Recently I was given the opportunity to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed with my family. It’s fair to say that we are fans of Goodwood events having been to the Festival of Speed three times previously as well as Vintage at Goodwood and the Goodwood Revival. The Festival of Speed is the premier event of it’s kind in the UK, attracting tens of thousands of visitors. The first time we went in 2003 the event was smaller with much lower attendance – those were the days when you could still pay on the gate! Now, tickets are by advance purchase only with attendance capped and it’s pretty much always a sell-out. The last time we had been to the event was 2005 which was pre-children so this was to be our first experience of attending the event with our little ones. For the first time, we camped at Goodwood itself rather than a local site and this blog post is purely going to cover the family camping aspect of our trip.
The 2014 festival saw the debut of pre-bookable family camping area. The site, situated at the top end of the Rally Stage and right on Goodwood Racecourse, was designed for the exclusive use of families with just 60 electric plots. The location was beautiful. The Goodwood Estate really is a beautiful part of the country and the racecourse is just lovely. Must be THE best kept racecourse I have ever seen. Desperate to go to the races there now! It was peaceful, aside from being buzzed by helicopters frequently through the day – you’ve never seen so many helicopters in one place. Lifestyles of the rich and the famous huh!
We set off from the Midlands as quick as we could – Friday night leaving after school, it was always going to be busy, but we made it in relatively good time, with a quick McDonalds pit-stop. We were met and showed to our pitch by the rather lovely Sara, the dedicated Family Campsite Manager. The weather was incredibly kind to us despite a rather menacing forecast all week. It had threatened rain and showers for the entire weekend and in fairness it was pretty horrendous when we left home however Goodwood must have some strange micro-climate as apart from a light shower in the early hours, barely a drop of rain landed! This meant we managed to put our rather large tent up in the glorious sunshine whilst the children entertained themselves watching a DVD in the car (Despicable Me 2 if you’re interested…). It wasn’t too long before I found myself relaxing in my camping chair with a large glass of red in my hand. One of the first things my children wanted to check out was the private play area, situated at the far end of the campsite. This was a fenced off play area, with good quality wooden structures. They loved the play equipment and could have spent all day just climbing on the frames!
Now I have done a lot of camping in my years but let me just tell you this, this was something else. I’ve never ever been to a campsite so well managed as this one. The campsite was staffed 24 hours a day and had a dedicated Family Campsite Manager on hand to assist with any issues you might have. Sara, the campsite manager was great – she was friendly and approachable and on hand to answer any questions when we arrived as well as being very visible during the weekend – always with a smile on her face and was even there to see us off.
In terms of catering options on site, there was a bar with ample outdoor seating and delicious food being served up by the Beach BBQ. The bar was handy to have but we only actually visited it once as we had brought our own drinks with us (always prepared!) and in fact I was really glad I did as it cost us over £11 for a glass of wine and a pint of beer. At those prices it could get very expensive very quickly. If anything could be improved next year, a reduction in bar prices would be welcome! The Beach BBQ was a nice touch and was perfect for grabbing a bite to eat at the end of a long day. Not only that, but the food was delicious. We tried both the Piggy Bap (pulled pork in a ginger beer sauce topped with crackling) and the 24hr Sous-vide prime rib-eye steak sandwich. Both were amazing but the Piggy Bap had my heart – that slow cooked pork in ginger beer – I’ve never tasted anything like it. I plan to do a while post on the Beach BBQ so watch this space!
Nothing had been left forgotten – there were refrigeration facilities available for each family using a tent. We didn’t try these as we had our own fridge so I can’t report back on those but I thought it was a really good idea as it can be quite a challenge keeping your breakfast essentials (milk and bacon obviously…) chilled so I liked the idea of the walk-in fridge. There was also a “shop” stocked with essentials such as loo roll, sun tan lotion and toothpaste along with a whole heap of games, toys and activities that were available to borrow like stomp rockets, giant jenga and skittles.
We slept really well, in fact it could have been the best sleep I’ve had whilst camping. As everyone on the site was part of a family group, it felt like everybody respected each other and the campsite was very peaceful past about 10pm which was perfect. Sara had asked that if you were going to be using your car, you park it in the car park rather than by your tent thus minimising traffic and keeping the campsite safe for the children, however this also helped to minimise any excess and unnecessary noise.
The toilets were very clean and perfectly presentable – it looked and smelt like they might have had a pre-festival spruce-up. There were temporary showers which worked well and the washing up facilities were in the toilet area. A nice touch was that sponges and washing up liquid had been provided. We struggled with hot water one day (not unusual on a campsite) but generally it was okay.
A shuttle to and from the campsite was arranged. This was a double-decker bus, a nice shiny new one. The bus dropped you off at Gate 1 which is fab as there’s no queuing to get in and you are right next to the special family area, where you could relax undercover, get some food and drink, use the toilets etc In theory the bus was a great idea, in reality? I can’t help but think there might have been a better option. We had to rush to get the bus on the first morning we were there as whilst they were meant to be running every 20mins or so the combination of high levels of traffic in the area combined with extremely narrow lanes meant it was taking a lot longer to do the round-trip. It was very tight down some of the roads and I wasn’t in the least surprised to learn that the nice shiny new bus had got into a bit of a smash one day! On the Sunday we decided to hop over the road to the Rally Stage and get on the tractor shuttle down to the festival. That was a much better option as it was a bit quicker and as it went off-road, there was no traffic to contend with. I think if they run the family camping area and shuttle again in the future my preference would be for it to be a tractor style vehicle.
There were several visits from The Hill Climbers on the campsite. The Hill Climbers were a team of people, tasked with assisting families at the event. The children loved seeing them marching through the campsite singing and entertaining everyone on the shuttle bus.
When it was time to leave the festival and pack up, we all felt a bit sad. We’d had such a lovely time on the campsite and the weather was so lovely it seemed a shame to go home but alas work and school were calling the next day. It’s rare that I get to the end of a camping trip and actually feel like I could stay for a few more days so that speaks volumes. There was a wonderful, pleasant, chilled out vibe which was the perfect tonic after a long busy day amongst the throngs of festival-goers.
The family campsite is an absolutely brilliant addition to the Festival of Speed and I do hope that they decide to run it again next year as we’d certainly love to go again!
Coming soon….my review of the Festival of Speed itself, with a focus on the family elements of the show.
Disclosure: I was provided with tickets & camping for the event in return for a review. All words and thoughts are my own.