Launched last year on the wilds of Exmoor, the South West Outdoor Festival is coming to Cheddar next weekend (8–10 September), when the famous gorge and surrounding Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will host a carnival of adventure pursuits and alfresco entertainment.
The pop-up festival site will transform a meadow directly above Blackrock into a unique campsite with stunning views through Cheddar Gorge – Britain’s very own grand canyon – where hikers and bikers enjoy extraordinary trails, cavers explore a subterranean wonderworld and climbers clamber up the country’s highest inland cliffs.
The site features an event village where fine food and drink will be on sale across the weekend, including local ales and ciders, Somerset-grown fare from local producers such as Fernhill Farm, vegan and vegetarian meals, and delicious dairy products from Yeo Valley, who will be on site with their famous disco ice-cream van manned by the one and only DJ Omelette.
Activities on offer include mountain-bike challenges, trail-running races (including a night run and an event for fleet-footed dog owners), free guided walks, and family friendly small-group guided experiences ranging from caving and climbing to kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding - people can even go skiing and snow boarding at the nearby Churchill snowports centre.
Festival goers can take part in myriad activities on site too, many of them free – from yoga, star-gazing, wild food foraging, bushcraft and wood carving sessions, through to axe throwing, archery and frisbee golf – and a huge program of free entertainment has been planned across the weekend. On the main stage there will be live music from acts including Rodney Branigan and Bristol-based seven-piece funk/ska/reggae band Crinkle Cuts.
In the speakers’ tents, audiences will enjoy tales of exploration and derring-do from the likes of Sean Conway (the first and only person to ever run, ride and swim the length of mainland Britain), local-lad-turned-climbing-legend Matt Helliker, author and extreme sleeper Phoebe Smith, and international adventurers like Anna McNuff and Jamie McDonald. Adventure-film screenings will also take place, along with Q&A sessions with filmmakers like David Bond (creator of Project Wild Thing) and open discussions about subjects including adventuring with children.
Around the fireside story circle, children and adults alike will be entertained by storytellers and authors, and on Saturday 9 September, Booker Prize long-listed writer Wyl Menmuir will launch his new book: In Dark Places, a fictional tale set in the labyrinth-like caves that catacomb Cheddar’s underworld; caves that you can then explore with professional guides…if you dare.