We made an early start on Tuesday for our epic 12-hour road trip to Bath and WOMAD. Plenty of sweets and stops helped to pass the time and on the way we delivered the rather large packages containing the totems and coracle to the concierge at the Crowne Plaza, NEC ready for the FOQ judging. After Birmingham we left the monotony of the motorway and travelled across country to Bath on The Fosse Way, an ancient Roman road. The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful.
We spent two lovely days in Bath, exploring, wandering and revisiting my old student haunts. The city was familiar yet there were some new areas near the bus station that had been totally transformed. It was fun to rediscover cafes and shops that had not changed at all since I left 21 years ago. I drove the Landy up and down the hilly streets pointing out landmarks and pubs and was I unable to resist driving 4 laps around the Royal Circus. We stayed in a super Edwardian terraced house in Odd Down, travelling into the city by bus. We took an open-top-bus tourist trip to experience the best views, frequently ducking to avoid overhanging tree branches. The Roman Baths were impressive and far less busy by torchlight in the evening; the children even found the Fashion Museum fairly interesting. I felt quite nostalgic and enjoyed listening to the soft West Country burr again. I have decided that “Lush” should become my favourite term of appreciation.
The WOMAD festival was only about 12 miles up the road at Charlton Park near Malmesbury. We queued for ages in the hot sun before we were able to get into the festival and check-in to our hired yurt. The yurt was a different design to the one we have at home since it had a much higher roof pitch. It was quite a haul to shift our large quantity of camping equipment but we made good use of it all. Our neighbours were impressed to see us making pancakes and drinking fresh coffee each morning for breakfast. The fairy lights and bunting stamped our mark on it. I was glad that I had packed so many blankets since the temperature cooled down considerably at night.
WOMAD was a great introduction to a British summer festival. It was very family friendly and there were all sorts of people there from hippies and oldies to posh people and students. Many people wore wacky festival outfits, mad hats, body paint and henna tattoos. If they had not remembered to pack any of these then these could all be purchased from a diverse range of stall holders or the huge Oxfam sales tent.
There was a terrific selection of exotic food on sale but we did most of our own catering since it would have been too expensive to eat out for every meal. The children could attend as many music or art workshops as they wanted or learn circus tricks. There were uni-cyclists, healers, chai tea shops, sari sellers, a steam funfair and in between we helped out a little in Mo and Willow’s fabulous felt stall.
The weather was glorious most of the time but after a heavy thunderstorm the parched field turned muddy. The chemical loos were rather stinky but we did have good showers to make up for that. However, after spending all day outside in the sun and wind I ended up with rosy cheeky and wild looking hair.
There were many wonderful musicians from all over the world but the unlikely stars of the festival must have been “The Malawi Mouse Boys”. Everyone was touched by the story of some very modest guys from a tiny rural village in Africa who caught and roasted mice-on-sticks snacks to make their living. They were discovered by chance by an American music producer who insisted that they made a record. WOMAD was only their third ever performance for an audience and they had never even used stage equipment before.
It was a totally “different” type of family holiday but we agreed that it would be fun to do it again another year so we made a list of the stuff that we would add to our essential equipment list - a wheelbarrow would be very useful to cart around deckchairs, wine, sunhats, wellies and tomato ketchup!