Field Notes Stage at Timber Festival in the National Forest

Review: Timber Festival, 2019

A Fabulous Family-Friendly Festival in the Midlands

Press Trip

Imagine the scene: You’re standing in the middle of a beautiful woodland – laughter and applause is travelling across the breeze from the field behind you; in front of you is a storyteller and a circle of enraptured children, sitting around a campfire; next to you a forest ranger is building a shelter; and next to that, an intricate wooden marble run spirals across the forest floor. It can only be the fabulous Timber Festival: 3 days of music, art, performance, nature, debate, comedy and wellbeing, held at Feanedock in the heart of the National Forest.

What Is The National Forest?

The National Forest is an environmental project in the heart of England, spanning 200 miles encompassing parts of Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire and aiming to link the two ancient forests of Charnwood and Needwood. The project began 25 years ago and was the first forest to be created at scale in England for over 1000 years, aiming to regenerate and restore large areas of land that had been left scarred by hundreds of years of coal mining and heavy industry.

Timber Festival Sunset

What Is Timber Festival?

Timber Festival was launched last year and won the well-deserved “Best New Festival” award (You can read our “Timber Festival Review, 2018″ here). It is a joint venture between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus (a not-for-profit community interest company dedicated to promoting high quality arts in outdoor spaces with large scale outdoor arts events such as “Just So Festival” and “Hinterlands”). Timber is a celebration of nature: exploring the environment through art, music, performance, comedy, debate and reflection.

Is Timber Festival Family-Friendly?

Absolutely! There is an extensive family programme with various events aimed directly of families and children. The site is easy for little legs to explore and we even spotted a baby-changing tent! Timber is very chilled out and laid back and you are free to wander whilst the children let off some steam and take in the beautiful surroundings.

A family at a festival

Our Favourite Things at Timber Festival 2019

Storytelling in the Woods with Ian Douglas

It’s official: we love Ian Douglas! We first came across Ian at Timber Festival last year and then caught up with him again at Just So. No wood or forest is complete without Ian Douglas telling stories around a campfire! Ian is the ultimate storyteller: his inspirational and enthusiastic storytelling, based on British folk tales and ancient world myths, enthralls both adults and children and is not to be missed!

Campfire Stories in the woods with Ian Douglas at Timber Festival
Professor Pumpernickle‘s Mind-Bending Science Show

With his blue hair, lab coat, German accent, exuberant personality and laboratory of lunacy, Professor Pumpernickle is another unmissable experience. We watched mind-bending illusions, mini explosions, chemical reactions and more – all accompanied by the Professor’s contagious humour!

Professor Pumpernickel and his science show at Timber Festival
Circus Skills with Circus Hub

My 3 year old particularly enjoyed learning skills such as plate spinning, hula hooping, ribbon twirling and stilt walking. So much so that I’m keeping a close eye on her in case she decides to run off and join the circus…I wouldn’t put it past her!

Girl learning hoola hooping circus skills at Timber Festival
“Are We Nearly There Yet” by Handmade Theatre

A fabulous interactive theatrical experience for all the family to enjoy! We waved our flags, sang along, laughed and clapped as we joined Handmade Theatre on a journey across the land, sea and air – fabulous fun!

Music and Dancing

There was such a wide and eclectic mix of music on offer at Timber. From Japanese folk to electric pop; Ceilidh bands to marimba sounds; folk, indie, country, soul, house, disco and more – there really was something for everyone! There were also fab dance workshops taking place where you could try your hand (feet!) at different dance styles such as hip-hop, the Charleston, flatfooting, Bollywood dancing and more.

A music stage at Timber Festival in the National Forest
Wilderness Tracks with Phill Jupitus & Geoff Bird

BBC Radio 4’s Geoff Bird presented an hour long discussion with different guests entitled “The Wilderness Tracks” during which, each guest chose six tracks to soundtrack their relationship with nature. We were lucky to catch his discussion with Phill Jupitus (made famous by “Never Mind the Buzzcocks,” “QI” and “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue,” to name but a few) and it was so interesting to find out more about him, his life and his love of nature.

Phill Jupitus at Timber Festival (credit Andrew Allcock)
Photo credit: Andrew Allcock
Forest Survival With Forest Holidays

If you have followed me for a while you will know how much my 7 year old and husband love forest survival and den building so this activity was perfect for them. They built a brilliant den out of sticks and leaves, under the instruction of a forest ranger, looked at different survival tools, learnt about insects and fire danger and even ate mealworms and crickets, which I joined in with too!

Forest of Dreams with B Arts

B Arts are an arts and educational charity based in Stoke-on-Trent, aiming to improve the lives of people and the places in which they live through creative and cultural interventions. Being a Drama teacher from Stoke-on-Trent myself and having recently been asked to be an ambassador for #MyStokeStory with “Visit Stoke” and “Stoke-on-Trent Cultural Destinations”, this was something I really wanted to see. B Arts were putting on 3 shows throughout the day: one for younger children, another for families and then one for grown-ups in the evening. We attended the show for young children and really enjoyed the immersive theatrical experience! We followed the story of a young boy who was lost in the forest and created camouflaged hats, learnt songs, made and ate sweet bread, and came up with ways to scare off any predators using our bodies and voices.

B Arts at Timber Festival
Marble Run with TwistingSpace

It was strangely hypnotic watching marbles travel down channels carved from culled rhododendron and the children really enjoyed this simple but intricate activity.

Marble Run at Timber Festival in the National Forest
Hammer and Chisel with The Conker Crew

We had already come across Hammer and Chisel at Timber Festival, 2018 and Just So, 2018 so the children were eager to have another go in this unique woodland playground. Children are given free-rein (under careful supervision!) to create anything they like with wood, ribbon, material, saws, hammers and nails. By the time we got involved a fabulous climbing apparatus had already been built, with ladders, raised areas and a den underneath and there were various other creations dotted about the space. My 7 year old and his Daddy spent a long time getting creative together and produced quite an amazing piece of artwork by the end of it which you can see below!

The Oakmobile with Talking Birds

The Oakmobile is a shiny silver urban-acorn-hybrid in which we met Mother Nature who introduced us to the Guardians of Air, Fire and Water. She told us a beautiful story of how the Guardians work together to keep the Earth turning. This was another lovely interactive experience for the whole family to enjoy together.

Shadow Lanterns & Woodland Puppets

These were absolutely beautiful. During the evenings, forest animals came alive in the form of stunning shadows and wonderful puppetry. The children were transfixed and my 3 year old spent a good ten minutes interacting with and stroking a puppet deer – it was fabulous to watch!

The Woodland Library and Hammocks

The Woodland Library was high on our list of things to do as it was a space that we loved last year. A relaxing copse of trees with hammocks hung between them where you can relax together, read together and just chill out and enjoy the outdoors…bliss!

Dad and 2 children reading in hammocks at the Woodland Library at Timber Festival

Camping at Timber Festival

We camped at Timber and it was such a lovely experience! We were lucky enough to be able to pitch up next to our lovely friends from “Otis and Us” which made the whole experience even more special. The facilities on the campsite were great – the showers and loos were regularly cleaned, there was fresh drinking water readily available and a sink area for pot washing. If you don’t have your own tent/van but would still like to camp, Boutique Camping was available with Tinker’s Bells. We did this last year and it was lovely!

Food and Drink at Timber Festival

There was lots of food on offer at Timber Festival. From hot dogs to chilli, wood fired pizza to fried halloumi and a good range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.

Final Thoughts for our Timber Festival Review

Timber Festival is such a relaxing, chilled out and family-friendly festival…once you’re there, you never want to leave! There is something for everyone and we absolutely loved it! We now cannot wait for Just So Festival in August. You can find out more by reading our Just So Festival preview post here.

Disclosure: We were kindly gifted a family ticket for Timber Festival in exchange for this review.

NB. All photographs on this site are the property of unless stated otherwise. Please do not use without permission.


  • Sophie

    This looks really great – I love that it’s so family-friendly. I’ll look into getting tickets for us next year as it’s not too far from home!

    • Jo | My Anxious Life

      This sounds absolutely amazing!! I’m in Nottingham so will look into taking my family next year. I love to introduce our sons to loads of new experiences and I know we would all love this.

      • Jenny @thebrickcastle

        It was great to meet you – briefly! Lovely photos – no real surprise you have my son in your campfire photo. I think my boys would move in with Ian Douglas and Professor Pumpernickel given half a chance – they are excellent entertainers. The den-building looks and sounds excellent, we missed that unfortunately this time – I wouldn’t be eating the bugs though, you’re very brave! 😀

        • typicalmummy

          Awww thank you Jenny – lovely to briefly meet you too!! I hope you don’t mind your son being on the photo? Ian and the Professor are amazing aren’t they!! The bugs were surprisingly tasty!!

  • Emma

    We had such an amazing time too, our only regret was just attending one day! The boys were so wiped out on though because we managed to fit an awful lot in but it was sooooo worth it! Next year we’ll definitely do the full weekend. Great meeting you, Katy and your tribes too 😊 Roll on Just So! 🐟🐠🐡

    • Jenni

      Oh wow, this looks like an incredible weekend. Definitely one where children will keep memories of for years to come #mondayescapes

  • Melissa

    This sounds amazing and something we would love to go to. If only it was slightly nearer (we’re in Scotland!!!)

  • Sabina Green

    I must say that I love the look of Timber festival and particularly love that it is in the forest. The activities all look amazing – well done on eating the meal worm!!

  • Talya

    This looks like such a lovely experience – particularly love the idea of the storytelling in the woods.

  • Rowena

    This looks so much fun. I can’t believe how much there is to do for families. Love the sound of all the activities. The storytelling round the campfire sounds magical and my son would love the marble run!

    • Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

      What an amazing festival experience with so much to do and see. I love the sound of the storytelling and Professor Pumpernickle’s science experiments and the woodland library looks like a blissful way to relax with a book. The puppets look absolutely magical and I love the rhododendron marble run. I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to try eating a mealworm though! Glad you had such a wonderful time and thank you for sharing with #CountryKids

  • Steph G

    The Timber Festival sounds amazing! There seems so much for kids to do. I think my daughter would love it.
    I absolutely LOVE your photos. They really seem to capture the moment perfectly.
    Brilliant blog x

  • Alexandra Cook

    Such a fun and great experience. What an awesome festival to attend. Looks every one really enjoyed it.

  • Jenni

    I’d never heard of this festival before, but it sounds so perfect now I really want to go! I love the marble run, it looks fantastic. And I love the shadow puppets.

  • Laura Schwormstedt

    Oh wow Timber sounds ace and is going on the festival list for next year!! We have done The Big Retreat festival in Wales last month and doing Larmer Tree this month and can’t wait – we always try new ones each year so Timber is on the bucket list

    Laura x

  • Melanie williams

    This looks like a fab festival. Love that there is so much to do outdoors in such a fun setting xx

  • Cerys

    This really does look a wonderful festival. It seems much more relaxed and fun for the kids. Hopefully sometime we will be able to make it there. #MondayEscapes

  • Kara

    I love taking the kids to festivals as there are such a variety of things on offer to keep them amused – looks like you had a brilliant time

  • Mary Mayfield

    Great to read about Timber from a different perspective – as ‘oldies’ our focus was very different, lots of debates and talks, a lot of listening to music at the three stages. There was certainly something for all ages 🙂 (and thanks for letting me share your table in the marquee and hide from the rain x)

  • Kerry

    Sounds great! I love the idea of famil friendly festivals! Thanks for linking up with #KidsandKreativity, hope to see you back next time x

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