Sunday, 7 August 2022

Mishaps with a tent; not as prepared as I thought

A month ago we were packed and heading off to Timber festival. With Covid disrupting life, it had been a while since we'd stayed in the tent but I assumed I'd soon get the hang of it again. 

Preparation is important, especially after a gap, so we practiced putting up the tent and inflating the air-beds, and everything seemed fine. I practiced getting up off the floor. I dug out my alleged 'festival' clothes, varnished my nails, and was ready to go.

But thing didn't run to plan; I should have seen it as a sign when I realised about 10 minutes from home that I'd forgotten my hairbrush! We got there, put up the tent without too much trouble, went back to the car for a second load of clothes/inflatable beds/shoes, and everything seemed fine. But heading downhill to the festival proper I began to realise what a strain carrying things from car park to campsite had been. By half past eight I exhausted, and longing for a comfy bed. When we returned to the tent in the evening one of the beds had deflated, and even on the other I just couldn't settle so we decided to take the easy way out and go home for the night, returning in the morning.

 For a festival half an hour away from home this, while not ideal, proved a workable solution, but a couple of days later I received an invitation for ALSO festival. This wasn't an opportunity I wanted to pass up on, although being in Warwickshire there was no way I could nip home each evening.

 So ... we tested the beds again - this time actually sleeping on them for a night at home - and they were fine; they presumably just hadn't been closed properly. We were ready to go! Sort of.

I'm at stage of age and fitness (ie old and unfit) where I can't go out one weekend, exhaust myself, rest during the week, and be ready to go again the next weekend. ALSO luckily is one of the few festivals where you can drive your car onto the camping site, so no problems with carrying equipment this time. 

Unfortunately it left us a bit careless about choosing where to pitch the tent. While some of the campervans and glamping tents were on flat areas beside the actual festival site, tents were on a slope above. It didn't look too steep from the car, so we chose a spot with a view down to the main stage where we could just see the lake in the distance. Very pretty - if we'd been staying in the tent all weekend - but all the events, plus food and toilets were at the bottom of the slope, and what goes down has to come back up again. Remember my legs hadn't really recovered from the previous weekend (I saw small children running up and down quite happily); a bit more thought and planning would have improved our weekend a lot. 

So, there are lessons to be learned for another time, whether at festivals or on holiday, but I haven't been put off. I like the wildness, and back to nature vibe of staying in the tent, even when it's erected in manicured parkland, and I'm eager to try it on a slightly wilder campsite.

If you'd like to read about the actual festivals rather than my mishaps with a tent, follow the links below



Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Too hot!

 You've probably noticed (at least if you're a UK reader you will have done) that it's been hot. Not cute nip-out-and-get-a-tan warm but alarmingly hot.

At Coningsby in Lincolnshire a record high temperature was recorded of 40.3. From seemingly all parts of the country there were reports of wild fires. Not just the expected moorland fires but in London, Sherwood Forest, and the North Norfolk coast, with fields, woodland and houses going up in smoke. Rail tracks melted. In Buxton, Derbyshire, where they're more used to coping with snow, the road surface started to melt. But the Mail ran with a headline that read 'Sunny day snowflake Britain had a meltdown' as if we were all just making a fuss over nothing, and that global warming isn't anything to worry about.

I'm not used to this sort of weather. I've never really embraced foreign travel, and Mediterranean temperatures. Most years I'd spend my summer holidays in Scotland where it can be relied on to be cool. With some sunshine 16 degrees is perfectly warm enough to swim in the sea. So anything above the mid-20s mark is too hot for me.

Over on Twitter I stumbled on a thread of people responding to the question 'where is the hottest place you've been?' Dubai. Laos. Turkey. Another mention for Dubai. Death Valley. Singapore. Perth WA. Dubai, again. Well, for me the answer was simple - my own back garden, yesterday. My tiny indoor/outdoor thermometer showed over 40 degrees outside. It's not an expensive piece of kit, and was probably getting over-excited but it was certainly warmer than I've ever known it.

Today it's cooler. Back to 25 degrees or so. Just a little above my comfort zone but with a pleasant breeze to add a little wind chill. Lets hope it stays that way for a while.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

ALSO 2022

We were barely home from Timber festival when an exciting email dropped in my in-box - an invitation to ALSO festival, being held the next weekend! Would I be interested in press tickets? Ooh, YES, PLEASE! 
I've mentioned ALSO before as my kind of festival; not loud music and dancing till dawm, or at least not JUST that, but a mix of informative talks, music, and (for those wanting to do more than sit back in a field) activities. Numbers are kept to 2000; small enough to feel intimate, large enough to get that festival vibe.
 So, offered the opportunity, how could I refuse?After all, my blog and lifestyle are all about making the most of opportunities regardless of my age, and this is a festival I've been wanting to attend for some years.

Last Friday found us then, car loaded with camping equipment, heading south to Compton Verney, in Warwickshire. The site is possibly the loveliest place ever for a festival - 50 acres of parkland re-shaped and 'landscaped' in the eighteenth century by Capability Brown, and then gradually over the years being allowed to decline into something less formal. The deliberately designed flat areas by the lake are perfect for a main stage, smaller marquees, and food stalls, while paths lead off to the Lake and Woodland stages, a waterside Rum Shack, and the lake itself, home for the weekend to swimmers and paddle-boarders.

I'd started out with a plan - who I wanted to see/hear, which workshops I might like to join in - but I soon drifted away from it in favour of going-with-the-flow, and dropping in on talks or musical performances as they caught my attention. I think the only part of my plan that I stuck to was watching a food prep demonstration from Kathy Slack entitled 'Glut'. An enthusiastic gardener she understands the way home-grown produce varies between famine and feast, and in her book From The Veg Patch conjures up delicious, new ways to use common vegetables when faced with a flood of them. 

Professor Anil Seth
Other than that I wandered in and out of several fascinating talks - Professor Anil Seth talking about how we perceive the world and the difference between 'consciousness' as seen in animals and 'intelligence' as found in computers: sports psychologist, Dr Peter Olusoga, applying his training techniques to everyday life, and Dr Alex George in his 'Live Well Every Day' event talking about mental health, lack of adequate provision through the NHS, and his campaign to improve things. Sometimes I found myself nodding wisely in agreement, sometimes I disagreed with the speaker, but they all made me think. 

Dr Peter Olusoga

Jeffrey Boakye presented a different sort of talk, taking the audience on a history of Black Britain through songs. Stop and really listen to the words, and you'll realise some of the hardships the Black communities face. I missed the beginning of this event, but wished I hadn't.  

Juno Dawson
Wandering past the Lake stage I spotted Juno Dawson, known to me as a YA author, but now presenting her first novel for adult-readers, Her Majesty's Royal Coven, and discussing the similarities between witch hunts and the attacks faced by the LGBTQ community. 

I approached the musical acts in much the same drop in, drop out way. The first on Friday evening was singer/songwriter Luke Jackson,  followed by James Graydon who 'coached' the actors for Bohemian Rhapsody, but after those I rather lost track. There were certainly 'rockier' sounds from Keg and Manor, and Ciaran Lavery tempted us back down to the Main stage when we'd already decided to turn in for the night!   Joining in with the ALSO choir or the Charleston dance ceilidh I left for others with better voices an more energy.

The weather was amazing. Just perfect for lounging around, sipping a non-alcoholic Seedlip spritzer, or eating buffalo-milk ice cream. 

With both bacon cobs and fresh fruit for breakfast, organic lamb burgers sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and Trinidadian street food from Heart and Soul BBQ, the food was great. If you wanted something more formal there were Ukrainian, Syrian, and Balearic cookery demonstrations/dining experiences to indulge in with tables set out beneath the trees. 

There are probably more things I wish I'd done than things I did. Certainly one of those feasts. An event or experience that clashed with something else. A talk about doughnut economics, because it's something I've heard about but never made sense of. I didn't go swimming in the lake, or try paddle boarding. I didn't learn to make a (non-alcoholic) Bloody Mary or go on a foraging walk. Sometimes there's not just enough time for everything, but I think the feeling of 'didn't get to see everything' is a better one to leave with than 'seen/done it all'; it tempts you back another time.

I have to, out of fairness, mention that it wasn't totally idyllic. We pitched our tent too high on the surrounding slopes. It gave us a great overall view, but left us with a trudge down to the festival area and back uphill at the end of the day or if we'd forgotten anything, and quite a way to go to the toilets in the middle of the night.  And those toilets, though very nice proper flushing loos, weren't really numerous enough and got blocked too quickly. The first could be avoided with a little fore-knowledge; the second happen anywhere with 'off mains' facilities. 

To any readers who maybe think festivals aren't for them, I'd say, give it a go. Stretch your mind a little. Try something new. Come away inspired. 

The way to the woods
Next year's event will be held 14-16 July, and super-earlybird tickets are already on sale here

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Timber 2022

I'm still recovering from a weekend of music and activities at Timber Festival on the wonderful Feanedock site in the National Forest. This is the fourth year (with a gap in 2020) that the festival has taken place here and it's a fitting setting for a celebration of woods and outdoors, as not so long ago this area was given over to open-cast mining; now through landscaping and the planting of trees, it's returning to nature. 

With a mix of woodland and open glades, it divides naturally into a series of linked but separate spaces for stages, food vendors, well-being activities, woodland crafts, and campfire discussions. 

Smoke Fairies

Despite all my scribblings in the programme, I didn't find time to everything I would have liked to do. We were there nice and early on Friday to catch Smoke Fairies kicking off the show on the Eyrie stage, and caught lots of incredible acts here and on the bigger Nightingale stage, lying back in the afternoon sun, eating dairy-free ice cream, and letting the music wash over me.


Smoke Fairies, atmospheric and haunting. 

The Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, full of life, Bollywood rhythms, and joyous exuberance.  

Lunatraktors' modern protest songs and clog dancing.

Josienne Clarke silhouetted by the sun
 Josienne Clarke, despite her claims that all her songs seemed a bit melancholy, I loved their gentle sound

Ceitidh Mac on the
beautifully-sited Eyrie stage
In between there was Ivan Campo (an Indie folk trio, not the Spanish footballer), Kabantu, Mishra, Ceitidh Mac, and Haiku Salut, Unfortunately, Holy Moly and the Crackers due to close the festival on Sunday evening, and who I've been trying to catch for years, had to cancel at the last minute (but I might not have still been awake by then). By the way, dancing - whether ceilidh or bollywood - I left to others.

In and among this, I found time to  make wildflower seed balls with the National Memorial Arboretum; I dropped in and out (that's the beauty of an outdoor festival) of various talks and discussions, as wide ranging as Simon Armitage reading from his new book, The Owl and the Nightingale, and Steve Guy, aka The Hungry Guy, showing how to make your own vinegar. The most interesting I found were Louisa Ziane on the amount of waste in food production, and how Toast ale came into being to use up unwanted bread, and Dr Jack Matthews' Beginners Guide to Pebbles about the geology of  pebbles you might find in Charnwood Forest Geopark. 

In another wooded clearing, the Canopy, I watched Lives of Clay a story told through dance and music, mingling of the myths of Parvati and Shiva with a story of a modern Indian woman 


There were some slight disappointments - rain showers which found their way into the tent; Holy Moly and the Crackers couldn't perform as I've mentioned above, and Janet Ellis also had to cancel her Wilderness Tracks session; various glitches and injury plagued Timeless performance in a huge hour glass, and it never really seemed dark enough for the Gloaming Light Trail and the Unfurl Giants to be seen at their best.
But mainly it was a weekend of blissed out lazing in the sun.

Next year Timber will run from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th July, and Early Bird tickets will be on sale soon

I was asked along to Timber, and my ticket paid for, by the organisers Wild Rumpus, though I made a donation to the pay-it-forward scheme which aims to raise fund for free tickets for carers. Views are, of course, my own.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Wildflowers in formal bedding - Kedleston

Every summer in recent years the gardening team at Kedleston Hall have sown wildflowers seeds in the formal bedding areas of the grounds. I'm not sure what the original owners of the hall would have thought but I think they're lovely. 

In past years the beds have been filled with poppies and Queen Anne's lace, or California poppies, but corn marigolds are the stars, filling the centre of the beds with California poppies,  lunaria and other flowers at the edges.

The bees and beetles certainly seem happy with this year's choice.

The lion just remains aloof.


Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Midsummer poppies

Last week on Instagram I happened to spot that someone fairly local to me had been out to see a field of poppies, so I went to track them down.

They're growing on a hillside above the Derbyshire town of Belper, just off an old lane which follows the ridge-line. We parked at the northern end and walked, but there is limited parking on the lane itself (in use that evening by dog-walkers).

The lane goes up, past a small wood, then down, and gradually, on the left-hand side, glimpses of poppies appear, till finally the whole field comes into view.

It's a bit like that moment in Room with a View when the countryside opens out to a view over Florence, but, you know, with Belper in the background instead. Who needs Italy anyway, when you've got Derbyshire? 

Despite dashing through this area of Derbyshire quite frequently, I rarely stop and walk there, so was pleasantly surprised at how lovely and 'countryside-y' it is, especially not being far from Belper town centre. Another time I'd come prepared to explore further (with a map though as the signposts aren't reliable)

Taking our time a little more on the way back, I spotted wild roses, blackberries, and foxgloves in the hedges. Maybe the weather contributed but it certainly felt like a lovely quiet spot for a walk.