Green Gathering 2014

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I’m not sure whether I’m crazy, stupid or just adventurous but for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take my two godchildren (aged 9 and 3) camping to the Green Gathering festival at Piercefield Park, Chepstow. On my own.

View of the Severn Bridge from the festival
View of the Severn Bridge from the festival

The Green Gathering is four days of fantastic fun and learning for like minded people who are interested in environmental awareness to get together. The whole festival is run off-grid (which makes for some interesting sourcing of energy) and is particularly aimed at children and families. Under 11s even get their tickets completely free. My godchildren have been begging me to take them camping again all winter, and after a bit of effort I managed to convince them that camping in sub zero January temperatures in the UK is no fun at all and we should wait for the festival instead. I also thought that, as I would have to take them on my own this year, a family focused environment with lots of other children and parents around such as the Green Gathering would make it slightly easier for me. Besides, I wanted to go to the festival anyway and seeing as I didn’t have to pay for the kids’ tickets it seemed a win-win situation for us all.

I was entertained, educated and captivated by every aspect of the Green Gathering, so I can only imagined how itDSC_0426
looked through a child’s eyes. Every inch of the site was packed with offerings of music, arts and crafts, theatre, games, workshops, campaigns and much, much more. I’m sure there are stalls and tents that I didn’t even find during my time there. Although I assume there is some organisation to the event, the festival has the feel of being randomly thrown together. It’s like stumbling across a magical place where fantastic, talented people from all walks of life have suddenly decided to come together and pitch tents to display their wares and talents. Stalls selling recycled clothes and notebooks sat alongside the teenagers’ tent (strictly no adults allowed), a sauna and shower tent and food stands selling some of the best vegan, gluten-free food I have ever tasted.

DSC_0420The site is roughly divided into areas, which not only makes it easier to find what you’re looking for but also maintains the peace. A friend of mine who also visited Green Gathering this year told me about a similar festival he’d attended that hadn’t put quite so much thought into their planning. A stall offering chain-saw wood carving had been set-up between his mum’s disco tent and a relaxation tent. Cue some annoyed disco dancers who couldn’t hear what they were listening to and patrons of the relaxation tent coming out more stressed than when they went in. Thankfully, we had none of those problems at Green Gathering. Village Hill, the central area of the site, offered food stands, clothing and goods stalls and cafes and restaurants to chill out in. Right next door, the kids had their own area DSC_0402complete with vintage fairground rides, trampolines, cargo nets, climbing frames, theatre tent with dress-up, slack-lining and circus skills workshops. A couple of the crew had also set up a construction area and were asking children to help build a ‘pallet palace’. On the Thursday, they began with a huge pile of wooden pallets, saws, hammers and nails and by Sunday afternoon they had created and decorated a fun fort and play area they could all enjoy. The fairground rides and trampolines were good value for money too. Each one was priced at £1.50 per ride, or you could purchase a weekend ticket for £15 that gave you unlimited access. I was even more delighted to discover that the price for the weekend ticket reduces every day, so when I bought them on the Friday morning it only cost me £12 per child. A bargain for something that kept both children entertained for the whole weekend.

Traditional Victorian swing boats. I used to love these too when I was a kid!
Traditional Victorian swing boats. I used to love these too when I was a kid!

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One of the crew gets a free workout operating the carousel
One of the crew gets a free workout operating the carousel
The fairy glade
The fairy glade

Just off from the children’s area was the fairy glade, a magical place where you could learn about nature and maybe even spot a few mystical creatures. The Healing field was suitably situated away from all the action and offered therapies from head massage to reflexology and sessions in yoga and tai chi. The Campaigns Field was a must for information junkies like me. I loved the eclectic mix of tents in this field, where a charity helping traveller communities in Cornwall sat between a vegan sailing school and the women’s tent. I thought it really symbolised the coming together of all the different people who enjoy the festival. A walk through the craft area was difficult to do at any great speed because you were constantly distracted by opportunities to try wood carving, basket weaving and stone masonry to name but a few. Children aren’t patronised at Green Gathering either. If they want to try one of the crafts, they get to do it with the same tools as the adults would.

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Possibly the most carbon neutral paramedics I have ever seen
Possibly the most carbon neutral paramedics I have ever seen

I could go on and on about all the attractions there are to experience at the Green Gathering, there was literally amazing events popping up all over the place. The only downside to festival for me, apart from having to cope with a three-year-old having hourly tantrums, was getting on to and off the site. Moving all our camping gear was not as easy and organised as the festival organisers made it sound on their website and it was a big effort, especially on my own with two children. Having said that, once we were on site we had a great time and I would definitely return armed with the information I have from this year to help me. In fact, my godchildren have already asked me if we can book for next year.

Everyone loves bubbles
Everyone loves bubbles
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Travel theme: Gardens

I couldn’t let this week’s travel theme go by without sharing some photos of the community garden where I volunteer here in Cardiff. It may not be the prettiest garden in the city, or the most organised. We’re not even sure what everything is that grows there. But it’s our little piece of paradise…

Click here to see more entries from this week’s travel theme.

New Activity Alert!: Kettlebells

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We’re only in Febuary, and already this year I have visited one new place (Pila) AND I’ve tried a new activity. Yesterday, I went to my first kettlebells class. For anyone who doesn’t know, kettlebells involves doing exercises that work the whole body with a massive weight in your hands.

There were only six of us in the class, so unfortunately hiding in a corner wasn’t an option. The instructor worked us hard, but wasn’t too cruel. He put us through a really good mix of lunges, swings, arm raises, leg raises and squats. I can definitely feel the toning effect on my muscles already today, although getting my bike going at spin class tonight was a little tougher than usual because my legs were a bit sore!

Back on snow at long last

As you may have guessed from my change in gravatar photo, last week I got back on my skis and in the snow. Unfortunately, as a result I am once again nursing bruised ribs. Most people presume I suffered the injury during an impressive fall on my skis, or in a crash with another mountain user. But no, just like the first time I bruised my ribs 18 months ago (falling off a stationary treadmill), I hurt myself in such a stupidly simple way that only I could. I bent down to pick up my ski pole. Yes, that was all. And that small movement, which I had already carried out numerous times that morning, led to my belt and ski pants digging into my side and causing me intense pain for the past 6 days (plus quite a few more to come, I’m sure). Luckily, this ridiculous injury happened on the last day of my holiday to Pila, Italy, and before that moment I’d had an amazing week.

It felt so good to be back on my skis again, and we were really lucky with the snow conditions and weather that we had in Italy. As well as skiing Pila, I also took advantage of a ski-away day to Courmayeur. So all in all, apart from the constant feeling that someone is trying to stab me in my side with a biro, a good week. Here’s some photos to prove it.

Travel theme: Winter

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Winter. It definitely feels like winter here in South Wales. There’s only one thing we’re missing – snow! I love snow, especially when I can ski on it.

Unfotunately, snow here in the UK is not usually as fun. It still makes a nice change of scene for a few days when it does arrive, though.

Click here to see what everyone else’s definition of Winter is.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

I thought I’d use this week’s photo challenge as an opportunity to share some photos from our lovely Plasnewydd Community Garden, right in the middle of Cardiff city. It’s not very big, and there’s not much going on in the garden at this time of year, but we manage to grow an impressive array of fruits and vegetables and some beautiful flowers.

The community garden is a great place to talk to different people from the neighbourhood and make new friends whilst getting a good outdoor workout and learning something new.

If you don’t already have one, I would definitely recommend starting up a community garden in your local neighbourhood.

Click here to see other entries from this week’s photo challenge.

Check me out on Amazon

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Today I feel equal parts excited and nervous, because today is the day that my book goes live on Amazon epublishing.

‘The Alphabet Club’ is the story of three best friends who find themselves dragged into the world of The Alphabet Game, the winner of which is the first to sleep with one person for every letter of the alphabet. As the game unfolds, all three girls change and grow in ways they never imagined, and their friendship is tested to the limit.

I’d tried to get an agent in the UK and, although I had some positive feedback, unfortunately I had no luck. So, I thought I’d give epublishing a try and at least get the book out there. The book is pure chick lit, so if you know anyone who wants an easy and entertaining read to enjoy by the pool on holiday, then please suggest ‘The Alphabet Club’.

Click here to find ‘The Alphabet Club’.

Made in Roath: Part 5

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This week, I have been sharing with you my favourite bits of the 2013 Made in Roath festival. Here’s all the stuff that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else.

I came across these guys outside the community centre at the end of my street. I have no idea what their performance piece was all about, but they were certainly attracting a crowd.

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This little critter was hiding in a tree next to the community garden.

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When the festival is on, it’s not always easy to tell what is art and therefore part of the festival and what isn’t. I remember one year when a toilet appeared on the street outside my house. I was too embarrassed to phone the council and ask them to remove it incase it was an installation piece!

Down at Om Yoga Studio, Kalavathi showed us how to make Kolam art, an Indian technique using coloured rice powder.

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The whole festival finished on Thursday evening with a cycle-in screening of E.T. We are very environmentally conscious in our neighbourhood, and residents were given free popcorn if they arrived by bike.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my view of the festival. If you’re ever in Cardiff in October, come check out our cool community.

Made in Roath: Part 4

If you’ve ever read my blog before, you’ll know that I love street art. During the Made in Roath festival, there was lots of new street art that popped up around the neighbourhood. What made it more exciting was that we weren’t told exactly where the new pieces were going to be or what they would depict. You’d here a rumour from someone who’d spotted one, and then everyone would dash off to see it for themselves. Here’s the ones that I managed to find:

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Made in Roath: Part 3

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As part of Made in Roath, The Closed Road provided an eclectic mix of activites in a relatively small space.

There was music…

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arts and crafts…

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yet more artwork…

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chickens…

(they provide educational workshops on where chickens and eggs come from. The owners of the chickens that is, not the actual chickens themselves)

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And my personal favourite, the Milkwood caravan. Milkwood is a gallery a short walk from my home. They use the caravan as a mobile venue. For the festival, they asked people to tell them their story, and in return you got a free book. I chose a Lonely Planet guide to Germany. It’s a few years out of date, but I’m sure some of it is still relevant 🙂

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