Apparently it is the 26th year for Larmer Tree Festival, but just our second visit - the first was in a rather soggy and muddy 2012, unfortunately not a great experience for us 'Festival virgins'!
However, we are back for our second attempt and we are VERY glad we made it. We headed down on the Friday (due to work and school commitments) and left the Shires in beautiful sunshine. Of course, as soon as we arrived at the site it rained (our friends who were already there said we were a curse after 2012). However, by the time we had collected our tickets from the box office (which is really accessible, just off the main entrance - park up, grab tickets and head off to your field) and arrived in family camping, it had dried up – perfect for pitching tents!
Tents pitched, a little tipple of Larmer Tree wine and we headed off to the main arena, which was just a short level walk from the family camping field. We strolled in, greeted cheerily by security staff who just require a quick flash of your wristband and you're straight into the main village with its array of shops and stalls selling all kinds of festival goodies – from Henna tattoos (a particular favourite for my 11 year old daughter), to shell suits, bubbles and toys, inflatable pets, colourful tutu's and then there is the food………. Without a doubt we were spoilt for choice! Food is everywhere, outside the main entrance is Red Radish – an awesome full English breakfast, inside the village: The Curry Shed, Churros Bros (pricey, but then you realise after your main meal, there isn't room to squeeze in a little portion with meltingly good chocolate sauce!), fajitas, Shanghai noodles, roasted chicken and potatoes, crepes, potato wedges with a variety of toppings, the farmers market, the list goes on and on!
A cash point is also one of the first things you come across as you enter the site (very useful).
Apart from food is drink - bars are fully staffed, we didn't queue apart from when we ordered cocktails, as there was only one lovely lady mixing up their beautiful concoctions. I can highly recommend the Marilyn Monroe (strawberries, coconut, raspberries etc) - it is well worth the two minute wait! Another bonus is the non-alcoholic slushies for the very thirsty and hot eleven year old (normally, blue drinks are not allowed - but hey, we are on holiday!).
Now, on to the music.... Early Friday evening we went to the Arc and watched Lady Maisery; a trio of lovely ladies singing folk and playing a variety of instruments. Their music was beautiful, mostly ballads, but a couple of more upbeat songs.
Then it was onto Afro Celt Sound System on the Main Stage! I'm a newbie to their music, but having been to their gig in London this year, I was excited to see them... They didn't disappoint and we were up the front dancing (no need to worry about crowds and pushing at Larmer Tree!), my daughter was shaking her thang and loving it - you can't help but feel the beats, the sound, the rhythm - they were 'amazeballs' apparently (I agree, not necessarily with the kids slang though!). I find them mesmerizing - watching so many talented people playing such an array of instruments - it's a fantastic assault on the senses and truly uplifting.
Next was the highlight of our Larmer Tree experience – Kid Carpet in The Social. As Mr Carpet pointed out at the start of his set, if our kids didn't know many swear words before, they would after his performance. It was awesome, hilarious and the most random songs I have ever heard! 'Jesus Is A Hedgehog' has been stuck in my head since Saturday, along with 'Dogmeat' and 'Hitting the Wall' – all accompanied by a range of children's musical instruments.
We didn't stay up too late and headed back around 10.45 - quick toilet stop en route. Now, there's something worth mentioning! At Larmer Tree, you are never more than two minutes from a clean, fully stocked with toilet roll and hand sanitizer, portaloo! They are everywhere.... Lost woods, main arena, more importantly kids garden - no need to worry about emergency stops here, or worry about what you might find in the green box! For those who prefer a slightly more deluxe toilet experience, fully flushing posh loos are available in the camping fields. Another bonus were the Cosmic Cocktail ladies providing a mash up of music to keep you bopping whilst popping!
We woke up to a cloudy morning, but our tents had slowly warmed up with the morning sun, so much so I was glad to escape my zipped confines at 7.30am!!!!
We ventured up to the main site at 9.30 in search of food (Red Radish of course!), back to get ready for the day and then off to see Mr Bloom - he had a huge crowd: children and just as many adults - a huge hit with all! Lots of large balloons (vegetables: green peas, red apples etc.), were thrown to the 'Tiddlers' in the audience! Some seriously happy children and Mr Bloom ventured into the crowds to share his home grown veggies too.
We then went to the craft tent and discovered every child's idea of heaven - endless glue, tape, ribbon, scissors, paper, sparkly stickers - you name it, it was there! We made a beautiful 'dingly dangly' as I like to call it, which everyone was making for the parade on Sunday (along with countless pairs of beautiful fairy wings) - a riot of colour and creativity.
By this point, I was fed up of buying blue slushies and my daughter spotted the water bottles everyone was carrying! Frank Water! What a fab idea - £6 for a water bottle and free re-fills with purified, ice cold water from small carts placed around the site!
Not my words, but Frank's: "At FRANK Water, our goal is safe water for all. It's simple, bold and ambitious but we get closer every day. We know we can't do it single handedly. No charity can. So we partner with some of India's best grassroots organisations - those who have an established connection with local communities and a proven track record of improving water and sanitation"
Having read their tweets, they raised well over £5,000 during Larmer Tree - amazing!!! (862 bottles to be precise).
We then visited the wishing tree – so glad to see this here again! Pink and white strips of fabric adorn a tree, full of people's wishes and hopes, young and old – I could spend hours reading each and every one!
A new experience this year was the Water gardens, which were open! All the entrances were staffed, to ensure no little rascals entered without a grown up. The waterfalls and ponds were a beautiful oasis of tranquillity.
Next was the Bubble Boogie disco on the family lawns – what child, young or old doesn't love bubbles! The children were in heaven and for us 'oldies', there was some classic party tunes: Macarena, Mambo No. 5 etc. The family lawns are lovely with lush green grass, shady areas to cool off and escape the sun, arts & crafts areas and the Knitted Pig café, serving kids favourites at a very reasonable price.
I just had time to escape the bubble disco and catch the end of Gabrielle Aplin's set on the main stage, I caught her cover of 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weekend – she has a beautiful voice and the crowd loved her!
The rest of Saturday night was spent exploring the Lost Wood – my favourite place of all! I could spend the whole festival meandering through the fairylight-lit areas. With lampshades hanging from the trees lighting the way, fairies by the firepit, sofas to rest on for those with weary feet and beautiful coloured rays highlighting the white fabric hanging from the trees – it is so calm, peaceful, relaxing and pretty – even with children charging in and out the trees and bushes, the whole place has a lovely calming feel to it – a real 'at one with nature' experience.
Saturday night was also shower night! My daughter decided a shower in the dark would be fun – probably a good idea as there were no queues at all, showers were clean and HOT! There are inevitably queues in the morning, but if you can hold out for the afternoon and evening, there is no problem grabbing a much needed wash and only 2 minutes' walk from base!
Now, I must mention the peacocks! It is quite strange to see a random peacock wandering past you in the middle of a festival, but this happens LOTS. They must wonder what on earth is going on in their calm home – it's like having a house party that you didn't know was happening! Then there are the macaws – swooping over the family lawns, it really is a sight to see.
Another random event was being 'pegged'. A number of times I found myself attached to a clothes peg! I hadn't noticed anyone around me, but these little pegs turned up everywhere – little notes were written on them and then you had to pass them on – my daughter had great fun trying to attach these to others – generally people wearing fairy wings or hats were a great target! Eventually she found the 'Peg man' in the lost woods and of course, got a couple of selfie's with him.
Onto Sunday – we woke up to a real scorcher! The sun was shining and it was already really hot! We decided to de-camp and load the car first thing (hiring a trolley for 30 minutes is £5 and well worth it – a complete lifesaver, even if the cars are never that far from the camping fields!), leaving us the rest of the day to head back to the festival (glad we did, as it was sooooo hot later in the day, the thought of doing it all then would have been awful!). We enjoyed the rest of the day getting Henna tattoos, blowing bubbles, we also found DJ Derek's door, which was a lovely tribute.
With so many things to see and do, little quirks, unexpected delights around every corner, I could go on forever…. But I won't! What I will say is that Larmer Tree is truly a family friendly festival. Children of all ages are safe to roam, explore, climb trees and join in workshops and they always return (the Walkie Talkies we took were great – even if every other child at the festival had them and was on Channel 7 – never quite sure who you are talking to!!!).
What I would say is book your tickets for 2017 and spend a few days exploring for yourself – you won't be disappointed!!!!!
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
including Broken Brass Ensemble, Mammut, Flamingods, Sara Pascoe, Mark Watson, & more
plus guest curator of Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus