Well, we did it! Our last festival of the year is over and what a great time we had. Into the Trees is in its 4th year and this was out third trip there. Pippingford Park in East Sussex is the setting of the beautiful Elderflower Fields festival - and the team who put these two festivals together every year always do an amazing job. For the first time, Into the Trees allowed families to camp for the weekend.
Camping in the Autumn may put some people off but the weather was perfect. Into the Trees is smaller and more intimate than Elderflower Fields, the car parking area was very close by to the campsite making it far easier for us to cart our heavy load.
The site opened at 2pm on Friday, we had to leave after the school run so arrived around 5pm, found a spot and pitched up. We instantly got on with our new neighbours who had a bunch of young children and for many of them it was there first festival and first time camping.
We had come prepared for all weathers, our bell tent withstands rain and high winds and we use our sunshades as an awning - which double up as a shelter if it rains. For cooking we either use our frontier stove, a gas hob or we cook outdoors on our fire bowl. The festival was partially open, so you could buy food from the selection of vendors, plus the bar area had lantern making going on and there was acoustic music around a large fire bowl. Marshmallows were handed out and biscuits and all around there was a great chilled vibe.
On the camp site there are portaloos and a block with flushing toilets as well as steaming hot showers which had complimentary products from Professor Scrubbingtons inside. There is drinking water available plus washing up facilities and the site had recycling areas too. There were bell tents that were set up for glamping and also an area for motor homes.
The festival started at 10am on Saturday, there were things going on beforehand including yoga sessions which unfortunately we missed. My family love playing disc golf so headed straight over for a round. We had a little stroll about and headed to the axe throwing and archery. For these you needed to buy tokens from the info tent or it was £2. We've done both of these activities before and always enjoy them.
The art trail was a delight to see as always. So Sussex and Schools Without Walls put out a fabulous amount of activities in the woodland. Lots of busy little children (and adults) hammering, weaving, felt making, flag making, lino printing, clay faces......
Next we went into the woods - to be honest this is probably what we enjoy the most. The Ashdown Forest is beautiful and we always see so much. There are fungi everywhere, ceps, boletes, fly agaric were just a few we spotted.
We chatted to the men at the RSPB stand and looked inside some owl pellets. There were a group building coracles out of willow. Children were kayaking and canoeing - again this is an extra cost but one that I would consider next year as it looked brilliant.
Throughout the day there were so many things happening everywhere forest schools, mud kitchens, the Woodland Tribe, Twisting Spaces were building a huge wooden marble run, you could do pewter casting, foraging and tree ID walks, willow weaving, screen printing and crafts with Freckles and Fire.
A zip line and tree swings were deep in the Urban Woodland along with slacklining and a junkyard orchestra.
We headed back to camp to cook some hot dogs and have a rest and then went back out for some pond dipping.
Other activities taking place were storytelling, a musical adventure in the woods with Unite the Beat and Water Geeks where you could help build a water network.
My daughter loved the art trail so we went back so she could make a felt butterfly. My eldest would often be climbing trees and balancing across bridges with her little brother.
That evening we joined the bat detecting walk through the woods. The crowd was big - I wasn't sure we would see anything as it was still quite light. We joined the back of the trail and so glad we did, the guy we were with had the detector and the frequency changed. We looked up and saw two bats flying above us. After that we walked through to the bar area, there was a great acoustic band playing, kids we chucking straw at each other, marshmallows were toasting and there were two huge telescopes on the field, we all had a look through one at the moon it was amazing seeing the craters in so much detail.
Sunday morning came and we decided to be organised and pack our tent away before heading into the festival. My lot had another round of disc golf, did some slacklining and played in Holmes Wood mud kitchen. Fin was looking at what was going on at Lucy's Little Forest School and saw they were making bugs out of clay. It cost £1 so I let him choose, he made a spider and painted it. Keira wanted to do the bare foot walk and relished standing in squishy clay mud.
Shannon wanted to go back to the art trail so on the way we watched some of the children doing tree climbing with the Great Big Tree Climbing Co.
On our way out we saw The Bee Cart which was very quirky looking. Having to go home to reality was not what we wanted but needs must and homework had to be done so we headed home just after lunchtime even though the festival was open until 5pm.
Tips from us as seasoned campers and festival goers:
Bring camping chairs saves you getting a damp bum.
Pack as lightly as possible I find my kids only need two changes of clothes and end up wearing the same thing anyway.
Do bring wellies, there is always dew on the grass early mornings, no one wants soggy shoes.
Invest in a fire bowl, great for cooking on and for sitting round and keeping warm.
Bring antibacterial hand gel, there is usually some in the toilets but it is good to carry around - we were kindly sent some from Milton along with wipes which came in useful for cleaning our chopping board. It smells good too.
Doddlebags are great. I used ours for washing up liquid, coffee and sugar.
Layer up at night a onesie, a sleeping bag and an extra blanket are needed on chilly evenings.
Chill out and go with the flow. Babies cry, people expect it and will not hate you if your little one is crying or up early.
We love Into the Trees it is a nice way to round off the camping and festival season. The camp site felt safe and small, it is very clean and beautiful. The perfect festival if you are just starting out with your kids. This isn't a music festival it is all about immersing yourselves in the great outdoors and I couldn't pick a better setting. If camping isn't your thing you can come for the day on Saturday or Sunday it is great value but do remember that certain activities do cost extra.
For some top tips on camping with kids visit Birds and Lilies.
Will this be our last camping adventure of the year or are we brave enough to get our tent out again? Watch this space.