Camp Bestival: Our First Time Camping with a Toddler

Almost two weeks ago, we ventured into the world of camping and decided to buy tickets to Camp Bestival – a family festival based in Dorset from Thursday 27th July to Monday 31st July. Sharon and I had been camping before, but not with a toddler in tow! We knew this was going to be an experience!

Arriving early on the Thursday morning after a 5am wake up (6am for the toddler) and a 3 hour drive with one stop we managed to get in line before the campsite had even opened! Naively, I didn’t think there’d be many people as crazy as us, but upon chatting to people in the queue (yes, a queue) there were people who had flown from up north or had even parked up the previous night ready to be first in line! Although we did contemplate staying in a hotel the night before, the drive wasn’t that bad from Brighton to Dorset – especially that early!

Once we got through security, we headed to find a good spot and after a few exhausting treks up and down hill(s) we had our tent up and our new home for the next few days set up by lunchtime! We were ready! The weather, however, was not.

All set up! Now the important bit: TEA!!!!

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Thursday

After finishing a well deserved tea made lovingly by our next door neighbours in exchange for lending them our wagon we decided to go explore the campsite whilst it was still quiet. T had sadly picked a cold in between finishing nursery and our journey down so wasn’t in the best of moods – so he went straight in the wagon for a little ride.

Although most of the stalls weren’t open yet and there weren’t many acts on, this little walk around gave us the opportunity to gather our bearings and plan our mealtimes (the important bits, eh?). We’d already spotted Mac Not Crack and the Jam Jar Bar. Plus, the weather was glorious so we wanted to make the most out of the sun whilst we still had it!

Friday

Our first official day, we started the day with a lie in of 8am and a gourmet breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans on toast. We then made our way into the festival.

There’s absolutely no point trying to list off all the things we saw – there’s just too much – so here’s a very brief summary of the things we saw and the things we’ll no doubt come back to once T is a lot older! Starting off at the Spinney Hollow, a gorgeous pocket of tents and vintage caravans, we saw a ton of craft happening here. From bushcraft to felting, willow work to fire making. When T is older (and we know to book well in advance) we will definitely be signing T (and me!) up for sword making.

After admiring everyone’s handy work we then took a quick snap with the Love Bot and had a look around the Sports Park, The Farmers Market, and BigTopMania; where there was loads of circus related activities going on. We all throughly enjoyed giving plate spinning a go and was even tempted to take home a diablo!

Lunchtime came, so we grabbed some food from Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese and took ourselves off to The Greatest Tent On Earth to watch a performance of T’s favourite book; Elmer. This was so much fun to watch and a lovely take on the story – even T was mesmerised through most of the show. When the show finished, we found ourselves in the Castle Field and near the funfair!

The Worlds Biggest Bouncy Castle sadly wasn’t set up yet due to the weather (have I mentioned that it was now raining?) so we caught the last few minutes of Reverend and the Makers and then took T on his first ever ride on a Merry-Go-Round! We also explored the soft play tent and the CBeebies tent where we made a Go Jetters mask and grabbed a fab Hey Duggee! goodie bag!  

After all that excitement, T was getting a little cranky so we decided to head back to the tent to tempt T with a nap; as we wanted to make sure he would be ready for a later night than usual as our first headliner was going to be on a 8pm! T had no problems heading down for a sleep, so whilst Sharon put the kettle on, I went out and got us some Churros!

After a tea of Hot Dogs, we got ourselves wrapped up and the wagon toddler ready – it was time for All Saints! We didn’t get close enough to capture any pictures, but be reassured that they were just as good as they were in the 90’s – synchronised dancing and all. Mark Ronson was due on 45 minutes later but T hadn’t quite mastered the art of wagon sleeping and everything was all that bit more exciting, so didn’t fancy sleeping on us yet so we decided to make our way back (via the USB charging station!) to the tent.

Saturday

After a complete downpour during the night, we woke to a rather different campsite – with mud being our new neighbour. Our tent miraculously remained stable and waterproof, but we quickly found some new friends in the form of our wellies!

Saturday was going to be our busiest day, with Mister Maker starting promptly at 11am and Mr Tumble starting at 11:30am! This had got to be T’s highlight as suddenly his cold was no more and he was singing along to the hokey pokey and having a jolly good dance!

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By the time we made our way out of the Castle Field, we went and grabbed some lunch from The Feast Collective and sat and watched a performance by Circus Raj; which was an amazing array of magic, colour and music! Rain cut their performance slightly short so when we realised we were then in the Kids Gardens, we explored the back of Lulworth Castle and a few areas we hadn’t found yet, such as; The Pimp My Trolley tent and The Puppet Theatre. It also wasn’t hard to miss the Iguanodon Restaurant!

Circus Raj

We sadly missed Kate Nash as we needed to dry off slightly (did I mention it was still raining?) and grab some Z’s for T, but we were fine with that as not only could we hear it from our tent, but we were preparing for a full evening of entertainment from The Bootleg Beatles, Holly Johnson, and Madness! We also decided to treat ourselves to tea out that evening (with a side of gin from the Jam Jar Bar!), but not before squeezing in a performance by Cirque Bijou!

Located at Caravanseri; a magical little kingdom of caravans, Cirque Bijou was by far one of my favourites performances – mixing the circus with street theatre, it was something really extraordinary to watch.

We stayed up near the castle for The Bootleg Beatles and Holly Johnson (mainly because they were closer to the Jam Jar Bar), but then ventured closer when it came to Madness. With this, we treated T to the most amazing brownie in the hope that he would settle down. He didn’t, but he enjoyed the brownie, chasing bubbles, and dancing to some Madness. He was getting used to this festival malarkey.

Eventually, he conked out and fell asleep on me – which was actually less as he hadn’t done that in a long while. It was a shame, though, that it then started to rain! Cue a rather dicey walk back to the tent through mud with a rather heavy toddler over your shoulders.

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day at Camp Bestival (genuinely booed at this despite the mud!) so we made the most of it and headed out to see Julian Clary talk abut his set of books; Meet The Bolds. We hadn’t actually read the books, but we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see him in person and when the session was over we actually added the books onto our ‘To Buy’ list.

Sunday was also Kirsty and Clara’s son M’s birthday, so we ventured into the Dingly Dell to meet them to wish M a Happy Birthday. The Dingly Dell is probably our favourite location within Camp Bestival. It’s this stunning woodland area full of wondrous things to explore, see and do, such as; mud kitchens, water play areas, and even a humungus area where children can build their own play area (with hammers and nails and everything).

There’s also woodland walks, and a lovely little play area. I wish we’d spent more time here. Even in the rain it’s magical. When we eventually got through to meet Kirsty, Clara and M then sun started to show it’s face so we enjoyed a lovely sit down in the sun with birthday cupcakes. We also got to finally meet Westcountry Mum and their son T.

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Spending the majority of our day here, we finally decided to venture out for some lunch. Once refuelled, we went back to the kid’s lower field and treated T to a ride on the Heater Skelter and a cheeky ice cream in front of the Science Tent where we watched live science experiments. I even got hit in the face with a random flying rocket from the tent next door.

Helter Skelter Fun. What a view! @campbestival

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The views, as expected, were absolutely incredible – even managing to see the Worlds Biggest Bouncy Castle in all it’s glory (including the queues). After flying down to slide which seemed longer to climb than descend, we then made our way back to the tent for a rest, but not before treating T to some bubbles and paying the Castle Stage a visit for Right Said Fred! 

After a quick nap, T was ready and we made our way back to the Caste Field to get ourselves settled for the closing fireworks. Listening to Leftfield (I had no idea, at first) we set ourselves up near the castle and treat ourselves to some brownies and custard. Sharon went for some duck fat chips instead and T decided to build bracelets with his collection of glow stick, although it wasn’t long before he was back on me for a sleep – even sleeping through all the fireworks!

Monday

Monday sadly rolled around, which meant it was time to pack up and go. It seemed a lot quicker to get things packed and put away than it did to set up, oddly. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the desire for a hotter shower – but either way we were surprisingly quick and managed to get packed up and out the campsite just before lunchtime! The drive home, however felt a lot longer!

First of Many

This will no doubt be our first of many Camp Bestivals. Despite the weather, we had a brilliant time and we can’t recommend it more. We wish we’d done it sooner – although I think T is now the perfect age (any younger and I don’t think he’d appreciate it).

As long as you’re prepared, you really can’t go wrong. There’s so much to see and do – not to mention eat. I’ll be shocked if you can’t find something to take your fancy! I didn’t actually think we did much as it felt like we were just walking from stage to stage, but looking back we did and saw loads! We’ll be sharing our tips as newbies to the festival soon as well as our highlights (there’s more, trust me!).

Let us know if you went to Camp Bestival and what you enjoyed doing/seeing! If you’ve never been, have we tickled your fancy?

We were not compensated for our weekend at Camp Bestival, we just thought it was fab.

4 thoughts on “Camp Bestival: Our First Time Camping with a Toddler

    • Kate Everall says:

      I’d highly recommend. Only a 3-4 drive to get there fully and the facilities on site aren’t actually that bad. Cafes near the campsites are 24 hour, everyone who goes are super friendly, and they always get amazing entertainment. X

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