11 Reasons to Visit Deer Shed Festival as a Family
I had heard so many great reviews of Deer Shed from friends who said my two were the perfect age for it but we have always been away at the time, so this year when the dates didn’t clash we decided to give it a try for ourselves!
This would be our first family festival and if I am honest I was a little apprehensive and excited at the same time, especially when the forecast suddenly changed to monsoon weather! However, the weather didn’t stop all of us having an AMAZING time and we will certainly be going back. If you have been thinking of visiting, here are my top 11 reasons why you should get to Deer Shed as a family.
1. On our doorstep
Deer Shed Festival is set in the grounds of Baldersby Park near Topcliffe, Thirsk. It only took us 35 minutes from North Leeds and consequently the weekend got off to a good start as we were there before the kids started the chorus of “Are we there yet, I’m bored!”
From the moment we met the first car park attendant I got a great vibe about the festival, everyone was so friendly.
2. Festival camping surprised me
I have to say the festival camping was probably the bit that was making me apprehensive about the weekend but it needn’t have!
We took the Friday off work and arrived at the park not long after 10am, this year was the first year the festival had fallen directly in the school holidays and I had read it could be busy from the start. We queued for about 15 minutes to get in but once in we could pick our camping spot. This was probably the only fall out of the weekend, deciding on the best spot to pitch our tent! We decided to pitch fairly close to a toilet block which in hindsight I wouldn’t recommend as it is pretty noisy when they clean them out at 5am!
We had been recommended to take a trolley (you can hire them onsite) to transport everything from the car to the tent and I must say this was a godsend. Festival camping does mean that you are in closer proximity to other campers but it didn’t impact us and my kids actually slept better in the tent than they have been doing at home! The vast majority of people at the festival are families so everyone is in the same boat and are aware if the kids don’t get some sleep it just impacts the following day, so consequently, after dark the site was fairly quiet (my two fell to sleep with no issues).
The toilets (portaloos) were fine and cleaned daily and over the whole weekend I didn’t need to use my emergency toilet roll as there was always plenty available and outside each toilet, there were hand sanitising stations. We didn’t use them but apparently, there were showers you could use at certain times for a charge.
Within the camping area there was a corner shop which sold everything you could possibly want from milk to super glue! There was a stall selling fresh fruit, phone charging tent and for breakfast in the morning, there were pancakes, bacon and sausage sandwiches and a great selection of coffee, teas and hot chocolates without going into the main arena.
There are also pre-pitched tents and glamping pods available and you can take your own motorhome but we found camping (despite the weather!) added to the magic of the weekend. You can’t buy day tickets but if you wanted to go home each night you could do. Deer Shed 10 was the first year that the Sunday camping had been included in your ticket price enabling everyone to enjoy the Sunday bands and entertainment to the end.
3. Everything is so accessible
I was really surprised how everything was accessible by a short walk and there was no moaning about the amount of walking from mini Mumblers at all over the weekend.
Ours are old enough to walk (even though they did ask!) but lots of people doubled up the trolleys as carriers for little children and there were some really good decorated ones, the one with a blowup unicorn on top was our favourite.
4. There is something for everyone
My two mini Mumblers are 8 and 5 years old and it did feel they were the perfect age to get the most from the vast amount of activities on offer. However, saying that there is plenty for younger children who can take part in lots of the crafting activities and there was a designated area for under 5s with a soft play area and sandpit.
I loved how the festival encouraged children to have a go and try new activities and was a great environment to build children’s confidence. The arena is split into the following entertainment areas:
The Wilder Wild: We found this early on Friday afternoon and ended up spending most of our time here as the kids loved it. There was a mixture of paid and free activities and workshops. My daughter made a dream catcher and the family that was running this was so accommodating and helpful, it wasn’t just any dream catcher it had fairy lights, feathers and lots more! I had to drag her out, she was very proud of her creation. My son did den building and all the materials were child-friendly meaning he could do most of it himself. There was also a fairy school workshop, paint your own planter and for older children, there were carving workshops.
Science Tent: This was really popular and rightly so! With everything from programming, forensic science, music, Meccano, slime making, VR, and so much more! The majority of activities in the science tent were free but you needed to book on lots of them and whilst we managed to get on slime making and an amazing forensic science workshop. We would make sure we planned out more in future years.
Creative Zone: My son loved it in here as it was really relaxed and the activities were really accessible even for younger ones. There was collaborative painting stations (a great way for kids and adults to get chatting!), block-printing, pom pom making and colouring. The activities varied daily in here.
Eat My Shorts: This was a fun area for both adults and children! It was basically a cardboard junk modelling area and we had lots of fun making and painting cardboard heads!
The Sports Arena: There was something for everybody in the Sports Arena from crazy golf, human table football, archery, fencing, rugby, hula hoops, table tennis and lots more! It was a great area to chill out for a few hours and all the activities were free in here. You could also do canoeing on the lake as well.
Fairground: The traditional fairgrounds with Ferris Wheel, Chair Swing and wooden Helta Skelter were situated just behind the main stage and were reasonably priced at £1 a go on the Helta Skelter and £3 on the others. In close proximity to the rides, there was also a circus tent where children could have a go (free) at a range of circus acts and there was also a swing ball station. We found this a good area to base ourselves to have a drink and listen to the music whilst the kids played.
Music and Comedy: Having young children with us meant that attending all the music and comedy venues was not our highest priority. However, we did manage to listen to some of the music and acts at The Lodge stage and in the Big Top along with the Main Stage – all of it was really good. Hopefully, over the next few years, they’ll get more into the music and we can enjoy it more.
There were walk about entertainers making there way around the crowds and the Gangsta Grannies were a favourite with all of us!
5. The safe environment allows children to have their independence
Whilst there is loads of entertainment within the arena it does not feel vast and you could walk from one side to the other in five minutes. I noticed a lot of older children had the freedom to move around the festival on there own with designated times/point to meet up with parents. I felt I could give my eldest more freedom than I even would have at our local food festival, allowing her to go up to the food stall to order her own food as I could see her from the table we were sat at and everyone working at the festival was so friendly.
6. Encourages children to be children
There was not the mention of an iPad or electric device all weekend and the activities and festival environment encouraged children to make their own fun and use their imaginations!
7. Surrounded by friendly people all of a similar mindset
There was a real community feel about the festival and everyone was in the same boat. Whilst I am sure there were some frazzled parents by the end of Sunday, I personally have never done as much crafting in 48 hours, everyone was there with the same aim to have some chilled family time.
Life had been hectic for us (as I am sure it is for most of you!) in the run-up to the end of term and Deer Shed was just what we needed. We all switched off from the outside world and gave each other our devoted attention whilst having lots of fun and making memories – what a great start to the summer holidays.
Well, I don’t think we got the luck of the weather this year, I heard someone say they had been coming six years and the rain was the worst they had experienced! To be honest we got our tent up in the dry and we got round lots of areas on Friday before the rain really started. We had prepared for rain so we all put on our waterproofs on Saturday and with lots of indoor activities to shelter it didn’t really impact us and for the kids added to the fun! We probably would have stayed out later on a night drinking and listening to the music if the weather had been better. I have to say the festival was really prepared for the rain (torrential at times!) with bark and straw regularly put out on the main walkway areas but it isn’t a festival without a bit of rain and mud is it!
9. Food and drink to suit all tastes
Well the food and drink areas were amazing! There literally was something for everyone, the wood-fired pizzas, proper hot dogs and Fish Finger stalls were favourite with the kids. We had Thai, Mexican, paella and good old fish and chips over the course of the weekend. Cider became our festival drink, with many different flavours tried! Passion fruit and ginger were favourites!
Once you have paid for your ticket you can manage the event on a budget as there is lots of free activities and entertainment and you can bring in your own food and drink to the festival. For the activities and workshops that were paid for we felt these were reasonably priced. Food and drink were priced as you would expect at a festival but not extortionate.
11. Attention to detail for families
What I really loved was the attention to detail for families. NCT was there and they hosted a group “baby bathtime”. They also had bottle warming facilities, sterilising facilities and highchairs. You could even buy nappies on-site if needed. The toilets had hand wash at 2 heights to ensure that little hands got cleaned too. There were swing ball sets all over the site, which allowed you to sit back and watch while your kids played safely. There were ear defenders on sale and the whole place had a total “families completely welcome” vibe. Mums and dads were encouraged to join in with the festival hair and glitter art as well!
I’m running out of space now, to tell you more about the other activities which we didn’t get chance to experience including the family yoga tent, tree climbing, family cinema sessions, the poetry & spoken word and much more!
Would I go back? Absolutely, despite the weather we have all left with a real buzz and spent some amazing family time together, trying new activities and making lots of memories.
If you’ve ever wondered about trying a family festival, I can’t recommend Deer Shed highly enough and we are so lucky to have this so close to us in North Leeds.