When the UK badger cull trials first began in 2013 I watched from home in disbelief as the government blindly ploughed ahead with their disastrous plan to tackle bovine TB by allowing marksmen with high velocity weapons and little training loose in the countryside of Somerset and Glouscestershire with a licence to kill our badgers. This was despite opposition from major animal organisations such as the RSPCA and The Badger Trust, and much scientific evidence to show badgers were not responsible for bTB in cattle.
I was a single mum to my 1 year old son with no one to help out with childcare and no idea how to help the plight of the badger other than to sit at home signing online positions and sharing news articles. I saw how groups of people emerged that were protesting against the cull and going out into the killing fields at night to help protect the badgers. I read reports of their work with admiration and donated what I could to the cull fighting funds.
By the following year sitting back while others did the hard work in the fields was no longer an option for me. I had to go and join them. My son was a year older and I was now able to arrange childcare. I found an online liftshare group and advertised that I would be driving to Somerset and offering spare seats in my car to anyone who would like to come, secretly hoping someone would take me up on the offer as I was full of nerves about going out of my comfort zone into a killing zone on my own. A lady contacted me wanting a lift so I arranged to pick her up and take her with me. That lady was Ama, a passionate and dedicated anti cull campaigner who spent the two hour journey telling me all the things I needed to know about what to expect and what we would be doing. We arrived in Somerset to the Williton car park meeting point to take part in Wounded Badger Patrol. Groups of people in high vis vests and waterproofs huddled with torches looking at maps, plotting their routes for the night. I was told this was a busy night as there was a celebrity in our midst, Bill Oddie had come along to join the patrols so extra people had turned up to patrol with the star.
We were put in a group and set off for a walk through the fields in search of injured badgers, suspicious or illegal activity or shooters themselves. As we walked the fields of Exmoor I realised I had fallen into a very diverse and friendly group, all united with the same passion for animals. As a bit of a towny, I had no experience of walking in the countryside so was taken aback by the beauty of walking under the starry night sky through fields of animals, and the unity I felt with this group of strangers. We found little activity to report that night but for me I still felt a great sense of satisfaction that I’d gone out and got involved and there was no question of whether I’d go again.
Since that night I have joined numerous groups in the fields of Somerset and now with this years devastating roll out to new areas, in both North and South Devon, my home turf.
My son, now age 4, understands that when mummy goes out at night its to save badgers. He has a great passion for animals and understands that badgers will get hurt if mummy doesn’t protect them from the baddies and has happily accompanied me giving out leaflet and on numerous peaceful protests demonstrating against the cull proudly chanting “save our badgers, stop the cull” at the top of his voice, whilst insisting on carrying my placard and having his face painted as a badger. I have made great friends in the fields and bonded with them over our shared passion for fighting for our badgers.
With all the new zones this year though, our groups and resources have been stretched more than ever and I’ve seen my friends look tired and burnt out from the many days and nights they’ve fitted into their daily lives around work and family commitments. We are fighting and we are saving many lives but we need more people on the ground joining us. I’ve found myself needing an altered role as now heavily pregnant with a baby due 5th October, my ability to walk in the fields is hampered so I’ve instead taken on car patrols, driving around the cull zones looking for suspicious activity, giving lifts to groups from one area to another and helping with admin. My inability to walk long distances has not meant I cannot be involved, and sitting home while the badgers sit in cage traps waiting to be shot is simply not an option for me. Badger patrols welcome people of all ages and abilities as there really is a role for everyone and everyone is needed right now to help us in the fight to save these beautiful innocent creatures. If you would be interested in taking part you can be guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome from your local group and I promise there is no better feeling than going out and knowing you saved a life. You can find your nearest badger group in the list below. Please join us before our badgers are pushed to extinction, only to realise that they were never guilty anyway.
Badger Cull Action Groups
DEVON AND CORNWALL AGAINST THE CULL
Web: Devon and Cornwall Against the Cull
HEREFORDSHIRE AGAINST THE CULL
DORSET WOUNDED BADGER PATROL
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOMERSET AGAINST THE BADGER CULL
GLOUCESTERSHIRE WOUNDED BADGER PATROL
GLOUCESTER BADGER OFFICE
NORTH COTSWOLD AGAINST THE CULL
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After a mispent youth of attending a lot of festivals as a ‘plus one’, Victorious was my very first festival as a Mum. Going into it I was a bit nervous because toddlers are basically like tiny drunk people with a death wish… and that’s just at home in a safe environment, far far away from all the potential dangers of being in a big field with lots and lots of actual drunk people. My daughter is almost two and has the energy levels of a Duracell battery and the logic/reason of a Trump supporter. I knew from the start she would be a handful and started to doubt whether it would be wise going to something this big without my partner to also keep watch… so to try and compensate I packed two pairs of reigns. Unfortunately I forgot to pack enough spare clothes or nappies, so when my little girl wet herself in the car on the way down I was already starting to panic.
We travelled to Victorious with my 8-months-pregnant friend Steffi and her 4-year-old son, who had both been to a local festival the week before. That to me made them seasoned veterans. As I stepped foot on my first festival as a normal, I suddenly realised that I had no idea how to actually DO a festival. Like, at all. My previous (pre-children) plan of getting as wasted as possible on smuggled booze wasn’t exactly child friendly, and I couldn’t remember doing much apart from that back in the day so I was totally stumped. Where do you go?! Where do you start?! Thankfully Victorius had us covered as there was absolutely loads to do, plus it was all flat and pushchair friendly. Victorious is a day festival (no camping) based within a park just on the Portsmouth coast so it was very easy to get around.
In an age when rogue quantities like EasyJet try to be trendy and claim they are family-friendly (from experience - they’re not) Victorious festival actually was very family-friendly. As soon as we arrived our children were issued with wrist bands with our phone numbers on in case they got lost and there were lost/found tents throughout the site. The children’s area was massive! Easily a third of the size of the entire festival and there were plenty of activities for children to partake in from fairgrounds to painting, crafting, magic shows and Gruffalo mascots. My daughter was a bit too young for a lot of the activities (not that it stopped her attempting the giant soft play areas), but it was nice for us to be somewhere with so many families and children and during the day there was a really nice atmosphere. I probably spent the majority of the festival just chasing my daughter around as she ran everywhere. With the kids getting tired around 6pm we didn’t catch any of the bands, I think the Levellers started just as we were leaving, but to be honest that wasn’t really why we were there. With our days of band chasing long gone, it was all about the kids facilities for us!
The best best best thing about the festival (for me) was the baby change tent with free nappies and wipes as it was a total lifesaver. I’d stupidly only packed four nappies for the whole day, and my daughter went through three just on the journey there, so having a change station like that was a brilliant idea and saved me a lot of hassle.
The worst thing was probably the journey as on the way there we got caught in traffic for nearly 5 hours and didn’t arrive at the festival until about 1pm. I think if we were to do it again we would stay somewhere the night before so we could experience the festival more fully, as Portsmouth is further away from Torquay than we thought! Going there and back in one day was quite hard on the children, even though they did really enjoy themselves.
So it turns out, to sucessfully festival as a parent you need to do A LOT of planning. Here are my 5 tips to make festivals that little bit easier:
1. Pack about 5 changes of clothes per day, it sounds ridiculous but they are going to need them as you don’t know when your little darlings might shit themselves (or worse)
2. Sunscreen is a must, even if it’s cloudy. Child’s Farm do a really good one.
3. If you are driving far like we did, pack pyjamas for the journey home so you can pop them straight into bed when you get back (please note: I did not do this but if I had been more prepared it would have been the best idea ever)
4. Sticker books and wipe clean drawing boards will help keep the kids entertained on the journey.
5. Take as many responsible adults with you as you possibly can to spread the child-chasing load.
At risk of sounding like a massive cliché, its amazing what can change in a year. Returning to the wonderland that is Beautiful Days at Escot was a huge personal reminder of that. In 2015 I went to Beautiful Days as a single mum with my son Brody. This year I returned 8 months pregnant with my partner Simon, four year old Brody and Simon’ s twelve year old son Dave, I work fast huh! With my new family situation in mind I knew for me this years festival would be a very different experience compared to last years and I couldn’t wait to see what magic the festival had in store for us, or to share the enjoyment of Simon and Dave’s first festival with them.
The festival is a wonderfully non commercial affair. They don’t advertise or bother with sponsors, yet manage to sell out their 15000 daily capacity each year which is no mean feat when you compare them to their heavily promoted counterparts and only serves as testament to their reputation as a fantastic festival experience for all and helps keep the laid back non corporate festival vibe, which many other festivals lost long ago.
The site opens on the Thursday and is easily found due to clear signposting. Work commitments meant we were unable to arrive until Friday but we still easily found a nice camping spot despite the festival site being very busy. As someone who has for many years wimped out on festival camping and instead opted for the luxuries offered by nearby hotels, I was both excited and nervous at the prospect of sleeping in a tent, especially at 8 months pregnant. Thanks to a fair bit of planning and some kind friends we were well equipped with a two bedroom tent, another tent for storing items in, airbeds and other camping accessories which helped make for a more comfortable stay. The only thing we were missing was instructions for the tent but after a couple of hours, a handful of muttered swear words and the help of a kind neighbouring camper, the boys had set up camp Nice Mums and I think it looked rather smart!
Once set up we ventured to the festival ground. Being pregnant I was pleased to see that again this year the site had a plentiful supply of toilets resulting in short queues (or sometimes no queue at all). Toilets are always well maintained and at no point on my numerous visits did I encounter one without toilet roll or which seemed especially dirty. Its amazing how pregnancy makes you grateful for these luxuries!
The food at festivals is always a highlight for me, and being vegan I found myself spoilt for choice by the numerous catering vans and indulged in foods such as tofu burgers, fry ups, flapjacks and thai curries. The choice of foods is vast and vans and sit down cafes can be found in all areas of the site so you’ll never go hungry.
The festival line up featured some big names such as Leftfield, James, The Levellers, Reef, Terrorvision, The Proclaimers, The Coral and Maraichi El Bronx to name a few but as we were there with the kids we knew we’d miss the bigger names due to them being on too late at night, but instead we enjoyed watching bands that were new to us during the days with Ezra Furman and UK Feds proving to be favourites of the weekend.
The great thing about Beautiful Days is the perfect balance they achieve of adult and family fun. You could have just as good a time here on a boozy grown up hen do as you could a family weekend like ours, there is no shortage of entertainment for all. The childrens area is a wonderful source of happiness and entertainment for all ages, with a selection of fair rides and games including a big wheel which our children took a particular liking to, riding on it a total of 4 times, and helter skelter. Walk around entertainment is ongoing throughout the day and Brody took great pleasure in meeting a selection of aliens, talking trees, stilt walking pirates that were chasing a stilt walking mermaid who has stolen their treasure- Brody delighted in helping them catch her and being told he was part of their crew, and a camel offering free rides which Brody loved.
We spent a number of hours over the weekend sat in our camping chairs (a must for pregnant campers!) in the childrens area just watching the comings and goings and watching the kids enjoy everything that was laid on for them. A happy child always results in a happy parent and relaxing in my camping chair with a soya latte I was most definitely that. Its lovely to see so many families relaxing and enjoying themselves in such a lovely setting. Beautiful Days seems to attract a certain kind of festival goer, relaxed and happy just like the festival atmosphere, mums came up and congratulated me on my well formed bump, and a dad rushed to Brodys aid when he got a little stuck on the helter skelter. Despite being strangers there’s a feeling of togetherness that so many festivals have lost, and that makes you feel that you and your kids are safe. Security personnel are minimal, unimposing and friendly which again reinforces that feeling of safety. Childrens wristbands have a space to write your contact number and the lost children tent is easily found so should your little one do a disappearing act in the excitement of the festival, its likely they wouldn’t be gone for long. And the police, well they seemed to be just there to join in the fun!
The weekend provided a wonderful family experience and was a perfect introduction to festivals for Simon and Dave, although maybe the bar has been set too high now that any other festival will disappoint them, but that can only be a good thing on Beautiful Days part. With comfortable camping and entertainment for all, Beautiful Days remains a favourite family friendly festival and we recommend all ages should try it, you will love it.
Thank s for having us Beautiful Days, we look forward to seeing you again next year!
Tickets for next years Beautiful Days are expected to go on sale next year with the festival being on 18-20th August 2017.