One of my resolutions as a parent was to be more adventurous. In retrospect this was probably a habit that I should have eased myself into years before sprogging because raising twins is adventure enough for anybody, thank you very much. But I didn’t, and I’m frantically making up time as a consequence and cursing all the while as I constantly challenge my own comfort level.
So when we were invited to Raw Fest as a family I had to laugh. It doesn’t sound like a terribly impressive adventure until one factors in the three hours of train travel with 9-month-old twins and a(n admittedly VERY well-behaved) dog, or the 1.8 mile walk from the station to the camp site, or simply sleeping in a tent and attending a festival with the aforementioned 9-month-old twins and (admittedly VERY well-behaved) dog. Still, having never been to a festival before, attending one was on my bucket list and so I eagerly accepted this invitation to review the event from a dog owner’s perspective.
Josephine-dog is not a dog given over to effusive displays but she does love a train and behaved like a good girl on the three hours and three changes of train before we arrived at Lymington Pier. She was a little unsettled to have to walk so close to a suitcase but rose to the occasion until a farmer pulled over on his little ‘ute’ and offered us a lift for the rest of the way. Then she sat primly in the back, looking about herself with an air of mild horror at the state of the roads. The twins, on the otherhand, were deeply entertained by the ride.
We arrived and I tried to set up the tent, overseen by a smug Kirsty (wearing the babies, couldn’t help) and a dog who cleverly found the shade and stayed in it. Erecting a tent is harder than it looks. Thankfully a kindly neighbour came to our rescue, interspersing stories about life in his Sussex woodland with guidance and camping terminology like ‘lug’ and ‘gyrope’ and in a matter of minutes our bright orange tent was upright. It’s only a cheap £45 tent from Tesco but it’s really spacious and it was good to have somewhere for the twins and Josephine-dog to retreat to during the day.
From the camp site it was just a quick dash across a field before we found ourself in the festival itself. One thing that I really liked about Raw Fest is how spacious it was – there was plenty of room for meandering about the stalls and there wasn’t a crowd. I’m always quite wary of taking Josephine to densely populated areas because it often seems like people simply aren’t paying attention to what’s in front of them and she inevitably gets trodden on or kicked, but this wasn’t the case at Raw Fest in the least and she always had plenty of personal space. It helped too that most people there seemed to be dog fans. Between Josephine and the twins we attracted a number of admirers; everybody was very nice and there were quite a collection of babywearing mums there too.
We saw a number of people with dogs, from a gorgeous little red Pomeranian to what I think was a Husky-German Shepherd cross but looked impressively like a wolf. For the most part they were kept on proper leads rather than extendis and all were nice characters and under control. Dogs are welcomed at Raw Fest and there was actually a little show scheduled for them on the Sunday afternoon, which I was sorry to miss as we had a long journey in order to have the twins home before bedtime.
One thing which would have really enhanced the dog-friendly experience would have been if they have had water bowls out for the dogs – they get so thirsty in hot weather. That said, perhaps they deliberately decided against doing this because of the worry of dog saliva transmitting infections. Thankfully Josephine is an expert at drinking from a bottle of water!
I’m not a food blogger but I couldn’t help but focus on the food. For a rather late lunch we bought an enormous plate of salad with a slice of raw ‘pizza’ from Simply Rawgeous (£8.50) and we all tucked in. The twins loved helping themselves and really enjoyed the different flavours. There were raisins in with the shredded carrot and so we had to be careful that Josephine didn’t get any, but she enjoyed the little morsels that we separated out for her.
Based at Pylewell Park in the New Forest, Raw Fest is perfectly situated for a family festival – so long as you’re driving a car or don’t mind a bit of a trek from the station, anyway. The location is gorgeous, with ornamental gardens and a lake to explore and the sea literally at the back of the garden. We had hoped to swim but the tide was out, so we enjoyed a walk along the coast. Josephine was fascinated by a herd of wild cows grazing down one of the lanes off of the beach but I called her back to heel so that neither party could trouble the other. It was lovely to have the coast right there for the dogs to bounce and play off-lead after such excellent behaviour at the festival itself.
For dinner we bought butternut squash korma (£6.50 I think) and ate it outside of our tent as we watched the sun set over the manor. We hadn’t tried curry with the twins previously and were impressed that they enjoyed the intense flavour. Josephine tried her best to flirt some korma out of us too but must to her disgust, we gave her the biscuits that we had brought from home instead – none of us wanted to be trapped in a tent with a dog that had eaten curry!
Once the sun had set it was time for bed for the twins. We tucked up in our tent and chatted and laughed together as the babies fell asleep. I did wish that I had bought a second duvet for us to lay on as the ground was freezing and it did keep us up during the night, but it was such fun to close our eyes somewhere new, listening to the music playing in the distance. I’ll take a moment now to confess that I forgot to bring Josephine’s Equafleece jumper. Perhaps most people’s dogs don’t require a jumper for camping in August but mine does and I forgot to bring it. She shivered all night under the duvet and I felt terrible. Poor Josephine. I think she quite enjoyed the resulting cuddles though.
Overlooking that I don’t think that I will ever be the sort of person who is able to cope with a biodegradable lavatory, we had a fantastic and very funny time. It was good to spend a few days almost entirely disconnected from the outside world and immersed in each other. My only real requests for improvement would be water bowls for the dogs, and places to put waste for the families – it just isn’t realistic to expect a family to take their rubbish home on public transport.
Thanks very much to Raw Fest for inviting us along and providing a free ticket in exchange for an honest review.
And thank you to Little Green Radicals for gifting the twins with their adorable bodysuits and ‘I only eat organic chips’ bibs, which will be fully admired in a subsequent post.