. It’s actually the first family festival we ever went to back when Summer was 1, and, safe to say, we had no idea what to expect. We were filled with nervous excitement beforehand, but going was the best thing we ever did. We found ourselves surrounded by like-minded families, heaps of fun activities and great music, in the beautiful Ashdown Forest, perfect for creating wonderful, lifelong memories. We’ve returned each May, and it’s now a highlight of our year. Summer plays ‘we’re going to the festival’ with her teddies and friends, which is so lovely to see.
There’s such a community feel at Elderflower Fields, and you meet families that you see again, year after year. Everyone’s so friendly and willing to help, which makes it great for solo parents, too. We’ve borrowed tent pegs from camping neighbourhoods and lent others ear defenders and coats, and we’ve shared meals with strangers who’ve soon become friends. Our favourite thing is how much there is for all of us; it’s a family festival but that doesn’t mean it’s just for children. There’s music and activities for adults too – afternoon middle-aged rave anyone? We all leave with our hearts full, having had the best weekend playing together in nature. Hattie Mitchell
Deer Shed Festival
This was our first year at Deer Shed Festival. My wife and I went with our daughter and son, aged 9 and 5. We had the most amazing time, better than we could have imagined.
It was clear on arrival that Deer Shed is a very family-friendly festival; there were children everywhere! We arrived on the Friday after work. Arrival, check-in and parking were all really well organised and it was easy to find space on the campsite for our large tent. Fellow campers were friendly and helpful, and the campsites all had plenty of marked walkways, toilet facilities and water. The arena is brilliantly laid out with the main stage at the bottom of a gentle slope, allowing everyone unobstructed views of the bands. As big music fans, we had a good idea of who we wanted to see, and the festival guide was reasonably priced, making it easy to plan our entertainment with an excellent line-up throughout the day and night.
I’ve genuinely never been to a festival with such a good selection of food and drink. Burgers, pizza, mac and cheese, and gyoza were highlights. The bars had a great selection of beer and wine for the grown-ups too. As well as watching lots of music and stand-up comedy, other highlights were the large sports field full of equipment, a wrestling class for the children, circus skills, t-shirt screen printing, skateboarding lessons and a huge build-ityourself wooden town that gave children a chance to use real tools.
The atmosphere was second to none. Everyone seemed to be on the same page and there to enjoy themselves. My wife is not an experienced festival-goer, but she has been completely converted by Deer Shed. We can’t wait to go again next year. Stephen Finkel
Trigon Farm, tucked away in picturesque natural surroundings near the border between Devon and Cornwall, has become a go-to spot for our family. With our four children, aged between 6 and 12, we find ourselves returning to this delightful hideaway again and again, and it never fails to please.
Our visits to Trigon Farm have revealed a world of family-friendly adventures. It’s a destination with something for all ages. The flower crafting workshops are a big hit with our children. It’s a hands-on, educational experience that leaves our little ones beaming with pride. Farm-to-table BBQ nights have turned into a bit of a tradition for us. The farm’s rustic setting sets the stage for a relaxed evening, and the delicious local fare keeps us coming back for more. And then there’s the pizza-making events where our children get to be chefs. With founder Al’s direction, a woodfired pizza oven, and quality ingredients, the experience is as authentic as it gets.
What truly elevates the Trigon Farm experience is the warm and welcoming hospitality of Al and Mariana. Their personal touch and attention to detail make our visits just perfect. They have even kindly agreed to host our daughter’s birthday party.
Trigon Farm is a local treasure that has secured a permanent spot in our hearts, with each visit surpassing the last. For families seeking a quality, all-ages retreat, Trigon is an ideal choice. Elisha Brown
Published in issue 87. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.