Monday 12 August 2019

Larmer Tree Festival 2019 - A Chilled, Family Festival

Before kids, my experience with festivals was one very very wet and muddy weekend at Glastonbury. I can't say I enjoyed it much and I decided that it was much easier to watch festivals from the comfort of my own home - with a clean toilet and no mud!

It wasn't until Elliot came along that we started to dip our toes into the festival world again. I realised that family festivals were a completely different ball game and you didn't even have to camp!!

This year we were invited to check out the Larmer Tree Festival which is located at the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset-Wiltshire border. We weren't able to camp for the entire weekend due to prior commitments so a day ticket was perfect for us. I love the fact you can get day tickets for these type of festivals, it's a perfect way to get a taste of everything without having to do without your creature comforts back at home.

We chose to go along on Sunday and it just so happened that this coincided with a performance from Elliot's idol, Andy Day and his band the Odd Socks! The kids are big fans (you might even say superfans!) so we were excited to see them live again.

We arrived at the festival site bright and early and were directed into the carpark by some very friendly stewards. This was something I noticed throughout the day, all the staff we encountered were very helpful and very friendly!

The festival site isn't overly huge so the carpark was only a short walk to the entrance (nothing like the mammoth walk at Camp Bestival!) and we were soon swapping our e-tickets for wristbands.

The first thing we spotted was the impressive Larmer Tree which is located in the Village area. Whilst we got our bearings, we decided that we'd start the day by sampling some of the many food offerings dotted around the festival. Paul and I had a lovely bacon sandwich and the kids shared a healthy smoothie and flaxjack.

Andy & The Odd Socks were due on the main stage at 11am so we decided to head for the main lawn and nab our favourite front row spot. Things were very calm on the main lawn however as there was a mass yoga session going on - it was very quiet, and very chilled out and it did make me giggle thinking how different the atmosphere would be in about half an hour when dinosaurs and giant footballs would be bouncing around!! It also made me giggle when eagle eye Elliot broke the quietness with a very loud "Andy!!!!!!" as he spotted his idol getting things ready on the stage!

Once the yoga had finished the lawn was quickly filled with families waiting to enjoy the show - and what a show it was! We have been to quite a few Odd Socks shows over the last couple of years but this one had such a great atmosphere from start to finish. Even a bit of rain didn't dampen the spirits!

Elliot and Erin had a fantastic time and it was lovely to see Erin getting so involved. After the show, we heard on the grapevine that the band would be coming out so we headed over to the side of the stage to see.

I always say this but the band are so lovely to their young fans - they always greet Elliot like an old friend and you can see from the photos below how happy this makes him! Erin also surprised us by not crying like she has done at every other Odd Socks meet & greet...I think they were starting to think it was something personal ;)

After that bit of excitement, we wanted to explore a bit more so we headed away from the main lawn and followed the nearest pathway. The brilliant thing about Larmer Tree Festival is that there are things to see around every corner, and there are lots of nooks and crannies and little paths to explore. Perfect for inquisitive children!

We ended up in the Lostwood area - a series of woodland pathways filled with art installations, secret spaces, a campfire and a whole host of musical instruments hanging from the branches. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before and was certainly popular with the children who could play the instruments to their heart's content. Elliot was quite taken with the guitars whilst Erin preferred the drums!

Although the festival is highly popular with families, it still felt intimate and not overcrowded at all. Walking through the Lostwood was busy but we never felt rushed along and there were plenty of instruments for everyone.

There were also lots of fantastic art installations - we stumbled upon some animal skulls that were decorated with beautiful bright designs. It's a pity we weren't there to see them at night time because I imagine they looked even cooler lit up.

Lostwood was also home to the Peachick Play Area and Baby Changing area - we didn't use this but it's great that there was an area dedicated to the little ones.

The Wilds area was a short hop from Lostwood and here we found the cinema showing a variety of classic films throughout the day and night. I'm sure if we had been staying the whole weekend, we would have ended up here! It looked very cosy and a great way to relax and take a break from the festival madness.

Woodland Crafts was a popular area in the Wilds with a huge array of workshops and crafts for the kids to get stuck into. The tents did look fairly busy when we popped our head in so we didn't get around to making anything for ourselves but I did see lots of homemade decorations dotted around the festival that had been created by mini festival-goers over the weekend!

We spent the next few hours exploring the woods and gardens and time just seemed to fly by - there were so many things to see, even just stopping to do a bit of people watching kept us busy!

The Museums area was great - Erin fell asleep at this point so whilst she was snoozing Elliot did some colouring and we learnt lots about the history of Larmer Tree Gardens from the Salisbury Museum. They also had lots of interesting artefacts on display including items that had been found at the Larmer Tree Gardens site over the years. 

One thing I love about festivals is the random and wacky things you can see when you're not expecting it! We certainly had a few of those moments including some really unique looking puppets that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Labyrinth!

We also caught a pop-up theatre company next to the Larmer Tree - I'm not totally sure what it was about but there were pirates...and the kids were transfixed!

Throughout the weekend, the many stage areas played host to a huge variety of acts including KT Tunstall, The Shires, Kate Tempest and Tom Odell who was a late addition to the line up after Jack Savoretti cancelled due to tonsillitis. The music side of things isn't a priority for us, aside from the family bands such as Andy's, the kids aren't really into bands yet but we managed to fill the entire day without actually seeing anyone else sing! We were happy just exploring the festival and taking in the atmosphere however we did see lots of families enjoying the live music.

One thing we did catch, however, was the carnival procession in the late afternoon sunshine. Winding its way up from the Lostwood, we heard it before we saw it and it was fantastic to see so many families taking part!

The Southampton Ukulele Jam caught my ear - they were a band of very enthusiastic ukulele players belting out some very familiar songs and I only wished we'd managed to catch another of their performances.

Of course, I can't review a festival and not talk more about the food - and there was so much on offer at Larmer Tree. Throughout the day we grazed on very very cheesy mac & cheese, lovely homemade icecreams, churros (is it even a festival without churros?!) and we might have made multiple trips to the Saint Valentine Liquorice stall! There were plenty of healthy options to be had and the smell of some of the stalls was just so tempting. Prices were a little steep but it's to be expected when you're at a festival and I don't mind paying when the food is really good!

We had a lovely day and it really is the perfect family festival. I feel like we only scratched the surface of what Larmer Tree had to offer for families and I hope we can return next year to experience more. 

*Disclaimer - We were provided with press tickets in return for an honest review - all words are my own and I think you can tell we had a lovely day by the big smiles in the photos :)

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