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Every year, a farm in a remote part of rural Herefordshire is transformed. For one weekend, Nozstock, the Hidden Valley Festival takes over. Ten stages, hundreds of acts, a dedicated children’s zone, a cinema, food, shops and spaces to chill make this farm near Bromyard the place to be. Nozstock has a reputation for being the biggest party around. Nozstock 2019 was Wizard of Oz themed. We spent a weekend camping at the festival to see how suitable it is for families with children.
Little Wonderland Kids Area
For anyone visiting Nozstock with children, it’s great to know that there’s a dedicated area just for them. Head in there any time before about 6.30pm to take part in fun activities and free play. The fabulous Spare Room Arts team are on hand with craft activities for children of all ages. Even teens will want to get involved with graffiti, beat boxing and break dancing. Younger ones can create a masterpiece out of clay or enjoy a host of other arts activities. My two loved making a flag and puppet to put together a little puppet show.
A small sandpit and hockey game, toys for younger children and a chill out area with cushions provide a relaxing environment. Adults and children’s yoga, tie dye, storytelling and face painting are among the other activities on offer. Better still, everything is free. It’s a breath of fresh air to discover a children’s area that doesn’t try to milk parents for money. Whatever your children are into, it’s worth heading over to the Little Wonderland area to check the timetable early on. Then you can head back when the activities they’re into are taking place. It is worthy of note that this isn’t a babysitting service, parents do need to supervise but it’s no chore because it’s a lovely little area.
Keeping children safe
I have to admit to being someone who gets a little bit nervous about going to festivals with children. Crowds, large quantities of alcohol, music and sunshine. Children could get lost, squashed or hurt. Thankfully though, this is our second year of going to Nozstock and I’ve never had anything to worry about.
Parents write their name and phone number on children’s wrist bands. So if a child gets lost, anybody who finds them can phone you to let you know where they are. All staff are friendly and approachable with access to a radio, so I’m confident that a lost child would quickly be taken care of. Additionally, there’s a dedicated lost child area next to the kids zone, so you can arrange to meet them there if you do get split up.
I love the fact that the stages at Nozstock all have very different music. The main Orchard stage caters to the masses, with bands differing depending what people want to hear at that time of day. Afternoon bands had a pretty chilled out vibe, with things getting a bit more lively early evening and DJs playing to the party animals into the early hours. Needless to say, we didn’t stick around long enough for that. With 10 stages to choose from, it would be difficult not to find something you enjoy.
Being around the stages with children was a lot easier than anticipated. Whilst most people had been drinking, I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the kids being there. Everyone was respectful to us, taking care not to knock the girls over and giving them plenty of space for their wild dancing. Lots of families were around with children aged from babies right the way up to much older children. Many had tiny ones in pull-along trucks or pushchairs.
We stayed out with the girls until around 9pm. By this point, they were both tired so we retreated back to our van. We did worry a bit that they might not sleep due to the noise, but the live-in vehicle area was far enough from the stages to only hear the music very quietly. We were glad we stayed overnight because it was nice to be able to have a drink and not worry about getting home. It’s also great to be able to stay out a bit later, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be in bed within minutes of leaving.
Food and drink
I was seriously impressed with the food and drink at Nozstock this year. I can’t remember whether it was the same last year but there seemed to be a vast amount of vegan options this time. We had ‘vish and chips’ vegan fish and chips and a barbecue jackfruit wrap from The Vegan Pyramid. These were an absolute revelation, even my fish-eating five year old loved it.
There were plenty of options for meat eaters too and some rather fabulous pizzas. I was also impressed with the decision to use reusable cups rather than disposable ones. When you bought your first drink, you were given a cup. You kept that with you for the rest of the festival. Additionally, there were free water refill points dotted about. Everyone was encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle so notably fewer plastic bottles would have been sold.
I’ve always enjoyed the variety at Nozstock. Shopping from lovely small, ethical stalls. A human jukebox and human fruit machine. Archery, complementary therapies and best of all, a Chill Welfare area. They recognise that it’s not possible to totally eliminate substances at festivals. Instead, they minimise the damage they can do by offering help and support to anyone who feels high, or low.
Other activities this year included the fabulous, Wizard of Oz themed Tornado Tower. Wrong Directions cinema offers a break from the full-on festival atmosphere, showing films and documentaries. During the day it’s child friendly, with some shows aimed at children. Later on, the cinema is for over 18s only and signs make this clear.
We took our van to camp in, so we were slightly separated from the main camping area. I like the way the campsite works with family, live-in vehicle, boutique camping and glamping zones. Whilst the campsite is somewhat chaotic as you would expect with a festival, I love the fact that families are catered for with a separate area.
I wouldn’t want to stay with the girls in the main camping area. I’d worry about them not being able to get to sleep, or getting disturbed in the night. The family camping areas are fine though. They’re a little further from the festival itself. We were really lucky to have very respectful people around us. The girls were asleep at about 9.30pm and didn’t get disturbed at all.
Having tried out glamping last weekend, the idea of glamping at Nozstock really appeals to me. For the ultimate in luxury, Airstreams provide a kitchen, bathroom with toilet, beds, towels, heating and air conditioning. There’s even a TV and music players with speakers. Luxury bell tents are also available. If you’d prefer to camp but without the hassle of pitching up, Camplight will pitch a basic tent for you and provide bedding and a chair.
As the children get older, we find going to festivals with them is increasingly enjoyable. They’re only seven and five years old, but they’re already starting to appreciate the atmosphere. Dancing and exploring Nozstock with them is brilliant fun. We’ll be back next year. Head to the Nozstock website for further details.
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