VALLEY FEST REVIEW AND SNAPCHAT VIDEO
FAMILY MUSIC FESTIVAL IN CHEW VALLEY, SOMERSET
This year the summer holidays seemed to whizz by and determined to squeeze every last drop out of them, we slotted our first family music festival into the final weekend, right before the dreaded first day back to school.
In the early hours of Friday 2nd September we fly back from the First Choice Holiday Village in Turkey, have a few hours sleep, and by that same evening we’re sitting in a queue for a tractor ride to the camping field at Valley Fest in Somerset, just half an hour’s drive from Bristol!
Camping gear transported, we choose a spot with an uninterrupted view of Chew Valley Lake to pitch our new Berghaus inflatable tent which so far we’ve tried out in the garden. We have such a beautiful view that I totally expect other festival goers to set up in front of us but no, we keep this splendid view for the whole weekend!
After we’ve eaten it’s time to head into the arena. Not surprisingly personal fires aren’t allowed, but one of the first things we see is this welcoming official camp fire which we delegate as a meeting point in case anyone gets split up.
We jig along to the last few lively numbers by well-known Bristol band ‘Doreen, Doreen’ as we wander around.
The husband perks up as we come across the Ring O’ Bells, a big ‘pub’, complete with comfy sofas and a range of local draft and cask ales. We enjoy our first sample and give the beers a big thumbs up! We discover we can’t get tap water for the children here so they have to wait for a drink until we get back to the standpipe outside the arena.
Back outside, a couple of guys start juggling in front of us and are soon joined by the athletic lady below who’s doing impressive things with illuminated hula hoops. I think I counted her simultaneously spinning seven rings on various parts of her body at the peak of her performance!
Suitably impressed we wander back to the tent for the night.
The weather forecast is pretty atrocious for Saturday but I get up with sparrows to take a couple of photos and enjoy my first proper look at the arena in daylight.
Maybe the weather forecast is wrong. . .
. . . By the time everyone is breakfasted and ready, the weather has turned for the worse. After sitting in the tent waiting for a break in the torrential rain, we decide we’re going to have to don rain coats and make a dash for it.
We head for cover in the tipi tent where all sorts of interesting acts perform throughout the festival. The chilled atmosphere reminds me of pre-children Sunday afternoons spent listening to live pub music – only with kids, who pretty much unanimously seem to be enjoying themselves.
In fact one of the benefits of the smallness of Valley Fest is that it feels like the children are safe here. Glastonbury it is not! It’s so compact that we’re happy to let the boys dance or play on the nearby dance floor and once they have their bearings, wander off together to see what’s showing in the Film Field.
I’m hugely impressed that, not only is there plenty of shelter from the shocking weather but that we actually find a large free table! This becomes a handy base, as well as a place to rest our food and drinks, make new friends and even play card games. How civilised!
As this is a working holiday for me, my family has to put up with me taking masses of photos and video and often being plugged into social media. Despite taking a couple of spare battery chargers, my phone still needs recharging a few times over the weekend. (That reminds me I must order a better portable battery pack – any recommendations?!).
There’s an outlet in the arena charging £2 to charge your phone, but I want to charge three devices and connect to wi-fi too, so I trek back to the press office at the festival entrance where I appropriate a socket for one power pack, log into their wi-fi and then head outside to my car to charge another power pack, leaving the husband in the comfort of the tipi tent. By Saturday afternoon I start to relate to Peppa Pig as part of my well trodden route looks like this! I’m so glad that for the first time in my life I have wellies which are comfy, waterproof – and pink!
The children seem constantly hungry so we look around the food stalls and decide on these giant burgers for £6 each. Yes, it’s a festival so the food is pricey but these are so yummy the boys choose them again for dinner! The cones of chips and barbecued organic corn on the cob are popular too.
The rain and wind persists to such an extent that some of the tents and marquees have to be taken down before they blow away altogether, but we expect these challenges in England and the show will go on!
We stay around the arena all day until headline act, The Blockheads come on and the rain has eased. We watch a couple of numbers but, by this point, the children are getting tired and not overly receptive to this unfamiliar music, so, still slightly soggy, we head off to bed.
Yay, our tent survived the downpour and buffeting wind and this morning the rain has stopped! Finally we get to have a proper explore around the rest of the site. I’m supposed to be enjoying a plunge in one of these hot tubs overlooking the lake but the weather and technical problems got in the way. Ah well, next time!
There seem to be lots of organised activities for younger children but a lot of it is craft orientated, which the older two are really not keen on so my boys spend hardly any time in this area and do their own thing instead.
The ten and seven year old enjoy building this cob house from scratch and learning about environmentally friendly building materials. I think that’s a pretty impressive construction, don’t you?
The organisers say:-
“Valley Fest is about appreciating the farm, fantastic fresh food and dancing in a field. Get ON my land!”
On Sunday we experience this to the max. Riverford Organic have a posh dining tent offering a free vegetarian taster menu for customers. Having never tried a veg box, we decide to sign up for a delivery and reserve our table in the restaurant. Today’s Sunday lunch is a vegetarian feast including treats like romanesco cauliflower with child, lemon and garlic and courgette bean and poppy seeds with tahini and orange. It all tastes delicious but I think my absolute favourites are the lemon and herb roasted potatoes.
After lunch a colourful pop up act dances past us.
It’s almost time to leave but I have one more job to do, which almost gets me out of the job of packing up, but not quite. I’ve been given the opportunity to take over the prestigious ‘Travel Facts’ Snapchat account which is hosted each day by a different international travel blogger and today it’s my turn. “Ooh fancy!”, as my boys would say! So while the others head back to take the tent down, I start filming my five fun facts about the festival. Here’s the finished product which is just a minute long if you’d like a quick look.
So that’s it. Time to say a fond farewell to friends we’ve made here . . .
. . . and a less fond farewell to the portaloos – although I’m pleased to say these ones in the arena are pretty clean and queue free!
Unbeknown to us, the tractor has stopped running when we leave at 5.30 so we have to lug our camping equipment all the way to the car which is absolutely no fun at all and we’d have packed much lighter if we’d known this was a possibility 🙁
THE GREAT BITS
- There’s a virtually constant stream of fab music to listen to in the tipi tent. No need to look at the schedule – just sit there and someone great will come and entertain you soon.
- I really like the pop up acts which you just happen across as you wander round
- Initially we think the beer price is hefty until we realise that this includes a £1 deposit for the durable plastic glass the bar drinks are served in. Each time you return your glass you get £1 back and the bar cuts down on waste and litter. Brilliant idea!
- The atmosphere is relaxed and feels very safe in the arena.
- The festival’s large enough to offer lots to do but compact enough that it’s easy to bump into old friends and make new ones as you keep spotting the same people.
- The food and drink is good. The burgers, organic barbecued sweetcorn and the Riverford menu are delicious. The husband enjoys the Valley Pale Ale and I stick to the lager which is as good as it would be in a good pub.
- There are very few queues either for getting in and out of the site, for the toilets or for the bars.
- The facilities are good and include free hot showers, a set of campsite toilets, arena toilets, disabled toilets, first aid and welfare tent, drinking water stations on the campsite, bars and food stalls in the arena.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
- More information on site. It was hard to find out what was on a the main stage and lots of people we spoke to said they’d happily pay a decent amount for an old-fashioned printed programme. I understand the organisers are looking into this for next year.
- I’d like tap water to be offered at or near the bar. The children wanted water when we were getting a drink but had to wait for us to make a trip to a standpipe to collect it.
- As you can’t bring your car in with you, it would be good to have somewhere free to put a phone on charge.
- This is a biggy. If you have a tractor to transport your camping equipment to the camping field, you really need one to bring it back to the car at the end too. We left fairly early as the boys all had school the next day but heard a rumour that the tractor had finished for the day. Carrying a big family tent and the rest of the gear all that distance was not an easy or a pleasant task and had us grumbling under our breath instead of singing catchy tunes on the way out!
- The weather. Surely it couldn’t be as bad again next year!
- Be prepared for the weather – Valley Fest takes place on an organic beef farm so probably best to bring your wellies whatever the weather!
- If you’re bringing your phone, a spare battery would be handy unless you want to pay to charge it.
- Bring some money as there’s no cash machine on site, but having said that . . .
- Someone tried to burgle our tent while we were asleep in the early hours on Saturday night and we discovered later that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Fortunately all our valuables were in the bedrooms, which is probably standard common sense practise when you’re camping, so nothing was taken. Just be aware that this isn’t an enclosed site and the security team who patrol night and day can’t be everywhere at once so you need to take your own precautions as you might if you were camping anywhere.
- Check the festival list of banned items, as there are quite a lot.
- Make the most of the whole festival period. This year (2016), the public campsite opened at 8am on Friday and didn’t close until midday on Monday. We arrived mid afternoon on Friday, so by the time we’d waited for a tractor, set up our tent and had a bite to eat, we missed most of the first day. Camping is included in the ticket price and we met quite a few people who were making the most of the break and staying Sunday night. We heard good reports about the free hot showers too so you don’t have to slum it!
- If you have a fair amount of equipment to carry, see if you can beg borrow or steal a handheld trailer. We saw a few seasoned festival goers using them and they made light work of moving luggage and or kids around
So what did we all think of Valley Fest?
It was a pretty shocking weekend weatherise, both for our first family festival and for our first camping trip in our new tent! Both coped as well as could be expected with the weather. I had to get up in the night to secure the guy ropes as three of them had completely come away in the strong wind, but the tent stood up to the elements and we were cosy inside so it’s passed that test.
The festival had plenty of undercover space so that was a big positive too. Our children, whose ages range from 7 to 12, enjoyed the experience of sharing the tent as a close family unit, the food and the opportunity to listen to lots of live music, particularly in the relaxed environment of the tipi stage. The husband and I enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere, the music, the draft beers and the views from our tent and the arena.
Valley Fest is still in its infancy and there a few things which could do with tweaking but it’s one to keep an eye out for in the coming years! I’ll be following its progress with interest! Thanks for inviting us to review.
MORE INFORMATION AND DIRECTIONS
Find out more about the Festival and booking early bird tickets for next year’s event on the Valley Fest website.
Denny Lane, Chew Magna, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, BS40 8SZ
DISCLOSURE: WE WERE SUPPLIED WITH OUR TICKETS TO VALLEY FEST FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.
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