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Daisy Stella Baldwin reports from Leicestershire….

It was raining hard when we arrived at Timber Festival 2019; a three-day festival of music, arts and performance taking place​ in Feanedock within the National Forest.

Offering the chance to unplug and reconnect with nature, there were a whole host of off-grid delights waiting under the trees. Immersive theatre, world music, fireside talks and woodland wellness – the festival promised an opportunity to reflect and connect with other people and families living off-grid.

Run by the National Forest (Add link www.nationalforest.org/), the festival is an opportunity to demonstrate the vital work they do, turning what was once an area scarred by coal mining into a growing and thriving forest, the first to be created in England for over 1,000 years.

Unbowed by the rain, we installed ourselves in a cosy hammock beneath swaying birch trees and borrowed books from the little ‘Woodland library’. Safely nestled in our hammock, sheltered from the rain by the trees above, we were reminded that being close to nature is often a humbling experience, an invigorating contrast to the more comfortable lives we have carved out for ourselves in the city.

The weather quickly cleared up and we enjoyed a delightful festival of food, fun and fantasy that felt much longer than the two days we spent there. Certainly, returning to work on Monday I have never felt more peaceful and positive than after spending the weekend at Timber Festival, enjoying a great variety of vegan treats and hearing from a diverse range of speakers and performers. Food for thought as well as the body.

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OUR OFF-GRID HIGHLIGHTS

Otto & the Mutapa calling

We stumbled across this wonderful marimba band playing by the fire pit in the As the Crow Flies area. Dancing and playing music from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, they infused the audience with their joyful energy. Listening to these talented performers using only the power of their own voices and acoustic instruments was a magical moment of connection and celebration.

Wonderlandia forest spa

Now this was something special; a wholly mobile and outdoor spa experience, run completely off-grid. Slots were bookable on the day for £25, or £10 just to enter the sauna (cleverly built into a caravan). It felt incredibly luxurious to recline in the red cedar wood hot tub in the midst of the forest and was definitely a festival highlight. After a long soak in the tub we tumbled into the caravan sauna where we were shown how to add steam scented with eucalyptus oil and amp up the heat by whipping a cloth around above the stove. Sheer indulgent bliss.

The Oak Mobile

The very last experience we had, on our way out of the festival, was a trip inside the unusual ‘Oak mobile’ for a piece of ‘micro theatre’ run by Talking Birds. Joining a small group of seven people, we all crammed into the body of the strangely shaped vehicle, to be greeted by an immersive storyteller, weaving a tale around the creation of the universe and the unique role humans have to play in protecting the natural world.

Halcyon Days

This area was devoted to games and merriment, with activities and performances as well as large wooden outdoor games, including life-size ‘Guess Who’ and scrabble boards, petanque and more. These games were very popular, from what we saw, as was the innovative ‘Carboardia’, an intricate cardboard universe co-created by festival-goers across the weekend. However, perhaps the most off-grid activity of them all, and certainly one enjoyed by many children we saw, was simply to run, laughing to the top of the main hill, and role lengthways to the bottom.

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The sunset

In a similar vein, one definite highlight, particularly post our woodland spa experience, was simply sitting at the top of that hill, and watching the sun set over the festival site. The rain forgotten, we sat in small groups and talked in hushed tones as the orange sun slipped behind the tree line. Magical.

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