By The Mole
The festival is held in the beautiful setting of the New Forest within a short walk of the sea and a clear view of the Isle of Wight.
Because we decided to take Dylan with us we chose to take our own tent and sleeping bags. Being new to camping we had chosen to strictly obey the "no food" on site rule and went with a bag of clothes, our tent, air beds and sleeping bags. (Plus food for Dylan because you can't mess with his diet, sorry - and I don't think this is what the rule is about).
The staff around were extremely helpful and friendly and not officious. The tents varied from 2 man bivouacs to 8 berth star shaped huge things and the families attending similarly varied from couples to families with 3 or 4 children.
I had also expected there to be a few dogs there and was surprised that it was dozens! We all know that not all dogs get on and we don't necessarily know why. Dylan is very much an Alpha who doesn't like to have his face sniffed. Other Alphas are offended by his Alphaness and words can be exchanged but it was great that we met no-one who didn't know and understand their dog and everyone behaved responsibly and got along very well. I suspect Dylan was getting a little tired of all the "What a gorgeous dog, may I say 'hello'?" - something he normally can't get enough of.
Dylan has a very thick coat and struggles with heat so has learnt to look for shade to lie in on warm sunny days and Saturday was one beautiful day. Throughout the weekend we were going to our own events and passing Dylan back and forth as we thought venues might be better for him. At the Jo Cannon event I went to a quiet corner of the tent that still had a very good view of the proceedings and sat on the floor with him while he caught up with a little of his much needed sleep. At Laurence Shorter's Lazy Guru event, which was far less formal, he still managed to find a little shade and masses of attention from other attendees who, at times seemed to forget why we were there!
Princess' Blankets, with the children loving it.
With the comedy I think there should have been a warning of content to parents because, at times, some of the language and humour became a little bit adult, although no one seemed to be dragging their children away either.
Now the food... Let's be totally fair - prices were not cheap and we had not expected them to be. The sellers obviously had to pay for their pitch, their staff to be away from home and they also had to ensure that they didn't end up throwing away too much food. (All of which had to be reflected in the cost.) Apparently last year, according to a witness account, by Sunday there was almost no food on site and people had been told they couldn't take their own. And the event was much smaller than this year so the sellers have to take a gamble.
Of all the the food sellers we all had our favourites but for breakfast the most popular seemed to be Tea Sympathy. They produced an extremely nice cup of tea with a variety of teas on offer and bacon muffins whose popularity had them running out of bacon by Sunday morning and the sausage alternative also ran out before everyone had breakfasted. But for lunch and dinner? Anything from Sushi, to Halloumi fries, to fish and chips, to pizza, to pies. Pies? Why pick on pies? I'm afraid I found the pies to be hugely tempting. Feta cheese and pepper quiches, a quiche with cauliflower, cheese and other stuff, chicken pies, beef pies..., it was a huge range. OK, I opted for the vegetarian quiches mostly because I find that a lot of vegetarian food is made tastier than meat equivalents - and I wasn't disappointed. Would I have wanted to feed a small family from the range of food available? Breakfast would have been fine but trying to get 2 or 3 children to choose and agree might have been a nightmare and the fact that some people were flaunting the "no food" rule did not surprise me and the organisers were not enforcing it this year.
So was it Family Friendly and Dog Friendly? You bet it was. Would we go again? Should the opportunity arise then most certainly and we will be watching the calendar. Was it perfect? Well... a few minor issues which I'm sure will be addressed. Last year there were only about 20 tents but this year that number had risen significantly to possibly 150-200 so the portaloos in the immediate area (there were more elsewhere) were a little inadequate in number. There also was no immediate water available to the tents and a bowser, if nothing else, would have been appreciated. Also as a dog friendly event I would have expected to see dog water bowls (or something) by the event tents, food sellers, or even by the stand pipes. (With some signage to the stand pipes too please? Some were hard to find.)
It was a fantastic weekend and I would recommend it to anyone. The events were hugely varied with something for absolutely everyone. More about the events over the coming days.