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Woofstock UK is a family-friendly event like no other – a festival for all things dog. The first ever festival, back in 2014, was hailed as a great success for all concerned and now they have had their fifth event in the summer of 2018. Spaniel Harry, the face of Woofstock UK, has over 16,000 followers on social media.
Dogfriendly Magazine Review
Read our comprehensive review of this listing printed in our bi-monthly magazine.
Name: Woofstock 2023
Reviewer: Deb Bridges
June this year saw most of the country basking in glorious sunshine under clear, blue skies. Certainly the South West saw its fair share of good weather and it was in these uncharacteristically favourable conditions that my dog, Ula, and I found ourselves enjoying a day at the best of the summer festivals. Forget Glastonbury – I’m talking about Woofstock, an award-winning, three-day festival which successfully combines the ultimate doggy outing and dog show with a line-up of live music.
Woofstock was started by Heather Nesbitt-Bayley, after an unexpected spell in hospital. Back home and happily reunited with her dogs, she started thinking about the connection we have with our dogs and came up with the idea of a festival to celebrate this connection. Following a tentative comment on social media, she was amazed by the number of donations and offers of help that poured in. So with no previous experience but with a small army of volunteers behind her, Heather was able to negotiate her way through the intricacies of sound systems and portaloos and, two years later in the summer of 2014, Woofstock was born.
Since then, the festival has grown in size and popularity but it remains, at its heart, a celebration of everything we love about our dogs. It’s also a fund-raiser for animal-related charities. Heather and her wife, Carol, remain at the helm, with their dedicated team of volunteers coming back year after year to help pull everything together. Over the years, the venues have grown in size, too, and in 2023 the move was made to Powderham Castle, conveniently located some six miles south of Exeter. It is a beautiful setting on the Exe estuary, which is easily accessible by car, as well as having a bus stop right outside the entrance at the top of the main drive. Parking up in a field adjacent to the festival entrance, the first thing I noticed was a large area off to one side, where the many campers who’d turned up for the whole weekend were all set up in an eclectic mix of camper vans and tents. There was also VIP glamping available, for those who like the idea of camping but favour a bit of luxury.
Day visitors are welcome, as are people who want to come along just for the music in the evenings – with or without dogs – and on the Saturday morning I joined a cheerful group of people and dogs in the queue which had already formed in anticipation of the 10am start.
Once inside, I was torn between the long row of tempting trade stalls and the roped-off rings and areas where interesting things appeared to be going on. But the overall impression was one of space. Everything had clearly been set out to make maximum use of the massive field so that, even with a substantial crowd milling about, there was no feeling of being congested and it was easy to move around.
As the day was shaping up to be another hot and sticky one, I decided to check out the activities first. There was a have-a-go session underway in the agility ring, where Woofstock Days out a number of canine comedians were entertaining spectators with some of their best crowd-pleasing moves, including the sneaky U-turn in the tunnel (my personal favourite), which sees them coming out the same end they went in and never fails to raise a laugh.
No need to line up for that one as Ula and I have been there, done it and got that particular torn T-shirt and she’s shown a similar lack of enthusiasm for flyball, which was the next have-a-go activity on offer. Both were also putting on demonstrations at scheduled times during the day, so anyone wishing to see how it should be done could swing by and catch their virtuoso performances.
In the third ring, there was an opportunity to try canicross which was a new one on us so, in line with the idea that we should try everything once, we were swiftly kitted out in our respective harnesses which were connected by a 1.7-metre bungee line. Ula seemed perfectly comfortable in the bow to stern arrangement of webbing straps which Sophie, a Canicross UK team member, explained is purpose-designed to allow complete freedom of movement. Mine was a wide belt with leg straps and a carabiner in front to which the line was securely fastened. And while we were both happy wearing the gear, I’m sorry to say that’s about as far as it went.
Ula isn’t one for expending energy unnecessarily, unless someone is running in front of us waving a bag of treats. Needless to say, we won’t be taking up canicross. Looking for something a little more in Ula’s line (minimum effort for maximum reward), I spotted a charity stand where dogs were being invited to bob for frankfurters.
Also on Ula’s no-can-do list is the matter of putting her face in water but she quickly developed a strategy which involved a woebegone expression and a lot of hopeful staring. It worked a treat and, in no time flat, she had the kind lady on the stand gamely scooping the bits out of the water for her. We definitely got our 50ps-worth there.
We watched a police dog demo, looked in at the Speakers’ Tent where a series of talks were being given and saw a number of dogs and their people creating works of art together on the Pawcasso stand.
With the temperature rapidly rising, we then headed for a huge gazebo where a cooling system was in place, taking in the beach area en route, where paddling pools, sandpits and deckchairs were proving popular. After lazing around on the straw bales for a while, we felt ready for the highlight of our day – a ride in a horse-drawn carriage up to the castle and back, courtesy of Devon Shire Carriages. We made our way to the main entrance where two beautiful Shire horses, Rockie and Ben, were waiting patiently on the shady track for their next passengers, graciously accepting all pats and treating any dogs who felt compelled to bark at them with disdain. It was a cosy affair, squeezed in alongside a family of four and their Border Collie – which made four doggy passengers in total, as there were also two Jack Russell Terriers up front. It was an unforgettable experience.
With the music kicking off at 4pm, it was soon time to nab a place on the straw bales dotted around in front of the stage. Groups were settling down to picnics or taking advantage of the various food stalls and bars. A jazz/swing group got everyone in the mood and were followed by a range of tribute artists, including Dolly Parton who delighted everyone by leaving the stage, kicking off her shoes and wandering around as she sang, with a good deal of enthusiastic audience participation (human and canine). By the time Dolly had Stood By Her Man and Worked Nine To Five, Ula was beginning to flag (okay, so was I) and we decided to call it a day, leaving the more stalwart festival-goers to boogy on into the night with a line-up that would take them to 11pm and end with Ultimate Coldplay, which one of us at least was sorry to miss.
Apart from spending time doing fun things with your dog, the best thing about Woofstock is being among like-minded souls. The feel-good factor that comes from being surrounded by dogs and their dog-loving people, in an atmosphere which is totally chilled, is difficult to quantify and I’d urge anyone who hasn’t experienced it to keep an eye on the website for details of future dates and venues.
People come from every corner of the UK and beyond – I even met a lady who’d travelled from the United States to attend. Back in the day, when Woofstock was no more than a modest, one-day event, Heather and Carol described it as feeling more like a family get together. And the magical thing is, despite smoothing out the rough edges and expanding way beyond their wildest dreams, it still does.
Woofstock 2023, review by Deb Bridges and appears in DogFriendly magazine issue 79. For more information on the DogFriendly magazine visit https://www.dogfriendly.co.uk/magazine
Andi Wheeler, August 2020
Woofstockuk is THE BEST doggy festival, run for dogs by dogs and supporting fantastic animal charities
Billy, September 2019
We went to the very first Woofstock UK in 2014 and loved it. Since then we have seen the festival just get bigger and better!
It still however focuses firmly on dogs and friendship, and it is wonderful to meet up with friends from Social Media each year.
This year's was the best yet. The acts were brilliant especially La Voix, and the Glamping area was lovely. All the facilities and areas were well thought out and catered for all needs, eg. Dog Chill areas, Have A Go activities, etc.
We are looking forward to 2020 already. We travel from Staffordshire to attend each time and make a holiday of it too, to enjoy beautiful Devon.
Massive congratulations to Harry Nesbitt for giving us such a fantastic time!!
Lisa, September 2019
I traveled to WoofstockUK from the United States to meet my doggie pals and their humans. I highly recommend anyone who loves our planet and or dogs to visit and support this wonderful and inspiring event. You will not be disappointed and there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
Listing Updated: 21/09/2023
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