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Muddy heads to Britain’s Forest Fest

LOCATION

All eyes were on Feanedock, a 70 acre woodland site on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border in the heart of The National Forest for Britain’s first Forest Festival. The focus of the inaugural and unique event was a story about the forest, where the planting of trees has been changing lives and the landscape.

When you’re going to a ‘Forest’ festival and the sat nav’s saying ‘you have arrived at your destination’ and there’s just acres of greenery on either side, you start to wonder if you’ve aissed the entrance but then we spotted the giant white words; TIMBER.

Luckily, getting in and out of the car park was a lot less confusing than I thought it would be, no long queues, no silly parking signs and plenty of space – so far so good.

THE VIBE

As festival virgins, Mr Muddy and I were not sure what to expect. We visited Timber on its last day and luckily things were much quieter than the previous days. It was also 29 degrees and I was melting faster than my chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream, so I would have found no joy in trying to manoeuvre ourselves and the mudlets in the heat with an extra hundred odd bods.

Like I said, I’m no expert but as far as festivals go, this one was big, but well spread out and organised; it covered 70 acres but was completely manageable in one day. The main area was Field Notes where amongst other things, were a handful of food trucks, the cheesy vinyl bar and the main tent. We perched here to refuel mainly because my toddler wanted to stay in the quirky, travelling children’s bookshop.

The festival was designed to celebrate the impact that trees and forests have had on our lives and has brought together brilliant artists, speakers, performers and installations to the National Forest.

A relaxed and carefully thought out festival, there was plenty to make us challenge the mind and entertain the kids from campfire stories, tree climbing, mask-making workshops, a cycle powered carousel and the interactive and colourful, Carnival of Animals. Other highlights included a torch lit procession, sound and light installations, an impressive fire garden and talks on ‘how to think like a tree.’

The Museum of the Moon was probably one of the most impressive bits as far as ‘things to see’ goes. Here festival goers were encouraged to explore all the sides of the moon. Measuring seven meters in diameter, the moon featured detailed NASA imagery and each centimetre of the lit, spherical sculpture represented 5km of the moon’s surface.

I loved the aerial silks workshop run by Whispering Woods (something I’ve wanted to do for like foreverrrr) but with the kids, didn’t get a chance! Boo! It was still really fun to watch the little kids and adults have a go.

Meanwhile, Seek, Find, Speak; A Conjuring Told in Gold is an adaptation of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s illustrated book about twenty nature words that are at risk of disappearing from modern childhood due to a world led by technology. The forest theatre trail took you deep into the wood and you could see all the imaginative ways in which they’d bought the story to life including using gold lettering and sound recordings.

Credit: Chris Payne

A strong line-up of writers, artists, poets scientists and philosophers made up a curated programme of talks and discussions exploring the relationship between humans and nature including award-winning poet, Karen McCarthy Wool. I caught snippets of the keynote session led by Stuart Maconie who talked about the changing nature of the landscape in a post industrial Britain to a packed-out crowd.

Shivelight was the place to go for some r&r. This area was transformed into a whimsical woodland spa, where you could take part in tai-chi, the quirky and playful laughing yoga and my fave, bathing under the sky in a luxurious wood-fired hot tub.

It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago this entire area was once derelict, covered by just 1% woodland, it’s now nearly 30% woodland and has been transformed from coal pits to tree tops. It’s thriving now and is a true testament to those who have nurtured it.

As for music, I was keen to see Jalen N’Gonda and listen to his ohh soo cool and soulful bluesy arrangement and I really would have loved to see Aadae but she only performed on the Friday.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Definitely. Festivals today are so much about being family friendly well at least the ones that appeal to me! Ha! We watched the kids go wild in the maze amongst the colourful  forest monsters. We missed some of the workshops I would have liked my toddler to take part in but in all honesty, I think he was happy just taking it all in and relishing in his chocolate ice cream.

I was surprised to see so many people were sitting in the shade (it was THAT hot) but there were plenty of drinking water points so you could fill up your plastic bottles to cut down on waste. This was handy over the hot weekend and we kept cool with lots of ice cream breaks.

The Muddy Verdict:

Good for: Families, big groups, friends – it’s a great addition to the festival scene in the area. No queues anywhere. Great food choice, lots of toilets, water point and recycling bins. The large tents were handy when trying to escape from the sun but you couldn’t escape the heat!

Not for: Anyone expecting big headline music acts or who doesn’t like the great outdoors and hates walking. Uneven ground with lots of stones and quite hilly at some points, not great if you have a young baby or a pram.

££:  Adult weekend ticket with camping £130 and for children  (3- 17 years) £45. Friday day ticket £35 and for children £10, weekend day ticket £40 and for children £15. Under 3’s free. Parking £5.

Sign up at www.timberfestival.org.uk to be the first to hear about dates and early bird tickets for 2019.

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