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
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!
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