All the Glory of Harrogate’s ‘Votre Vacances’ Holiday

We had the most amazing holiday this summer. We were away for three whole weeks which is such a luxury and something we’d never done before. I absolutely adored spending all that time with the four most important people in my life without distraction or interruption. We all really had time to come together as a family and re-group which is so lacking in today’s busy life.

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Votre Vacances – France

Votre Vacances

Our first week was with the brilliant Votre Vacances, a gorgeous holiday business based right here in Harrogate but with their holidays over in the Vendee in France. They have eight pitches for their chalets at a beautiful small and authentic four-star campsite set against the backdrop of a chateau complete with its own lake! How amazing does that sound!

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Sarah’s Story

Sarah who owns and operates the company has such a lovely story to share too. After working for Eurocamp for five years over summer holidays she decided she wanted to set up her own business. In her early twenties, sadly her grandparents passed away and generously left her some inheritance which she chose to put towards creating this amazing new business.

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Votre Vacances has been up and running for two years which means all the chalets are brand new and in amazing condition. The campsite is in a fabulous location on the west coast of France, just South of Nantes and North of La Rochelle.

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Perfect Campsite in the Vendee

It’s a fifteen minute car ride to some of the most gorgeous beaches the Vendee has to offer too! And because Sarah is so hands on at the site, living there from May to September, she gives a lovely personal touch that you don’t get with other holiday brands.

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Small and Authentic

We had such a lovely holiday with Votre Vacances, it was a really gorgeous place. The site was small enough for the Big Girls to do some exploring on their own but big enough to give us plenty of adventures we’re going to remember for a long time!

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Swimming Pool Craziness

There are two swimming pools at the campsite, one right in front of the Chateau and the other right behind it – making for great sun-bed views!

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The second pool is also under cover which means you can use it whatever the weather and there are two all important water-slides for the Small people to while away hours on! The Big Girls couldn’t get enough of them!

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Chateau Perfection

The bar and restaurant areas are all set in the outbuildings of the chateau which makes it look picture postcard pretty and remind you that you could be nowhere other than France.

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Free Children’s play area, trampoline and bouncy castles

The Smalls loved the trampoline and two bouncy castles, that to their amazement, they could go on any time of the day or evening, for FREE! The campsite also has a mini play-area, tennis courts, a football pitch and fully equipped games room.

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Le Grand Defi

One of the things we loved most about the campsite was the area down by the Lake, which hosts an area called Le Grand Defi, which is the most impressive series of high ropes course I have ever seen.

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The courses are really outstanding, with over a dozen zip wires that go over a lake, yes zip wires over a lake, it’s something to behold and even more incredible to experience, as we found out!

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Le Grand Defi is laid out with courses suitable for all ages; from two to five year olds, to family, to serious sporting professional level.

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Family Tree Top Fun

The Small Boy loved it and he got quite adept at clipping and un-clipping himself. The Big Girls loved the independence it gave them and the self satisfaction of being able to achieve the climbing all by themselves.

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We loved the fact we could join in with them and be part of an experience all together, rather than just watching them do it on their own which is so often the case with their activities.

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One of the Big Girls and I had an amazing time on one of the higher courses, she loved challenging herself and we had some zip wire rides I will never forget. They were so high over the lake and the trees that they actually ended not on the ground but in other trees! It was crazy brilliant!

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Pony Trecking

There was also pony trecking and paint balling available at Le Grand Defi too – the Small Boy adored his pony, he loves animals so to ride a pony was the ultimate experience for him, bless him!

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Chilled Campsite Life

Along with living campsite-life; hanging by the pool, playing boules and table tennis and chilling playing cards back at the holiday chalet, we also had a few day trips out to explore the gorgeous Vendee has to offer.

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Amazing Beaches

Firstly the beaches are incredible. They’re long with beautifully soft golden sand and a mixture of shallow shelves for paddling Smalls depending on the tides.

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Les Sables d’Olonne

We headed out to both Les Sables d’Olonne and St Gilles Croix de Vie. Both of which were only about a 20 minute drive away. There was plenty of parking but it was very busy. We visited Les Sables d’Olonne one early evening and, as recommended by Sarah, we parked across the bay from the main beach and caught the water bus across the crossing to the main beach area.

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The Smalls loved the five minute boat ride from side to side which added to the adventure. There was an evening market on, which the Big Girls loved, buying trinkets to take home and we’ll all remember the amazing hot, sugary, ChiChi’s (Churros) for a long time to come!

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The beach looked beautiful and we ventured to the shore for a little late night paddling! I had some of the best Mussles I’ve ever tasted back across the bay before picking up the car for the ride home! A meal to remember!

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St Gilles Croix de Vie

St Gilles was a simple stunning beach, it was a gorgeously sunny day, so packed a picnic, bought a parasol and set up camp for the day!

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The Smalls were as happy as could be in and out of the breaking waves, building sandcastles and were so content all day I read numerous chapters of my book – amazing!

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Les Chateau des Adventures

The other brilliant day out we had was at Les Chateau des Adventures which was perfect for the slightly overcast day we chose to go.

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There are trails and treasure hunts to follow, with some quite testing clues. The adventure in the Chateau saw the Smalls running around with an iPad (provided by the Chateau) which interactively helped them find out about the history of the grand house while solving their mystery!

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They loved it! There was plenty of outdoor fun too with both a Pirate trail and Dinosaur one.

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Campsite Fun

The campsite also offers a whole host of other delights including fishing in the lake, a brilliant take-a-way pizza bar for the nights you don’t fancy cooking or eating out, bike hire if you fancy more active exploring and indoor children play area for younger Smalls.

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There’s also a well run English speaking kids club every day with so many activities to choose from including Crepe parties, hair braiding, crafts and games.

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Grown Up Entertainment

There was also evening entertainment with brilliant live bands, wine tasting or quiz nights for the grown ups too every night!

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Village Life

The bakery in the village of Saint Julien des Landes, which is a two minute walk from the campsite, was perfect. The croissants and pain were a daily breakfast staple and the village itself is quintessentially French complete with a gorgeous church, mini-supermarket (with really friendly staff) and the obligatory hairdressers!

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The Loveliest of Holidays

We simply had the loveliest holiday, which was made all the better by the brilliant Sarah, who made us feel welcome and relaxed.

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The lovely Sarah from Votre Vacances

The chalets are beautifully new, we had a three bed chalet, which was perfect for the five of us. It has its own decking area outside too set in a really nice sized pitch.

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Lovely new Chalet accommodation

 

All the equipment has been really well looked after too and all the little things were already there like tea-towels, soap, washing up liquid, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and our beds were made too – which was such a lovely touch!

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Sarah has such a personal touch and all the new crockery, linen and supplies are all included in the really reasonable prices too!

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We loved the fact that Votre Vacances is a Harrogate business. Which means you can even support local companies all the way from the comfort of an amazing holiday!

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Fun Holiday times!

Le Tour de France 2018

Votre Vacances has some great holiday deals available for booking next year. You can check out their website for more details. Rather excitingly Le Tour de France starts in the Vendee next summer from 7th July – which means Votre Vacances is a perfect spot to stay if you want to catch the cycling action too!

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Summer 2018 Offers

Votre Vacances has an Early Booking Offer on, which is running until the 31st January 2018 – with prices starting at £450 for seven nights in a 2 bed, and £550 in a 3 bed, and with the code: VIP10 you’ll get an extra 10% off!

Win a Holiday!

Sarah’s grandparents used to regularly volunteer at the Harrogate Homeless Project which is the chosen charity for the Harrogate Tribe Christmas event, taking place on Friday 24th November.

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Sarah has very generously offered a week’s holiday with Votre Vacances as a raffle prize on the night of the event to support the charity. Details of how to get tickets to the event will be on the blog and social media soon, so keep your eyes peeled and you could win this fabulous holiday for your family!

The raffle prize will be for a 3 bed chalet, anytime from May half term, until 2nd September, for seven nights, with the option of adding on more nights at a discounted price of £80 per extra night.

We had a gorgeous holiday and would recommend Votre Vacances as a lovely family place to stay and enjoy.

Lucy xx

Disclaimer: Sarah kindly invited us to review staying with Votre Vacances and is donating the raffle prize.

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Win a week’s holiday at a 4-star campsite in France for you and your family!

Win a week’s holiday for you and your family

How would you like to win a week’s holiday at a 4-star campsite set in the grounds of an incredible 18th century chateau in the heart of the Vendee, France for you and your family?!

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Votre Vacances

Harrogate Tribe Christmas Night Out

If you come along to our Harrogate Tribe Christmas Night Out (Friday 24th November – save the date – ticket details to follow) you could be in with a chance of just that! The lovely Sarah at Votre Vacances got in touch after hearing about our last Harrogate Tribe event and said she would like to offer a week in one of her gorgeous chalets on the campsite as a raffle prize!

The prize is to be taken in 2018 – which is simply perfect for any cycling enthusiasts as the Tour de France is actually starting from the Vendee next year, making Votre Vacances a prime holiday location. But if you can’t wait that long, scroll down to the end of this post for details of an amazing last minute offer available this year too!

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Lots of spacious pitches

Support the Harrogate Homeless Project

Sarah is a big supporter of the Harrogate Homeless Project (the chosen charity for the Harrogate Tribe Christmas event) and wanted to offer the week’s holiday as a prize after sharing her story of her own elderly grandparents, who often volunteered at the Harrogate Homeless Project, right into their seventies with overnight stays too.

Votre Vacances

Votre Vacances is a family business from Harrogate, with eight chalets at the historic, 4-star Château la Forêt campsite in western France. Everyone knows I love to support local independent businesses on the blog so when I found out I could do that all the way in France too I was over the moon!

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About the Campsite

The campsite is set in a 50 hectare area, set against the backdrop of a stunning chateau. There are two outdoor swimming pools (one can be covered over) and a lake. There’s also an adventure course (zip wire- type activities), a bar, a shop, a takeaway and a restaurant which is set in the courtyard of the chateau. Sounds picture perfect n’est pas?!

 

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Adventure courses over the lake

Holiday A’hoy

As part of our holiday this year to France we’re heading to check out Votre Vacances for ourselves and will be reporting back with a full low down all about it! We can’t wait to discover and enjoy all it has to offer! There sounds like there’s so much to see and do in the surrounding area too! Can’t wait

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Gorgeous grounds

Packed and ready to go

We just have the packing to survive before we head off on our mammoth road trip – so if anyone has any top-tips to share for journeying to France by car with four other humans please let me know!

Road Trip Essentials

The lovely folks at safe.co.uk sent us a little care package to help with the trip, including this fab travel safe (which I would have never thought to take but such a top idea – esp. when camping), an on-the-go mobile charger (bloggers essential) and the Small Boy is thrilled with his neck pillow too! No gin for Mama though 😆, which I feel is the real secret to travelling long distances in confined spaces with the Smalls!😜

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Who knew travel safes were a thing!

They have some proper travelling tips, which surprisingly don’t include gin, over on their #SafeTravels website. 

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I hope if you’re heading away on your hols your packing is coming along nicely! I still have SO MUCH TO DO and do let me know your top survival tips for the road trip please!!

Last Minute Holiday Deal

If you’re looking for a last minute holiday, Votre Vacances has a Last Minute Deal at the end of the Summer Holidays, where you can stay from Sunday 27th August, for 5 nights- for just £465, or 7 nights for £650 and still be home in time for the start of the school year! Email the lovely Sarah at info@votrevacances.com for more details or to get booked in!

Lucy xx

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Deershed Family Festival Vlog

At the start of the summer we were lucky enough to go to Deershed Family Festival in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. We had a super time and the early bird tickets for next year have just gone on sale.

You might have seen my blog post reviewing our time there  All you need to know about Deer Shed Family Festival – North Yorkshire.

Well, I also made a little video vlog whilst we were there. You can view it by clicking below! I may mostly look a little knackered, especially as the weekend goes on and also a little non-make-upy! You have been warned 😬😂

We had a great time, see what it was like for yourselves!

Lucy xx

Disclaimer: Deershed invited us to the event with their compliments but the opinions are my own.
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All you need to know about Deer Shed Family Festival – North Yorkshire

Last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to Deer Shed Family Festival in Topcliffe, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire as an official festival blogger. We’d never been to a festival before (ever!) and we’d never camped before, so were super excited and a little bit scared in equal measures!

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All set to go to Deer Shed Family Festival

It turned out we had absolutely nothing to fear and all had a totally brilliant time! The weather was amazing for the weekend, it was almost, dare I say it? too hot!

Here’s a little write up about what the event was like and what we got up to!

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Small Boy on the Run!

Deer Shed Family Festival – What We Did!

We were weeks in the planning for all our camping paraphernalia, becoming regulars in the likes of Mountain Warehouse and Blacks. Tent, sleeping bags and gas stove purchased we set about packing the car with boxes full of emergency snacks and baby wipes.

We arrived on Friday afternoon after collecting the children from school. Getting in the car park was easy with no queuing. The car park was quite a long way from the campsite so we had to park up and use a trolley to transport all our camping gear to our pitch. You could hire trolleys for £5 for half an hour, but we brought our own make-shift device with us!

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Getting our gear from the car to the campsite

It was a bit of a trek with the kids to transport all our gear, and it took us two trips, it would be about 10 minutes on our own but with the kids in tow it was more like 25 mins!

There are no set pitches, you just find a space in the huge fields and pitch up. We found a spot down by the lake area which turned out to be very close to the festival. It seems most of the pro-festival goers knew to come earlier in the day to get pitched, which we would definitely do that in the future.

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Small Boy was happy with his pitch!

After some slight passive-aggressive tent pitching from the grown-ups and lots of placating the children with snacks and drinks (did I mention it was hot!) we all settled into making camp and got busy blowing up air beds and unfolding camping chairs. Oh, and opening the wine!

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Camping with wine – always essential

It was around 8pm by the time we were straight and everyone was starving hungry so we headed off into the Festival to find some food!

The atmosphere in the Festival was amazing, it was really chilled and friendly. Loads of children being carried around on their Dad’s shoulders, being pushed around in buggies or dragged in the trolleys for hire. Teenagers hanging out with their mates sharing a laugh and giddy at their semi-freedom. Families holding hands and happily taking it all in.

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Sloemotion Gin bar

There was open air music playing and against the warm summer night it drifted around the site beautifully. There were loads of lovely food outlets, smells of fairgrounds and camping with loads of variety. Stalls selling festival wares and trinkets which all looked appealing and the odd bar here and there with seating inside and out.

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Super pretty Food stall

We let the kids choose whatever they wanted for dinner and the girls picked pancakes with lemon and sugar and the small boy an ice cream (look away now if you’re a judgey parent!).

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Ice cream for tea? Why not!

James and I being grown ups plumbed for actual food of substance and I had a delicious vegetarian curry, all handmade from fresh ingredients on site and James went for a rotisserie chicken wrap, which the kids all tucked into too – since the meat was so tasty (and they hadn’t eaten any proper food up till then! Ha!)

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Love a good picnic tea!

The evening was so mild that we just pitched up on the grass, with the music from ‘Everything, Everything’ who were playing on the main stage drifting over us as we ate.

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Ferris Wheel of Fun

We wondered around the Festival taking in the giant Ferris Wheel which was all light-up against the night sky and the squeals from the heater skelter echoing in our ears. The Small Boy loved the bubble mania tent and the girls were fascinated with the opaque white bubbles which disappeared into a puff of sherbet smoke when popped!

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Bubble Tastic

We wandered around and checked out the movie tent and soaked up the atmosphere finding out bearings. By now it was getting on for 10pm and the Small Boy was literally on his knees so we headed back for bedtime which was an exciting event in itself for the kids!

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We were in the Festival here and our tent was in the campsite just across the water

The kids were all tucked up and asleep in no time, despite the booms from the music across the water. The sounds from the  Festival kept on till around 2am, which didn’t bother the children but the grown-ups found it a bit harder to get off to sleep!

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The Small Boy was out like a light

Ram-packed Saturday at Deer Shed Festival

Morning came all too quickly, which it does when you’re in a tent as soon as the sun pops up! So we were all out of bed by .6.30am and heading to the toilets.

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There were port-a-loo type toilets dotted all around the campsite and the Festival.

Sometimes you had to queue for one, but not for longer than a couple of minutes. 90% of the time they had toilet roll and paper towels in them but it was worth taking a packet of tissues in with you just in case. There was a sink in them too but no soap, but hand sanitisers outside the loos, so we made sure we always made good use of them! The loos were cleaned out over the course of the weekend so they didn’t get too full – but all the same, they were festival loos!

If you wanted a shower you had to queue between 7am-noon and 6-9 pm and pay £3 for 10 minutes in one. The queues were long and most people didn’t bother!

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Signs for what was where!

Once we were all dressed we made a spot of breakfast at the tent, we’d taken some cereal and I even cooked some scrambled eggs, which were pretty good considering we were camping!

 

Then it was time to head back into the festival to do some more exploring! The girls were desperate to go on the fairground attractions. Beth and I 😬 zoomed down the Helter Skelter, £1 a go, and both girls went on the swings. The Small Boy was mostly hot as it was so humid and when the sun wasn’t behind a cloud it was baking!

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The view from the Helter Skelter

Then the kids wanted to head to the workshop areas where there were SO many craft activities to do.

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Vinyl Painting
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Fire Lighting Workshops

Some you had to pay for, like the blacksmiths workshop and the fire starting ones, the weaving willow hearts was £1 a go and the gingerbread men decorating, £3 a go. The children all made a ‘Walk of Fame’ mat with handprints and stars, which was free and decorated a CD for the ‘wishing tree’ which was also free!

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Hand Printing

We were still warm so headed for a drink in the Obelisk bar and a sit down in the shade (except we couldn’t find any! Ha!)

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A drink to cool us down outside the Obelisk Bar

Next on the agenda was the Sports Arena, a big wide open space with loads of organised games going on. From football to badminton, ping pong to rugby – you could take your pick.

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What was on!

Little Miss B headed to the balance area where you could walk the tightrope across various lengths. The Skate Park looked popular with some outstanding displays and amazed sounds coming from the crowd watching.

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Balance practice for Miss B.

The Small Boy and I pitched up our picnic blanket and watched Mr P and Little Miss K play frisbee while he used his newly purchased bubble wand to make some huge bubbles!

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Mega Bubbles

We heard a high-intensity aerobics class going on – which looked seriously impressive and best watched from afar! Ha!

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Mama downtime on the picnic blanket

The girls had wanted to play hungry hippos but it was time to head back to the tent for lunch!

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Dining Al Fresco

A few hot dogs and a little sit down later it was time to go back ‘Festival side’. The girls did a bit of ribbon weaving on the way to meet the lovely Charles from SNAP!Recipebox for drink in the Sloemotion gin tent.

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Ribbon Weaving

SloeMotion are a Yorkshire company who create their own sloe gin – more to come from them on the blog soon! There were kids games set up in the bar come tee-pee which the girls enjoyed playing while we enjoyed a cocktail – very civilised!

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Sloe motion Gin

The girls wanted to buy some fake animal tails after that at £15 a pop, but they loved them and refused to take them off the entire time!

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Settling down to Rae Morris

It was then time to all pull open our picnic rug and get a couple of drinks in to enjoy watching Rae Morris on the main stage. Her set was brilliant! We all enjoyed it.

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Cider and Rae Morris

Little Miss K and Mr P headed down to the front of the stage to get a better view for a while and join in up-close! It was a really lovely afternoon to sit outside and listen to some serious talent from an amazing singer. It was one of the highlights of our Festival.

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Family selfie post Rae Morris Set

We headed back to the tent so Mr P could have a quick shower and on the way back in were lucky enough to see two hot air balloons taking off. It was magical to see them so closely and watching them sail over the festival in the warm late afternoon sunshine was beautiful. The sounds of laughter and music were washing over the site and the sky was just turning pink. It was a pretty gorgeous moment.

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Magic of hot air balloons at Deer Shed Festival

The kids were allowed to choose their own tea again, pancakes, chicken and some amazing freshly stone-baked pizzas from a little van, were the order of the evening.

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Pizza from a stone baking oven in a van!

Followed by fresh Churros lathered in sugar with a side of hot chocolate sauce for dipping! As you can imagine the children thought they were in heaven!

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Churros Heaven

Back to the tent for our second nights sleep – the music ended around midnight at that point, so the grown-ups slept better too!

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Bedtime at the Festival

Sunday Funday at Deer Shed Family Festival

On the Sunday morning it was time to start packing a few things up and hauling them back to the car.

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Hummingbird Glamping TiPis

We stopped by the glamping tents on the way to have a peek, the big hummingbird ti-pis looked amazing with loads of space inside and the vintents reminded me of camping as a child myself! They’re a great option if you don’t want to haul your gear across fields or pitch a tent yourself!

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Glamping VinTents Style

Once the gear was back in the car we decided to explore the Science Tent – inside there were so many workshops going on; from plant potting to Mecano, to making your own rocket to forensic workshops. SO many wonderful things, any of which would have filled an hour!

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Science Tent Fun

The girls decided they wanted to have a go at the Aardman workshop whereby they could make their own Gromit (from Wallace and Gromit) one of the leading animators from Aardman was running the workshop and it took over an hour.

They loved every minute of it and were so thrilled with their final finished result a combination of the right tools and modelling clay, great instruction and a bit of creativity on their part! They’re still very proud of what they made! The Small Boy watched a bit of Frozen inside one of the tents with Daddy while the girls enjoyed their model making.

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Proud Model Makers

Then the heavens opened at the rain started, while it was still warm, which was great we hadn’t packed the tent away yet! Rookie error! We decided to stay for a bite of lunch, some delicious made-in-front-of -us handmade mozerralla flat breads and bought the Small Boy a bubble gun to keep him entertained while we de-camped the tent.

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Bubblegun Fun!

Once the tent was down we loaded our trolley for the second time and headed back up to the car! We packed up and were out in no time again as there were no big queues leaving either.

Everyone went home tired but happy as all that fresh air, running around, campsite living and fun had exhausted us all. The Small Boy fell asleep on the way home at 4.30pm and did’t wake till the next morning at 7.30pm! 15 hours sleep!! He must have had fun!

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What 48 hours at Deer Shed Festival does to you!

Looking back at Deer Shed Family Festival

Looking back at our time at Deer Shed Family Festival we had had an amazing time, created some really happy memories and stepped out of our comfort zone a little. There was literally so much to do I think we only managed a tenth of what was on offer! If we’re lucky enough to be invited back next year we’ll understand a bit more how it all works and make even better use of our time!

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Bands were popping up everywhere!
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Live Theatre Shows were fantastic
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Obelisk Tent Line Up

Other things we saw but didn’t get chance to enjoy were; swing ball fun, make your own minions, make your own minecraft head, all the comedy acts, the DJ sets, some of the shows performance and theatre, any of the literature and spoken word acts, parent and baby yoga, messy play and endless other wonderful things!

The great thing about the Festival is that everyone who goes has a different experience given that there’s so much to do, you simply can’t do everything! We chose all the things we enjoyed most and focussed on them! Someone else might go and find just as much fun doing some of the things we didn’t do!

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NCT had quiet areas and baby changing and breastfeeding spaces

The workshops were a sure fire hit for my kids and the Games Arena. The food was also another highlight and Mr P loved getting to go to a ‘live gig’ in the form of Rae Morris. I loved seeing how happy the children were and how excited they were by all they could see.

It was brilliant to see how well they took to camping and really great to spend that time all together as a family. It’s wonderful being outdoors all the time and it helped that the weather was really fantastic!

 

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If you love outdoor life, music and spending time with your family then I would say mark Deer Shed Family Festival on your calendar for next year. We had a brilliant family time of it!

Early bird booking for Deer Shed Family Festival opens on 8th September from 10am – visit www.deershedfestival.com

Here are my top Deer Shed Festival tips:

  • Go early in the day on the Friday to pitch up
  • Hire a Trolley or take a good one with you to cart your stuff about
  • Take plenty of cash – no one was accepting cards, there is a cash machine on site though
  • Pack for rain and shine – if it rains there’s little outdoor cover and when the ground’s wet you need your camping chair to sit on so take it into the festival with you
  • Read up on the programme and highlight any of your ‘must sees’ the Festival is so packed with fun stuff it’s easy to miss things
  • Go with an open mind and be willing to pop your head in any of the Festival tents as you never know what’s going to be inside!

What do you think? Have you been? Is family festival life for you?

Lucy xx

Disclaimer: Deer Shed Family Festival invited me and my family to the event as an official festival blogger so our tickets were on them. Thank you Deer Shed!
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Revealing all about Yorkshire’s Deer Shed Family Festival!

Yikes! I am SO excited about this one! The lovely folks over at Deer Shed Festival have only gone and asked me if I would like to be an Official Blogger for this year’s Deer Shed Festival! Woo hoo!

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While I’m busy wondering if that means back stage passes and after show parties 😬 (seriously doubtful!) I will share with you everything you need to know about Deer Shed Festival, the family friendly music, arts and science festival set in North Yorkshire parkland.

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