Wednesday 17 July 2019

Timber Family Friendly Derbyshire Woodland Festival Review 2019 (Review Visit)

We were very honoured to be invited back to Timber Festival for a second time to review this year and it was even better than the last one. A very laid back festival which intertwines arts and nature, and takes place in the woodland in Derbyshire. It's a place I really feel at home...

Collage of scenes from Timber Festival 2019 showing people laughing and having fun

Timber Festival 2019 took place on Friday 5th to Sunday 7th July at Feanedock, near Ashby de la Zouch in the National Forest and it was, to put it bluntly, epic*.

*Except for the bit where I drank 'not enough water', bumped into Stuart Maconie and told him who he was, that I hadn't caught him on stage this year and that he'd just done the Jarrow March - clearly he already knew most of that, so I'll just pretend that never happened...

Photo heavy - click on an image to enlarge it...

Timber Festival 2019 Site Map

We arrived around 6pm, set up camp, collected our wristbands and went into the festival. There's plenty going on, even after 8pm on the Friday. The sunset was amazing, as was the view from the top of the big hill - all across the site and over to where they are still quarrying. You relax immediately...

Timber Festival 2019 review sunset over the site from the top of a big hill

We quickly discovered the temporary kingdom of Cardboardia - something we were quite excited about joining in with, although we weren't entirely sure what the heck it actually was.

Timber Festival Cardboardia Headquarters tents and cardboard shack

The light boxes in the photo below were made by young people from Youth Landscapers. There were a lot of youth groups at Timber, including Extinction Rebellion (who were speaking and taking part in debate). It has a very eclectic mix of people and that's one of the things I love best about it.

Timber Festival 2019 review Friday evening collage with campfire stocks storytelling music

Saturday started with some rain, but it was warm enough to play out.

Timber saturday morning drizzle collage dragonfly entertainer with cart

We caught Phill Jupitus, made a miner's pick for the Cardboardia procession (Minecraft-inspired naturally), listened to Seams - a soundscape created by Geoff Bird, scoured the maze to find the hidden letters TIMBER and got a little bit damp.

making Cardboardia pickaxe, Phill Jupitus, Seams installation by Geoff Bird

Mum and son pretending to meet at meeting point sign - overacting

Two boys pretending to be scared of gigantic wooden giant elephant moth

My 9 and 10 year old boys couldn't believe anyone would get in a hot tub outside, yet were happy to lie in a wet hammock in the drizzle... This is standard for children.

shivelight area collage with hot tubs hammocks and weleda ice cream van

We really didn't even cover half the site that first few hours, but we got our bearings, chatted to everyone and learned loads about bees - including that the Beekeeper is also scared of them and their eyesight is so bad they'll fly into you if you flap.

Timber Festival colllage beekeepers youth landscapers pirate

By teatime the rain was clearing and we could see the sun on it's way. We headed for the campfire - which is possibly our favourite place on site. There was a real mix of family-friendly music, performance and storytelling, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Listings for campfire entertainment and People Express LGBT+ performance

A highlight of the whole festival for me was People Express (photo above). It really caught me. Listening to the words of Derbyshire LGBT+ people of all ages really took me back to being a 17 year old. It was still illegal for my peers to be gay and I went to a huge Christmas party as 'plus1' pretend girlfriend for a gay friend who had been reported to the Police.

It came on a day one of our grown up children got the keys to go out properly into the world and rent a flat with his boyfriend - a proud moment for any parent or step-parent, so my OH and I were both already emotional. I cried buckets at how bad it was when we were his age, and how far we've come. We aren't there yet, but one day...

Fairytale Folk People Express Roots choir Green Fortune Ian Douglas

The Giant Marble Run was epic!!!! I want one now, in my house. You can race hundreds of marbles at once. The illuminated woodland animals were also epic, and the puppets looked even more alive as darkness really fell.

Saturday evening saw another fantastic sunset - and my youngest demanded I took photos. Rather than just a blinding glare, I thought you'd better appreciate a sideways angle and how golden his hair was...

My two boys in the golden sunshine of sunset collage with a gypsy caravan in dappled light

Sunday and we were up bright and early! We were camping, there's no other way! 6.30am was a touch earlier than expected, but it was a gorgeous day and again we made the most of it. Archery, giant games, ping pong, mad trampolinist Max Calaf, circus skills and maypole dancing before lunchtime!

Maypole Dancing at Timber Festival running around a pole with coloured ribbons

Collage showing circus skills archery giant board games and trampolining

Ah yes, lunchtime. Timber Festival hasn't cottoned on to the Glasto-style 'Eat For a Fiver', but the food is really good. Genuinely tasty with fresh ingredients and made in front of your eyes. Both the Tibetan Kitchen vegan and meat dumpling meals were gorgeous, incredibly filling and well worth the £7/£8 we paid for them. 

Tibetan Kitchen dumplings and curries gorgeous crispy coated chips and fresh woodfired pizza

We went back to the 'As The Crow Flies' campfire area in the afternoon, and let the boys get busy at 'Hammer And Chisel' building a big thing. Professor Pumpernickel was well on form - as were the audience!

Sunday Timber Festival Review Professor Pumpernickel science and humour and Hammer and chisel childrens wood workshop

At 4.30pm Sunday it was the Cardboardia Parade. When we arrived they had boxes full of spare outfits and tools, two clear teams of Forest v's Miners and The Baghdaddies to play us all along...

Look - a photo of me! I was there too! Ignore the bra strap.

Ready in our outfits for the cardboardia parade Tuxedo and jackhammer

Timber Festival Review Sunday Cardboardia Parade

Cardboardia Parade all made from card - Mine Shack lanterns mine cart and Baghdaddies band in cardboard tuxedos

The two teams had a mini stand off on the big hill and while was deciding whether or not to climb it with my few stomach muscles, I heard a massive "rawwwr" from the top of the hill and then all the kids cheered.

Timber Festival Review Sunday Cardboardia Parade travelling up the big hill stand off

There, right at the top was a mad Scotsman with wild hair wielding a cardboard jackhammer. Well, at least I knew where my partner had got to.

Cardboardia Parade top of big hill close up of my partner with jackhammer

Have fun much?

Cardboardia Parade over my partner with jackhammer laughing

We decided we'd spend the evening at the campfire again, nipped back to the tent for refreshments, and discovered someone familiar in the programme...

Boy holding programme for Timber Festival showing photo of himself last year

There was a real attempt to make Timber as ecologically kind as possible. Refilled glasses, ample free tap water, cardboard food trays, a special bus stop outside, arranged bike convoys and safe bike storage, carbon offsetting and eco-toilets are just a few of the measures they take. It's the first time I've seen compost toilets used on this scale and it's marvellous.

Timber Festival collage showing eco toilets local singers and entertainers camp fire and giant moth on a hand

Sunday evening is always quieter, but it still had a full programme of events. There is always lots to do and see, whatever your age or interests. This year we didn't do any of the guided walks or nature talks and we missed the circus troupe Lost In Translation entirely (my 10 yo gets too scared they'll fall and doesn't enjoy it). We only caught a handful of debates and performances on the Field Notes, Elemental stage and Eyrie Stages and we didn't watch any cookery or other demonstrations.

We did however have an amazing weekend jam-packed with a million and one other moments...

My two boys pushing entertainers' carts up the hill

Timber Festival is a collaboration between the National Forest Company and award-winning arts organisation Wild Rumpus, who specialise in showcasing arts and culture in the natural environment. It is a fabulous event for individuals, couples, groups and families of any age. You WILL learn something, and you will miss being outdoors when you get home....

 Find out more about Timber Festival, it's ethos, location and performers, and get ready to book your tickets for next year, on the Timber Festival website.

Timber Festival 2019 Woodland Puppeteers

We were given free entry in order to review, but paid all costs for the weekend ourselves.


  1. I've yet to go to a festival, but this makes it look like something I am missing out on. Looks great fun x

    1. Wow really? That surprises me. Do you not do camping? I think you'd love a festival. Imagine the best local fete ever, but with theatre, live music and the Fringe on top, and lasting all weekend... :)

  2. Wasn't it a cracking weekend! We loved seeing you all and spending time with you in the forest. It's one of the highlights of my year x

    1. Awww me too, and I think I speak for all 4 of us there! It was a truly excellent weekend, and lovely company :) x

  3. Awww yey! You found a photo of you! :) Look at all those grins, you all look like you had the most fantastic time and the weather was totally on your side! Sim xx

    1. Hahaha - I made people take my photo! I'm fed up never being anywhere when you look back :D It was a brilliant break.

  4. I think camping with you guys made a wonderful festival even better!

    1. It was awesome camping with you lot too - lovely to get to know Dotty and Beth :)

  5. I'm reading my way through the 'family bloggers' write ups and it's fascinating to see a different side to Timber. We went without children (or grand-children)so had a totally different experience. Looks like we all had a great time though :)

    1. I'm so pleased you had such a great time! We spoke to loads of people, but at length with a gentleman who was there on his own. He was having an amazing time too, and I can see that without the kids it would be very different for us. Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)

  6. I can see myself going here and totally chilling. Sounds amazing.

    1. Quite honestly you could just sit and entertainment/people watch all day. It is such a chilled festival and quite a compact site really, so it's snail's pace all weekend :)

  7. Hi! Thank you for this review. It's brilliant :-) Quick question about the distance and difficulty of the hill from car park to Campsite: we have a 5m Bell Tent which I would REALLY like to take rather than the polyester tunnel tent we also have. Bell Tents are canvas are so much cooler in the summer months! Plus you can stand up in them and they're generally more comfy due to having lots more room etc. But I'm worried we might not make it up the hill, lol. You mentioned there are trolleys available for hire so we'd hire one of those definitely ..and my husband and I are both very fit generally. Do you think it'd be too much pulling a heavily-laden trolley (30kg) up that hill? I've no way to tell what the incline or difficulty level is! (can't find actual photos of the hill at all). Thanks, Dawn.

    1. Hiya Dawn, it IS a fairly steep hill that the car park is placed on, and it can also be a walk across the camping field to find a suitable spot. I genuinely think though, that 2 fit and healthy adults can do it without issue - but you will definitely benefit from a trolley. It's your big canvas that's the issue I know - but there are always lots of bell tents. I would advise get there as early as practical - apart from anything else you'll not have to follow pathways - you can cross straight to where you want to camp, and it'll be easier to find a large space, but most importantly you should be able to park nearer the top of the car park. Thanks for your kind words with the review - Have an excellent time!

    2. Thank you Jenny.. That really DOES help! We will get there early then and hire a trolley. Brilliant. Excited now :-)

    3. Awwww. I hope you have an excellent time :)


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