For anyone who has taken their children to a music festival and spent the entire time in craft tents making paper lanterns Geronimo is a great option. It offers everything a normal festival does, and more, without the bands – and that’s reflected in the £25 ticket price. It is a strange experience for festival veterans as Geronimo really does feel like a mini Glastonbury but instead of Adele, Muse and Coldplay you get Mr Bloom, Swashbucklers and Dick and Dom.
Despite that A list line-up I spent most of the bank holiday Monday away from the main stage but only managed to sample a fraction of what was on offer.
The first 20 minutes of our day were spent hammocking with a stubborn two-year old who refused to get out of hers. That would have been entertainment enough, as would the brilliant playpark at Tatton or deer watching in the surrounding grounds. Fortunately my four year old used the time wisely to queue with her dad for the My Little Pony bus, which was inconveniently right at the entrance to the festival. The pull of the bright pink double decker was too strong for any preschooler to resist. A ridiculously long queue was eased by a man making twisted balloon creations supposed to resemble the characters from the show. On board there was a rather regimented system of face painting and photo-booth posing, as well as tablets to play games, toys to play with and, of course, buy. It was a shameless bit of commercialism in an otherwise bohemian-feeling festival – and my four year old’s highlight, of course.
Once past that and in the main arena we settled down in front of the main stage with woodfired pizzas from a vendor selling only margherita, which sadly didn’t seem to speed the queuing process up. Cook and Line from CBeebies Swashbuckle took to the stage and had my four year old in stitches with their signature slapstick humour, while their catchy theme song sparked recognition from my two year old who can recite it word for word despite not being able to tell me when she needs a wee. Bell tents dotted conveniently around the site hosted separate spaces for parents to feed and change babies. A box of ready-made cartons of formula and jars of baby food was a thoughtful touch for stressed parents who might have forgotten essentials.
Moving away from the main stage, squeezing in a ride on a mini carousel in between, we headed to the theatre tent to watch the Town Band of Breman, who performed their musical storytelling – complete with puppetry. It’s an imaginative and captivating performance for young and old but having seen them before at festivals – and making a point of visiting them again – it was a shame to see their routine hadn’t changed since last summer.
In one of the opposite tents there was fencing, which my older girl was excited to try, but it was clear that the men running it took it very seriously and after a telling off for touching the equipment – which was left out for little hands to grab – we decided to build a den instead.
In the three feet and under area we had a major toddler meltdown when the Tumble Tots tent was full. A wait until the next session was filled with Moo Music and soft play but sadly baby ballet and baby yoga clashed with it. Being highly organised does kind of kill the feeling of freedom you want at a festival but it would definitely help sidestep disappointment. Tumble Tots was worth the wait but the session was busy, which meant yet more queues with the most impatient of customers.
By the time the crowds started tailing off, around 4pm (I was not the only one with a tantruming toddler by that time), queuing for pony and donkey rides was relatively pain free but ultimately still not really worth the 30 seconds the children got with the animals.
Areas such as the inflatables were completely out of the question because of queues. It is disappointing to have to spend such a proportion of a day out in this way but there is plenty more to see and do that didn’t involve queuing, such as street entertainers and carnival processions.
Geronimo runs for two days and the line-up is the same both days but it is well worth doing both – with the second at a discounted rate – because of the amount there is to fit in. Sadly, the one area that Geronimo doesn’t replicate festivalling is in camping.
Those wanting to camp nearby and attend both days can choose from a number of campsites but none in a location as beautiful as the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Delamere Forest site, where prices start from £7.90 per person per night. It is well worth camping an extra couple of days to take part in the huge array of activities on offer in the woodland.
Situated at the edge of the forest there is a secluded bit of woodland between the campsite and Go Ape (where the tree-top junior experience was available for my small four year old), where you can completely escape the crowds of festival. But just a five minute walk further into the woods brings you to the Forestry Commission’s centre, where a fabulous outdoor picnic area is fringed with a BBQ, a café, a bike hire shop and Forest Explorers – a forest school that runs fun environmental education sessions, events and birthday parties.
We took part in Forest Tots, where visitors can get a taste of the parent and toddler group, which runs during term-time. In the two-hour morning session group leaders packed in yet more den building, a mini beast hunt, and a free-play period where kids did a mini assault course, played on swings, in more hammocks and in the mud kitchen, which was brilliantly simple and a highlight for my two year old, who stayed amazingly clean. The session was rounded up with building a fire and toasting marshmallows – well worth the £8.75 charge per child.
With an afternoon to kill we decided to hunt for the Gruffalo. The simple orienteering trail is one of two in the forest inspired by Julia Donaldson picture books. This creative idea is a brilliant way to get kids excited about walking – my four year old did a great job of reading the simple map, available with an activity pack for £1.50 from the café – and gathering clues leading them to the terrible creature. The wood-carved Gruffalo sculpture at the end is well worth the effort to get to. The paths through the forest are relatively even so buggys are just about doable too. More buggy friendly, and less challenging at 1.54km, is the Stick Man activity trail. The activity pack is £3 but worth the extra money for the colouring sheets and other bits and pieces included. Pipe cleaners allow children to fashion their own stick men or women at the end of the trail before finding the giant Stick Man sculpture.
After a day getting good and muddy you’ll be grateful for the excellent facilities at the Camping and Caravanning Club. Hot showers and electric hook-up are welcome additions and for a £5 deposit you can even have your own private family bathroom, which is complete with baby bath and other conveniences. An on-site shop is useful for essentials (like ice cream) and friendly and helpful staff will charge your phone (if you opt for the cheaper pitch without electric) and let you park your car if you are having a day in the woods after checking out at noon. It’s definitely not roughing it and there are a few rules you’ll need to adhere to – like no frisbee, which caused much disappointment. The site could benefit from a play park to entertain the kids while the grown-ups cook tea or sip wine from plastic mugs, but with massive pitches and the surrounding woodland there’s plenty of ways to make your own entertainment.