1-3 August 2014
Reviewed by Debbie Tasker
Carfest North was held from 1-3 August 2014 at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Carfest South is from 22-24 August 2014 at Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire and is all in aid of BBC Children In Need.
Myself, husband and 4 stepdaughters (ages 9, 11, 13, 15) arrived at Oulton Park on a very rainy morning. I had been given instructions as to where to pick up the wristbands and I found the gate and box office easily. A very friendly and helpful member of staff pointed us in the direction of the nearest car park which wasn’t too far away, we parked got our belongings together and set off towards the festival entrance.
As you enter you can feel the atmosphere, even with such bad weather conditions everybody was smiling and having fun. We had been given a programme and there was a handy map that opened up in the back so we tried to plan (a difficult task with four excited girls wanting to go in different directions) the day the best we could so as not to miss anything.
There is so much to see and do there is no chance of either the adults or children getting bored. With plenty of cars music food and entertainment the choice is massive.
In this area a vast array of car clubs including VW campers (my favourites), Austin Healey, Lotus, Jaguar, Delorean and Morgan are all on show for you to wander around and ask questions about. You can easily spend a few hours viewing these splendid cars that our obviously loved by their owners and kept in pristine condition. Driving experiences include Rally Master – here you can drive a rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort Cosworth around a rally stage, 4×4 Mudmaster – get behind the wheel of a Land Rover Defender and take on the uniquely designed woodland course, or for the younger festival goers YoungDrive – anyone aged 11-17 can sample driving in a brand new Mini one with a DSA qualified instructor. Be warned though all these experiences are chargeable and can leave a big hole in your pocket!
The track has some superb performances, Carfest Seven being one of the best show stoppers. We all loved the Movie Seven where vehicles from some of our best loved films did a lap – Thunderbirds, James Bond, Back to the Future (including characters) and Herbie gave the crowds immense enjoyment. Other sevens include Vintage, Rally, Hot Rod, Motorbikes and Unusual. It does get a bit loud with the roar of the engines, lots of little ones had protective headphones on, but it all adds to the thrill along with the burning rubber and screeching of brakes. There are also races with ‘proper racing cars but as I am no expert I can’t say exactly what they were apart from very fast. The Monster Truck is enormous and you can ride on its back (again payable) while it crushes cars as it makes its way around a circuit quite close to the car clubs.
For The Youngsters
Big Top world is, as you have probably guessed, a big top with activities aimed at children. There are circus skills, stilt walking, puppets and shows going on throughout the day. Book World is interesting, you can settle down and listen to an author read one of their very own stories or take a look through a book of your choice. There is a comic tent right next to it too. Ball World was a firm favourite with my lot – space hoppers, table tennis, a broncho rugby ball and crazy golf are all free to try your hand at. There were a few queues but nothing too major considering the amount of children present. The fairground is adjacent but unfortunately this is another payable attraction. A park had been built with wooden climbing frames and swings and the army have some of their transport and equipment for the kids (and you if you fancy it!) to explore.
Food and Drink
You are spoilt for choice in the food area. Meals and snacks are served from breakfast through to supper and range from risotto, pizzas, seafood, burgers, pies, healthy options, popcorn crepes and muffins. There really is something to suit everybody’s taste buds. Drinks range from smoothies, soft drinks, milkshakes, beer and wine to the ever popular Costa Coffee and just a plain old cup of tea. There are a few bars serving spirits, cocktails and even champagne. Be warned though queues we found are long for all stalls in this area most of the day and there is not much in the way of seating which is a pain with the weather we were experiencing. Bins were also overflowing in this and the picnic area for the duration of the two days we were there. I am sure they were emptied regularly, we saw lots of little rubbish trucks around but maybe just not often enough as piles of refuge were forever building up near the bins.
My best bit! Over the period of the three days some fantastic acts graced the main stage. The stage was built in a way that the thousands of spectators would be able to see from every angle and if by chance they couldn’t large screens were dotted around so nobody missed out. The sound system was superb and lighting awesome. Paloma Faith was supposed to kick off Saturday night but she wasn’t there so The Bootlegs Beatles started the evening in style and had everyone singing and dancing along. Chris Evans was compare and a great job he did too keeping all our spirits up in the torrential rain. There was mud everywhere but that didn’t stop us Car Festers making the most of it. The songs played inbetween acts were spot on and kept the mood and atmosphere. I am a big Top Loader fan so I enjoyed their set immensely. We stayed until Sea Sick Steve had done his spot, again another very talented musician/songwriter and then headed home with very tired and wet girls.
The air display was on both Saturday and Sunday so we had the pleasure of seeing it twice. With breath-taking dives and acrobatics the pilots are exceptional in what they do. We also saw in the show ground a stunts display team the Red Barrows (very amusing) and on the Sunday we went to kid’s hour which the younger members of our party enjoyed.
We went back on Sunday and covered everything that we had missed on the Saturday. The weather was much better and it made it easier to get around apart from the huge puddles. We went back and watched the some of the car track events again and early evening we made our way to the main stage for some more brilliant music. There is enough for you to do for a whole weekend without a doubt and if I am lucky enough to be there next year I am going to camp. The camp sites looked clean and well-kept and there is even a ‘quiet camping’ if you don’t want to be in the thick of it.
Everywhere is signposted well and there are lots of reasonably clean toilets. The layout is good and you don’t cover too much ground space a godsend with wet mucky children.
Inspired by Chris Evans, this twice yearly event raised a staggering £1.1 million for Children In Need last year what an amazing thing to do! We had a wonderful weekend and loved every minute. If you are lucky enough to have tickets for Carfest South you are in for a treat. Great memories made and hopefully some more next year. The only negative I would say is be prepared to spend money and if you need to keep costs down take a picnic and drinks with you.
For more information (tickets for CarFest South are now SOLD OUT!) visit www.carfest.org.