Last week, Ed and I packed up the car with the three kids and what felt like all of our belongings and headed over to Lulworth Castle for our very first family camping trip and festival with Camp Bestival. I hadn’t actually ever been camping myself before, and had only been to one festival before as well (V festival a few years ago with my sister, if you were interested) so I was a little unsure of what to expect.
If I am totally honest, I was also quite nervous. I suffer from anxiety, and this is heightened when in big crowds, and when noise levels are high – both things that are key elements of festivals! With this in mind, I headed into the weekend long event with more than a little trepidation.
We only live around 40 minutes away from the event venue, but we decided to camp as it would be more of an experience, less hassle, and give us a good base should we need a break during the day. We headed over to the campsite mid afternoon on the Thursday, and there were already plenty of people around and pitched up in the Yellow Campsite we had been allocated (we were in the general camping zone, there are also boutique, campervan, backstage and pitch village (pre-pitched tents) sites).
We’d borrowed a tent off friends, and Ed got to work setting it up whilst I ensured the children were occupied. The weather was hot and sunny, as it had been for weeks, but there was a bit of cloud hanging over the site, and we experienced a brief rain shower fortunately just after Ed had finished putting the tent up.
We headed over to the main arena to have a little look round and get something for dinner. The festival doesn’t really get going until the Friday, but there were quite a lot of the stands set up and serving food and drink for those camping, and we got to see some of what Camp Bestival had to offer including the brilliant disco ball, big top tent, robot and boat.
Although the event hadn’t started yet, there were sound checks going on, and quite a few people around, and as I was sitting with the children who were eating hot dogs, I started feeling a bit panicky.
I decided to head over to the welfare tent, and the member of staff there was amazing. She was so friendly and kind about the situation, and happy to explain how they could help should I have a panic attack, or just generally feel anxious during the weekend. She also helped put on wristbands for the children, just in case they were to wander off from us, and I came away feeling reassured and a lot calmer knowing that there was help available should I need it.
We headed back to the tent, and the kids and I settled down for the night whilst Ed headed back out to explore a little more. I ended up falling asleep before he came back, I was so tired! I didn’t sleep brilliantly, as Benjamin woke up a few times, but I managed to make it through my first night of camping, and we started up nice and early for our first full day at Camp Bestival.
After breakfast we headed into the festival, and the kids enjoyed playing with lego at The Hub, Carly loved it so much she didn’t want to leave, we had to drag her away so she could explore more! The children went on the biggest bouncy castle in the world, which again, Carly didn’t want to leave and was the last one to get off, and then they went on the swinging boats.
It was a shame Benjamin was too young to go on most attractions, and even Carly was too small for a lot of the rides, which was a shame as she really wanted a ride on the swinging chairs. All the children enjoyed the upper garden area, Benjamin loved the toddler soft play and Cameron and Carly liked learning some new circus skills too.
We headed over to the castle stage area for lunch, but it was so hot and there was so little shade that we didn’t overly enjoy it. The wait time for pizza was incredibly long too, which put a bit of a dampener on things.
I had to take Carly to her dad’s house in the afternoon, so the older kids and I left Ed and Benjamin, who had a nap back in the tent, and headed off for a few hours. Unfortunately this meant we missed one of the highlights of the day’s itinerary – Andy and the Odd Socks, but it couldn’t be helped.
Carly really enjoyed her time at Camp Bestival, but I think she was starting to get a little hot and bothered, and made a bit of a lucky escape as it happened!
Cameron and I ended up getting a little lost coming back to camp, and ended up in a cornfield, unsure where we needed to go to get back to the carpark. I tried calling Camp Bestival, but they weren’t able to assist, which was a bit frustrating, as I was starting to get very anxious.
Luckily we found our way in the end, and we joined up with Ed and Benjamin for a shower before the evening. It was brilliant that the showers had a family cubicle, which meant the four of us were able to all go in together and take it in turns to get clean. It was a total luxury to have a nice warm shower, and not something I expected when I signed up for camping, so that was a nice surprise.
I was a little disappointed that the makeover tent next to the showers had closed by the time we came out, as I had washed my hair with the intention of drying it properly afterwards. I’m not sure why it had closed, as it was meant to be open until 7pm.
We headed back over to the main arena in time to see some of Sara Cox’s 80’s vs 90’s set, and as I was there as press, we went backstage for a little while so that I could catch up on some social media work in peace.
That was the plan anyway, but Benjamin wanted a cuddle so in the end we just listened to the music from the press area, and then headed back via the Fish and Chip stand for some dinner for the boys (I had a burrito from Dead Good Burritos for the second night running as they were totally yummy).
Again, I stayed with the boys and Ed headed out, this time to see Rick Astley. I will be honest, I would have loved to have seen his set, as it’s the kind of music I enjoy, but the boys were just shattered, and I was pretty tired myself. I found that most of what I wanted to do was on too late at night to be able to do it, which was a bit disappointing.
If we go again, I would definitely look at having strategic naps throughout the day, and investing in a wagon and ear defenders as a lot of the more seasoned event goers were doing, I think it would make all the difference.
At around 3am, I woke to what felt like a huge storm (it was raining with pretty strong winds to be fair), the tent started to rock violently and the noise sounded so loud from inside the tent. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep, and we were soon joined on our airbed mattress by the two boys, meaning I was squashed and extremely uncomfortable for the rest of the morning.
When we got up, I made the decision to leave that day, rather than stay another night, as the weather forecast was showing even worse weather for the next night, leading into Sunday as well. We set up the tent that morning, and put everything in the car before heading back into the festival for our final day.
We took it quite slow, and wondered around exploring the different areas, before meeting up with friends who were at the festival for the day, and getting something to eat whilst watching Mr Tumble.
The weather was back to brilliant blue skies, and the sun was beating down, making us unsure whether we had made the right decision about packing up early. Cameron enjoyed watching Dick vs Dom, before catching Lekiddo -Lord of the Lobsters, which he really loved but I found a little bizarre!
I also ended up having a panic attack, and again I can’t fault the event staff for how helpful and reassuring they were. I spoke to a female member of staff by the accessibility platform at the castle stage, and she was quick to sit me down, offer me water and give me the kind words I needed until I was reunited with Ed who had taken Benjamin off for a walk without his phone on him.
After another visit to the toddler area, we caught up with some of the other bloggers in Bollywood, amidst the first of a few rain showers.
It was at around 5pm that I ended up calling it a day. I had intended to stay to watch Clean Bandit and Basement Jaxx, but with the winds picking up and rain threatening to make a reappearance, and without a tent to head to for a bit of respite, I just couldn’t face a further five hour wait to watch the headliners, and we returned to our car and left.
I was a bit gutted to have missed the final two acts I had wanted to see, especially as we made it so far into Saturday, but the lack of sleep from the night before caught up on me and I was asleep back home before the acts even started in the end.
It turned out we made the right decision after all as the weather took a turn for the worse, and Sunday’s events were cancelled due to the high winds and rain, which had started to cause damage to tents and event structures alike.
It was a shame we didn’t make it through to the end of Camp Bestival, but I did enjoy some aspects of the event, and it was certainly an experience that I won’t forget! I am really pleased we attended Camp Bestival as our first family festival, and that we camped despite the hiccups. It’s been a fun few days, and I know that Ed will be back again with Cameron next year, even if the rest of us aren’t up for braving it again quite so soon!
We were invited along as guests to Camp Bestival for the purpose of this review, however all thoughts, opinions and images are my own.