At the start of our holiday, I’d arranged that we would meet up with a friend from uni and her sons, at Westonbirt Arboretum’s Treefest. Online it looked like a really interesting event and would be a good opportunity for the boys to have place to run around as well as take part in some activities. Oh and of course, to give us a chance to catch up.
Treefest was all based (obviously) on trees, but included the usual festival offer of music, food, shopping, children’s activities, displays and more. After a quick recce of the Treefest site, N spotted the playground and that was where we ended up for some time both before meeting my friend and after lunch.
It really was a quite spectacular, broad ranging wooden playground. N was in his element.
The map totally confused me at first, but then realised that each continent was represented in different areas of the playground by sculptures and equipment.
The climbing frame was his favourite, and I loved the ‘sun’ roof feature. He spent lots of time running from one end to the other.
And the open ‘tree trunk’ was also a favourite for climbing on or clambering in. Great opportunity for some lovely photos as well!
We also spent quite a while in the family area where there was lots of craft ideas for children to take part in. He did some leaf rubbing which came out surprisingly well, made a leaf insect (they were suggesting people, but we went off piste)
And some lovely tree coasters. The aim was to colour round the rings, but N found it a bit hard, so gave up after some drawing freehand. I was told to finish it, so I did. They all looked really good, so I might modge podge over it to varnish it.
We also made a pop up card, and there were other more educational activities for older children, as well as the opportunity to help paint some giant flags and banners for a parade on the final day of Treefest. It’s strange that N doesn’t usually entertain arts and crafts, but he’s all of a sudden been quite keen on drawing, attempting to write and colour in, so it’s great that he sat and applied himself to these activities.
The family tent was a little odd. We watched some of the hand and mouth puppet theatre. It was very dated, and although N found it funny when eventually the hands appeared, his concentration didn’t last and we didn’t stay for long.
There were also storytelling sessions; similarly the one we dropped into to take cover from a brief rain shower, was a little odd. Although maybe not to children, as those who were there seemed to be very much into the story being told by a man in a onesie!
Once we’d met my friend, we were in time to see The Welsh Axemen doing their chainsaw display. Or we would have been, had N still not been petrified of chain saws. I thought by now that he’d have been a little less worried about them, but I got marched away some distance and told in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be going back there. It was a shame as I noticed them making some really sweet little wooden seats that they then handed out to children in the audience.
My friend’s sons (one the same age as N, the other quite a bit younger) were engrossed, so we left them to it and we went to see what else was around.
N really liked watching the steam engine driven saw, even though it was probably as noisy as the chainsaws!
We also checked out the shopping.areas. There were lots of beautiful artisan wood and other based craftwork for sale. N took a liking to these trees, while I was gazing longingly at some gorgeous garden furniture.
We also spotted a couple of this style of water feature/mill. N loved watching the frog version, he stood for ages watching it, and I struggled to drag him away.
He was also intrigued by the zip wire area where older children were able to learn how to climb trees via cords and bungees (I presume). I think he’d like to be a bit of a dare devil when he’s older, although I’m not sure if he’d actually carry it through.
When we met back up with out friends, we stopped for some lunch. We did have a mish mash of picnic, but wanted a few bits from the cafe. Handily at Westonbirt Arboretum, there’s a couple of places to eat: a take away option which included a barbecue that smelled delicious along with a large seating area predominantly under cover which overlooked the playground, so handy for parents to relax while their children play.
The restaurant/cafe served hot and cold food, again with a good inside and outside seating area. Prices were similar to other places of its sort, but the cake servings at least, we ginormous. I didn’t even manage to eat half of the precut slab of chocolate cake I chose. We decided to sit indoors, and it turned out to be a good thing as there was heavy rainfall while we were sitting there, which saw the people from outdoors quickly move inside.and fill up the restaurant.
Thankfully the rain cleared quickly, and we were able to head back out to explore some more. There were some amazing wood carving displays, with the boys totally entranced by a child sized house/tower.
I was a little disappointed with the food area, expecting to be able to buy lunch, but on the whole it was just stalls of specialist foodie sellers rather than those selling meals. There was a refreshments tent, but I think we made the right choice going to the arboretum’s own cafe.
Then it was on to the fairground style rides. N turned down having his face painted…he must be in the minority of 3 year olds who have never had their face painted?! But he was angling for a go on the swing seats. To me they seem really dull. Just double swings and nothing special but he insisted. So he went on his own and loved it. Of course he did, because he didn’t understanding the timing of when to pull the cord, so I ended up having to push him. Hmmph, and I paid for the joy of doing that! He did say that the swings were his favourite part of the day along with the playground so who am I to argue.
The final part of the day was enjoying the music in the Royal Oak pub. N and my friend’s eldest son loved the Hot Tin Roofs swing beat and had a good old dance in the back of the tent, much to the amusement of the other people sitting watching nearby.
We had a great day (a bargain at around £15 for an adult, free for under 18s), with it topped off by an ice cream and lolly as we headed back to the car.
It’s great to be able to support Forestry Commission events, as well as helping N learn about the countryside, as well as having a fun day out. I’ll definitely be looking out for more of these events next year.
Have you ever been to any similar events based on nature?