This weekend saw the inaugural Timber Festival at Feanedock, the National Forest.
An extraordinary new camping festival exploring the transformative impact of forests. Celebrating woodland culture in all its forms, join us for an intoxicating experience where music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an unforgettable, exhilarating weekend.
From the outset this festival bore all the hallmarks of a Wild Rumpus event, things which we have come to expect after a couple of years of attending Just So Festival; the attention to detail, familiar performers, super clean toilets and shower blocks, and a range of good quality food, but it also set itself apart as a festival in its own right.
The setting for Timber Festival was Feanedock, which is practically a baby in forest terms – many of the trees are less than 20 years old. From the top of a hill you can see a nearby coal mine which we were told will eventually be reclaimed and become a part of the forest. This was the perfect backdrop to a story of environmental awareness and sustainability. The Timber sustainability policy considers things like ensuring the local provenance of food, reducing plastic waste by providing plentiful fresh, free drinking water throughout the site so that people can refill their own bottles (which frankly was a lifesaver with temperatures being in the high 20s all weekend), a reusable cup scheme at bars and banning plastic straws, packaging or cutlery – all our meals bought on site had wooden forks, paper plates and cardboard containers. As well as looking at ways of reducing the impact of the festival this weekend, the team at Timber were monitoring and measuring fuel and water consumption, the amount of waste water and landfill that the festival produced and the carbon emissions created by people travelling to the event to allow them to evaluate and further improve things moving forward.
The natural landscape of Feanedock meant that the festival was perhaps not as accessible as it might be – my sore, swollen ankle tells a tale of uneven ground, and a festival spread out across a hilly woodland space. As has become the norm for us, we took a trailer for moving our things to the campsite (though there were wheelbarrows for hire) and around the festival site itself. The long hill between the car park and campsite was something of a killer and in reality I think the car park was just too far away from the campsite however I totally get the limitations of building a festival around woodland such as this. Likewise the distance between the campsite and festival meant that we just never bothered going back to our tent during the day, it was much easier to remain on site for the duration and go back at bedtime!
The festival was spread out over eleven different areas with a whole range of workshops, activities, performances and installations – the festival programme makes it really easy to pick and choose which things you want to do and in our experience things ran to time pretty well. We decided that rather than structure our weekend though, we’d just dip in and out as we stumbled across things preferring to take our time to explore and wander. What this did mean is that we probably missed out on a few things – I didn’t even realise some places existed until we were leaving as we hadn’t passed them on our way in each day and they were set a little further out of the way.
Highlights for us included:
Nightingale Stage – we found ourselves drawn back regularly over the course of the weekend – from sitting on the hillside at sunset listening to music while the children danced with their friends on the first night to bobbing about in the sunshine during the day on Saturday or enjoying a gin courtesy of the lovely Yorkshire lads at Vanderbar (who had prosecco and a right old range of gins on offer!) As someone who has always loved live music, watching Amy running down to the front and dancing around in front of the speakers made my heart sing!
The Canopy – Campfire stories with Ian Douglas are always a highlight for us at Just So Festival and as such this was a “must do” for our gang at Timber Festival. I had been telling Michelle how fantastic Ian was all weekend and he didn’t let me down – Ian and his good friend Mr Foppletwig had us thoroughly entertained with stories, science and sarcasm – a perfect combination in my opinion!
Field Notes – Festival food can make or break an event in my opinion – it’s all too often expensive and disappointing. Thankfully this wasn’t the case at Timber Festival with a great range of options to suit children and adults, meat eaters and vegans. I’m not ashamed to admit that we visited Burrito Boys three times over the course of the weekend – the service was a bit slapdash but the food was delicious. I must also give a special mention to the Mojitio sorbet from Shepherds Ice Cream – I’ve honestly never tasted anything like it!
The Common – We spent quite a bit of time seeking shade and a little breeze at the edge of the common – it made a perfect base to allow the children to wander a little and take part in the various workshops including den building, mask making and leaf art. Some of the activities involved an additional cost (presumably to cover materials) but we just swerved those in favour of ones which we could take part in for free – I think once you’ve spent a lot of money attending a festival, it can be hard to justify paying for extra activities. We especially loved the Pif Paf Bee Cart – thoroughly entertaining but super educational too! Amy watched the performance several times over.
Looking back through the programme now I realise we missed so much – and perhaps if we go again next year, we will be more organised about picking and choosing what we do, however this year was very much about getting our bearings and figuring out how the festival worked for us. The intense heat and lack of shade meant we were probably less motivated to do things than we normally would have been but in all honesty that suited the festival perfectly. Timber Festival was by far the most relaxed festival I’ve ever been to and I loved that we could just dip in and out of things as we wished.
Just So Festival is all about magic and imagination and firmly focused on families, Timber Festival is about being outdoors and sustainability and whilst family friendly is just as open to those attending without children – they are very much sisters rather than twins.
Timber Festival absolutely nailed their first year in my opinion – they did exactly what they said they would and if sustainability, mindfulness and the outdoors are your bag then I suggest you pop on over to www.timberfestival.org.uk to sign up for news and updates ahead of next year’s festival!
As I mentioned in the post, we couldn’t possibly see everything that was on offer at Timber Festival so why not pop over and read some more posts:
*We attended Timber Festival free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opininons remain our own*