Wilderness, wild people, wild festival, wild beauty

It's no secret, I love Wilderness festival. It's held in Oxfordshire in Cornbury park and since the first time we went (after winning tickets) I've been a huge fan. I dream about it all year and it's all over way too fast. This year was no exception. It's a festival where music plays second fiddle (see what I did there!?) to all the other amazing things that happen in the beautiful surroundings.

Already it seems so long ago, and already I'm booking tickets for next year.

    From the Shakespeare play in the woods, to the camel rides;
    From the trapeze acts to the cocktails:

    from the naked knitting to the bearded burger chefs:
    from the skinny dipping in the lake to the cinema in the fields;

    from the posting anonymous postcards via the Wilderness postmen and women to the bubble teas,;

    from the roller disco to the gospel music at the shack;

    from the main stage and Sam Smith in the rain to the burning tower and fireworks in the warm evening;

    from the Chap Olympics to the intellectual talks;

    there was nothing, nothing not to love.

    Can I tempt you to join us?

    See all my photos on flicker here (including the tents after the storm on the last night!! We survived OK though)

    Free Energy, the power of solar

    I was lent a solar light/charger. And also given a couple of solar lights to review by The Solar Light Co.

    After a few festivals over the summer (some of which had very few 'sunny' days!) I am ready to report back!

    Little Sun Solar Light from the Solar Light Co
    The first test was the cute and frankly adorable 'Little Sun'. A cute yellow sunflower shaped solar light, complete with lanyard. Perfect for children to wear during the day and use at night. Having the solar panel on one side meant ensuring it hung with that side on display in the daytime! And at night it's super bright LED light (there are 2 settings but the lower one was always bright enough for us!) was great for walking back to our tent and then had loads of light for getting ready for bead and even reading, and the best thing was you didn't have to worry about falling asleep and wasting the battery because you could charge it again as soon as it was light! The light worked brilliantly (quite literally) at every festival. I would give the Little Sun 10/10 and say it's perfect for kids.

    Nokero Start solar light from The Solar Light Co
    The second like was the wittily shaped (it looks like an old fashioned light bulb) Nokero Start. Suitable for outdoor use as it has a screw tight seal, it can be set to come on at dusk and then switch off and recharge at dawn. It's a great light. Enough light to see by, including to read. It hangs up nicely in the tent and gives a 'proper light' not a torch beam, so it's good for sharing. The handle can be used to rest it on a surface and angle it too - so it's pretty flexible. I don't love it as much as the Little Sun, but it's a nice light. 9/10

    Last is the more expensive but excellent Sun Bell. It is a light and a charger. At home in the sunny conservatory it charged up fully in a day - used at a campsite it didn't fully charge in a day - but then I wasn't around to ensure it's solar panel was in full sun all day. The Sun Bell is fab though. The light is amazingly flexible, can be used on 3 brightness settings and can be used as a torch with a fine beam or when used in the 'bell' it creates a really bright ambient light. We didn't test the 'using the bell as an ipod speaker' but that looked like a fun (if slightly 'neighbour annoying') idea. Because the solar panel is attached by a long lead it's perfect for charging on the outside of the tent while the main light is inside. You can even hang the panel up
    Sun Bell solar light from the Solar Light Co
    outside if you have a bungee etc. As the panel spent half of each day in the shade it didn't fully charge, but I did manage to get about a 50% charge from it each day for my phone which meant I could tweet and check emails for the full 4 days of each festival. Even on a dull day I had some charge, and you all know I tweet for England!

    I'm sure I've missed telling you some vital specification so do check it out on the website. I'll give this product 10/10 too and I have already been told by my camping parents that they want one for Christmas after they saw it in action. They were especially impressed with the quality and the bright light. There are three colours to choose from too - red, green and yellow.

    Sun Bell solar light and charger from The Solar Light Co
    I'm a sucker for free energy and really love solar when travelling/camping/festivalling. Up until now I've been using a few strings of solar fairy lights and a solar nightlight from the 99p stores! Reviewing these better quality products has made me see the light! (sorry) and I really think you do get what you pay for.

    The Solar Light company has a great range of really nice products. The service is excellent, they even send you some seeds to plant to offset the carbon used in delivering the lights! How lovely and green!

    Thanks to the Solar Light Company for the loan of the Sun Bell, and for the Nokero Start and the Little Sun.

    If you choose to buy any of the products on the site - do say hello to Alan from me :-) 

    Update - The Solar light Comapny no longer stock the Sun Bell - they have other new and exciting things though. So take a look

    Fire Safety when camping

    One of the things that used to terrify me when I first went to festivals was how close the tents were pitched to each other. Having joined the Camping and Caravanning Club I was all about the 6 metre rule (it's ridiculous really! 6feet would be more sensible) and of course a car between the tents too - all as a fire precaution, no one wants a fire sweeping across a campsite.

    Festival camping is much snugger - often tents practically touch! or at the very least are one a guy rope length apart. So fire safety in the tent, always important, becomes even more so!

    I have never seen a fire at a campsite or a festival, by the way, so don't get all panicked. With some basic common sense we can all stay safe. Why not involve the kids early in understanding fire safety when camping? At Camp Bestival the Disney Fire and Rescue team were on hand to help! With lots of fun and games and advice. And everyone loves a firefighter!!

    So here are some top tips and some fun activity sheets for the children. Stay safe everyone!

    • Never cook in a tent unless the tent is specifically designed for cooking. Never cook in a tent at festivals.
    • Don't use open flames near a tent, leave a big gap if you have a real fire as sparks can travel.
    • Don't use open fires at all if it's windy, or at a festival where tents are close, try and find the designated fire pit - loads of festivals have one, it's safer and more friendly.
    • Never leave a fire, barbecue or cooker unattended.
    • If cooking with gas keep gas bottles safe and secure. Don't change bottles near naked flames.
    • Don't barbecue in a tent, ever, don't barbecue near a tent, don't take warm coals into a tent to keep warm. Charcoal from barbecues gives of carbon monoxide and can kill.
    • Dispose of any hot ash, coal, wood etc safely, ensure fires are properly out - pour water over them.
    • Don't use candles in a tent. If using citronella candles outside to keep insects away, ensure you don't leave them unattended and make sure they are out before you leave them or go to bed.

    Festival etiquette - a rant

    dandelion clock gif

    I have been to a few festivals this summer (as always) and I have been muttering under my breath on occasion as people seem to forget their manners totally when in a field. Yes I think you should be able to let your hair down and relax. Yes I think children should be allowed to be children. yes having a few drinks is fun, but there are limits!

    So here are my top festival etiquette tips/rants about bad behaviour:

    • Rubbish. There are bins, if there are no bins near your tent use a rubbish bag. There is no excuse. I don't care if you are 17 and it's your first festival, I don't care if you are on the litter team and will clean it all later anyway, I don't care if your kid did it, I don't care if you forgot bin bags! (ask someone, loads of campers bring a roll or two) There is no excuse! You are on someone's land. There may be animals there next week. Litter clean up is expensive. At the least you are adding to the ticket price and at worst the land owner may decide never to allow the festival again. Tidy up - yes I'm judging you, you leave a mess you are a slob and don't deserve to be allowed to go to festivals
    • Gazebos. Some festivals have a no gazebo policy, some don't but however you look at it, with all the cramped tents and lack of space it's pretty selfish to bring a gazebo. Ditto loads of windbreaks to create a fence between you and the neighbours. It's not a campsite it's a festival. You should be spending most of the time at the festival and the little time you are back at your tent you will be asleep. I'm sorry if it rains and you get wet. People get wet at festivals. Gazebos are rude.
    • Water taps. There are often queues for water. The correct etiquette at the tap is to get your water, in kettle, bottle, jug, cup etc and move along! Children that are too young to carry the bottle they have been asked to fill should not be sent alone to the tap. DO NOT stand and brush your teeth at the tap (especially with the tap running!) DO NOT stand and wash your hair at the tap. I would think these things would be obvious but it seems not. No one waiting to fill a bottle of water wants to wait while you soak the ground by the tap and wash your hair, or watch you scrub and spit minty foam for 5 minutes. Fill your cup/bowl etc and move on.
    • Toilets. Festivals toilets may be 'nasty' it is not your job to make them nastier! Ladies, do not hover and spray the seat with wee - or if you do - clean it up! (and buy a shewee for next time). Men, check your aim. Flush before and after you use the toilet - flushing before ensures the toilet is slippery so that any ... solids ... slip away when you  flush afterwards. Flush! and clean the seat. Do not leave the toilet full of rubbish and old cans either. If there is no paper/hand gel, politely tell anyone queuing after you - in case it changes their choice of toilet.
    • Queuing. We are British, we queue. Do not queue jump, for food, water or toilets..or beer! Be polite, point out if someone is being overlooked at the bar. A festival should be friendly not a battle ground.
    • Children. Children love festivals, camping and the outdoors but not everyone loves your child like you do (I know, it's a shocker) If your child is bothering someone who is eating, sleeping, drinking, talking etc remove your child from the person's space and apologise. Often the person will tell you it's fine and to leave them, but always show you are aware. Even at a kids festival like Camp Bestival sometimes adults (and some children) need a moments peace.
    Do you have festival rants? Do you hate parents that yell louder than the kids when they tell them off for noise? Do you hate judgemental people like me that dislike your gazebo? What are your festival moans? Do share on my facebook page or have a wild moan on twitter

    Camp Bestival - the event...

    So we finally made it to Camp Bestival. The weather played pretty fair (except for Saturday morning when even Rob da Bank agreed that gin was acceptable for breakfast)
    But apart from some brief rain the festival was awesome fun (as usual.

    My brother learned circus skills in the 'Kids' Field (he's in his 40s)

    Man plate spinning

    I dressed up!

    Ringmaster and tiger costumes at a festival

    We listed to music, drank cocktails, lurked in the woods and generally had a rather fine time. I even managed to just about keep tweeting for the whole 5 days I was away from a power source thanks to the Sun Bell light/charger (more on this later).

    band on stage at a festival camp bestival
    bloody mary cocktail at a festival camp bestival
    bright festival colours
    inside a bright coloured festival tent camp bestival

    One thing that Camp Bestival seems let down on is fabulous loos. The loos are adequate, but never restocked with paper or hand gel, and while there are nicer compost loo at the main site, the campsite area portable toilets are a bit basic. A shame at a family festival where little kids need to be coaxed into using the loos! (the mini kids compost loos are very cute though)

    The food onsite was all delicious and it was nice to have such a great choice of cultures etc at the Fest Collective.

    the fest collective tent
    Despite the initial excitement about the teen arena, when my teen saw what was on offer (I quote 'it's all fashion and rapping') she wasn't interested, and didn't visit it! She did love the random pianos though, and the lovely feel of just wandering among the noise and colour of the festival.

    I think Camp Bestival is still the best family festival, especially if you have children under 12. The little kids we saw were all manic with excitement and having great fun.

    Main stage at camp bestival
    If you are thinking of going next year, check out the payment plans, you can spread the cost over the year.

    fireworks over the castle at camp bestival festival

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