The morning of Deer Shed Festival things were looking pretty grim. Everyone was tired out from their last days of the school year and the forecast was for heavy rain all weekend. To make matters worse, we had never tested out our canvas tent in the rain and we weren’t sure it would withstand a downpour.
Still, the kids and I had been looking forward to the festival for a long time and I didn’t want to give up before we started. So, with a bit of a word with myself about toughening up and quite a few cups of coffee, I set about packing our car.
As the afternoon wore on, the forecast began to look up. Friends who were already at the festival assured my husband that they were enjoying themselves.
We didn’t end up leaving our house until after 5:00, so by the time we got to the festival it was early evening. Parking was well-organised and because we had pre-booked parking, it only cost £10 rather than £15 to park up.
What I didn’t pre-book was a trolley. It was quickly obvious that we were going to need one. To get all of our gear from the car to the camping grounds was at least a 20 minute walk.
To hire a trolley was £5 per half hour which was taken from an initial £50 cash deposit. I was kicking myself for not pre-booking one (at a discount) for the weekend, or even buying one from Aldi outright.
Once we had the trolley loaded up, we did find it a bit difficult to find a tent space for our large tent so late in the day. There was some wandering around (with crabby kids and all our gear) before we got ourselves a spot. At this point I was feeling a bit frustrated that we had left it so late and felt worn out before we had even started.
Once we got the tent set up it was getting dark. Although it was late, we packed the kids up and headed into the festival grounds to watch Teenage Fan Club.
It didn’t take long for the chaos of the day to melt away. Watching the kids running around in their headlamps absolutely as happy as can be made it all worth it. (A big glass of red wine for me didn’t hurt either).
The weather stayed nice for the show and Leo fell asleep in his Dad’s arms. An all around great end to a long day!
That night the heavens truly opened, but happily the tent held up just fine and we stayed cozy and dry. Strangely, we slept better at the festival than we have at any other camping trip we’ve had so far.
The next morning we woke up to rain and a wet festival. I set off for coffee and we kept the kids in the tent waiting for dryer weather.
As soon as the rain let up around 9:00, we got on our Muck Boots and headed for the WilderWild, a separate area to the music field, packed full of outdoor, eco-friendly workshops, activities and performances.
We spent a good few hours here making nature based crafts, getting glitter tattoos, and Lily even got a ride on a sled pulled by a Newfoundland. Some of the activities were free and others cost £2-3. Lily could have spent the entire two days there, and we ended up returning quite a few times. It poured again while we were there but we just took shelter under the canvases or pulled up the hoods on our rain jackets.
Everyone we met was so kind and happy to help. In fact, this is something that stood out during the entire festival; It had a thoroughly friendly, community feel.
We even got ourselves involved in a bit of promenade theatre where the kids were given their nature names ‘Little Root’ and ‘Shining Lady of the Water’ by an incarnation of the pagan deity of the woods! I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely clear on what was going on, but the kids were lead through the forest to ambush another group armed only with primeval yells and charmed, magical pine cones. It was truly wild and brilliant!
After our time in WilderWild, we made our way back to the main festival area where we took a break and watched some comedy acts in a tent. The Scummy Mummies and Nick Doody were both very funny although (thankfully) I think most of the Scummy Mummies act went right over my kids’ heads.
Toilets are always important when travelling with children and I am pleased to say we never waited long to use one. We did tend to use the ones outside the main area, but there were plenty available throughout the festival grounds as well.
There was also a water area and hot showers for those who wanted to freshen up.
We were too lazy to que up to shower, so opted instead for the ‘shower wipe’ option sent to us in a care package from Milllets and a bit of dry shampoo for me. (In case you’re doing the math, that means at the end of my video I hadn’t showed for almost three days!)
The food at Deer Shed Festival isn’t cheap (around £7 for a main) but it is really nice and there was an impressive variety of options including wood fired pizza, burritos, crepes and falafel. If you’re going to pay festival prices for food, it’s nice to get food that is restaurant worthy! I would suggest packing some quick meals (I found myself less likely to take the time to cook at the festival) to keep costs down.
The activities at Deer Shed Festival 8 were nothing short of fabulous. There was so, so much on! We were on the go for two days straight and didn’t begin to cover it all. We had fun with BoomChikkaBoom, watched films, helped construct a cardboard city, paint a mural, and decorate card board instruments. There were two areas designated for under 5’s as well as a very well stocked NCT tent.
The Science Tent deserves it’s own mention as the volunteers were amazing and so patient with the kids. They got to fly airplanes, make finger print key chains and have a go at a marble maze. There were quite a few workshops and activities to sign up for (some for over 7’s) but we only did the drop in, free activities.
Bringing along a phone charger (thank you again Millets) was really useful as Bill and I often split up with the kids and used the phones for taking photos/keeping in touch with each other. There was a place to charge phones for £4 for those who didn’t bring their own chargers.
With young kids and festivals you can’t get too attached to your plans. The second evening Leo fell asleep while watching King Creosote, and when he woke up he just wanted to go back to the tent. It had been a jam packed day (and it was near his normal bed time) but it meant that we missed Kate Tempest (dang!). To be fair, once I had the kids tucked in with their dad I could have gone back but they weren’t the only ones who were tired out!
After a bit of a rocky start, we had an amazing time at Deer Shed Festival 8. The laid back, family friendly vibe was the perfect way to kick off the school holidays. Even the rain didn’t spoil the fun, and in the end we had plenty of sunshine as well.
As our first ever family festival I know we’ve been spoiled – there was loads to do, it was very well organised and we all loved it. We’ll definitely be back next year – but next time we’re coming early on Friday!
Early Bird Tickets for Deer Shed Festival 9 are available from 10am, 12th September 2017
We were provided tickets to Deer Shed Festival 8 for the purpose of this review.