• Hannah Cartwright

South West Outdoors Festival - East Soar

Back in October 2019, I attended the South West Outdoors Festival in Devon as part of the National Trust Publishing Project. We were there to oversee the book launch of Subsong by Holly Cornfield Carr (a collection of poetry written in response to the site of the festival.) However, the launch was only a small aspect of the festival and there was so much going on around us over the weekend. I wrote this to be featured on the FalWriting website.

It’s 9pm on a Saturday night. I’m sat in a circle with a group of friends having a drink and a laugh. In the centre of our circle is a Trangia, currently heating up our second round of tomato soup. Our bin bag seats are blowing and rustling in the relentless wind. I’m wearing three pairs of trousers and about five layers on my top half but I’m still freezing cold. We’re using a combination of phones and torches to enable us to see each other, batting off the intrigued daddy long-legs when they fly too close. Behind us is our accommodation for the night; a bell tent containing three mattresses topped with a sleeping bag each. We’ve just attended the book launch of Subsong by Holly Corfield Carr.

Our trip began twelve hours earlier, when my group and I boarded our train from Truro to Totnes. From here we were driven deep into the countryside, where the weather proceeded to get colder and windier. We eventually parked up in a field where all I could see in every direction was the sea, and all I could feel was cold. We carried our stuff over to the ‘glamping’ area of the site and found our tent, which, much like myself, was shivering as the icy wind battered against it. It contained three mattresses and that was it. My expectations for glamping may have been a little high. But anything was better than putting a tent up myself and sleeping on the cold hard ground. So, I was pretty thrilled with it. The mattresses were also incredibly comfortable, which was a thought that crossed my mind as I lay freezing on it at 3am. Because yes, I was still cold.

Leaving the ‘glamping’ area to explore the rest of the site, I could see that other festival-goers were a lot less phased by the bitter chill in the air. In every direction, children and adults were getting involved in the various activities that were on offer over the weekend. In one direction stood a large teepee, towering over the surrounding tents. Throughout the weekend, people came and went to listen and tell their own stories. Not far enough from this was the axe throwing area, which always had a group of keen participants waiting for their turn. A little further along again was the archery corner. In between all of these things, children cycled around on bikes.

As we got closer to the centre of the festival, the activities became more mellow. For example, the goat yoga that took place in a little field off from the courtyard. Those with an interest in yoga, met in the morning for a session with a twist, as they were joined by a herd of goats. Opposite this was a firepit which was always surrounded by huddles of festival goers, desperate for a little warmth. In between these two peaceful activities, people would run and cycle past heading for the coastal footpath for more running, cycling, swimming, and kayaking. Back in the courtyard, there were a few food and drinks vans. There were also two barns; one which had musicians playing for the whole weekend, and another which had numerous talks on from a wide variety of people. From kayaking around the whole of Ireland, to camping in the wild, to writing a book of poetry on the hills of East Soar. This book of poetry is the talk that led to us sitting around a Trangia, drinking soup and shivering at 9pm on a Saturday night. We were all here to see Holly launch her book of poetry, Subsong, in this little barn in the middle of the bustling South West Outdoors Festival.

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