Dear Mummy, we visited Jimmy’s Farm over the weekend (25th & 26th July) for his Sausage and Beer Festival 2015. Jimmy Doherty is a TV personality and is best known for Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped and a BBC2 series called ‘Jimmy’s Farm’.
It was our first time to this festival on the outskirts of Ipswich and it’s safe to say it’s a fair weather festival! It’s all set outdoors on his farm with two music stages, cooking demonstrations from TV chefs, a sausage eating competition, great gourmet food & drink stalls and plenty of kids activities.
On paper it sounds like a wonderful festival! Perfect for families and paints an idyllic picture of rolling countryside, barmy lazy summer days and a haven for food lovers. We watched the 2014 promo video for Jimmy’s Farm and it looked amazing. Chilling out on hay bales, drinking in the sunshine, loads of room for the kids to run around with plenty of activities on offer….
So even before we walked through the gates we had high expectations. Maybe too high as all we’d heard was amazing things about Jimmy’s Farm from close friends and online.
This is our account of Jimmy’s Farm Sausage and Beer Festival (as campers) in 2015. *it was a roller coaster of a weekend*
Friday: Off to a great start! We arrived on Friday afternoon as campers, so there were no queues for us! Happy Daddy! We parked not far from the campsite and good thing too as it had started to rain.
Campsite Amenities: It was a great idea to have food outlets and a shop in the campsite. They could have done with extra toilet facilities and more double-access ones for families. Some tents had practically pitched on top of each other for shelter and there were no stewards on the campsite that we could see organising and directing people, just 3 staff at the wristband check-in.
The weather: It was horrendous on Friday, miserable on Saturday morning and Sunday. Sadly nothing we could do about the great British weather but grin and bear it for 3 nights having booked early bird camping tickets for this two-day event. We’d instantly regretted it when we saw the yellow warning forecast. High winds and heavy rain. We did everything in our power to have a dry enjoyable experience (wet weather gear, extra cloths, pegs etc) but nothing could prepare us for the…
The camping field: On first glance we thought Jimmy had made a mistake and put us in the wrong field. We’d left the car in a lush soft green grassy field and descending onto a freshly ploughed, stony, pig-sty of a campsite. Oh dear, my mummy thought, but too late now. The rain was beating down on our little family and we had to get the tent up. Little did we know that at 2am the storm would hit and cause devastation in the field and force campers to abandon their tents at 3am with metal gazebos ploughing into unsuspecting campers asleep in their tents. The rain had made the uneven ground like jelly, sharp stones and crop stumps made it unsafe for me to run around on. Even in our tent it was lumpy and bumpy with stones protruding the ground sheets. I hid in a friends tent feeling very sorry for myself. While daddy struggled in the rain and wind to put ours up with the help of a good friend.
My daddy tried to make the best of a bad situation and was not going to be defeated despite being soaked through! He put a brave face on even though he was unsure what lay ahead with the weather…
The storm on Friday night: As a toddler this was the scariest night of my life. Ripped from my sleep at 2am after a Gazebo flew into the tent next to us, we all came very close to a bad accident! My folks were up for 4 hours between 1am and 5am trying to secure guide ropes in the unsuitable ground, trying to keep me calm as the tent shook violently and help others stay safe. At one point we were holding down our tent with our weight. We did not once see any security and festival stewards come to see if we were alright bar one we think but even then he was a solitary hero in the dark where were the rest of his crew?
That was disappointing especially with small families on the campsite. Saturday morning was filled with crying, shock and despair as the drama unfolded in the daylight. Tents and gazebos were strewn everywhere. Ripped and scattered through the field. Half the campsite had left and it looked like a ghost town. The perimeter fencing was broken and people were making a mad dash for their cars. The car park was the best evidence that large numbers of campers has left. The kids entertainment was not on and there was no communication from festival organisers on site. It was like everyone has gone home and left us! A little bit of reassurance on Saturday morning could have been communicated on the PA system which would have made others want to stay and enjoy the festival’s opening day. But a lot of people were fed up and wanted to go home straight away. We carried on with our day but everyone was tired and wet. We tried to make the best of it.
I even tried to help rebuild the campsite, walking around with daddy’s mallet to ensure our tent pegs were in ok. We were happy that it was daylight and my folks kept me distracted with a space hopper and wheeled me around in my festival cart.
Saturday: Plodding along through the festival as large crowds gathered you could tell who the campers were and who the day trippers were. We were muddy with bags under our eyes and the day trippers were happy and full of excitement and anticipation. We hoped the festival would make up for the bad camping experience – and it kinda did.
The food and drink: Amazing! Never have we eating so many nice sausages, pulled pork and beef burgers. My mummy’s iron count will be up after this weekend! The choice of beer and cider was great too. My mummy stumbled on a little white tent in the market garden with the best range of cider flavours and the cheapest at £3.50 a pint. She tasted Cherry, Strawberry and Elderflower. It was very scrumptious.
Prices: We’ve been to other larger festivals and actually the prices at Jimmy’s Farm were competitive, however they could have done with lower priced items for children, maybe children’s portions? Half a sausage or more chipolatas? Paying £6 for a hotdog is a bit steep even though it was tasty and £10 for a pizza at the campsite, OMG! My mummy ended up eating all the leftovers as it was too expensive to let it go to waste!
Queues: The busiest day was Saturday mainly due to Justin Fletcher, Chas & Dave and Toploader. It had sold out and Jimmy’s Farm festival was at full capacity. And it showed. My mummy queued for 45 minutes just to get a beer in the main tent. Even a simple task of queuing for the toilet took an age! We spent the majority of our time at Jimmy’s Farm queuing. The food queues snaked and crossed over with toilet queues and other food outlets and it was a bit of a shambles at lunchtime.
Activities: On a positive, the kids activities were amazing! So much choice of things to do! We walked around the petting farm, visited the butterfly house, played in the giant sandpit and climbed in the adventure playground. Unfortunately I missed the Flying Seagulls as we couldn’t get close enough to see them during dry performances as it was mobbed! The queue for the face painting was a bit extreme too and we abandoned that after 20 minutes. When there was a break in the rain I liked sitting on the hay bales watching the acoustic music and chasing the bubbles from the on site toy shop.
The Up All Hours Baby Tent in the Chipolatas Kids Area was a great idea! They were so friendly and welcoming in the horrible weather when daddy was looking for a safe dry place to change my nappy – they even gave him a free nappy after our bag eventually gave up in all the rain! He was very impressed and said it was run like a military operation with parents being seen to quickly and efficiently by kind-hearted staff. Well done and thank you for my drink it made my day and cheered daddy up!
The hay bales were a god send during the festival! We made good use of them trying to hold down our tent in the storm and use them as a wind break. Soak up all the mud in the field to ensure us little ones didn’t sink and even for seating and imaginary play! We made a fort one morning in the campsite to keep us shielded from the elements (the picture below is not our tent but they had the right idea. Us kids loved the hay bales!
Entertainment: A saving grace that we had stuck out the camping on Friday night was that we got to see CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher, as we were in to the festival early on Saturday and didn’t get stuck in the traffic. He was the highlight of our festival.
My mummy enjoyed watching Polar Collective and some bands at the acoustic stage in the Veg Garden. The Main Stage was super loud so I wore my ear defenders practically the whole of Saturday. I even napped in them! Oh, and I am not drinking alcohol in the below picture – it’s just squash!
When the sunshine finally came out on Saturday afternoon it was glorious. For 3 hours we basked in the heat of the sun and chilled out with friends at the main stage. This was what it was supposed to be like all the time we thought. We bought all the beers in, taking turns to queue for 30 minutes and stock plied up. My folks would have drunk more if the bar was more accessible and the crowds less.
Saturday night was one big party with Chas & Dave stealing the show! It seems to us that Festival goers left happy and content but sadly we were all too shattered by this point to see them so had to enjoy the music from the campsite. The weather was much better on Saturday Night and Sunday morning. But the pleasant weather was short-lived…
Sunday: We were fortunate enough to have a dry spell early morning in order to pack up our tents to head home as we had exhausted all dry clothes dealing with Friday night and the prospect of another windy wet night was not appealing. I was kept amused with a children’s entertainer at the teepee tent in the campsite zone which was a welcomed relief after no activities on Saturday morning. Our tent had seen better days, damaged by the ground and high winds and we weren’t confident to push our luck to camp another night in the rain.
As soon as the festival gates opened at 11am on Sunday the heavens opened again on the campers with horizontal rain beating down. There was nowhere to shelter from the bad weather in the festival and we were soaked.
We left earlier than intended on Sunday missing out on some of the festival activities and the headline performers. I was one tired, grumpy little girl and my folks had a long journey back to Hampshire. We were a bit disappointed that our festival experience was cut short and it might have been different if we were staying at a hotel. My folks were annoyed that they missed out on The Shires and Athlete but glad of our warm beds instead of camping another night in that horrendous field hoping their tent wouldn’t be blown away.
Forgetting the bad weather and camping aspect, Jimmy’s Farm seems like a fab family festival. It’s maybe a victim of its own success? We couldn’t imagine it being any busier in the thoroughfares. All the elements are there it just needs the good weather and a decent campsite to make it shine.
Regardless of our bad experience we would still go back and give Jimmy’s Farm the benefit of the doubt. We would hope that they would learn from constructive feedback regarding capacity numbers, queues and campsite issues from the public.
Love Bella x