The most intimate festival in Wales

Along with marshmallows, monsters and pizza are also high on the list of the perfect family agenda, according to Pip and Peg, who happen to be sitting in the front seat of a John Deere utility vehicle. They would much rather be singing a song about driving to Cardigan really loudly than talking to some boring grown-up.

By the way, those of a nervous parental disposition will be relieved to know that the vehicle’s handbrake is firmly applied and the keys are not in the ignition.

Phew…

We find ourselves at the most intimate festival in Wales. Caught By The River Teifi is a week-long celebration of all things outdoors. With a capacity of 300 people, the event is hosted at Fforest Camp, a 200-acre site above the Teifi

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

Marshes Nature Reserve, with Cardigan just a few miles down the road. Why just 300? Because great things grow organically. Green Man Festival is one of the best-loved music and arts festivals in Europe. Around 250 people came to the first event in 2003 at the Craig-y- Nos country house, once home to opera singer Dame Adelina Patti. Wakestock’s festival of the sea, a unique watersports and music event on the Llŷn Peninsula, came to life as a party in a car park in 2000.

As far as James Lynch is concerned: “The inspiration for Fforest as a place and the festival as an event are inextricably linked. We get our satisfaction from creating experiences for people in intimate detail.”

James is fondly known as the Fforest Chief. His story would fill several pages of this magazine, but as we’re chiefly concerned with getting you to visit Wales, we’ll focus on the bit when he fell in love with Sian, a native of the Ceredigion coast. “I lived and worked in London,” he recalls, “and we used to come here all the time, because Sian’s parents lived in Aberporth. We nearly went to live in New Zealand but then I realised that Wales had everything we wanted in life. Rather than Wales being the other place, Wales became the place.

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

It’s difficult not to get carried away when it comes to describing Fforest. It has amazing places to stay, including domes, camp shacks, cabins and crog lofts. Food is sourced locally and prepared simply and with love. It’s an abundant natural playground for everyone to explore. It has a wonderful pub, dark and smoky, stocked with fantastic ales and amazing wine. So much thought and so much care has gone into every detail.

Caught By The River Teifi, meanwhile, is a broad collection of people brought together by a love of the outdoors. The festival is a hive of activity during the

daytime. There’s handmade printmaking with Nick Hand, monster mask making with illustrator, artist and DJ Pete Fowler and bird-watching with artist Matt Sewell. There are classes in photography, fly-tying, trapeze and rope climbing. You can carve spoons, learn how to dye clothes and new ways of cooking (invariably involving smoke). There are falconry displays, kayaking and wild swimming.

It sounds frantic, but the general mood is blissful and languid. Everybody gathers together to eat lunch and dinner canteen-style. In the evening, families gravitate towards big cauldrons of fire to chat, listen to talks, toast marshmallows. There are DJs and sporadic bouts of dad-dancing. It’s ace.

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

Caught by the River Teifi, Fforest Farm, Cilgerran

Later in the week, the festival decamps to the Pizzatipi at Cardigan Quayside for the River’s Edge Weekend Festival.

A host of bands play over two days – an intriguing proposition of underground sounds from Gwenno, H Hawkline, Stealing Sheep and Meilyr Jones. Again, it’s ace. Every chapter of the week appears an effortlessly enjoyable experience.

The Caught By The River Teifi folk bring good times wherever they go. James is all bearded bonhomie, although you get the distinct impression that his mind whirrs restlessly like the mechanism of a fine Swiss watch. One of the things he’s fascinated by is revisiting what the word exotic means. Traditionally, exotic indicates a faraway place, but when visitors to Fforest look into what he calls “the beast of darkness we have here” to see meteorite showers for the first time, that’s as exotic as any experience you could have anywhere in the world.

“Children are really important to us,” he emphasises. “They’re the key to it all. If they engage with the activities we put on, if we can show them new, exciting things to do, then everyone is pretty much guaranteed to have a great time.”