Cornbury music festival day tips - Bubbablue and me

Cornbury Music Festival with Dorset Cereals – day festival tips

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The last (and only) time I went to a music festival was 3 years ago at Cornbury.  This year, we were invited by Dorset Cereals back to Cornbury Music Festival for the last hurrah. Yes, unfortunately, the festival has played its final songs, and we’ll be sad to see it go.  Dorset Cereals were providing their breakfast takeover in the campsite over the weekend, so we headed along to meet them and enjoy the festival.

Cornbury music festival day tips - Bubbablue and me

Day trippers only

Living round the corner we decided not to camp. I love camping, but festival camping is not for me. I need good proper toilet and shower blocks, not having to camp on top of each other, and having the car nearby to pick up all the bits you need rather than lugging them up and down huge hills.  Instead the plan was to arrive late Saturday morning, stay as long as possible, then return on Sunday for the afternoon.  We took my sister in law and the youngest nephew with us – it really helps N having someone near his own age to keep him interested otherwise he’d have wanted to go home by 3pm!

cornbury sign

This year with camping tickets we were parked closer and on the flat rather than last time with day tickets, having a massive hill in the heat to walk up.  Yet again Cornbury was blessed with beautiful hot weather (although secretly I’d have loved 8 degrees or so cooler) and the festival looked spectacular as you approached with all the flags in the sky.

Breakfast with Dorset Cereals

On arrival we headed to see Dorset Cereals takeover tent.  It was a lovely set up – country feel with flowers, wooden benches, and plenty of cereals and juices to try.  I was a bit partial to the red berries granola although N turned his nose up at trying any.  Instead he got stuck into playing some of the vintage games – his 8 year old cousin asked if he could play noughts and crosses, then was astounded when N straight away won!  A quick game of jenga as well, and they were happy, before heading to relax on the hammocks.

Dorset cereals breakfast takeover at Cornbury
giant noughts and crosses
dorset cereals jenga
breakfast with dorset cereals at cornbury
hammocks at cornbury

Music festival prep

In future I’ll do a bit more research on the festivals. We had checked the website information beforehand.  There’s no food or drink allowed in, unless drinks are purchased and still sealed.  We only had reusable water bottles, but I’d not taken them in which meant we had to keep buying water.  Cornbury did have FrankWater which is a charity and does water refills – you buy a bottle for £6.50 and then can refill as much as you want, or buy a wristband to fill your own water bottle for £3.50ish.

Personally I’d prefer there just to be some taps for people to refill like there were at Geronimo rather than the queues for the water and having to pay – it’s fine over the whole weekend, but that would have been £6+ for both N and I to have water, or just keep refilling and chasing them around the site.

The website also said don’t take in camping chairs. So we didn’t, to find that everyone else did and weren’t getting stopped. So the arena was full of chairs (many of which weren’t even occupied for the headline act!).  In future, I’d risk these things or do some more research asking them on social media first.

cornbury festival crowd

Festival fun and activities

I remembered where everything was set out, so we worked out the bands we wanted to watch before wandering round to check out the activities and try and meet friends.

After we all had a go at some giant colouring in, and the boys played a lot of vintage hoopla, we decided what food to have.

kids area at Cornbury
giant colouring at Cornbury
victorian hoopla

Street food options

With all the choices available, the boys wanted pizza for lunch and we had mexican.  I love the buzz and fun that the catering guys all have.  It must have been so hot for them in their tents serving the food, but everyone in the queue is very British, queues nice and patiently and awaits their order. The food we had was delicious.  

You do have to allow for a lot of money – because food is expensive – in the main arena area, organic meat burgers were selling for £7.50-£8.50 each, with the pizzas slightly cheaper at anything from £5.  We did later remember that round by the fairground the food vans are a bit more everyday rather than being the gourmet style, so prices are a little cheaper with less exotic foods.

pizza at cornbury

Music and funfair

Just sitting outside, listening to the music and experiencing the happy buzz around is something magical in itself.  And that’s without doing that much. In fact there was an awful lot we didn’t get round to doing, mostly because the boys weren’t bothered, or we just needed some time in the shade.

We checked out the Songbird Stage for a bit.  There were 2 bands we heard in the afternoon, both swearing a lot within song or just inbetween.  It’s not always appropriate for a festival with lots of families and I’m sure most people watching would have preferred it without the bad language. N didn’t seem to notice thankfully – he was quite happy with his ice cream doing a bit of rocking.

Songbird Stage at Cornbury
ice cream at Cornbury
dressed up people at cornbury
bear and nymph at Cornbury

Then the funfair was calling.  The boys both wanted to go on the dodgems – N couldn’t reach the pedals properly so amusingly the guy told my sister in law to get in too to drive him.  Her face was a picture – all N did was laugh while they drove. He takes after me because I always laugh on roller coasters and scary rides!

Then they split up across the helter skelter and a car ride. N always seems to opt for the kiddy rides, although this one did have a whip round at the ends which was funny to watch.  Needless to say they wangled their way onto another ride.  N always loves the swing boats.  I have no idea why because it seems pretty tame to me, but they enjoyed being on them together.

dodgems at cornbury
car funfair ride
swing boats at cornbury
funfiar chair ride at Cornbury

We were hoping to hang out on the hammocks for a bit, but everywhere we looked they were full – mostly of groups of teenagers. So we found a quiet spot instead.  N wanted to try out some of the arts activities so we headed off separately.

chilling out cousins
enjoying quiet time at Cornbury

Arts and crafts

There are always lots of different activities at music festivals for kids, mostly free. There was screen printing and willow weaving which adults were having a go at, and for children painting records, making headbands and other activities.  N decided on a mosaic tile – just in time, because there were only enough mosaic pieces left for 1 tile. We left the tile to dry and be grouted ready for us to pick up.  Which of course we forgot to do until the tent was closed, so I had to ask my friend to pick it up on the Sunday.

tile mosaics at cornbury festival

A few more goes on the wooden fair games, a watch of the Disco shed, and we were back off to join the others again.  After missing each other on the phone we did manage to randomly spot our friends so we could join up with them for the afternoon.  More entertainment for the boys having 4 of them to muck around with before having an early tea of chips.  If you’re buying from stalls you’re always pretty limited for children unless they’re really into world foods.  There was a Caffe Nero which we could have grabbed food in but we thought they’d prefer chips to a sandwich.

The one thing I really missed was fresh fruit. Obviously being unable to take food in to the festival, you have no options if you’re not camping with food back in your tents.  I think Waitrose (or another supermarket) were missing a trick. Waitrose had their café, but we reckoned they do a lot better trade if they set up a stall of food to go items like they used to have at the old Royal Shows where you could go and do your shopping. That could give people a better choice of more healthy, and cold items rather than having to have hot food which isn’t always wanted in hot weather.

I really wanted to see Ward Thomas so we packed everyone over to the main stage for a bit.  The mass of chairs and seating had increased, with a crowd standing at the front. We found a pretty good spot at the top of the hill behind the chairs where we could see – it was a different matter for the children in the evening because everyone then stands up.  Half an hour of Ward Thomas and I was happy.  The boys were flagging so my friend said we could head back to their tent for the boys to have a nap before we all headed out to see Tom Chaplin, Scouting for Girls and Bryan Adams.

Time out to rest

The tent was at the bottom of the hill, in the quiet camping area. They had a lovely view over the fields and their tent wasn’t too close to lots of other people. Apart from the loo and shower situation, I can see why people love to camp at festivals.  It’s so much easier than going for a day especially if you’ve kids.  Although obviously you’re are stuck with the weather whichever way it goes.

blow up camping sofa
hot air balloon over cornbury
campsite at cornbury

Needless to say, trying to persuade 4 boys of 8 and under to have a nap wasn’t going to work. The eldest did try, but with a 2.5 year old who just wants to jump on the older boys it was a nightmare. Still, us adults managed to have a good catch up, and plan our camping trip in a couple of weeks. In the end, we stayed in the tent for a bit longer while my friend took her boys off again to see Tom Chaplin and we arranged to try and find them later.

Musical stars

The boys were excited being out late, and although neither really knew Bryan Adams, were excited about the show.  We didn’t manage to get anywhere near the Riverside Stage to see Scouting for Girls – everyone was standing several rows deep on the hill, so we decided to listen for a bit then head over to the main stage to grab a spot.

Festivals with children are interesting because you always need to think about them.  If we’d not had them with us, we’d have been rocking at the front of the stage, but instead were at the top of the hill behind all the chairs.  The one thing Cornbury Festival doesn’t do is have a big screen for the audience further back.  At least with the Bryan Adams set, they had the back of the stage screening graphics and the band onto it.

The set started 10 minutes early so we were pleased to have got their early, having a chat to a random crowd control volunteer while we got comfy in our spot.  So many people sigh and moan when I mention Bryan Adams, but he was great. We rocked and sang along.  I had to lift N up most of the time to see but he was fine with what he could see. All of the classic tracks, and N didn’t moan about it being too loud because he was expecting it (not that he can complain, he and his dad listen and watch gigs at top volume on the tv at home!).

selfies watching music at cornbury
bryan adams at cornbury
watching bryan adams
Bryan Adams final set at cornbury Saturday

I couldn’t believe the 2 ladies sitting in the chairs in front of us – they weren’t even watching, they were playing cards. And we noticed someone else reading a book.  It kind of defeats the object of going to a gig really.  They could have listened from their tent. Along with all the people in the rows of chairs in front of us, who’d left chairs in place but then weren’t anywhere nearby.  Very annoying for everyone stood up behind.

It really was a great show, and even though we didn’t stay for it all (2 tired children), we experienced a good proportion of the set and have now converted the boys to Bryan Adams music (or Iron Bradams as N was calling him the next day before he corrected himself!).

It was a slow but excited and chatty walk back to the car.  Everyone was excited about what we’d seen and done, and were satisfied that we’d experienced the festival fun.  Plus of course getting to stay up late.

sunset over cornbury

Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to return the next day as I’d planned. N wanted to go out on the farm but was expecting to come back in for a sleep catch up so I needed to be around. Of course, it didn’t happen so I could have gone back.  I think for a local festival (should there be one again), I’d probably look to camp even if we didn’t stay, just to have a tent as a base, and plenty of food.

We’ll be sad to see Cornbury Festival go.  N was already saying he wanted to go back next year – too late.  We’ll have to keep a watch out for other nearby festivals for next year.

If you’re like us and don’t fancy camping at a festival but worry about young children coping on going for a day, here’s some tips on making it easier:

Music festival day visit tips

1. If you think you’re going for more than 1 days, try and get camping tickets instead. Even if you don’t camp, pitch a small tent as a base because it’s handy to go back for a nap for young children who are no longer in pushchairs or too big for the festival wagons.

2. Or find a friend who’s going and see if you can borrow their tent for a nap at some point.

3. Don’t go at 10 in the morning or when it opens. With young children, unless they’re really keen on spending time doing every art, craft and workshop going, they’ll get bored by 3pm.  Think about getting there just before lunch

4. Check the festival website before going, but don’t assume what’s on there is correct with regards to talking items in.

5. Take plenty of cash. While there’s likely to be cash machines, not being able to take your own food and drinks in will mean you spend a lot on food – think £20-30 for lunch for 4 people, and then add drinks on top.

6. Drinks – you will need a lot of water especially if it’s hot weather. If you’re taking drinks in, either take an empty water bottle to fill up inside or take sealed bottles. Last time we went it wasn’t a problem, but expect more security nowadays.

7. Take time out if needed. Grab some quiet time because you will need it

8. Work the food queues. If people in your group want different food, split up to go to different places rather than standing in one queue and then the next.

9. Take sun lotion, sunglasses, and a hat in sunny weather, a bag for purchases and makes, and wear clothing suitable for the weather. The evenings may get cooler. You will walk a lot, so comfy shoes – trainers, flats or flip flops work well.  Or wellies in wet weather.

10. Find your bearings early on and take photos of the schedule on the different stages.

11. Assume you won’t get phone signal all the time. We had a nightmare trying to meet friends and didn’t manage to see those I’d intended. So arrange a particular time and place to meet in advance.

12. Take a back up battery pack for your phone. Festivals do have charging points, but you’ll pay a lot for the privilege and you’ll be without your phone for a while.

Are you going to any festivals this year? Have you been on day tickets – what are your tips?

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  1. It’s not something I’ve ever really considered as always thought these things were camping only, which I wouldn’t like and would be worried about Monkey and the noise. Had no idea about all the activities – he would love that aspect for sure #CountryKids

    1. The bands were quite loud initially – more surprise than anything else. There’s always tonnes to do, but they’re a lot of money if you just go for the day and can’t hang around into the evening unless you manage to get a good deal on tickets – last time we went I had a groupon deal for me. Kids tend to be cheap though

  2. Sounds like a great festival, with plenty to do alongside the acts. We haven’t attempted anything like this with the kids yet, but I’d love to try. Like the idea of just using a tent as a base during the day. Like you, I want decent toilets and shower block when I’m camping, and a bit of space around us! #countrykids

    1. The alternative of course is glamping which so many have but then that’s a lot more pricy. Definitely worth checking out day festival options – although ones where they’re not so expensive if the kids don’t last til the evening

  3. Great feedback! We went to the Big Day Out in Kent early July. It was our first festival ever! The kids enjoyed it – but there were queues everywhere! I think here is much more organised and well prepared. The chair bit is a little unreasonable though when you are told not to bring but others can. Great that you had enjoyed your time there. It is a bit exhausting for the kids though isn’t it – these festival. I was too! lol! #CountryKids x

  4. It is so annoying when there’s rules and they are just ignored. I would have been a right grump if there were chairs in front of me and they weren’t even watching the act! Bryan Adams sounds amazing and the festival sounds really good – especially for kids. I like that a lot of the activities were free and that you could at least get water refills. There were no refills at the last festival I went to and I said it would be a good idea to help ensure people are hydrated. #countrykids

  5. I do like your festival check list. It sounds like you found out the hard way what to take and not take. I’m not much a of a festival one myself but I do like the idea of having one close enough to be able to go home to a comfy bed and en-suite at night. I could do festivals this way! I love your photos, it looks so colourful and so much going on at all times of day and night for adults and children.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    1. Yes, the day festival is the way to go I reckon. I might try glamping, but they’re so expensive as they are, if you’re then adding glamping premium, it’s extortionate

  6. Festival camping is not for me either! It’s refreshing to hear someone say it rather than pretend it’s brilliant – it isn’t! Festivals are so much more fun when you can sleep in a proper bed and it doesn’t get light at 5am. This looks a wonderful experience for the whole family – so many smiles! #Countrykids

    1. Lol, I like a bit of comfort. Now maybe glamping but it’s definitely the showers/toilets I’d be worried about. They’re great if you can get to them for the day as long as the kdis will last

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