So it was our first visit to 2000 Trees festival this year, and one we’d throughly recommend. That said, being a small festival that’s grown very quickly, it does have its quirks – mostly good, but some which could be improved. Here’s some top tips for first-timers at Upcote Farm…
Let’s start with the most obvious. The official 2000 Trees site isn’t great, and often contains out-of-date information, hence why this article exists. Indeed the info pages for this year’s festival still contain all the details for 2018. This isn’t really a huge problem, but if you’re looking to find the answer to something specific it can be quite confusing, especially when they rarely answer questions on social media either.
On arriving, one of the first things you will notice is the complete lack of signage both on the roads around the festival site and inside. It’s fair to say you couldn’t find it without a Sat Nav, and even the official Big Green Coach from London had to stop for the driver to ask if anyone on board knew where the entrance road was.
The same goes inside the festival – although a small site, there’s some fairly obvious signage missing (especially when other festivals do it so well it’s part of the aesthetic). You can easily wander into the completely unidentified VIP Bar – not that anyone seemed to mind – and there was even a block of toilets hidden in the main arena that many people didn’t know existed this year.
So where to camp? If you’ve been to any of the larger festivals, the answer is, it really doesn’t matter – the site is tiny. Effectively there’s only one big field that sits on the sloping hill above the stages that forms the campsite, with a couple of main pathways that cross through it. This does, however, also contain several areas that have formed over the years, including Camp Turner, Camp Frabbit, Camp Marwood and Camp Reuben, all named after acts that have (or in the latter’s case should have) played the festival. These, complete with their own late night stages, really are one of beautifully unique things about 2000 Trees, and are well worth checking out.
For regular campers, the field is plenty big enough for everyone – but if you feel like you need extra luxury there are pre-erected options available, or the separate VIP field with it’s own private parking nearby. In truth, the main campsite is so close to everything, and the site so small that it’s barely worth the extra money for that alone.
Toilets / Water / Showers
Apart from the aforementioned issue of the undiscovered Main Stage loos, generally the toilets are award-winning quality, and while better than many festivals, could still be slightly more abundant. Men have the luxury of separate urinals, but there is no ‘ShePee’ or similar option for women. Unlike most festivals, they are cleaned regularly and often had loo roll and hand santitiser, although obviously take your own as well.
There are a couple of water stations across the site, but just as free-standing taps, no sinks or soap. They are perfectly adequate and safe to fill your empty water bottles from though, or, if you prefer, Frank Water has a presence on site. It’s also worth noting that there are no showers, even in the VIP camping.
Phone Signal / Wi-Fi
Phone signal is weak across the site, and given the hilly nature of the landscape can’t be relied on, especially with such a large amount of people in a condensed area. There is free onsite Wi-Fi, which when working is good, but is patchy at best and only available by the main stages. That said, festivals have been thriving for decades before mobile technology, and there’s something nice to be said about cutting yourself off from it all.
…or rather, the lack of. Yep, you read that correctly – for the last couple of years 2000 Trees has moved completely cashless – there are no cash payments available anywhere on site – replaced by a PlayPass wristband. There’s no way around this, indeed the only cash payment available on site is to top up your wristband. Luckily this is one of the things quite well detailed online. The system works well, and apart from some people not receiving their free money last year, and the annoying £1 to withdraw any remaining funds, has few flaws. The only stumbling block will be if you need to go online (with the previously mentioned poor phone signal and intermittent Wi-Fi) to top up your balance.
A failing of many a festival, fancy dress at 2000 Trees is very much an afterthought. As above, trying to find information on how it works is virtually impossible, including what day it’s aimed at (Saturday as it turns out, with an official competition – often with a prize of free or even lifetime tickets). Similarly, much like its peers, the themes aren’t always thought through well – Bestival just did a variation of ‘fantasy’ most years – with the description of “2000 Freeze” on their social media culminating in a lot of confusion. The result? There was probably less than 20 people dressed up, albeit with an excellent winner.
Bars / Alcohol
There’s clearly issues with the bars at 2000 Trees, almost certainly caused by the demographic of attendees, resulting in very low alcohol sales for a festival. The organisers tried to pre-empt that this year by limiting how much you can bring on site, but quickly backed down. The good news is it’s an open site (i.e. no barriers between campsite and arena), and you can take your booze anywhere, which is much appreciated. The bars themselves are mixed: The two official ones are pot luck as to what will be on offer at any one time – there wasn’t any real ale on sale for large parts of the weekend, for example. There’s a more expensive Purity Brewing bar, plus a Weston’s cider bar. The real treat though, is the excellent cocktail bar in the Forest. One positive though, at least for punters, is all of the above means you’ll almost never have to queue.
While the drinks situation is questionable, the food at 2000 Trees festival is excellent. There’s cuisine from all over the world at dozens of boutique catering outlets, all fairly reasonably priced at around £6–10 for a meal. There’s not a single greasy burger van – instead there’s everything from healthy Greek gyros to Pieminster’s excellent offerings, including many decent vegetarian, vegan, and even gluten-free options. For any small extras including tea, coffee, cold drinks and fresh fruit, as well as any campsite supplies, there’s also a couple of very useful, reasonably priced general stalls.
2000 Trees proudly boasts that you can run between all the stages in under two minutes, and while the compact size is what makes the site so great, it’s also partly a hinderance. Due to the heavy nature of many of the bands, there’s often a lot of leaking of noise between stages, particularly the Axiom and Cave. Additionally, the Word tent, and occasionally the Neu Stage when timings went awry, were virtually rendered pointless when overlapping with anyone playing on the Main Stage. The addition of a Fun Fair this year, which seemed virtually unused and – with it’s blaring chart music – only served to make hearing the excellent acoustic sets on the late-night campsite stages difficult, particularly at Camp Reuben.
It’s also worth knowing that it’s really worth doing your research about the bands before coming – 2000 Trees isn’t particularly geared up for the casual visitor to wander around, as the stages and types of music can be quite randomly mixed, often dominated by hardcore rock bands. That said, the Xtra Mile takeover of the Axiom Stage worked well, and the Forest is a guaranteed excellent space for chilling out and witnessing some special acoustic moments.
Often a difficult one for smaller festivals – things are changing at 2000 Trees. What used to pride itself on being of the cheaper weekends has risen from £115 (2018) to £156 (2020) in only three years, and 33% alone this year. For comparison, that’s now the same price as Beautiful Days, but its West Country peer has almost double the capacity. Obviously the disappointing bar sales have been a contributing factor, but again there seems to be a lack of transparency from the organisers as to why the huge price increase.
If you’re thinking about heading to Upcote Farm for 2000 Trees Festival 2020, check out our review of the 2000 Trees Festival 2019. Tickets are available directly from their website now, with various instalment plans and discounts.