Wilderness Festival 2019 │Review

Wilderness Festival 2019
We went camping as a family a couple of times in 2018, but this year we really wanted to try a festival with the children. We were regular festival goers before we had kids, but haven’t braved it as a family before now. We thought that now they are 5 and 3 years old, it was probably good time for us to give it a go. 

When it comes to UK festivals there is so much choice, but we did have a few criteria we wanted to meet. 
1) family friendly
2) not super expensive
3) reasonably close to home (in case we needed to abandon camping and, as a last resort, just drive in each day)

After a bit of research Wilderness Festival appeared to be the festival that ticked most of the boxes for us. No, the tickets certainly weren’t cheap, but they were cheaper than others we had looked at...which is saying something! 

Tickets arrived about 5 days before the event, well, I say tickets. What we received was wristbands with QR codes on them. At the gate we were asked to pop these on before entering the site. I wore mine and the 3 year olds bands. My husband wore his, and the 5 year old wore hers. Quite quickly we realised that the 5 year old could easily slip hers on and off her wrist, but a quick visit to the box office sorted that. They snipped off the plastic clasp, added another, and popped it onto my husband’s wrist instead. I did see some children with wristbands on their ankles too, which is another option. At one point during the weekend my husband actually lost his wristband, but he visited an information point, and by showing his booking details and some ID they sorted him out with a replacement.

Wilderness Festival 2019 wristbands
Driving to the festival site and getting parked up was so much easier than we’d anticipated. We arrived around lunchtime on Thursday 1st August, drove straight there, followed the clear signposts to the car park, and pulled straight in with no queuing. As we had tickets for the Family Camping area (more about that in a moment) we were able to park in the Family Car Park, which was only a short walk to the campsite (it took us about 15 minutes from our car to our tent, but obviously that all depends on where in the Car Park your car is, and where you pitch your tent). 

As we attended with young children (ages 5 and 3) we opted for the Family Campsite. It was a short walk from the Family Carpark and there was so much space to pop your tent up. In all our years at Reading Festival, and the one time I’ve been to Leeds Festival and Glastonbury, we’ve always had to battle for a campsite space to squeeze our tent into - not the case at Wilderness. As we were expecting space to be limited we actually took a much smaller tent that we usually would when camping. It was a bit (ok, a lot) of a squeeze to fit us all in to sleep but we packed extremely lightly and we coped. The sleeping area was also blacked out which meant one day the children didn’t wake until 8.30am, which is unheard of - the squashing was worth it for that alone! However, if we were to return I think we’d opt for our usual family tent, as there’d be plenty to space to pitch it.

The campsite was pretty clean and tidy, and there were bins dotted around so we could keep it that way. The bathroom facilities consisted of lots of portaloos and a few showers. There were the usual queues for toilets and showers, particularly in the morning, but that’s to be expected. I only braved the showers once...they were ok. Cold, a bit of a weedy spray, and I’m glad I took my flip flops in, but it did the job! 

We did bring a camping stove so we could make a few meals at the tent. Again, we kept it simple with a little gas burner, but some people had gone all out. I quite fancied joining the family I spotted cooking up steaks, courgettes and corn on the cob outside their tent!

At the gateway between the campsite and the festival site itself there was an information tent where we picked up paper wristbands to put on the children with our phone number on. However, just be mindful of what number you pop on them. My husband’s phone signal was fine, but I barely had any signal all weekend so that would have been pretty useless. 

Getting around the Festival Site
The festival site was pretty compact, and easy to walk around, however lots of families had festival trollies to pull kids and belongings around in. I didn’t feel like we missed out not having a trolley, but then again we didn’t all stay up super late either. There weren’t any late acts we were all desperate to see so we were just flexible with our plans, for example, one night I stayed up whilst my husband took the children back to the tent, another night my husband stayed up with the 5 year old, and I took the 3 year old to the tent. If you did all want to stay up though, and you have younger ones, a trolley probably would come in handy - we saw plenty of sleeping children all cosy and snuggled up in theirs.

The Fun Stuff
There was so much going on at the festival all day, from early in the morning until, well, the early hours of the following morning! As with most things like this, you can spend as much or as little money as you want. The only thing we paid for all weekend (apart from some food and drink) was a couple of goes on the Ferris Wheel. 

Wilderness Festival 2019
We spent a lot of time in the Family Area of the festival. We saw shows, the kids went to the nightly disco, they took part in circus skills, did crafts and made bath bombs, and joined in with lots of games. All for free.

We also went to some of the main stages to watch the music and have a dance, but the kids favourite activity was trying to spot all the streakers during the annual Sunday morning cricket match!

Dancing at Wilderness Festival
Although we headed down to to Swimming Lake, I must admit to just hanging around on the banks. Lots of people seemed to be having a ball in the water, but it didn’t look like the most inviting colour to me!

On top of all the free activities, there were loads and loads of things you could have paid extra to do. There were hot tubs at The Lakeside Spa (you have to book these in advance), as well as massage and aromatherapy treatments at The Sanctuary.  The Greencrafts Village hosted a wide a variety of activities including jewellery making, basket weaving, and wooden spoon carving. You could try your hand at axe throwing, horse riding, or scale the climbing wall. You could have even headed to a long table banquet, the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Garden, or the Sipsmith Gin Palace. These are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head. The list of activities was endless.

We had the best time at Wilderness Festival, and we will definitely head back, but it really was the poshest festival going! Having said that, it did have a lovely relaxed vibe, and I felt safe having my young family there. Other festivals I’ve been to seem to have a focus on drinking as much alcohol as humanly possible, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Wilderness seemed to very much focus on getting people to try or learn something new, and to have fun. The kids just had a ball, and we could happily have stayed another night or two! Until next time Wilderness!