Dad Diaries: Matt Rowntree goes barmy for The Larmer Tree Festival

cajoled dad_Profile PicMatt writes: I’ll be honest… I’m not a big festival fan. I love my music, as testified by the 3,000+ pieces of vinyl clogging up space around the house (much to the annoyance of my better half), but standing in the rain and muddy fields to listen to it live; or trying to find a comfortable sleeping position whilst tied up in sleeping bags at night, is not my idea of fun.

That said, I live on the doorstep of Glastonbury and have friends with a very accommodating caravan, so have enjoyed a ‘posh’ (or at least slightly more civilised) version of that little festival for the last few years. But it’s a strictly Mum and Dad festival – no kids.

As a result my attitude to festivals has gradually changed over the years. And coming home raving to the kids about who and what we’ve seen somehow inspires their desires to join us. Which won’t happen. So perhaps more importantly, the wife has been looking for a festival to take the kids to for the last couple of years.

There have been various options: Camp Bestival and Beautiful Days for starters. However, due to some good timing and equally good fortune we found our opportunity earlier this summer – take a bow Larmer Tree Festival.

This little festival, with a limit of 4,000 revellers a day and homed in the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in the heart of Cranbourne Chase, Wiltshire, is one of our best finds in recent years.

Given my aversion to camping we opted for ‘comfy camping’ which included a huge bell tent, air beds and duvets, champagne crates for bedside tables and a lot of fairy lights. It also provided hot showers, a private chill-out tent and a pamper tent with plugs-a-plenty for recharging everything, as well as vanity mirrors and hair-dryers!

When four young lads descended on the car and carried our bags to our tent, we knew we were on to a winner. Although when my six year-old asked if maids came to tidy up in the evening I wondered whether we might have pushed the boat out a little too far!

And unlike Glastonbury, which takes us about an hour to get from caravan to music, the campsites at Larmer Tree Festival are never more than ten minutes away from the action.

And what action it is.

A combination of kids entertainment, in the form of arts and crafts, den-building and kids discos and much more, run throughout the day. There’s your usual stalls selling everything from tie-died t-shirts to incredible art and hand-made crafts. Then there’s the Lostwood with poetry recitals and a recreated lounge with sofas, armchairs and book-cases. In the middle of a wood. With disco balls hanging from trees.

And if we’d found the Retreat a little earlier in our weekend the adults among us might have treated each other to some time off for an Indian Head Massage or some Reiki.

I haven’t even touched on the music yet; a combination of world music and a headline act each evening. This year’s options included The Stranglers (you forget how many classics they had), Tom Odell, Jamie Cullum and Caro Emerald. All of which we listened to over the trees as we sat outside our tent enjoying a glass of vino with the kids sleeping behind us. But the entertainment went into the early hours of each morning with DJs and other stuff if you had the energy (and a babysitter).

As with most festivals the food on offer was brilliant, and better value than I’ve seen at many events in recent times. Indeed, sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus to eat a bowl of variety pack Frosties in scorching heat seemed to be the highlight of the weekend for our youngest. But we enjoyed everything from freshly barbecued corn on the cob, to crab and lobster, jacket potatoes, a variety of curries and pizza. We did not go hungry. And none of it broke the bank.

I can’t go without mentioning the loos too. It took me two days to come to terms with the fact that I did not need my stash of screwed up loo roll with me whenever nature called for one of us. They were like nothing I’ve ever witnessed at events before – clean to the point of sparkling, fully stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitiser. And locks that worked. Every. Single. One. They certainly made an impression!

IMG_6770But perhaps the single biggest take-away from the weekend was simply the people that were there. Most people we spoke to had been coming for years. Some had been coming annually with their kids and were now coming with their kids and their kids – three generations at one festival, all together. Others we spoke to had been coming since their kids were babies and this year was the first year they were legally allowed to drink. Then there were young couples enjoying a weekend away, and the new crop of young parents with their new-borns. It was wonderful to meet and talk to all these people and more.

As you can tell, Larmer Tree Festival gets a lot of repeat custom. I’ll be hanging on the phone as soon as tickets are available for the next one in the hope that we can create that sort of tradition with our family.

Read Matt’s ‘Cajoled Dad’ column in Slick Mummy magazine or follow him online @mattrowntree

With thanks to The Larmer Tree Festival and Flint PR.