We spent the weekend at the absolutely lovely Elderflower Fields Festival and had the very best time. The whole focus is on the children and getting active outside. Set in the stunning Pippingford Park, East Sussex, in the heart of Ashdown Forest, close to Crawley West Sussex. (We received complimentary tickets in exchange for this review.)
The brains behind the festival is So Sussex, champions of ‘schools without walls’ and there are so many activities for children there, most of them outside and cover all interests with lots of sports, art, crafts, making, music workshops and so much more. Lots of the sessions were bookable online but we weren’t that organised and still the children got to do a lot of the things with only a little queuing.
Most of the activities were included in the cost, there were art camps that you could leave the children at for an hour, a perfect chance for the parents to pop off to the woodland spa or have a quiet coffee in peace! Mortimar Nannies are also there and you can book the children in for a bit, including into one of their evening sessions, giving you a chance to enjoy the music. Although I think this is more for younger children as from what we saw, most of the older children were happy playing in the woods as their parents watched the bands or chatted at the bar.
We had so much to explore that we only just scratched the surface, there was so much we didn’t discover until the Sunday night, like the art trail with all the little workshops scattered in the woods. And we left the sport’s camps and monkey do too late to book but there was still plenty that the kids could take part in, like the biking, which they absolutely loved.
A lot of the time we spent just chilling out and listening to the music though, or napping on the grass! There were some brilliant bands on, we particularly enjoyed the Frank Greene Band and SK Shlomo. And we were really pleased to finally get to see Nick Cope live as we kept missing him at other festivals and he sent the kids some cds about 2 years ago so we’ve had them in the van a lot.
There were lots of quiet areas of the festival that you could escape to if the crowds were too much, down in the woods by the lakes. To be honest though, the festival was across such a vast area with only about 6,500 people there that it never felt too crowded. There were long queues at some food vans at certain times of the day, for example the pizzas and fish and chips but if you timed it right or could get your children to be more adventurous, it was quick and easy to get food. I particularly enjoyed the vegan cauliflower cheese pakora burger from Veganauti and the vegan breakfast from the Breakfast Club was amazing. (I’m vegetarian not vegan but it was so nice to have so much variation and choice!) The falafel wrap I had from Cairovan was also the best falafel I’ve ever had. And I can’t let the moment pass without mentioning Waffle on a Stick either. You can choose your chocolate and then 3 toppings from a huge selection.
One thing we were impressed with was that it didn’t feel like a rip off. Festival food will always be expensive, but at Elderflower Fields it was around the same price but the food was very fresh, good quality and good size portions. It was different too, you get very used to the same food stands being at every festival but there was a lot of Thai, vegan, and Egyptian. I also have to mention the incredibly well stocked camping shop, The Outdoor Shop which had just about everything you could ever need and all at the same prices as in their shop in Lewes. There was also a very sweet shop with all the groceries and fresh goods you might need. The highlight of the festival is the So Sussex picnic where everyone gets together into groups and gets a basket of local goodies to sample together.
We really did have the very best time and there was so much more we didn’t discover. I can’t wait to go back. So Sussex also run Into the Trees, a festival also at Pippingford Park in September, then there is Elderflower Fields again on 22nd – 25th May 2020 but not only that, there will also be a brand new festival called Elderflower Fields Midlands the following weekend (29th – 31st May) in the stunning grounds of Stanford Hall in Leicestershire. Tickets are on sale now, but don’t think about it for too long, they are selling ridiculously fast, and the tier 1 and 2 prices for Pippingford Park are gone already. Although under £130 an adult for the whole weekend including camping is still very good value indeed!
There were plenty of toilets around the festival and they almost always had loo roll. Most of them were the ‘posh loos’ that flush and have running water and so it was possible to avoid the dreaded portaloos if you wanted to. The compost loos were always queue free but it depends how you feel about using a drop loo! There probably could have been a few more showers and loos for the camper field, (I’m not sure about the campsite as we didn’t stay there) but it wasn’t too bad for queues, and it was possible to get a shower if you didn’t try at ‘peak’ times. They are also trying to be more eco conscious and do so much to protect the environment, with returnable glasses for the bar (the kids loved taking them back to collect the £1 refund!), aiming to recycle 85% of the waste generated, banning plastic straws and providing plenty of drinking water points as nowhere sells plastic water bottles. Very impressive We tried to do our little bit by bringing our own biodegradable glitter, from Dust and Dance. (Bought ourselves.)
A week on and the henna may be fading, but the memories will stay with us forever and I have to say that this might possibly be our favourite family festival to date. Thanks for having us Elderflower Fields!!