Friday, 5 June 2015

Family Festivals 2015 - Feast In The Woods


or, Mum Unplugged.

Most of the time I revel in modern life. I’m just one of seven billion citizens yet each morning I pop on a watch with more computer power than an Apollo moon lander and go to work in a lab filled with high tech instruments and powerful lasers. All human knowledge is just a few taps away on a little device in my pocket and there is always something interesting to read, watch or learn. I don’t believe technology is somehow destroying human relationships, it can enhance them. My kids can dance in front of their grandparents even though they are hundreds of miles apart and I can chat with old friends on the other side of the world, in real time and without counting the cost of each second.  I also love London. Lots of people flee the city when they have kids but it can be a great place for families. You could do something new here every day for a lifetime and still not have seen or experienced everything on offer. MissE shares her classroom with kids of every colour and religion and while the rest of the country wrings it's hands over immigration policy, she sees only friends.

One of the labs at work (a form of high tech microscope) has a sign on the door which says: "life is fast and colourful" and it is. But sometimes I like to switch off, to take the kids out to a field or a woodland, disable the mobile data connection and spend a few days blissfully dirty and uncontactable. So both weekends this half term we stuffed our little car with tent, blankets and camping stove and headed off to festivals. You'll be able to read my review of Wychwood over at the wonderful Festival Kidz site (I'll add a direct link once the review is up) but the previous weekend was spent wild camping in Kent at Feast In The Woods.

MissE and I had been to Feast on our own last year after MissM came down with chicken pox and had to stay at home with MrSB. It had been a glorious weekend and I’d immediately booked for this year. But like meeting your heros there is always the risk that if you return to something wonderful, it might turn out not so good and ruin that first perfect memory. With the whole family along this year, including my mother-in-law (who joined us at the last minute as a birthday present) I was anxious that the weekend might not live up to my sales pitch. Those anxieties disappeared as soon as we had our tent up in the clearing though.

I think she was a tiger at some point


Feast is very small and tucked away in a private woodland with no roads. Most people there had children and it felt quite safe to let 5 year old MissE run off into the woods with the other kids. There were always parents about keeping an eye on things, but no need to hover over your own child all the time, which of course our little miss independance loved. The only problem was stopping two year old MissM (who can sniff out danger a mile away) from disappearing off with them.


This year there was a fabulous canopy over the firepit and in the evening we all sat around toasting marshmallows, making endless cups of tea from the communal kettle or popping to the cider barn for something stronger. I recognised a lot of people from last year and like us, many had brought along extra friends and family this time.



On Saturday, after the obligatory camping bacon butty, there was forest school. The kids set out to make a den with a bit of help from the parents (ok the parents had a great time and were very very proud of our the kid’s den). The rest of the day passed with an obstacle race, making bows and arrows and of course a lot of running, climbing and swinging in the woods. In the evening we all made bread on the fire. It was intended to go with dinner but we all of scoffed it immediately before our communal feast of local and foraged food. I had no idea barbecued spring onions could be so delicious!



On Sunday morning the sun shone and a group of us found a little patch of grass for a yoga session then we all headed to the lake for a barbeque. I’d been adamant I wasn’t going in the water this year but as the weather got warmer I grabbed my swimming costume and plunged into the freezing but very refreshing pool.

By mid morning on Saturday MissM crawled into the tent and crashed out for a few hours


We had planned to head home on Sunday evening but as a few rain showers got the tent wet and the covered fire was so very appealing we stayed for another night to finish off the marshmallows (and the contents of the cider barn). Poor MissE was in floods of tears when we finaly left on Monday morning, hugging her new friends, begging us to let her stay for the whole of half term and asking if we could go back next year.

Bamboo Trumpet


Coming back to London felt very strange. I walked across Peckham Rye common to some local shops in daze. In that wide open space the few people dotted about felt like a crowd, the traffic at the edges seemed alien and bizarre. For just a few hours I couldn’t connect back into the world and I didn’t want to either.

Later on I eased myself into it by making facebook friends with a few other Feasters and sharing pictures. By the next day I was back to getting the crowded commuter train, back to my busy job, twitter, blog, smartphone beeping and chiming with each virtual interaction. Then, with all this amazing, wondrous modern technology, we booked our tickets for next year.

This is how to deflate an airbed

SBx

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