IT was all there; T-shirts sporting line-ups of festivals past; the scrape of wellies rubbing together as people walk by; the smells of various foods being cooked at stalls lining walkways and yes, the rain...

But this is not a festival. This is a campsite.

However, it is a campsite with a difference, for it is at the home of the world's greatest festival - Glastonbury.

Worthy Pastures was set up to allow families to visit during the six weeks of the school summer holidays, giving the farm a much-needed boost in income, and visitors the chance to get their spiritual fill at the iconic site.

I went to Worthy Pastures with my wife and two children, Glastonbury devotees all, to see if our dwindling levels of festival spirit could be topped up with three nights on those hallowed grounds.

Now, we are lucky. We live just down the road from Pilton, so seeing the site out-of-season is not a new experience for us.

However, the Worthy Pastures experience certainly was.

It was different to the usual Glastonbury experience, and in many ways, better.

For a start, from a purely practical level for a person who has not long entered his 40s (ahem), I was delighted we could drive close to our pitch and unload our gear (and that can be a lot, with two young children in tow).

My back thanked the campsite planners profusely all weekend.

And having a pre-erected tent - in our case a bell tent (which the festival usually uses for the Worthy View site in festival times) - was also a massive relief.

There was space, the grass was still green, and we were excited to explore many of the landmarks we has already spotted on the drive to our tent.

It was when walking the site that the differences, and similarities, to the festival became evident.

While much is the same - the smells, many of the sounds - there is always something naggingly absent, whether it's the constant thump of a baseline from a sound system in the distance, or the cheers of an unseen crowd enjoying a performance they will remember forever.

But that in itself is quite refreshing. You could hear the birds, savour the peace of this slice of Avalon in a way not possible with 250,000-odd people sharing the space.

That's not to say there wasn't anything going on, however, as we soon discovered.

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The legendary Kidzfield was open, with the children enjoying hours on the pink castle and in the sand pit they have enjoyed so often at festivals past.

William's Green, nearby, was the focal point of Worthy Pastures, and welcomed some festival stall stalwarts (stall-warts, if you like), including Tea & Toast and The Frying Machine.

Colourful bins were everywhere, with the iconic Yeo Valley covers informing you what should be discarded where... It's the small things that can take your mind elsewhere, I find.

We took to our bikes and spent what felt like hours pointing out landmarks both well-known ('Here's where the Avalon Stage should be') and personal ('Our tent was about here, I reckon'), all while savouring the beauty of the Somerset countryside as we pedalled on traffic-free, dusty roads.

Somerset County Gazette: HAPPY CAMPERS: At Worthy Pastures. PICTURES: Paul Jones

The children got to paint bins during intervals in Kidzfield play, and test out their sporting skills in the excellent Greenpeace field, which returned for the six weeks.

The stone circle was more accessible, a place of true solitude at points, absent the constant murmur of thousands of festival goers making their pilgrimage within a pilgrimage to that special spot.

It was different. Not better, nor worse, but different.

Somerset County Gazette: REVIEW: Our stay at Worthy Pastures, the campsite at the home of the Glastonbury Festival. PICTURES: Paul Jones

In the evenings, we enjoyed a pint or two at the bar - which in festival time is the kitchen point for hungry crew members - and whiled away the twilight hours just sitting; existing, nursing tired legs, full of experience and contentment, but drained of energy.

As the sun went down, so often a spectacular sight in this spot, you cast your mind back to so many memorable moments in those fields watching iconic performers...

Worthy Pastures did not try to be the Glastonbury Festival. But in some ways it was for lots of us.

Because on some levels, regardless of performers and attractions, part of the Glastonbury experience is just being there, of being forced to take time out, to interact with people in a setting so alien to many of us, to make friends for a few minutes, an hour, the day, a lifetime...

On that level, it was the festival. And it was amazing.


Somerset County Gazette: REVIEW: Our stay at Worthy Pastures, the campsite at the home of the Glastonbury Festival. PICTURES: Paul Jones

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