As the rain hammers on the window as I write, my mind is back in the sunshine of the Yoghurt Rooms campsite two weekends ago. We were there for Escape to the Countryside – a small, back-to-nature family festival held on organic Busses Farm in rural Sussex. Roo spent most of the week running up to it playing camping with her sister under any nearby chair, table or cardboard box – she is a big fan of tents! Having been told all about the bat walks and moth trapping events taking place with the Wildlife Trust on the Friday, she also was keen to learn as much as possible about nocturnal wildlife.
Sadly we were to miss that section of the weekend. Roo unexpectedly came down ill on the Thursday afternoon and I spent the Friday evening watching the festival action from online, with all my fingers and toes crossed that our over-excited 3 year old would have slept off the last of her 24 hour bug by the morning. I wasn’t sure I could face her disappointment if she didn’t.
We were in luck. Early next morning we were finally on our way to Sussex, camping kit and kitchen sink stowed safely in our bulging car boot. We arrived at the same time as the day-ticket holders, greeted warmly by the farm’s family and staff. Arriving late meant we didn’t get first dibs on a tent pitch but our spot was at least right next to the very cool tree tractor tyre swings and the ingenious wigwam containing children’s toys, so Roo and Beth were kept well entertained as we set up camp.
For the girls, getting out the camping kit and exploring our home for the night was one of the crucial components of the weekend’s fun. Roo had been itching to get out her new Vango sleeping bag (more on this soon) and I turned round mid-unpacking to find her in a state of undress about to climb in! Beth in the meantime had sneakily climbed into the much coveted kid’s camping seat which technically belongs to her big sister…
Once extracted from the delights of the tent, we set off to explore the farm and get stuck in to the many activities on offer. Making mud pies was possibly not the most sensible first activity of the day to choose but somehow both girls finished their fun-filled session of weighing out sand, stirring up mud and flowers and cake-decorating with leaves with minimal mud-coverage. Shame the same can’t be said about their mother…
Touring the farm on a tractor ride was a big highlight for Roo as well as helping to both orientate and educate the grown-ups. She clambered up alongside the other kids on the side of the wagon as it bumped its way around the surrounding fields. We met several bemused hikers on our route and the children’s squeals of delight surprised the sedate picnickers outside Standen House – a rather grand National Trust property that borders the farm’s land. Roo joined in the excited chants of ‘faster, faster’, whooping in glee as the sedentary tractor picked up its speed for a few meters. Beth meanwhile joined the younger members of the group, snoring on in blissful ignorance of all this excitement, her slumbers rocked by the bumpy ride and the hum of the engine. I’m sure there’s a big business idea revolving around sleepless nocturnal babies in there somewhere…
Axe and Paddle were on site during the weekend for bow-making sessions, fire-lighting and more. Roo and I headed over to make a feather earring, which she then proudly sported in her hair for the rest of the day. I think we both wished she was a little bit older though…the bow making looked a lot of fun with arrows tipped with plastic balls whizzing all over the field beyond as the bigger kids (and their parents) practiced their newly found skills.
Back round the farm we joined the treasure hunt and checked out the new pot bellied pigs and joined in with the family yoga session. If you want to see a very unflattering if entertaining photo of Roo and I joining many others waddling like ducks (yes…they really did go to town on the family-friendly bit) then head on over to the Escape to the Countryside Facebook page and see if you can spot us! Don’t think the kids’ version was an easy session for the adults either – my thighs are still recovering!
By supper time we had worked up a healthy appetite. Whilst the Escape to the Countryside team were busy barbecuing our supper of delicious beef-burgers (made with organic beef from the farm- the best I’ve tasted in a very long time), we foraged for some pre-dinner blackberries. The fields were bursting with them and Roo and Beth wasted no time getting stuck in.
Back in the beautiful barn we feasted alongside our fellow campers on burgers, salads and pasta. Sadly by the time dinner had finished Roo and Beth were all-in, defeated by a combination of non-stop activity, good food, excitement and a day spent entirely outdoors in the fresh country air. As everyone else lingered in the barn waiting for the live band to start, we headed back to the tent to get the girls settled for the night. Despite the distant wafts of music from the barn Beth went out like a light. Roo took a bit longer, still buzzing from the excitement of the day and the novelty of snuggling into her new sleeping bag but she was soon snoring too.
As for us? Well we raided the marshmallow bag, stripped down a stick and head out to the huge fireplace in the camping field to toast them, the music from the barn providing pleasant background music. It was lovely to be able to still enjoy our child-free time, socialise with some other lovely camping parents on snoozing baby watch and snuggle up close to the fire whilst still within easy sight of our snoozing girls. We definitely missed a good night of dancing though – when I stuck my head round the barn door at 9.30 both the live band and dancers were going strong.
Roo slept like a log all night in her cosy layers, not waking until well after sunrise. Beth was obviously jealous – she had a bit of a disturbed sleep as the temperatures fell and ended up snuggling up with me half-way through the night. As a result I didn’t make the 7am yoga session as perhaps I had optimistically intended! I did get to try out Ki-Gong with the lovely ladies from Dahn Yoga later that day though. I love yoga at the best of times but there is something pretty special about doing a class with your bare feet on a carpet of grass and the most gorgeous rural views spreading out before you and a final relaxation session spent lying gazing up at fluffy clouds drifting across an otherwise blue sky. A truly restorative practice.
As I had my own escape time, Roo and Beth joined the other kids for a gentle Sunday walk. Judging by their faces and hands when they got back in also involved yet more blackberry picking! Also on offer was mask making, seed planting, more family yoga and plenty more. Roo came back from one activity clutching a huge flower pot of ripe peaches she had been allowed to gather from the tree in the greenhouse. As we finally headed off in the early afternoon, things were still going. Roo watched longingly as children piled back into the tractor to head off to feed the horses…
Escape to the Countryside was a lovely weekend for us all. The whole event felt very personal and family-run and was a good gentle introduction to festival weekends with the kids without any of the worry of losing them in huge crowds. It was the festival’s first year and as such there were of course a few teething issues, such as stretched timetables or a rare missed activity (I’d have been rubbish at welly wanging anyway). I think it would have been brilliant if the original plan to offer local ciders and beers during the evening had come off. You could bring your own drinks of course but I think engaging more with local produce, even if not from the farm itself, would have really complemented the theme and venue of the weekend. Perhaps they could have even included culinary activities from local food artisans as part of the daytime activities? I could see apple pressing or learning about bee keeping being popular activities with adults and kids.There is definitely heaps of potential for future years with such a great concept.
As the the venue itself? Well Busses Farm is in a most perfect spot for those looking to escape city life for a while. It’s easily accessible from the M25 and yet feels a million miles away from busy roads and urban concerns. Whilst the camping field offers everything the real back-to-basics camper would look for, including the possibility to make a camp-fire, it also caters to the occasional or reluctant camping family. There are really nice washroom facilities with plentiful steaming hot water, showers and washing up supplies. In the camping field itself there is a basic composting toilet for midnight dashes and an outdoor kitchen area with a wood burner available for the campers to use. There is also fridge space if required and for comfort seekers there is also the option of glamping in one of the farm’s several secluded yurts or renting a self-catering apartment. Footpaths criss-cross the fields, we were itching to get down and explore the huge reservoir at the bottom of the hill and nearby Standen House is within a pleasant short stroll from the farm and its campsite. It’s a marvelous little spot to camp anytime. As we headed down the long country track back to the real-world, two grubby, worn out but happy children in the back, we wished we could have stayed on a day or two after Escape to the Countryside to explore more fully and take in more of the gorgeous scenery and rural charm in this charming little spot.
We were thrilled to experience Escape to the Countryside as the guests of Yoghurt Rooms. All words, rubbish tent pitching and mud pies remain entirely our own.