The Green Gathering is a green living festival which takes place every summer in Chepstow, South Wales. It started life in the early 80s as a place for members of the Ecology Party (which later became the Green Party) to share ideas on how to change politics for the better. Its current incarnation held at Piercefield Park is easily the most chilled, uplifting and inspiring festival in the UK today. Since my visit last year they’ve added even more awards to their impressive resume including an international award for power – establishing the Green Gathering as a world leader in sustainability. This is my fourth Green Gathering – read on for the lowdown and if you want a glimpse at the festival experience, check out my Instagram Story highlights.
Disclosure: gifted product
Vegan food at Green Gathering 2019
Green Gathering never disappoints this hungry vegan. My first stop was the Ice Green ice cream van on the Village Green. They’ve been a highlight of the festival for us every year, and this year was no exception. They’ve expanded their range to include hemp and oat based ice creams as well as their usual cashew based flavours and sorbets. They’ve also ditched the disposables and offer coconut bowls for a returnable deposit. Very useful for us because Shane hates having ice cream in a cone!
The rest of the first day was spent eating various snacks we’d brought with us while we wandered around. I suspect there was a late night snack of some sort, but I’d been enjoying the organic, cane sugar free, locally produced cider a little too much to remember. Oops!
Mopping up said cider (which is called Artistraw if you’re interested, I hope it’s back next year) the next morning was the famous Buddhafield cafe breakfast. It’s quite pricey for the festival overall (£8 per person) but I don’t have a massive appetite, so my plate was shared with Caden, who loves mushrooms on toast.
Over in the Campaigns field, Veggies kept us going. We came here more than anywhere else, which is about right every year. As well as the usual veggie burgers (pictured above) and the legendary veggie samosas, Shane took a liking to their sesame seed bars. Much like the pancakes from last year, he became obsessed and went back time and time again until they sold out. The veggie samosas and onion bhajis were a quick and cheap hangover cure (£1 each and they’re massive – check the Instagram Stories). Next year, I might bring an airtight container so I can buy loads before they sell out!
So those were my favourite things to eat at Green Gathering, but what else did we eat? We ate Booja Booja ice cream, pizza, falafels, loaded fries, brownies, peanut butter fries, pasties and we loved our regular late night mini pancakes. We also watched a few vegan cookery demos and got tasters from those. We wanted to get the amazing thali from Lalita’s which we enjoyed last year – but the queues were just too long every time. Fellow vegans – you will never be hungry at Green Gathering!
Sustainability at Green Gathering 2019
Green Gathering’s record on waste is something to be proud of. An astonishing 71% of waste from 2018’s festival was recycled last year and if you’ve been before, it comes as no surprise – sustainability is at the heart of everything they do. All food and drink is either served on compostable serveware or on real plates which get washed and reused. This year saw an expansion of the Crock n Rock service (plate hire) which saw caterers across the site offering real plates to eat off in a bid to reduce disposable waste of all kinds. Near the Permaculture area there was a Plastic Free Period tent which had advice on reusable periodwear, CSPs and cups for sale (here’s the cup I use), and a washing station for any festie-goers already using their products.
As well as leading the way on waste, the whole festival is off-grid. Most of the power is solar, with some wind and pedal power too. There are no generators at all, which means cleaner air and (occasionally) peace and quiet!
Green Gathering’s sustainability policy is incredibly extensive and there’s no way I could do it justice in this little corner of the internet. Go and have a read – it sets the blueprint for how festivals should be done.
How child friendly is the Green Gathering?
We never seem to spend much time at the kids area. Although it looks amazing and there’s plenty to do, there are play areas dotted all around the site. As long as you keep your child in sight at all times, the kids will have somewhere to be entertained while you follow a talk or take part in a workshop.
The kids entertainment was outstanding as always – as well as the acts in the Raconteurs Delight in the early evening, there are walkabouts near the kids area and some of the music stages throughout the weekend. It was lovely being able to sit back and chill while the boys spent ages playing with bubbles – and when they weren’t playing with bubbles, they were happy to run around and play with each other.
The teen tent moved to a bigger space this year, with more activities and an outdoor space to relax in. As a consequence, I only saw Rhian when she needed money for food, or to introduce her new friends. We found out towards the end of the festival that her “festie bestie” actually lives close by – and just like that, they have become real besties!
There was no shortage of child friendly food – my kids especially loved the pizzas, both pancake stalls and the veggie samosas. This year most of the traders at Green Gathering had a “child friendly” meal for £5 or less.
Finally, a massive shout out to the herbalists and first aiders. We have never needed to use them before, but this year we needed them twice, on the same day, with the same child! First we visited after Caden fell into a massive patch of nettles, covering about half his arm in blisters, then a few hours later we visited again after being hit in the jaw with a rope swing he swung himself before very quickly getting distracted. Both times we were seen quickly and Caden was very well looked after. I hope we don’t need them again next year, but I know if we do we’ll be in great hands!
What we loved
There’s always so much to love! We loved the food (especially the ice cream), the kids stuff, the workshops and the green ethos. I didn’t spot a single piece of litter on site, thanks to the hardworking recycling crew. Artistraw cider is my new favourite Green Gathering drink, replacing my dark and stormy (for now). Ask My Bull and HENGE were amazing GG newbies that you should definitely check out if you get the chance, and usuals Sika and Hoopy Frood were awesome as always. The thing I loved most though, was hanging out with my friends. Some are friends in real life, but a lot of the people I spoke to at Green Gathering are people I’ve met from festies past. My festie family grows every year and it’s a special feeling.
What we didn’t
Going home. I really didn’t want to go home and return to real life. I would live at Green Gathering if I could – or at least stay longer.
Our best bits of Green Gathering 2019
Me: Sunshine, friends and plenty of good vibes
Rhian: Making friends at the Mayflower Project teen tent
Caden: Table football is the best (but also pancakes – they are yummy)
Shane: Pancakes! (It’s *always* pancakes!!!) Green Gathering has the yummiest pancakes in the pancake-verse.
This year was the most chilled out Green Gathering yet – I spent most of the festival talking and drinking with friends, and dancing. Lots of dancing! It made me realise I don’t really move enough during my normal working week, so since the festival I’ve been turning up the volume and dancing a whole lot more. The kids have learnt that the best way to not feel embarrassed when I dance is to dance even “worse” than I am. It’s paved the way for many dance offs. And you know what? It feels great!
Green Gathering 2020 takes place on 30th July – 2nd August in Piercefield Park, Chepstow. You can catch them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and don’t forget you can check out my Instagram Stories from the festival here.