Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Off-Grid Festival by Bike

We planned to head to the Off-Grid festival on the Thursday, but looking at the weather, we decided a 20 mile cycle journey in the pouring rain was not probably not quite as fun as it first sounded. So we set off on Friday morning from Yatton. My wife and I headed down the Strawberry line (an old railway line turned cycle track) towards Cheddar. It's a great route as there's huge amounts to see, from dark, leaky train tunnels to the rows of cider apple trees lining the countryside. All along the trail are old stations, some of which have some interesting old features, such as old track from days gone by and station frontage that lies flat on the ground.

After some lovely flat cycle route, we arrived in Cheddar, where we stopped to take in the sights and have a refreshing pint before starting the long slog up the Gorge. We broke up the car dodging with a quick cave visit and plenty of stops for photo opportunities. Most of this did not involve any pedaling, so the journey took a fair while longer than we expected, but by early afternoon, we'd made it to Fernhill Farm.
The festival felt bigger than expected. With just 500 tickets we thought it would seem like a weekend at a campsite, but in fact it felt more like we'd stumbled into a self-sufficient village. It was refreshing to go somewhere that wasn't about excessive drinking and mainstream music, but instead about great ideas for low-impact living. After having a wander around on the Friday, we got stuck in on Saturday with lectures on no-dig gardening, planning for eco building, and Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) systems (low impact waste water purification). One of my favourite parts of the festival was seeing all the conversions of various forms of transport from removals lorries to horseboxes into permanent living accommodation. But top of the list was the Buddhafield Cafe, serving fantastic vegan food and chai.

We reluctantly left on the Sunday as I had to be back at work on Monday morning, heading back the way we came. Of course, this time, it was all downhill! After dodging out of the way from one particularly dangerous driver, hell-bent on trying to overtake us every blind corner, my wife consoled herself by buying some decorations from the permanent Christmas shop in Cheddar. I went for the rather more obvious beer.
The Strawberry line was again highly enjoyable and the weather was great. We stopped at the reservoir along the way, which feels more like the sea, before slowly drifting back up to Yatton.

All in all, a great weekend. We are hugely grateful for the opportunity and are looking forward to going again next year with our new baby in tow!