After taking a year off, Winterville returns to London triumphant in 2017, but this time south of the river! A winter festival on Clapham Common until the 1st January, with an ice rink, roller disco, big wheel, crazy golf, fairground, and excellent food and bars. I went down on opening night to see the new improved Winterville for myself.
I arrived at 6pm with my friend Chan and we took a walk around to get our bearings. The first thing we both commented on was how it’s the perfect size. Big enough and with enough to do to keep you busy for a whole day/evening, but not so large you get lost, confused or miss out on anything. It’s also visually stunning, you can tell a lot of thought has gone into each area and the presentation.
Here’s the site map of Winterville, so you can get an idea of size and plan out your visit before you get there:
We decided to tackle the fairground as soon as we arrived instead of eating first then feeling sickly! Of course I suggested we start with the Crazy Mouse. I’m a bit of a rollercoaster lover, and these spinning ones are always lots of fun! Chan was pretty excited about it too…
We then went for something slightly more tame called Snowbob which was a circular waltzer, and after that Chan had the idea to go on an upside down spinny one. It went on for a really long time and when we came off we couldn’t walk in a straight line! Great fun, but we were both glad we didn’t eat before we did the rides!
I tried my hand at winning a cuddly toy at the Snowball hoop shoot game but failed miserably, evidently my netball skills have left me since school! We ended our fairground bonanza with a chilled trip on the Big Wheel, placed right in the middle of site giving great views in all directions. They even let us take a mulled wine on which made me happy as by this time I was desperate for one! We even got to meet (plastic) Santa afterwards!
Food – Street Feast
I’ve been a lover of Street Feast’s various locations for the whole time I’ve been living in London. I used to live near Dinerama in Shoreditch, and Chan lives in Lewisham just down the road from Model Market, so we’re regular patrons. It was great to find out they’d be in charge of the food selection at Winterville. The main Street Feast area is inside a fortress made of shipping crates. It has no roof but the walls do keep out the wind and there are fire pits dotted around amongst the benches. For the full list of street food vendors at the festival, click here.
Chan is gluten-free so she steered me towards Petare – Venezuelan arepa bar as she’d had them before and loved ’em. I like it when someone is decisive for me sometimes and makes me try something I may not have chosen otherwise. I am fully an arepa convert – they’re cornbread stuffed with South American fillings and DE-licious. I had the beef brisket while Chan had the chicken with corn salsa, and we shared a side of Masa-fried boneless chicken.
All of it was incredible! Spicy, delicious and filling. There’s loads more stalls I want to try but when I go back I will need to leave room because I HAVE to get these again.
There’s also the Truck Stop area on the other side of the site, a mini set up with 5 food vans and more tables. I’m definitely going to have to come back to try Popdogs “Jamaican Me Horny” hotdog (chicken sausage, slaw, jerk marinade) and also Sophie Michell‘s awesome-sounding Christmas Burger – Buttermilk fried turkey, sausage stuffing, bread sauce mayo and cranberry relish. I need that in my mouth already.
Drinks – Bar Humbug
One of the best things about winter is: mulled wine season! And luckily for me it was prevalent at every bar in Winterville. Dotted around the site are little bar cabins serving boozy hot chocolates made with Baileys, cans of beer and cider, and delicious frozen toffee Grey Goose vodka. All reasonably priced at £5 for a mulled wine/boozy hot chocolate.
Bar Humbug is right in the middle of Winterville, and is a giant marquee filled with long tables and chairs, and the place has a whole alpine/Oktoberfest vibe. They have some great nights planned including musical quizzes, brass bands and awesome DJs. I’m definitely gonna bring a big group of my friends back here, maybe for Massaoke – a live band playing singalong tunes for the whole bar to join in with! Drinks-wise, there’s an extensive menu here including some yummy spiced cocktails.
I’m always excited to spot the Spiegeltent in various locations! I’ve seen many awesome bands in this venue when it was called Club Dada and located in Bestival on the Isle of Wight, and last Christmas it was in Leicester Square for their winter festivities. This year it’s found a home on Clapham Common, and will play host to some awesome nights over 6 weeks, including Lucha Britannia Mexican wrestling, Musical Bingo, Big Fish Little Fish and more… For full listings check here. Lots of events are free!
During our visit last week we got to see the Winterville Orchestra & Choir perform lots of Christmas tunes in the famous Spiegeltent and it was a delight! The circular venue itself has booths around the edge, a bar as you come in, and a circular dance floor in the middle (which was filled with tables for this particular event). The sound was spectacular and the performance was delightful, the whole audience was singing along and getting in the festive spirit. Definitely a highlight to catch if you can!
My favourite part of the evening was a round of 9 crazy golf holes at Plonk Golf. They have converted an old 1940s Dodgems carousel into awesome neon mini golf greens, each providing a different challenge and with tables to rest your drink. There are even multiples of holes 3 and 6 to ease waiting times. We had a fab time, despite Chan taking over 25 shots to get through the first hole (I let her off with a score of 10 because I’m nice) then she claims she went on to beat me. I’m still convinced she’s lying. We’re both slightly competitive 😉
You can pre-book at Plonk Golf here which I would recommend for a weekend or if you’re a large group, but they’re very good at squeezing you in, so even if you don’t manage to prebook try just turning up. It costs £6 per adult for a round, kids go free.
Ice Rink, Roller Disco & Backyard Cinema
There were a few things we didn’t manage to do on our first trip to Winterville, but having seen them, we’re both keen to return and bring friends! First up is the Backyard Cinema – Winter Night Garden which looks just fantastic. Sink into a beanbag sofa in an enchanted forest and watch a Christmas classic film. The cinema is fully heated, and has food & a licensed bar. There aren’t many films left that aren’t sold out but check listings here and book soon if you want to go!
Next up is the Ice Rink. I personally have always been RUBBISH at ice skating. I spend an hour clinging on to the outside wall, and just as I’m getting a little more confident and am skating about a metre away from the safety of the wall, everyone else is bored by then and it’s time to go. I have appalling balance due to having tiny feet for my height, which doesn’t help, and I’m terrified of having my fingers sliced off. However, I am still keen to return and give it a go! The only reason Chan and I didn’t when we went was I didn’t bring gloves, which meant it was a definite no from me. But next time I will bring gloves and I will get on that ice! The rink is beautiful, near the Big Wheel, and is covered in fairy lights. Tickets can be booked here, and cost £13.50 for adults.
For similar reasons, I am also really bad at roller skates, therefore again I passed on the Roller Disco. The roller rink is nice and large though and the skates light up which is awesome! It’s only £7 per person and they have some amazing artists playing there, including the 2 Bears which I’m super excited about! I might have to go along and just watch the skaters from the sidelines and dance. Totally worth it. Check out listings and book here.
Thank you Winterville for inviting me!
We’ll be back soon for sure! xx