Plaitford, New Forest - hot, dry, sunny - Just back from five days at a sweltering folk festival on the northern outskirts of the Forest on the borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire where the afternoon temperature hit 30C every day. Just right for sitting around, drinking, singing, dancing, scanning for soaring raptors and watching some brilliant live acts, along with our great friends from Greatstone, Stan, Kaz, Dan and Bonny, who help to set up the festival grounds; actually there was a little bit of work involved as well in the shape of research for a forthcoming article in Countryman magazine on the festival, plus a couple of guided walks.
The countryside around the camp site was full of woodland birds with Nuthatch, Treecreeper, two woodpeckers, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Siskin, Crossbill, Tawny Owl, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk all noted, plus Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail along the River Blackwater. On Plaitford Common the heathland habitat delivered the expected Dartford Warblers, Woodlark, Common Whitethroat and Stonechat, while a Golden-ringed Dragonfly was seen flying over boggy ground. Raptors were the highlights though with Common Buzzard and Red Kite regularly overhead, along with two good views of Honey Buzzards, one soaring over the site, the other early on Sunday morning coming down to hunt frogs and the like along the River Blackwater!
As for the music, old favourites Show of Hands headlined Saturday night and were as ever superb, as was the full-on, and new to me, Joe Broughton`s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (all 47 of `em!) on Friday night. I particularly liked the Ric Sanders Trio (Ric of Fairport fame), the Broadside Boys from Suffolk and festival stalwarts Richard Digance and Matt Black, while Pentangle and the Acoustic Strawbs also went down well among many others.
The New Forest Folk Festival is now in its sixth year and with only around 1,500 people in attendance is small enough to be compact and friendly. We shall certainly be going again next year.