What it’s like to camp on the Glastonbury festival site in a year when there’s no music

·4-min read
Glastonbury's stone circle
Glastonbury's stone circle

How we laughed, remembering the time we woke to find a river running between our airbeds that we had to mop up with anything to hand, namely our t-shirts. That washout of a summer, entrepreneurial members of the crowd had launched a canoe to paddle across the Other stage to get to the bar. Not this time. Fast forward 15 or so years and we were at the Glastonbury Festival site once again, as the lightning crackled and the rain poured. This time, however, was a different prospect. We had our children with us, the car was close by and we were sleeping in a sturdy, pre-pitched bell tent.

Worthy Pastures is a music-free glamping site at Worthy Farm that was dreamt up after Glastonbury Festival was forced into cancelling for the second year running. Of course, the farm does not currently look much like it does when 200,000 people turn it into another world entirely. We spent the first day at Worthy Pastures squinting at every empty field as if struggling to use an augmented reality app, trying to picture where our favourite stages would have stood.

Enough of the infrastructure remains to evoke a sense of place though. Flags ripple cheerfully in the breeze and brightly-painted plank benches dot Williams Green, though they are now somewhere for toddlers to practice balancing on rather than a godsend for weary dancers needing to recover. Campers were promised some of Glastonbury’s finest food purveyors, though sadly the glory years of Yam the Cassava and La Grande Bouffe are long gone. Instead there was a limited choice of woodfired pizza, pasta, vegan food, burgers or cheese toasties.

There's still a sense of place thanks to some of the remaining infrastructure
There's still a sense of place thanks to some of the remaining infrastructure

Still, they were all palatable in the children’s eyes and while they scoffed, we got stuck into the business of debating which year saw the festival’s most classic lineup. There was a lot of marvelling too, at the acres of space between the smart, pre-pitched tents and at the remarkably clean and airy loos. Gone are the dreaded long-drop toilets (and the even worse portaloos), replaced by compostable toilets with jolly murals painted on the doors.

Walking beneath the naked Pyramid stage to pay our respects, and spying a distant Glastonbury Tor behind it, felt like a small, private pilgrimage. We took a moment to remember the greats who had yelled “Hello Glastonbury” to a field of a hundred thousand faces. In contrast, my daughter’s singing went unnoticed by a dozen cows.

Worthy Pastures is aimed at families and we found most life in the Kidz Field, which is home to the Pink Castle. This hand-built structure is like a playground crossed with a Tibetan temple, with billowing flags and a brass bell at the top. Parents sat with pints of cider (a Brothers Bar variety at a responsible 4.5 per cent) and watched little ones explore its many slides, swings and steps. Further away from the bar at Goose Hall is a pirate ship to clamber on, a cosy bookshop and storytelling space, a craft tent and a wooden maze that recently hosted performances for the festival’s livestream event.

The swings, slides and steps of the Pink Castle will keep children entertained for hours
The swings, slides and steps of the Pink Castle will keep children entertained for hours

I thought the lack of live music might be a disappointment but actually it was nice not to have anything to rush around for. Bear in mind, though, that the schlep up to the stone circle is just as painful with a toddler as it is in the early hours of the morning, through dangerous levels of mud.

Worthy Farm, with all its natural lushness, is a beautiful place to spend a few days but the site’s magic was most clearly revealed to my children at the stone dragon. Curled up in a stream and hidden between trees, I had only approached the beast before in the dead of night, accompanied by frenetic bongos and delirious whooping. Some Glastonbury regulars never find it, yet my eldest daughter gasped as she approached its scaly head and spent a good ten minutes stroking and whispering to it.

The stone circle cast less of a spell, though we parents were at least able to conduct a sober inspection of the stones. Some children climbed them but mine were content to play hide and seek, having already tried plate spinning, hat juggling and clay modelling at free sessions run by Glastonbury’s main charities, Greenpeace, Water Aid and Oxfam.

To make the most of Worthy Pastures, campers will want to use the farm as a base to get out and explore Somerset, with Glastonbury Tor and the Levels up the road, as well as Cheddar Gorge and Wells further afield. Though showers and quality tents are provided - including Scout-style tents for couples or larger groups - campers will need to bring everything else with them, including air beds and bedding.

I’m not sure we will ever brave taking our children to Glastonbury Festival. But after a weekend spent getting to know Worthy Farm, if they decide to go later in life, they should at least be able to find their way back to their tents.

A two-person Scout tent at Worthy Pastures costs £195 for three nights at the weekend, a four-person bell tent costs £425. worthypastures.com

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