Fancy a fun and glam experience with little ones this summer? Journalist and author Louise Baty and family urge you to try Gloworm festival for families in Nottinghamshire
The last time my husband and I camped at a festival, Oasis were still together and Kate Moss was romancing Pete Doherty: a loooong time ago. Since then, we’ve had two kids and swapped cider-fuelled weekends in muddy fields for soft play parties and evenings on the sofa.
Wistfully watching Glastonbury coverage on TV, we thought our festival days were far behind us. But then we heard about Gloworm, a new family friendly festival in Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire – not too far from our hometown of Newark.
With toddler fairground rides, a soft play bus, performances from kids’ telly legends Dick and Dom and Mr Bloom, it sounded perfect for our little ones.
The most memorable moments were dancing on a haybale in my Hunters and watching the sun set over the festival site
And with an Alice in Wonderland themed cocktail bar, a Prosecco van, plenty of beer and a headlining set by 1990s faves, Toploader, it sounded up our street too.
Despite our youngest child being just nine-months-old, we took the plunge, splurging a frightening amount in Millets on a proper grown up family tent in the process.
Clumber Park, near Worksop, was a monastic property mentioned in the Domesday Book. Now a 3,800-acre country park owned by the National Trust and open to the public, it’s home to thick woodland, a gothic chapel, a beautiful walled garden and lake. It’s like entering Narnia – and you couldn’t find a more picturesque spot for a festival.
The Gloworm site itself was located in a clearing deep within the forest. Putting up the tent, after a 10-year festival hiatus, was a “challenge” – but we did it.
And talk about falling down a rabbit hole. With no phone reception for the weekend (eek!), it really felt “off grid”.
Sadly, the remoteness of the location hit us when we realised we’d left our baby’s nappies at home. Epic parenting fail. Cue a panicked dash to near(ish) Worksop for supplies.
Back at Gloworm, the main stage had acts including Hallouminati and RedFaces. The Big Top tent housed Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly and Sunday’s headliner, Mr Bloom of CBeebies’ fame. (For 2017, the lineup includes Andy Day, Kazabian and the legendary Chuckle Brothers.)
As the main stage music seemed pretty loud for a kiddy festival, I was glad we’d brought Babybanz ear defenders (let’s brush over the fact he yanked them off his head repeatedly).
Time flew by as we crafted in the Ikea-sponsored Family Zone, chased bubbles in the Tiny Tots tent and had fun learning circus tricks. The huge sandpit surrounded by giant deck chairs was a firm favourite.
Food-wise, we loved the vegetarian Paneer Masala, with minted yoghurt and fresh coriander served with pilau rice at The Gastropod. Even our curry-fearing four-year-old had a try.
We also spent quite a bit of time hovering around the London bus bar. My favourite tipple? Elderflower gin & tonic cider. Bliss.
When the heavens opened (which they did several times over the weekend), we hung out in the Alice in Wonderland-themed cocktail bar, sampling delights such as Tweedle Rum and Queen of Hearts for £6 – and discovered the Cheshire Cat bar hidden in the woods, selling salted caramel shakes.
The low-light of the weekend? Queueing for an hour to get our little girl’s face painted. There were also lengthy queues for the helter-skelter and other rides: but if you offer free face painting and fairground rides to a field of preschoolers, it’s going to get manic.
And most of the attractions are free once you’re on site. For the price of a day or weekend ticket, you could visit the petting farm, try juggling or hula hooping and sample “Jo Jingles taster classes”.
Gloworm was the friendliest, chattiest festival we’ve experienced. One of the cleanest too – the portaloos were pretty spotless, even by the second day.
Most memorable moments were dancing on a hay bale in my Hunters, clutching a pint of elderflower cider and watching the sun set over the festival site, framed by the expanse of woodland.
Beating the queues to get a spot in the Big Top tent for Mr Bloom (the welly clad Rock God of children’s telly) was also fabulous. I reckon the mums were more excited than the kids when he bounded out on stage.
On Sunday night, as we packed up our tent and drove out of Clumber Park, we felt a massive sense of achievement. Three nights in a tent with two tiny people and no disasters. Well, except for that missing pack of nappies.
Will we go back to the Gloworm festival for families? Definitely. We might even up our game and try out the festival’s glamping option this year. Because less time putting a tent up means more cocktail time for Mummy and Daddy….
How to get to Gloworm Festival for families without flying:
Louise travelled the 23.8 mile journey from Newark to Clumber Park by car, which took around 40 minutes.
Tickets for 2017’s event (Saturday 19 August 2017 – Sunday 20 August 2017) are now on sale.
Words: Louise Baty for Feet on the Ground
Pictures: Louise Baty