I think we must have fallen down a rabbit-hole when we arrived at the Just So Festival in Cheshire last weekend. We entered a magical wonderland, full of fun, taking us to some terrific places where you could easily forget the real world existed for a while.
From the thrill of the circus to the enchantment of the woodland, a vast area of the Rode Hall Estate near Congleton, so not far from home at all, was transformed into an outdoor playground for young families looking for a festival experience that definitely puts children right at the heart of the adventure.
And what a brilliant job they did! With so much choice the real challenge is not to miss anything out at Just So. From battling pirates on the High Seas, listening to magical tales and creating wonderful natural creations in the Spellbound Wood, grooving and moving at the Jitterbug, watching creative tales on stage at the Woodland Theatre, chilling in the Games tent, enjoying something a little gentler at Lazy Days, to joining in the partying at Footlights stage - Just So is crammed full of entertainment and adventure for all the family. The decoration and creativity across the site is completely marvellous and there's something spectacular to see at every turn.
Our boys were, at ten and seven, were a little older than the core festival audience which is obviously a massive hit with the toddler and infant school gang, but they absolutely loved every minute of their magical camping-festival weekend just the same. They may have sped through some of the activities a little quicker than smaller people, but they were just as utterly transfixed by the spell-binding atmosphere that abounds.
Particular highlights were the very well-mannered and "bumbling" Bathing Jugglers with their fiery tricks, boogeying to the brilliant Lazlo Baby on the Living Room Stage and Saturday night's fantastic entertainment at Footlights. Our two are woodland boys through and through and the chance to build tunnels, create clay faces to adorn the trees and enjoy the campfire tales was a proper treat.
From a practical, parental point of view, Just So made everything so brilliantly do-able. Busy but not packed so there's camping space for eveyone, mercifully short queues for showers, loos, coffee etc and there's a wonderful array of really enjoyable and delicious food based mainly at the Social Area where there's an airy barn with high chairs, microwaves for warming food and bottles etc, which all makes the canvas life that bit more enjoyable (there's even a baby tent for baths and massage before bedtime).
We feasted on paella, fish and chips and wood-fired pizza before bedding down beneath the trees. Night-time was a quiet, peaceful event and, despite a heavy thunderstorm at dawn, we woke up refreshed and ready for another day of adventure and exploration.
If you're looking for a festival to let down your hair, let the whole family's imagination run wild and lose yourself to the power of magic and fairyland for a while, get along to Just So and prepare for wonderment!