A first time trip to Kent’s big-name festival leaves our correspondent happy

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Having never been to the festival before I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend of music in the fresh air, apprehensive about how much I’d see over the heads of a crowd and dreading the nightmare of dirty Portaloos. As it turned out my fears were probably a little unfounded.

Spreading out our blanket to the right of the main stage, my friends and I had all the space we needed to laze in the sun, dawdling over our picnic and enjoying the musical offerings of the likes of Treetop Flyers and Bellowhead. The Hop Farm Festival is a glorious open space, with children roaming freely – but not enough to detract from my peaceful day. Armed with water and sunscreen, and with more trips to the ice cream van than was decent, we sat back and enjoyed the music.

It was actually quite a relief to discover how close we could get to the stage while still enjoying the view. Sure when the crowds flocked to see Sir Bruce Forsyth our view was obscured, but those of us who wanted to see had no trouble weaving through the crowds to the front of the stage. Personally I opted to laze on the blanket and soak up the atmosphere instead.

Musical highlights were British Sea Power, Gary Numan and Benjamin Francis Leftwich.

All that water eventually took its toll though and I found myself venturing over to join the queue of women waiting for the Portaloos. Okay, so the waft from the urinals area could pack a punch so hard it propelled you across the field and crashing into one of the numerous stalls selling the festival essentials – Native American headdresses, Crazy Frog hats and bright coloured elaborate fright wigs which would have put George Clinton in his hey-day to shame, but in the end that was all I really had to complain about.

There was generally loo roll and civilised festival goers, combined with a dedicated cleaning force, meant the toilet experience wasn’t nearly so bad as I’d feared. Although the lack of good lighting in the evening made things interesting after a few beers.

Prices for food and drink ranged from surprisingly cheap to eye-watering, but that’s what you get when you spend £3 on a plastic cup on top of whatever it is you’re drinking. However there was a good selection, and discovering hot chocolate for £2 was a Godsend when things got colder. There was also a good variety of food: for the meat eaters there was everything from ostrich burgers to whole pigs slowing roasting on a spit which only the sort of person who would require cranes and heavy lifting gear to be lifted from their bed could ever hope to make serious in-roads into. While if meat was not your bag there was a stall selling continental favourite mussels and chips – albeit they seemed to be perennially out of stock of either mussels or indeed chips, and had the bizarre sales technique of allowing those queuing for their meal to take part in thumb wars (I lost).

So having enjoyed some great music, survived the dreaded loos and caught far too much sun I packed up my kit and headed for home. Which is about when things started to go wrong.

Almost an hour after getting into the car, traffic finally moved enough for me to start the engine and ease out of my parking space into the jam crawling through the site. I’m told my one hour, 30 minute ordeal in the car park was an improvement on last year’s event, but if I’ve learned one thing from my festival experience it’s that next year I’ll get the bus.

National Express is running dedicated coach services to all major festivals and music events this summer – including Latitude, Reading and The Green Man.

Coaches are running from all major towns and cities and deliver music lovers direct to the campsite – avoiding lengthy car park queues and nightmare journeys attempting to understand the sat nav. For more information visit www.nationalexpress.com or contact 08717 818181.

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