Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Over the bank holiday, we went to the Galtres Festival - a little local festival that has evolved from a beer and food festival into a family extravaganza of bands and beers.

As you are well aware, I'm writing this a good month after the event, so you'll have to make do with the edited highlights. As it is we didn't take a camera (we sadly lost the little camera last winter, and we didn't like the idea of taking the expensive SLR to a festival), so this is a bit bereft of photos.

It rained. For several days beforehand and then most of the first day. And people walked around on the wet grass until there was no grass left. So we got to experience the seven ages of mud right from the sludgy stuff squidging around the grass, through molten flowing liquid mud, to sticky, half-foot deep quagmire that sucked toddler wellies off every other step, all the way to dried rocky ravine mud. As someone who was at Glastonbury in the Year of the Mud, before they installed the amazing drainage system, I wasn't too bothered, but some people didn't enjoy it, and the campsite emptied out on Sunday quite dramatically.

Typically, the kids weren't too bothered. They didn't like it the first time they fell over and got caked in soft runny stuff, but once we had explained that we weren't going to wipe it, that it just dried and then you brushed clumps of it off leaving an insulating brown crust, they just got on with it! It meant that there was none of the sitting round on the grass, listening to bands, nursing a cold beer while the kids ran around us, which is what we had all been imagining, but it just added an extra dimension to the complexity of moving around the festival site.

We had to do quite a bit of hosing down when we got home!

The amazing bell tent
You wouldn't think we could get more enthusiastic about the bell tent, but we can! The bell tent was in it's element. Cars weren't allowed on the campsite - you had to carry things in. When we arrived at the site, it was chucking down with rain - really throwing it down. But Nathaniel and I were smug in the knowledge that during the 10 mins that Ian spent taking the tent to the campsite, he wasn't just finding a pitch and dumping the tent to get rained on like everyone else, he was putting up the tent, so that we could retire to the dry while he brought all the other kit.

Then as the rain continued, we sat in the tent with the door open, watching everything that was going on, with no rain getting in at all. There wasn't a nylon tent on the site that you could do that in.

And we quickly met the other bell tent enthusiasts - five others around us - and spent hours afirming how great our tents were!

The awning was a godsend as well. While other people had a swamp outside their doors, we rigged the awning between us and the Turner's tent and had a covered, dryish mud area where we could barbeque, put chairs and generally shelter without running for the cover of tents.

The buggy

We don't use the buggy much anymore, Nathaniel prefers to scooty bike, so we felt a bit silly taking such a big conveyance to a festival. But we had the idea that it would enable us to carry stuff around the site during the day easily, and give Nathaniel somewhere to have a bit of a rest without returning to the tent. Obviously that turned out to be not even an option once the mud started to stiffen up, but the buggy had already turned out to be worth it's weight in gold.

Carrying three days worth of food and camping equipment from a distant car park to a tent doesn't sound too arduous, but when the car parks have all been closed due to the fact that no-one could move the cars through the mud, and your car is miles away, and it's tipping with rain, and the mud is deep and squelchy, life is much easier if you can load up a buggy and push it!

Nathaniel the wonder-toddler

Festivals aren't necessary the best place for 2 year-olds, especially when they are very muddy. There is noise 24 hours a day, and nowhere to retreat. But Nathaniel took it in his stride. We anticipated that he would find the stages rather loud, and got him a pair of ear defenders which he wore with pride and as result really enjoyed seeing bands.

As it was, this was the most amazingly family friendly festival that I have ever seen. Along side all the story-telling, sing-a-long sessions, shadow puppet shows and tents filled with sofas and tea, there was a whole kids field with a tent full of brio! Nathaniel spent a good afternoon playing with trains and castles and planes while I reclined on bean bags and chatted to the play workers.

The rest of the time he happily squelched his way around in shorts and wellies, encrusted with mud up to the waist, with his cap on his head and backpack on his back taking in the sights and sounds.

In the evening when our friends were wrestling their over-tired toddlers into bed, we sat around the barbeque with a big carry keg of beer from the beer-tent while Nathaniel peacefully went to sleep. Star child!

We weren't really expecting to see many bands, particularly when it became apparent how muddy it was going to be. After bedtime, someone was going to need to stay with the sleeping boy. So we drew up a rota according to who liked what the most, and resigned ourselves to the fact that only one of us would see most of them, especially, the Sunday night headliners, the Levellers.

But come Sunday night, Nathaniel had been so good, that we agreed that after supper he could get ready for bed and then come out to see a band in the dark so that he could see all the lights. He decided that he was going to do this in the buggy, so we bundled him up in warm pyjamas, blankets, ear defenders and a hat, and pushed him over to see Beyond all Reason, who we both wanted to see. He was fascinated, and then promtly fell asleep in the second song! So Ian and I both saw them, and then pushed him over to the Levellers, and due to the complicated way that the site worked, got to see both bands from relatively near the front. Excited doesn't really cover it!!

All in all, we had a great weekend, and although the mud made it a different experience, it wasn't a disaster at all. We're already considering tickets for next year........

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