Discovering our wild side 

Wildside Festival 2018 (14).jpg

Louise Baker, mum of two full time environment enthusiast, part time blogger.

I could use several words to describe Wildside Festival; vibrant, eclectic, educational and joyous, to name but a few. However, the one that first springs to mind is ‘inclusive’.

Padding into the long grass of the field we were greeted by a myriad of colours, smells, sounds and musical notes; Wildside Festival was just getting started, but the air was already alive with wonder – and thick with anticipation.

The festival, which took place on one of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves in Shipley, Derbyshire, was made for families. Boasting wild yoga, storytelling, crafts, stalls and dancing it encouraged the old and young to forget everything and simply exist alongside nature. Well, there’s little else you can do when you’re surrounded on all sides by beautiful wildlife. We watched the very talented Andrew Frost carve an owl from a tree stump; we marvelled as a kestrel came to life on the side of a barn at the hands of Fauna Graphic, whilst catching glimpses of a real kestrel hovering overhead; we sang, and learned as we enrolled at Hatchling College with The Handmade Theatre. I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with my family, and I knew that those around me felt exactly the same. Plus, the Gin Kitchen, Amber Ales, and wood-fired pizzas courtesy of Pizza of Dreams certainly helped the mood! There were plenty of other vendors to capture the imagination, of course.

By far the highlight of the festival was the Forest School, which was set back from the main field in a glade and woodland behind the reserve’s barn. Throughout the day the school offered children and adults alike the opportunity to pond dip, bug hunt and den build, with marshmallow toasting and dragonfly crafts thrown in for good measure. Alex adored pond dipping, to the point we became convinced we’d soon see him scooped up into some poor family’s net alongside the newt tadpoles, water boatmen and snails; he doesn’t fear water, but is fascinated by its ripples and secrets. Toby, on the other hand, took to net-swishing with aplomb, and found numerous winged and hopping beasties in the long grass. As I glanced around I saw families coming together around magnifying jars; happy children, wide-eyed stares and adults who had forgotten any troubles as they attempted to identify new species. Wildlife became a therapy for the families in attendance, us included.

We embraced the festival with two small children in tow. At five and three years of age Toby and Alex were never going to be won over by any of the bands taking to the big stage during the day. However, we enjoyed every act, and every note that we had the pleasure of catching during the day. Their dulcet tones added to the festival’s atmosphere – and we saw plenty of people enjoying the music and opportunity to dance. Perhaps even better was the wealth of local talent on offer, proving that you don’t need to pay through the nose for a stadium to enjoy a gig. I’ll forever remember building a den while an acoustic medley of 90s dance music wafted through the woodlands. Thank you, In-Here Brothers; I think you were our favourites!

Yes, it rained. During the afternoon the heavens opened, and the field and nearby ponds and woodland were cleansed after the warm, muggy day we’d been experiencing until that point. However, I didn’t notice anyone complaining. The result of the downpour was a glorious double rainbow, which only added to the magic of the festival. We’re all aware of how unpredictable Derbyshire’s weather can be. Those that weren’t prepared for the rain sought shelter under gazebos, or took the opportunity to embrace dancing in the rain – just one of the random acts of wild we were able to complete for The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. The rain soon passed and we resumed our spot in the centre of the field, perhaps soggier around the edges but certainly happy.

I could use several words to describe Wildside Festival; vibrant, eclectic, educational and joyous, to name but a few. However, the one that first springs to mind is ‘inclusive’. The enjoyment of nature isn’t reserved for those who collect specimens in their spare time; wildlife doesn’t save itself for learned readers or those with magnifying glasses at the ready. Our landscape and its treasures are for any, and everyone to explore and enjoy. The festival united children and adults, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s team members and artists, and stall holders and families. There was magic found in every bubble blown, and each rustle of the leaves. Wildside Festival proved that nature is ready and waiting to entertain – but it’s so much better to do so in the company of new, and good friends.

We cannot wait until next year’s festival, and will be first in the queue if there’s camping involved! Our family would urge anyone who missed this year’s festival to get on board. Tickets for Wildside 2019 are on sale now:

To keep up to date with all the festival updates and temptations, please do give Derbyshire Wildlife Trust a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust do such a valuable job for the environment and for families; be inspired.