After cancelling pretty much every event scheduled for 2020 and having been postponed from June (when the weather must have been better), team Downham embarked upon a well overdue nature break at the Also Festival
in Compton Verney, Warwickshire.
The Also Festival is a combination of nature, Ted talkesque presentations, soulful music, yoga, meditation, raft building, wild swimming, wine tasting and a whole host of kids activities. The organisers claimed that this was the first post-lockdown legal mass gathering and were taking all the necessary precautions. The festival was operating at about 30% capacity which meant we had loads of room to pitch our tent far from the crowds. We reckon there were about 700 people in attendance.
We were meant to be coming to the end of a Teepee European Tour but instead on Friday 28th August in biblical rains we packed up the car, put on our brave faces and were very happy to be travelling more than 5 minutes from home for the first time in months.
During a delayed aqua plaining journey we arrived at 4 pm just in time for Daves Den Building to be cancelled due to bad weather.
Our next booked event (you booked all your workshops and classes in advance but could attend any of the main stage events whenever you liked) was a bat walk. We were given bat finders and told the different frequencies that the 4 most common type of bat communicated on. So we tuned into channel bat and heard them chatting to each other. Interesting though this was, it was not enough to combat the cold and torrential rain and hence we needed to dance to warm up.
Just on the lakeshore, they had built a reggae style rum shack which hosted DJs who were pumping out some funky tunes. To the mortifying embarrassment of our eldest daughter Jen, Chris and the lads started to pull out all their moves from an extensive library of dancing genres. Chris was sports dancing, Jen was performing the robot, Freddie was bobbing, Noah was freestyling and Lottie wished the earth would open up. Great fun! We retired about 21:30 and the rain drumming on the teepee accompanied us all to a great nights sleep.
On Saturday the sun was streaming through the TeePee windows and we awoke like people who had been randomly dropped into a small space (we had pitched on a slight angle and hence has all slipped off our airbeds) to view the fabulous festival grounds that had been designed by Capability Brown.
First off Chris attended a HIIT of Mindfulness, this was like meditation for people who can’t sit still. 3 x 40 seconds of HIIT followed by a short meditation and then this was repeated 4 times followed by a longer meditation. I think many of the participants were more prepared for the meditation rather than the HIIT as they were trying to do most of it from a chair. Maybe we should give them some R1SE Power next year?
Lottie went on a photography course showing her how to take great piccies with her mobile, she got some lovely shots and really enjoyed it.
The boys went to a Knights Tale session (this is a book written by the McLeod brothers) where the brothers guided you through how to create characters for a book. Noah created a killer Rat who lived inside another rat, a fabulous example of letting your imagination run wild.
The festival was interspersed with loads of authors from many fields of academia passionately talking about their subjects. A maths professor from Cambridge who has been working on the age of the universe blew our minds for over an hours with photos from the Hubble space telescope combined with a history of the origins of the universe. He says the universe is 13.8 billion years old and is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. It still blows my mind when he said that our Solar System has the Sun at its centre. Our Galaxy contains some 100 Billion Solar Systems all with their own suns and the Universe contains over 100 Billion Galaxies, Boom! Head Exploded!
Next, it was Lottie at Hula Hooping training whilst Chris went on a foraging walk and talk. I can’t tell you how manly I felt as I demonstrated to my children how to strip a nettle to make cordage without being stung. Jen was chuckling away as she saw that I had done it wrong and in fact ravaged my hands with nettle stings which are still numb as I type this. I also learnt that dock leaves do not help with nettle stings so I just had to suck it up.
Food stalls were limited but what was on available was fairly priced (£8 for a halloumi wrap and £3 for a coffee). We also brought quite a lot of food with us but although Chris (I) saw the key ingredients bag several times when packing the car instead of picking it I moved it to one side. As it contained the Oat milk for Jen’s coffee & kid’s brekkie, peanut butter (essential) and olive oil for our homemade sourdough and tomatoes from the farm, Chris had to make the regular trips to the coffee station to get Jen a Flat White with Oat Milk.
Although wild swimming and raft building were available we were all a little scared of never warming up if we’d taken the plunge and hence collectively bottled it. Hot Yoga has made us nesh. Back at our camp we used a length of rope from the car (great to bring camping) to climb trees and make a swing as well as a much need drying line, we also hung a couple of hammocks between some trees in which I got a 5-minute nap and Freddie enjoyed swinging in and playing on his Nintendo Switch (I know, I know;o)
On Saturday night, it started to rain again, however, this did not dampen the spirits of the kids and adults taking part in the lip sync challenge. Our absolute favourite and the eventual winner was a young lad with learning difficulties who lip-synced to Ed Sheehan's Galloway Girl with as much passion and enthusiasm as captain winning a world cup. It was amazing to see and hundreds of people clapped and screamed as he gave it 1000%, no doubt creating a memory for life. We went to bed at about 21:30 to the trippy sounds of some sort of Space Odyssey whilst the big screen was playing photos from the Hubble Space Telescope.
On Sunday after a lazy start (I usually get up at 5 am so awaking at 8 am was a huge lie-in) Jen commenting on how the airbed had stayed up, it was only up as Chris was flat on the floor for the 2nd night in succession we set off down the hill to attend a woodland activities session. The kids loved it and we all got fairly creative making mud pictures, tissue paper flowers around twigs, wooden medals, a spider's web and leaf finding activity.
We then played at our camp whilst listening to some great talks about “How to argue with a racist”, “The Art of Rest” and a "classical historians view of the pandemic”. Although these may sound a little tedious when being delivered by the authors themselves who absolutely love their subject it is fascinating and hence we now have some new books to read. The talk about “The Art of Rest
” was particularly inspiring as this is a valued addition to the Sleep ingredient of our 6 R1SE hacks. No doubt another blog post will follow when we have studied this book.
The total cost was about £210 for camping, parking and activities, about £100 on food and drink and a final £50 for fuel. Considering this is about the first time we have been out in 6 months we are not feeling at all guilty about any of it.
Would we go again? Yeah, I think we would and maybe we’d offer them a R1SE class to get them moving.
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