* I am one of the team of volunteer photographers therefore I get free tickets - but I love sharing our experience - plus it's 100% honest *
So, last weekend went by in the blink of an eye! It already feels like a blur - this was our fourth year at Elderflower Fields festival at Pippingford Park in East Sussex, I would say, music-wise, maybe the best year yet!?
We live roughly 17 miles away from the site, so it's around a 40 minute drive from us. The festival opens its gates to the public at 12pm on the Friday so all of us campers can head in and start setting up. The festival has grown hugely in popularity year by year and rightly so, they are at capacity now with 6,500 people - wow! The tickets sell out very quickly with 60% being snapped up the day after the festival closes - just proves its popularity and why people go back year after year.
Nigel who is from the So Sussex team that put on Elderflower Fields and Into the Trees told us that next year there will be a second Elderflower Fields taking place in the Midlands, the following weekend to the Sussex one. It will be at the Stanford Hall estate at Lutterworth in Leicester. A great move as I know a lot of families travel from up North. We loved meeting up with our friends from Mini Travellers, they had travelled down from Yorkshire! We met them 2 years ago at the Medieval Festival and have kept in contact ever since.
Anyhoo, back to the fun stuff. Lee managed to pitch up our bell tent in our usual spot near the Night Jars area. Cleverly, we'd managed to camp next to one of the families from last year, they were lovely and it was great chatting to them, Georgie is a Spiritual Therapist and had some really fabulous outfits and face glitter that she kindly let Shannon use. This year, a family who live near us and have girls at the same school came for the first time, it was lovely to hang out with them.
We love this part of the festival as it is close enough to the toilets and showers and also near to the Woodland Stage area, there are also a few food vendors close by. We tend to take our own food and cook it on the stove or on a fire bowl, as feeding five people from festival stalls would cost us way too much. If you are planning on eating out, as usual you'll be spoilt for choice. There was lots available from the usual chips and burgers to Egyptian, South American and Thai food. For those with a sweet tooth there's the ever popular Crepe van, the queue was huge all weekend, waffles on sticks, two vintage style ice cream vans, cakes and a lolly van!
Now that the kids are older we were able to stay out later without them whinging, (well minimal whinging) so it was great to watch some of the bands in the evenings.
The festival theme this year was Insect Circus and Creatures of the Deep - some families had gone to huge efforts, there was a family of jelly fish, with clear light up umbrellas and a huge family of bumblebees. The woods were also decorated with giant bugs and sea creatures.
Which takes me to the art trail - one of our favourite areas put together by the talented Schools Without Walls team, you could do origami, weaving, felting, mud monsters, clay, make jelly fish from recycled objects, there were also forest school activities and bushcraft style activities too.
Deeper Into the Trees and heading into the forest there was tree climbing, foraging walks, a foraged bar, kayaking and even some headphones attached to a tree - here you could listen to the sap moving inside - amazing. Because I was so busy when we arrived - and slightly stressed, I didn't check the programme - check the programme people! We missed a lot of things including a talk with Nigel Marven.
There are lots of activities that could be pre-booked like art and sports camps and there were loads of other workshops for adults like bead making and beer tasting too. There is also a spa!
The kids always enjoy the Urban Woods area with the zip line, tree swings and Woodland Tribe. There was also Monkey-Do which is new this year. It is a huge net, kind of like a giant hammock for climbing on. Yet again they loved the Sussex Disc Golf, it was great that we met up with our friends this year so we were all able to play together. In this area you'll also find the climbing wall, skate ramps and archery.
This year we managed to rack up two trips to the first aid tent! The St John Ambulance team did a great job. Firstly my daughter put her hand down on a thistle and somehow also managed to pinch her finger - one of the team managed to pull the little thistle spike out. Then on Sunday, my son got clonked on the head by the metal bar from our trolley, this cut the side of his head and made him cry, a lot, so he was dealt with very thoroughly at the tent and checked over multiple times and came out of it with an ice pack.
My kids know their way round very well but if they were to get lost, each child is given a wrist band which us parents can write our phone numbers on, there are plenty of lovely volunteer staff wondering around who will help if a child has wondered off.
There was more fab music on the main stage as well as the Woodland Stage on Saturday, coupled with all of the pretty lights and people dressed up it made for a magical evening. If you fancy something more chilled you could head to the WowPow area where there was story telling or the Woodland Bar. The other cocktail bar is the Moonshine Fandango which is a bit more funky or you could head to the silent disco.
I feel like I am rambling a bit now, sorry.......
On Leapfrog Lawns and Dragonfly Hill there is mountain boarding, circus skills, a trampoline, a science dome, giant bubbles, yoga, gin tasting, Freckles and Fire and Imagine, Make, Play as well as the art camp. We made a lovely headband and some feather earrings with Freckles and Fire. At the far end there was an insect circus in a truck!
The So Sussex picnic was another huge success, when you arrive you will be given picnic tickets in the form of a wrist band, don't wear these! Save them for Sunday lunchtime as you'll need to get yourselves into a group of 14 to exchange your tickets for a paper bag full of goodies from local food makers. The queue will look overwhelmingly huge but it does move quickly. In the bag this year was wild garlic pesto, chilli jam, cheese, pate, french bread, pies, hummus, elderflower drinks and milk shakes for everybody to share, not forgetting a big chocolate cake. We sat with our friends Emma and Katy and their families.
There was a dance off between the insects and the sea creatures. The wonderful face painters from Nam Nams were back, they are there every year and are extremely popular, that team work so hard. Shannon had henna done this year by the lovely Zoe who painted Shannon's face last year. It is not cheap at £5 to £7 but they really are amazing at what they do.
There is no way I have covered everything that goes on at the festival, I could write all day. I have mentioned in previous posts that if you are camping with your own tent it is a bit of a walk from the car park, camper vans are in a separate area or you could choose to glamp in a bell tent, tipi or a vintage tent. We were dreading the pack down on Monday, we have a trolley but getting a bell tent, camp beds (yes we take camp beds), sleeping bags, fire pit, clothes and left over food back up a slope was very unappealing. This year they had a tractor and trailer, you could pay £1 per item for it to drive your stuff up to the car park. We took advantage of this and we were very grateful. Once the car was packed we went back down to the festival, it was starting to pack down but there was still food, face painting, a few activities, plus the weather was lovely and it was nice to have a mellow afternoon.
The next festival at Pippingford Park will be Into the Trees, which is September, 13-15, 2019. It is much smaller and more nature focused. We have been 3 times and really love it, you can camp for the weekend or buy a day ticket for this one.
Well done So Sussex team - what a fabulous event.