Sunday, 29 July 2018

Timber Festival 2018 - an oldie's viewpoint

I've already written a round up of the fun I had at Timber festival, but back in April when I was looking round the local festival scene, I was looking for an event that would appeal to all ages, or perhaps more accurately my mid-life age group, so I thought the weekend was worth revisiting with that in mind.

I'm a relative newcomer to festivals, particularly the camp-in-a-field sort. I'd tested the water, so to speak, with visits to Hay Festival and the mayhem that is Edinburgh in August, taking in both Fringe shows and Book Festival events there, but I only really took the plunge with a proper festival a couple of years ago at Curious Arts Festival - and really enjoyed it.

So, what is a more mature festival-goer looking for? Primarily, like anyone of any age, to be entertained and amused, with, certainly for me, a little bit of intellectual stimulation thrown in; at Curious Arts there were author events; at Timber, discussions about the importance of woodland, sustainability and environmental concerns.

This was something that immediately appealed to me when I first heard about Timber Festival, and why I was so delighted to be asked along as a 'Timber Pioneer'; although there would be musicians on the two stages pretty much constantly, it wasn't primarily a music festival. Instead it wanted to spread the word about the benefits and pleasures of spending time among nature in general, and woods in particular, there would be entertainment for the younger festival goers, and interesting talks and debates for the older ones. Excellent for an old tree-hugger like me! I'm certainly not looking for a retro 70s/80s pop extravaganza, or a nostalgic look at the good old days of my teens. I want something relevant to now.

up close with Museum of the Moon
I never found time for everything I wanted to see and do (we were hampered by a family crisis), and there were lots of wood-related activities I would have liked to investigate more - pole lathe turning, carving with a spoke shave, willow weaving, wreath making, discovering how charcoal is made. On the other hand, it's only fair to say that I really enjoyed some of the 'children's' events as much as they did - the Seek, Find, Speak performance, the campfire storyteller, finding my way through the maze - and many of the art installations such as the Museum of the Moon and the night time Fire Garden appealed to everyone.

 at the top of the hill, in the
shade of a hedge, 
with the Nightingale
stage below

Down to the practicalities.

The festival took place on a 70 acre site, divided into smaller hubs of activity, and with quite a slope to it, which might have caused a slight problem for us more mature folk, as the car park and campsite were situated at the top, with much of the festival happening at the bottom. We made the mistake on the first day of dashing straight down the hill to the Field Notes tent to catch a discussion I particularly wanted to hear, and later walking directly back up, which was dreadfully steep. The next day we found a more circuitous route that wasn't half as tiring, and, also, that if you didn't dash straight down there was plenty to see and do before, or even instead of, heading down the hill. 

art from rubbish

Attracted at first by a turtle made from old tyres, we ended up chatting at length to the Greenpeace rep, but there were other equally interesting informative stands there, from Derbyshire Wildlife, the National Forest, and Forest Holidays, plus pop up shops selling goods from wicker sculptures to clothing. Forest bathing was situated not far away but in a more secluded area of the site, a horse-logging demonstration off to another, and at night Jony Easterby's Tree and Wood drama and song lit up a small woodland clearing. With a variety of food and drink stalls in this area, and the natural acoustics bringing the music from the Nightingale stage drifting up the slope, you could almost have spent a day without venturing down the hill.

Moving round the site, there were plenty of seats here and there, especially by the food stalls but due to the hot dry weather sitting on grass under the shade of a hedge was an attractive alternative. Folk singer, Ewan McLennan, performing on Sunday afternoon, commented on how odd it was to find people at a British festival huddling in the shade!

As for the food itself, the choice was excellent. Everything from pizza, fries, burgers and posh hotdogs to burritos, halloumi fries, and curry, lots of vegan/vegetarian options, plus cakes and ice creams so you could be as cautious or adventurous as you wanted. Something else I liked was that the food stalls weren't all crowded together in one spot, but distributed across the various 'hubs', so that you didn't have to walk a long distance for food, only to walk back again - I'm old, so I believe in this sort of energy-saving :)

There's just one thing I've not covered ...  mention festivals and most people (particularly of my age group) will ask about toilets, expecting horror stories. They'd have been disappointed though. Timber actually had some of the best mobile loos I've seen - wood-effect laminate cubicles and real running water in the hand basins! OK, not all of them were this good - at various points around the site there were more 'normal' portaloos but there were plenty of them, well-spaced around the site, and I didn't find any that weren't perfectly clean. As we weren't camping, I didn't see the showers, but I imagine they were up to the same high standard.
As the sun set, strings of lights came on to mark the pathways, to help you find your way around the site.

So, if you're a mid-lifer like me and considering a little festival style adventure, would I recommend Timber? Without doubt, especially if you've an interest in the outdoors and woods. You've obviously got to be of the right mindset - if your interests are solely fast cars or computer games this isn't for you :)

As a Timber Pioneer my entry was paid for, but not my opinions, they're all my own!

Next year's dates have now been announced - 5/6/7/July 2019 - and early bird tickets gone on sale 
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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Carsington Water - almost seaside

I live just about as far away from the sea as you can get, so, although it's just about feasible, a day trip involves an early morning and long car journey. So during hot weather I make do with Carsington Reservoir.

At the moment with water levels low, it looks quite like sea lazily lapping a stony beach. There's no paddling allowed, but there are yachts and canoes so it's possible to pretend you're near a marina or harbour.

I've never walked the whole way round - it's about 8 miles so doable perhaps even for me - and this day we just walked out to Stones Island (not an island but it does have modern 'standing stones' erected at the time the reservoir was built), and then, after lunch, along the top of the dam.

It's usually cold and blustery along the dam, but not this time - just a little breeze at least to take away some of the heat.

Along our way, we came across these carvings - a wizard, dragon, elf and tiny fairy houses. Perhaps they were all part of Hob's trail, but we never found anything to tell us.

A good sort of day though, and almost like being by the sea :)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Timber Festival 2018

This weekend saw the launch of a new festival, Timber; a joint project between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus, with, at its core, the celebration of everything 'woody', through art, music, activities and discussions. 

The festival site, just outside Moira, on the border of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, was an area of fairly new woodland sloping quite steeply down from the car park and camping area, forming a natural amphitheatre for the main Nightingale stage, and with grassy avenues leading to other open grassy spaces, much like a series of linked rooms, with new 'finds' in each.

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may remember how thrilled I was to be asked along, as a 'Timber Pioneer', and I'd been laying my plans of what to do and see, so, did it live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Did I follow my clever plan? Not entirely.

murmuration by day
We'd never intended camping for the weekend, as we wouldn't have been able to take our dog along, but going along for large parts of each day, while he guarded the house. As it turned out, family problems, plus the worry of leaving Dylan the dog for too long because of the heat, made it impossible to go for the length of time we'd planned. Plus, on Friday, I left my programme at home, so that part of my careful planning went to waste. We did, though, have an amazing time over the weekend.

Adam Weymouth

The festival was billed as 'family friendly' but it wasn't just a festival for children.

There were serious discussions on environmental issues taking place in the Field Notes tent. We sat in on one about food, how it finds its way From Field to Fork, and what some producers are doing to break the supermarket's grip, and keep production local and small scale. Listened to Adam Weymouth's talk about his journey down the Yukon river, and the challenges faced by the communities along its banks, as the salmon they once relied on are being severely depleted. Chatted to the Greenpeace rep about the wonderful response to The Blue Planet programme about plastic in the oceans, but the great challenges still facing us and the natural world.

Lots of the events and activities though were suitable for all ages.

High on my list of plans had been to catch Seek, Find, Speak, an outdoor theatrical companion to Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris's book The Lost Words. These lost words are ones relating to the natural world - such as lark, bramble, and otter - which are disappearing from children's speech and writing. Dressed as a charm of goldfinches, the actors led us on a search for those words hidden around the festival site, bringing them to life through poems and dance. It mesmerised both children and adults (and given more time, I'd have watched again and again)

Another 'must see' was Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, a touring piece of art hidden for the weekend among the trees. By daylight, it seemed more scientific and technical; at night, ghostly and unreal.

 I found my way through a maze woven through saplings, and a labyrinth made of straw. Watched story-tellers and acrobats. Encountered a Carnival of Animals, discovered Forest Monsters, and rather wished I'd been small enough to go on the Bewonderment Machine, a pedal-powered carousel.

murmuration by night
The whole site was transformed by night - strings of lights led the way from the murmuration, to the Eerie stage, and another art installation, the Fire Garden

The Eerie Stage

The Fire Garden

Is it really safe?

Part of my plans for this year include trying 60 New Things. I settled for the struggle of trying to relax in a hammock, while my husband was delighted to be able to try 'long-reining' at the horse-logging demonstration. I'm not a fan of horses (they tend to bite me!) but I was interested to hear of the environmental benefits of using them for forestry work, instead of tractors.

Time was against us though and we didn't have chance to really check out all the activities on offer, from willow weaving to turning walking sticks on a pole-lathe.

Over the three days, we listened to a wide variety of music - Westerman, Jane Weaver, Ewan McLennan and Perhaps Contraption (a brass band like none you've seen) on the larger Nightingale stage; Sivu and Disco Lypso on the woodland Eerie stage. Plus of course, at a festival, it's always there in the background, even if you're doing something else.

One of the things being explored in various ways at Timber was the regenerative power of woodland - both physically, as it has in the Feanedock area transforming former open-cast mine workings into green hillsides, or emotionally and spiritually. Last week wasn't a good week at a personal level, but Sunday afternoon found me sitting on a hillside in the shade, listening to music, feeling relaxed and refreshed. What could be better? 

 All in all it was a fabulous experience - amusing, enlightening, entertaining in equal measure. I've now added an extra post on its suitability for 'oldies' like myself

Next year, I hope, will be equally wonderful. The dates have now been announced as 5/6/7 July 2019 and super early bird tickets are now on sale  Or you can sign up for news at

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why I won't be leaving Twitter

Twitter is awash, once again, with folk saying how bad social media, particularly Twitter itself, is for you. Scroll through your feed for a while and you'll soon find stuff to make you angry and/or sad. To live a happy life, delete the app, ditch the phone. Or so they say.
Well, ever the argumentative type, I disagree.

For me, Twitter has become a replacement for the gossip at the school gate. I post about the sort of things I'd discuss casually with friends - where I went at weekend (some stately home or out for a gig) what I'm having for dinner (whether it's made with allotment veg, or something from a tin made to look fancy), how the garden's doing, a good book I've read, tv programmes I've watched - and look forward to similar posts from the people I follow. It's the same casual chat you could have anywhere. But it reflects real life, which isn't happy and sunny all the time, so it's also a place I go when I need cheering up, and a 'you ok, hun? Take care' lightens my day, and I hope that if they need it, I offer that same support to others.

What about real friends, though? Aren't they so much more important? Well, no doubt they are, but take for example my current situation. I'm rushing round from hospital to care home coping with my ill parents. I don't have time to go visit friends for coffee and support. Twitter is there at the press of a button. Equally, in the time-consuming but mind-numbing state I'm in right now, to be able either first thing or at the end of the day, or even if the person you're visiting has fallen asleep, to be able to pop onto social media, to share a little in other people's lives, to check that somewhere life is going on as normal, helps tremendously.

I'm sure there are bad aspects - body-shaming, bullying, envy, political arguments that rapidly drop to name-calling level - but I've hardly ever encountered them.  If you happen to be a well known public figure things are undoubtedly different (some people seem to enjoy nothing more than hurling insults at anyone marginally famous), but the majority of us are normal, obscure people who won't attract such abuse, and I don't like to think of newbies being put off Twitter by thinking it's all about trolls and angry rants. Just as in that group of mums waiting at the school gate, there'll be ones who want to be the centre of attention, some who always seem to be up in arms about something (trivial or serious), others who seem to get most pleasure from bitching about people. At least on Twitter, I can block the annoying ones. I rarely involve myself in politics or social issues beyond the odd comment here and there. I don't mind if my 'friends' hold differing opinions to mine, unless they try to ram them down my throat (if they do, they'll quickly end up blocked ).
On the whole, I've found chatting on Twitter to be a positive thing. As a book blogger, I've got in touch with authors, publicists and publishers, and got the low down on upcoming releases. As a 'private' person, I've discovered new bands, new places to visit, swapped recipes, held a virtual hand when someone needed it. It's like being back in the playground - be careful who you hang out with!