|This lovely family let me join them in den-building!|
|Roasted sugar almonds.|
|Hanging pictures. That one second from the left, 'Atching Tan', now hangs in my own house.|
|A miners lamp and a Hatter 's clock|
|Home of The Hermitage|
I sat inside a massive egg made from willow weavers and lined with sheepskin, which was so comfortable I almost fell asleep, I joined a young family in building a most excellent den and got my hands covered in sweet-smelling pine sap, and I sat under canvas and was taught the knots that begin a traditional East Anglian basket.
Also I finally fulfilled a wish I've harboured for over a year - to see a real live hurdy-gurdy. I first heard one being played on the radio and had looked them up online, but on this day I stumbled across one quite by accident, being played by this friendly gentleman.
Just look at it. Isn't it beautiful! It was made in France, by one of the few businesses left that still craft these.
The only things I can't show you is the smell of the place. At lunchtime I found myself sat on the side of a small hill in the sunshine surrounded by the most amazing aromas. The sweet living smell of rough-cut grass that makes you want to groan out loud and roll yourself up in it, the thick flowery cloy of the fields of oilseed rape that lie around the estate, the rich treacly scent of a bag of roasted sugared almonds, and of course everywhere the clean freshness of wood.
There were so many children's activities going on and I laughed at what first seemed like a health and safety nightmare; children soldering, children hammering nails, children dragging branches ten times their own length, and children climbing ten feet into the air un-harnessed. All were closely watched by older eyes, but most of them seemed perfectly capable at doing these things themselves. In our anxious world we are right to be careful, but sometimes we miss out on experiences through over-caution. Say that even with their being watched one of the children did burn their own hand, what would happen then? A bad blister, for sure, and a good cry, but not much beyond that. I managed to burn my finger on a car cigarette lighter last year and it throbbed for a day or two, but now all I have is a story. There's no scar and I don't even remember which finger it was. Even the cost of an injury can be worth the gain in experience. I spoke to the mother of three young boys who'd had trouble dragging them away from their DS's to get them to the festival but was now watching them den-build, fully engaged and interested, active, thinking, learning, inventing, working together, and all that by a pile of sticks.
I played new games, listened to new music, tasted new foods, and learned new things, and did not meet an unfriendly face all day. The whole festival was relaxed and uplifting, and a nice reminder of how folk can be once everyone stops rushing about. I suppose the kind of people who would sit and take the time to carve sculptures from wood are the kind of people who don't care much for life being lived apace without knowing why, and the kind of people who will take on a little hardship and dirt to do what they love the most. Thank goodness for it.