Camp Bestival. Oh how we do love thee.

 We couldn’t make Camp Bestival this year – so we sent our intrepid roving reporter WitWitWoo. Who quite frankly did a better job than we would have done. She camped and EVERYTHING. This is her account of her first ever festival – grab a coffee before you start, you may be here some time…

I have officially made it back from my first ever camping trip in one piece.  Quite frankly, I surprised even myself because, let me tell you, if you’ve never been before, camping is not easy!

Camp Bestival is considered the most family-friendly festival out there and after going, I can understand why.

The plan was that I would drive our two boys (7 & 16,) down to Dorset on the Thursday morning and my Other Half would meet us at the campsite that evening.  Of course, best laid plans and all ….

We had intended to leave at 9am and ended up eventually leaving at midday – par for the course when you have children.  It took us four hours to get to Dorset from Kent, including the obligatory stop-off at the motorway services where I had to trade in a child just to afford a Starbucks latte.  Twenty quid down already and I hadn’t even got to the festival.

We arrived at 4pm … complete with crampy ankles, an irritable teen and a hyper 7 year old.  All quite normal really.  The original plan was that we’d obviously be able to park really near our tent, it would take probably an hour to pitch the tent and before you could say, “Mine’s a double vodka & Diet Coke,” we’d be cooking the rapidly warming sausages before you knew it.   As I said earlier, all good plans …

In reality, because the site was already so busy (it had taken us nearly two hours driving through the town of Wareham and onto the site before we managed to park up,) that we were directed to park at the top of a very big hill.  Me and hills do not get along.  We hadn’t really thought through the whole ‘transporting luggage’ issue and found ourselves miles away from the first area of spare land to camp on.

This is my main gripe about Camp Bestival.  You end up parking so far away from your tent that the round trip to bring luggage down from the car ended up taking an hour.  Times that by three and suffice to say, I was a little hacked off by Thursday evening.

My teen gallantly offered to do the last two trips on his own and Dexter, my youngest, and I, attempted to look like we knew what we were doing with the tent and airbeds back at Base Camp.  We didn’t.  For a start, we’d forgotten the foot pump and it wasn’t until after forty minutes of manually blowing up a double airbed that a fellow camper finally took pity on me and lent me their foot pump.  Good job I’ve got a good pair of lungs on me.

The whole putting up the tent thing didn’t work either but thankfully, someone else offered to help.

Next problem was getting my Other Half into the campsite when I had his wrist band.  Which brings me onto my second gripe of Camp Bestival.

I know I’m not the only one who felt this because believe me, when people are hacked off, they talk, but every steward I spoke to over the weekend did not have a clue whatsoever as to where anything was on the site.   It really was a case of, “Errr … sorry, but if you ask Bob in the Magic Meadow, he might know.”  You get the picture.

To cut a very long story short, I managed to finally find my Other Half by the castle.  By fluke more than anything.  We finished pitching the tent, we ate scrambled eggs by candlelight and we slept hard … on a rapidly deflating airbed.

The best thing about Camp Bestival is that there is so much to do.   This can also be the worst thing because you can’t see/do everything.  There were things I wanted to see but completely epic failed all over the place because I went to CB with the ethos of not getting too hung up on cramming everything in.  However, if you have military precision like planning, you’ll fare better.  But be warned.  The site is massive.  I mean … it took us over half an hour to walk from the first part of the main festival area back to our tent.  And this is where the trailers come in handy again.

Now I obviously didn’t get the memo about a trailer being necessary not only for transporting too much luggage across mountainous terrain but for schlepping your kids around from one field to another to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.  In fact, most canny parents not only decorated their trailers but padded them out with blankets and pillows and their kids slept in them whilst Mum and Dad partied all evening.  (Some people just have too much time on their hands quite frankly.)

At the main ‘Hi-Di-Hi’ stage, children’s TV presenters, Dick and Dom, did a great job compering the children’s entertainment, introducing such live acts as The Gruffalo, Zingzillas and Mr Tumble (Mr Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumblllllllle!)

We had watched The Gruffalo live before, (it’s great, catch it if you can,) so we decided to have a lazy morning.  I hadn’t slept well but the world always looks better after a fry-up – even one cooked over a single ring stove.  Granted, it may have taken slightly longer to cook this way but when you consider that a bacon roll was more than £4, and there’s four of us, you’ll understand why we tried to cut corners where we could.  Besides, cooking outside is what you’re meant to do when you camp, right?  I’m sure it’s in the Camping Rulebook.  So I sat on my camping chair, with my little stove, and cooked breakfast every day.  I didn’t mind as my Other Half did the washing up.  The kids?  Well, they just ate the food, so nothing new there.

We’re a pretty laid back family and so there was no pressure on any of us to have to do anything.  Our eldest had already made friends with the kids from the tent next door and so we barely saw him all weekend – apart from when he wanted money or feeding.  Typical.  But we were happy with that because we really didn’t want him cramping our style, (or is it the other way round?)  Our youngest is seven and I had specifically not told him about any of the acts that were appearing because I didn’t want to feel beholden to be anywhere at a specific time.  However, you could buy a programme, which came with handy lanyard, which outlined who was on and when.  Would have helped if I’d bought myself one really.


Three things Dexter loved:

1.    Jousting:  In fact, he loved it so much that he not only watched it three times, but watched it on the Ferris Wheel to get the perfect view.  Now that’s dedication.
2.    Bubble Guns:  They were everywhere.  You couldn’t walk a metre without being smacked upside the head by a giant bubble or five.  At £9 per gun (I say gun, more of a sword really,) they’re not cheap but the kids loved them.
3.    Fancy Dress:  Every year, Camp Bestival has a theme – this year was medieval.  If your child is anything like me, they love dressing up.  Most of Dexter’s costumes are so small now that the trousers are ¾ length and the tops are crop tops.  He doesn’t care at all.  Dressing up as a knight at Camp Bestival was a whole lotta fun for Dexter.  If you’ve forgotten to bring an outfit, there’s even a fancy dress shop on site, Smiffy’s – but get there early because they soon run out of the most popular items.

Three things Teen loved:

1.    Ed Sheeran:  One of the many strings to my ever-expanding bow, is that I’m also a music reviewer (as is the teen now,) and so there were some acts appearing that we definitely had to see.  Ed Sheeran was one of them.  Not only was his main show amazing but I managed to find out about a secret gig that he was playing straight after the main show.  After managing to blag our way past security (“You’re name’s not down ….”,) we were privy to a gig to no more than 100 people and Ed played us his new songs.  A really mellow affair, in the middle of the woods, apparently at someone’s wedding (!) and we felt privileged to be there.  The teen could barely speak when he came out (he was front row,) only to tell me that I was the best mum in the entire universe.  Hey – tell me something I don’t know!
2.    Girls:  Nuff said.  Lots of teens were at Camp Bestival and I know some people were a bit upset that they seem to have been able to allowed in on their own, without an accompanying family.  But the certainly didn’t cause me any bother – but then I’d deliberately camped miles away from them!
3.    Chilling:    He felt safe enough to wander about on his own without any hassle.  These days, just walking the streets at home, there’s some little runt that wants to have a go.  There wasn’t that vibe at Camp Bestival at all.  Everyone was there to listen to music and have fun and there was absolutely no trouble at all (that I saw.)

Three things Other Half and I loved:

1.    Atmosphere:   No, they’re not a folk band (although that’s a great name,) but my Other Half and I lead pretty hectic lives, we haven’t had a holiday for over four years and so Camp Bestival was the first chance we’d had in years just to ‘be.’  So, for us, just spending time together in a place that felt like a mini community full of like-minded people, was wonderful.
2.    Dancing:   My Other Half and I met dancing – in a salsa club to be specific, and it was what brought us together.  Nine years on and … well, we don’t get to dance much these days.  At Camp Bestival there are lots of dance classes put on and everywhere you look, there’s always music to dance to.  We took full advantage and really let our hair down.  Our eldest was grateful he wasn’t around to see us raving and after initially not knowing what to make of it, our youngest just joined in! It was good for him to see Mum and Dad letting their hair down.  At least I think it was.
3.    Happy Kids:  When we’re at home, there’s always some squabble going on between our boys.  It’s normal, right?  (Please agree!)  At Camp Bestival, admittedly because they weren’t in each other’s space all the time, they were just happier when they were with each other.  Yes, there were a few disagreements, but overall, they rubbed along together nicely.  Both got to do what they wanted to do (within reason,) and that led to a relaxed atmosphere.   Most of the time.  Happy kids = happy parents.

I missed out hearing any comedy, (ahem, bar my own of course,) Sara Cox speak, James Vincent McMorrow and Ms Dynamite.  But we ate at River Cottage, loved Katy B and had a great time on the Helter Skelter.  We didn’t see Shrek, the Insect Circus or Nero (they cancelled twice – the teen is still vex!), but we ate some great food, I had the best facial ever at the Khiels stand and we saw some amazing bike tricks at the Skate Park.

Camp Bestival is host to 30,000 people and if, for some reason (*cough* money *cough*) they make it bigger next year, I think that would adversely affect the whole experience.  I’m hoping they don’t.

There are things that could be improved at Camp Bestival – it’s not perfect – but what is?  Overall, I have to say, I’d recommend it to anyone.

Camp Bestival 2011 rocked – even though I barely slept, spent a fortune on food and felt like I’d walked a thousand miles.

Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

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1 Comment

  1. Love, love, love Camp Bestival. Our second visit this year with 5 and 3 yr old and it just gets better. Hard work and tiring with the kiddies but fantastic! Thanks for the review and bringing back the best memories of my summer. I have a review on my blog too if you want to have a peek in the August archives x x

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