As a Glasto veteran of 25 years I'm always interested in new innovative ways to enjoy the festival. Having experienced the self contained luxury of a motor home on holiday in 2008, for the last 8 years I've been enjoying Glastonbury Festival from the relative comfort of living in the suburbs of the site in the camper van fields. I've never looked back until this year.
Inspired by conversations with people who are leading the Glastonbury Festival green initiatives I decided to go back to basics and try tackling the big G as a green traveller arriving on the coach and hiring a recycled tent with Camplight in the middle of the site. The idea of returning to Pennards where I had spent most of my early visits to the festival was exciting. Although my 40 something common sense had reservations about this break from habit, my inner 20 year old self foresaw this as an opportunity to enjoy parts of the site I have given less attention to in recent years, as the comfort blanket of the van tends to beckon me to climb the weary hill to bedfordshire earlier in the night.
Our allocated bus required a very early 4am start on Wednesday morning, but brought us to the site to be among the first revellers into the festival at about 8.30 am. Probably a good while earlier than the many other campers who had arrived in their cars the night before and started queueing at the gates at 5am. We tried to travel light as Pedestrian gate A, where the buses drop off, is on the opposite side of the site to Pennards where Camplight have their camp. However, having had all we could need always available in the van, it was hard to remember just how much or little we needed for a week under canvas, and we inevitably brought stuff we could have done without.
Camplight have started a small venture in collecting tents that are left behind at festivals, repairing them and making them available to rent along with air beds, camping chairs and a few other assorted camping accessories. This is not a "glamping" experience; just basic festival camping with the bonus of not having to carry or put up your own tent. Prices start at £30 and rise according to the size of tent and accessories required. Campers can identify their groups to be camped together and, for a small fee, can even book a small guest space for friends who want to camp with them but want to bring their own tent. A tent "mechanic" is on hand to help with any problems with your hired tent and the camp is interspersed with communal washing lines and recycling/rubbish collection points made from old tent poles.
We booked a three man tent for two of us to try to ensure we had enough room for ourselves and space to keep our kit relatively comfortably. When we arrived the friendly Camplight staff showed us to our tent and issued us with camp chairs. Our tent was smaller than I had been hoping for, 3 man tents vary widely in style and structure, but we moved in happily, personalised and decorated it with peg on fairy lights, flags and space blanket to try to keep it cooler in the morning sun.
The Camplight tents are within the main camping area, no barriers between Camplight and the space for other people to pitch their tents. The only drawback with this is that despite the tents being pitched together "cosy festival style", by the end of Thursday even the tiniest spaces that had been left for chairs and rubbish bags had been spotted and pitched in by other festival goers determined to squeeze into Pennards no matter how small the space available.
By Thursday I have to admit I had completely fallen out of love with the tent and regretted the decision to break from our traditional Glasto accommodation. As the initial stages of tiredness from early morning bus, late night partying, persistently noisy surroundings and feeling of being over crowded affected me, I just felt like I wanted to go home and get the van! However the solution was simple, we just stayed out, socialised, explored and got into the flow of the festival, and by Friday I had returned to a spirit of mostly enjoying the adventure of being back in the camping crowd.
The tent served us well for the week, it stayed mostly dry, was in a good spot for late night visits to Park, South East Corner, Stone Circle, and had a good view of the site including Arcadia's nightly flame show. If it hadn't been for where we were camped there is no way I would have got to the Sacred Space in time to see and hear the Dalai Lama speak first thing on Sunday morning. We were close to our friends who were sharing a Tipi and though we didn't get to know our neighbouring campers, it felt like a friendly place to be camped.
By Sunday night I had got so used to the all night noise again that when the 4am alarm went off on Monday morning to wake us to pack up and get back across site for the 6am bus home, it completely failed to rouse me! Luckily I woke up at 5, and having packed most of our stuff the night before we had just enough time to grab everything together and sprint the width of the site to make it to the bus with 5 mins to spare!
I'm glad I tried camping again this year, it reminded me of how much there is to enjoy at night at Glastonbury, and that if you can force yourself to stay out a little bit later, you'll find reserves of energy to get more out of the festival. I admire the work Camplight are doing, it's a great answer to the waste of tents being left at festivals. I feel proud to have camped with them and contributed to the great image of the top of Pennards looking cleaned and tidy only a few hours after the end of the festival.
I have to confess, personally, having the comfort of knowing that when I need to recharge batteries, physical and electronic, I can go back to my van shaped home from home is important to my sense of wellbeing at festivals. So I'll probably be back in the van next time, but I highly recommend Camplight to anyone who would camp anyway, particularly if you have to arrive after many of the camping fields in the best parts of the festival will be full. I hope Glastonbury Festivals will continue to enable them to offer this tent rescue and rental service as part of their attempts to address the problems with tents being left at the festival. If I could suggest one improvement it would be to offer both the Pennards option for the party people and another Camplight site somewhere else in the festival for campers including families who would prefer a slightly quieter part of the site.
I'm surprised more big events don't also use Camplight, who are available at a few other festivals. Camplight has turned part of the public campsite into profit for Glastonbury Festival rather than just a cost. Camplight have absorbed the clear up cost and paid the festival for the privilege.
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