Monday, 19 September 2016

Tent Pegs - just a small metal stick; or are they?

When I started camping my tent arrived with a small bag of tent pegs. They were standard looking things, like a straight skewer with a bent over top. And I went camping and they held the guy lines OK and nothing fell down.

tent pegs and mallet on a lawn

I did bend a couple of the pegs when I hit a rock under the soil surface, but I tossed those away and replaced them with a pack from the pound shop. After all, a tent peg is a tent peg, it's just a thin bit of metal..or it is!?

When I was next off on my adventures the ground was much harder than before and without even hitting a rock I bent some pegs, and the cheap pegs were the worst for bending, so it seemed that all pegs were not created equal.

And then while staying on The Isle of Wight on it's peaty soil, in a rain storm all of the pegs on one side of the tent tugged loose in the night! And how ever much I replaced them, at whatever angle, they slid free again!

This needed some investigation. I started a search both online and in camping shops and began buying different types of tent pegs and trying them in various soils.

And so here I present my findings...

A Basic 18cm roundwire peg is fine for average soil with average or still weather. They need to be placed in the soil at an angle away from the tent as otherwise they will swivel and the guyline can slip off. Ideally they should go all the way into the soil so that both ends touch the groud and fix the guyline firmly. They are easy to bend, especially on rocky ground. They will pull out of loose soil, or soft damp soil very easily. They are useful as marshmallow toasters if you decide not to use them in holding up the tent.

Roundwire pegs are also available in hardened metal. These will be more expensive but much less liable to bend. Halfords have a 'groundhog' tent peg specifically for use in harder ground.

red plastic tent pegs

Plastic tentpegs are the best choice for soft ground. These are what we needed on the Isle of Wight! Thicker and sturdy they could snap if you try to use them in hard ground but their ability to remain firmly in soft or damp soils makes them an essential for your kit.

Steel V tent pegs are constructed from very strong steel. The V shape provides extra security in soft ground and easier insertion into hard ground. They can be rippled for extra grip. They are a great all rounder.

blue bag of tent pegs

You can buy heavy duty pegs for truly hard ground! At 20 cm they should anchor your tent well, they have a pointed end and are all metal construction.

For festivals, where you are camping on land that may go back to livestock when you leave, you can even buy biodegradable pegs in case you lose any - so there will be no harm to the animals (do always remember to dispose of bent and broken pegs safely)

Towsure whose website I've linked to, specialise in trailers and towing, are so are also experts at awnings and therefore tent, fixing. They have a wide range of tent pegs including screw-in rock pegs! (which is why I linked to their site - other tent pegs sites are available LOL)

I see that they even stock a wooden peg! I would imagine this would be excellent in soft soil and I am tempted to try them out - if I do I will report back!

So there is a mini review of pegs, check out the soil where you will be staying and pack pegs accordingly - always take a few of each sort so that you can at least use the correct type for the corners as a minimum.

This is not a sponsored post - but I hope it's been a useful one! 

Fancy chatting about tent pegs (like sad camping obsessive) or other camping stuff, pop over and like my Facebook Page - or tweet me @TentSniffer

Sunday, 4 September 2016

England's Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux - review

I've been promoting England's Medieval Festival on this blog for a few weeks. And now here is the review...

I tweeted a bit while I was there.

And now I'm back and I can tell you all about it.

First thing to say, it was WAY better than I thought it would be. Seriously, the website doesn't do it justice. The gorgeous castle and grounds alone would be an awesome place to camp, but throw in tavern tents, real ale, reenactments, and all manner of entertainments from mud theatre (as messy as it sounds) to fire eating, puppet shows, bird of prey displays, jousting, even 'have a go' jousting..

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 mud theatre

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

And then there was great food, living history village encampments, archery, sword shows, music, drumming (lots of drumming) even axe throwing.

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

I loved the camp site. We could drive right up to the camping spot and unload before moving the car to the car parking area. There were not a huge number of toilets but they were kept clean and well stocked at all times. Water points too, were a bit spread out but again not really a problem.

In the evenings after the 'day visitors' had left the festival site reopened with music and dancing and outdoor cinema and astronomy talks and stargazing for those camping.

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 castle

Each day the program of events is repeated and this worked out really well as while you might think it's all a bit repetitive, in fact it meant we didn't need to rush between events that were close in time but not distance and if something clashed we just did it the next day. Over the three days we managed to see and do almost everything.

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 sign post

This festival is a little gem, bigger than you think it will be and excellent value for money. I shall have no hesitation in booking tickets for next year which is going to be the 25th year and promises an extra special celebration (I'm hoping for a medieval bake off event)

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 knight

I learned lots about history almost by accident, things such as the weight of armour, how chain mail is worn, how arrows are used in battle, the dying of wool (and the political take on wearing certain colours) I found just strolling around chatting to people really informative, and people were all so friendly! I don't think I've ever been to such a friendly festival (this may be linked to the accessibility of mead and real ale)

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 children
England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016 princess

I spend plenty of cash in the medieval traders market too (some traders did accept medieval credit cards!) Where you could buy anything from a full suit of armour, to an animal pelt, a drinking horn or some jewellery.
England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

The festival is dog friendly so I took Fizz and while she was slightly overawed by the noise and bustle of the crowds she mostly enjoyed herself. The festival site is really well stocked with water points and dog bowls so despite the heat all of the dogs were well hydrated.


dog under a sunshade

Having a dog did mean I couldn't go to any of the medieval banquets though, and so I'm debating leaving her at home next year so I can get my full medieval cosplay into gear and mix with the royal court over a trencher of chicken and roasted figs etc...

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

England's Medieval Festival Herstmonceux 2016

Find out more at the England's Medieval Festival website, I hope to see you there next year.

Disclosure : I was sent free tickets for DD and myself in exchange for the promotion of the festival but the review is my own unbiased view.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Trespass Qiktent - Review

At the end of every festival I attend I enjoy watching people who, on day one, smugly erected an instant 'pop up' tent, and now on day 5 are struggling to get it back into its bag!

I have seen swearing, family rows, anger, broken tents, ripped bags, tents crammed into cars still semi erect, even tents just dumped in fury and left at the festival.

I envy these people on day one, but always remember on day 5 why I don't have a pop up tent.

If only there was a tent that was quick to put up, but just as quick to put down.

Well it turns out there is!

Trespass kindly sent me a 2 man Qiktent to review and as soon as it arrived DD and I excitedly erected it in the living room! It was super fast, and then, equally super fast, we packed it away again! Good gracious, we were sold on the whole idea. And so we decided to take it with us to the Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire. Initially we planned just to pitch it and maybe use it for storage as it's small, but in the end DD was so taken with it she decided to make it her home for four days.

I rarely make videos but I couldn't believe how fast and simple the Qiktent was to erect and pack down, and knew you wouldn't believe it either unless you could witness it - so here is the evidence, and a chat with DD about why she loved it.

The tent is super fast to erect, it's also fast and easy to pack away, it's light, it is cute. It  has a porch area for muddy shoes or your rucksack. As a two man tent it has space for two to sleep but no extra space (except the porch area) so you would need to be good mates to share. But for a single camper it is the perfect tent, enough space to sleep and store your kit. Also great as a second (or third!) small tent for your teens to have a private sleeping area.

Like any nylon tent it can get condensation on the inside in the morning if it's cold out, and it heats quickly in the sun, but it has easy open windows at either end with fly screens, and a fly screen over the sleeping area door, so it's quick to cool down and air the tent.

The sleeping area is a sealed unit with attached groundsheet so no danger of creepy crawlies in the tent, and of course, the inner and outer skins are all attached to the frame for that super speedy erection. The outer is waterproof to 3000hh which is pretty impressive, and will cope with all the UK weather can throw at it.

It's not a particularly cheap tent at rrp of £149.99  (though currently available at the sale price of £74.99) but I would say that is worth paying for the simplicity and ease of use of the tent, you won't worry about using it even for a brief stay. A great festival tent, or a tent for a couple of nights, it would be excellent if you are hiking or biking and staying in a different spot each night, arriving late and tired it would be just the tent you need to take all the strain out of pitching.

Disclosure - I was sent the tent in exchange for an honest review.

Let me know what you think over on my  Facebook page , or tweet me at Tentsniffer on Twitter.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Curious Arts Festival 2016

So I expect you are all wondering, did I manage to see all of the things I hoped to at the Curious Arts Festival?

curious arts festival programme

Well, no. But I experienced all I needed. We arrived on the Friday and the cricket match was in full swing already, sadly it's a short walk form the camp site and the main festival site, and after pitching the tent in the scorching sunshine all I fancied was a snooze and an ice cold beer! Couple with the fact we had the small puppy with us (and she was panting in the shade) we decided to miss the cricket in favour of total non exertion.

dog asleep in a tent

We did manage to hear lots of author interviews and talks though, including Celia Imre, talking about her new book, Not Quite Nice, which sounds pretty good, not my usual read, but fun. It did sound particularly funny when she read an excerpt so I'm planning on getting the audio of her reading.

festival scene

During Celia's talk DD and I sat with Fizz at the back of the tent, munching on a lovely complimentary picnic, I did my best to eat all of the strawberries and cream but in the end I was forced to share with the sound crew. Unluckily for them, I did manage to drink the gin, helped down by posh Fevertree tonic.

gin and tonic with strawberry

We managed somehow to miss Carol Ann Duffy, and the snail racing, and the silent yoga...but we did spend a lot of time talking to people who found OUR dog cute! Also eating and drinking. The food choice was much better this year than last and I especially enjoyed Higgidy Pies having a stall there. We also ate a great deal of pizza....

higgidy pie box
Shrodingers pie ... is it in the box? or have I eaten it?

pizza on a picnic mat

We did not miss the comedy each night though, this is something of a highlight for DD (especially after last year when The Noise Next Door hauled me up on stage and sang risque songs to me) and she really enjoyed the stand up humour. This year I avoided the stage, though others were not so lucky. Lots of laughter all round.

dog in a festival tent

Because we had the puppy we did not stay up late listening to bands/singers, but it was nice to sit outside in the twilight listening to them from a distance.

view from a tent

This is a small festival, but perfectly formed. The right amount of art, children's activities and music. Best of all it's in a gorgeous location, with a beautiful house as its backdrop, and no hill to tire you out. The car park is almost right next to the camping area too - so no long walk with all your gear. (Now you know the true extent of our laziness, a short walk and still too hot to bother to move!)

book about gin

cocktail book

Lots of books to buy, and fizz to drink (courtesy of British sparkling wine makers, Nyetimber,  it's a rather lovely way to spend a weekend. Next year the festival will be held on 20th - 23rd July and children are FREE!! (to take - you don't get given free children)

children playing at a festival

 Become an intellectual, take an intellectual dog...

dog in glasses

dog asleep by a champagne bottle
Nothing to see here...
Disclosure : I attended the festival for free in exchange for promotional posts and a review - this review is my own opinion.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Festival Checklist and some Festivals you may have missed


I'm well into my festival season, I hope you've been to at least one, or are about to! I'm looking forward to reviewing all of the ones I attend but until then, here's a list to keep you busy - maybe you'll find a festival to attend? Or to pencil in for next year.

Belladrum (Tartan Heart festival), has been taking place in Inverness-shire since 2004. This year’s highlights include Northern Irish trio, Two Door Cinema Club; glam rockers, the Darkness; and local singer songwriter, Rachel Sermanni.

Need a break from the music? Then head to the Hielan Coo Club ViP area, escape the hurly burly of festival life and grab some monkfish wrapped in bacon with a fresh salad and then chill in a Turkish Steam room.

Green Gathering, which grew out of the Green Fields section at Glastonbury festival might not primarily be a music festival, but there is extensive live music performed across several small stages and venues, with other areas including a permaculture zone, a crafts area and healing fields.

Lytham Festival packs in 7 days of consecutive events. Everything from ex Oasis’s Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds to Lemar and a variety of cultural events too, it’s by the coast near Preston way.

Wilderness Festival likes to think of itself as being the intellectual British Festival. Set in the picturesque Cornbury Estate in Oxfordshire. The Flaming Lips are headlining, other things to discover include the mystical woodland party, yoga in a yurt and banquet feasts provided by Deliciously Ella and Raymond Blanc.  <<I'm off to this one on Thursday - see you there?

Rewind Festival put simply Rewind Festival is the 80s festival.  This means Rick Astley will be performing, UB40 and Adam and the Ants. Oh, and there will be a giant inflatable church, or chapel of love. And the New York Brass Band, hailing from the mean street of York, promise a new breed of funky brass revolution.

Rebellion Festival in an indoor punk festival in Blackpool, it is celebrating its 20th year anniversary and regarded as one of the world’s biggest punk festivals.

Wickham Festival is a family friendly festival set in the rolling downland, two miles north of Farham in Hampshire. Line up includes The Stranglers, Chas and Dave, Red Hot Chilli Piper  (Yes Piper). Wickham Festival was a best festival winner at the 2015 Live Music Awards.

Supernormal Festival, an interactive festival for artists to experiment and musicians to collaborate. If you want to 'be the festival', head to Braziers Park in Oxfordshire. 

England's Medieval Festival - all the fun of time travel without a TARDIS, ale, wenches, jousting, stocks, hog roasts. Come and live in the past for a weekend! You can even bring the dog. <<I'm off to this one too! Who's with me?

This festival round up and festival checklist are brought to you by the Cuvva team. Cuvva are creating new ways to travel to and from festivals. Starting with hourly car insurance, which enables you to borrow friends’ cars fully insured, or share the driving on the way back from the festie. This strikes me as a brilliant idea! Your mate had a skinful and you don't want him to drive but it's his car and you are sober but not insured? or Your mate fancies a snooze after the next services but her cute VW isn't insured for you to drive it? Now you can use an app to get instant insurance for a short time! No excuse to not share the driving, happy festivalling!!

and to ensure you don't forget anything...

Monday, 25 July 2016

My list of 5 'Must Sees' at Camp Bestival this year

Every year I plan lots of things to see at Camp Bestival and we usually manage about 50%. Mainly because the festival is large, we are easily distracted and extremely lazy.

So I'm making a list this year of just 5 things that I absolutely MUST see.

  1. The Chuckle Brothers. It may surprise you to know that I love their silly slapstick humour. But with the state of the world today I think that a few custard pies, dropped paint tins and mishaps with ladders is just what we need to lighten the mood. To me, to you...
  2. Tears for Fears. Huge blast from my past and a retro delight, cannot wait to sing along, after all, everybody wants to rule the world...
  3. Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, I am quite frankly in awe of this chap. Totally spiffing and a fine purveyor of chap hop. not to be missed by anyone in my opinion. Fine moustaches.
  4. Jasper Carrot. Another from my childhood, I'm hoping he's as funny as I remember.
  5. Eddie the Eagle. A change for me, interesting to find out more about something we Brits love, a brave failure.

I'll let you know if I manage 100% of my plans this year!

Have you checked out the lineup? Who would your top 5 be? Pop over to Facebook and let me know, or tweet me at Tentsniffer on Twitter.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Local Food Festival

A couple of weekends ago I dragged Mr TentSniffer along to a food festival. I say dragged, he wasn't that reluctant but he's not really a foody so it wasn't his favourite choice of things to do. As it was mostly outside we were able to take Fizz.

She was much admired and she didn't beg for food either! What a good girl.

We visited a cafe called The Hungry Guest for some coffee, we couldn't really say no as they had a board outside suggesting we try Fizz in the courtyard! We did and she liked it very much.

Mr TS rather fell for the Podgy Pieman, or at least for his wares. though the pies were slightly more than the penny of the nursery rhyme, they were delicious. Mr TS had a sausage roll with sundried tomatoes and fennel seeds and I had a shredded beef, beetroot and horseradish pasty. Yum!

I also enjoyed a cocktail made with gin from a small distillery in Scotland. Another triumph. I'm still cross I didn't try the Arbikie Chilli Vodka!

There were so many great things to sample and choose from we were spoiled for choice. Really nice day with an excuse to eat! Olives, fudge, bread, cakes, thai food, sausages, real ales, pies, you name it, it was there.

There are more food festivals across the country - check if there is one near you here.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Festival Food Budgets

One of the nice things about festivals is the choice of food that is available. From cheap and cheerful fish and chips to more exotic haloumi fries with pomegranate salad, via wood fired pizza. But are the fish ad chips cheap? and what of the pizza? Can you afford pie and mash for the whole family? and three meals a day?

burger bear burgers at wilderness festival

So first things first. Festivals don't make a lot of money - despite what you might think, they have a huge turnover but actual profits are often low. Many festivals, Glastonbury included, continue to run not because they are a money spinner, but because the organiser loves festivals! One of the way festivals make money is via onsite sales, this includes food and drink stalls and is a reason many festivals ask you to buy booze at the bar and to try the food. So by buying your rations onsite you are helping the festival.

But we all know that money doesn't grow on trees and there is a fine balance between helping a festival, enjoying the food and becoming bankrupt! So how much should you budget for a festival and what's good to eat? Depending on the age of your children you can save money by buying a meal and splitting it bewteen children. Many kids wake up hungry so rather than splashing out £3 each every day for a bacon butty why not take some cereal bars or breakfast biscuits and fruit and start most days that way.

girls in fancy dress eating pancake

Try having a snack lunch and larger dinner or vice versa. Share some pizza or chips at lunch time, and then go wild on pie and mash for dinner for example. In my experience meals range in price from  about £6 to £12 so you could easily spend £50 for a family of 4 per meal if you are not careful!

I'm lucky as I only have DD and I to worry about. I frequently skip lunch altogether, surviving on beer, crisps and snacks and then we spend about £20 on an evening meal. Drink is pricey too of course, so pace yourself. Most festivals have cashpoint machines but they may charge £1.50 to withdraw anything and can have long queues, but remember to store cash carefully, split it into separate amounts and don't carry it all together.

How much do you budget for festival food? I look at £10 per person per day, with extra for alcoholic drinks. We have snack breakfast and snack lunch. Don't forget to pack small cartons of drink for the children and taking bottles to refill at the free water points too.

Pop over to TentSniffer on Twitter to chat - or comment over on FaceBook.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Curious Arts - what I want to see most

Last year I missed the Friday at the Curious Arts Festival as DD was still at school, this year as a teen she has finished her GCSEs and so we will be there for the opening at 12 noon.

This means that hopefully we can catch the Curious Arts cricket match, as while I don't like watching cricket on TV I do love a live match, especially at a festival, with gin...

Other things I really want to catch are the conversation with Celia Imrie and I'm hoping to see Carol Ann Duffy, and Clare Conville.

There are always lots of weird and wonderful things going on during the day, so after grabbing a refreshing drink I hope to watch the snail racing, and maybe the Curious Silent Yoga Disco.

The comedy is always a highlight and is DD's favourite (especially last year when I ended up on the stage being made fun of!) so we will both be looking forward to the Noise Next Door, Simon Evans, Zoe Lyons and the other witty jokesters.

Children are not left out either, and even though neither DD nor I are tiny we sometimes join in the silly games and fun at the children's tent, after all at a festival we are all children aren't we. And there is a Curious Bear Hunt at lunchtime on Sunday!

I haven't even started on the music! Because music is an art form too of course and the musical line up is always good, discovering new bands is one of the best things about a festival, and on Saturday we shall be listening to Billy Bragg.

If you haven't got tickets, you can still get day tickets at Curious Arts Tickets - including tickets just for a day. And children 13 and under are FREE! Dogs are welcome no excuse really - see you there!