I spent the whole of Monday feeling gloomy and down, which I now realise was Wilderness withdrawal symptoms. It was my first time at this imaginative festival which celebrates food, music, literature, fashion, crafts and nature. In existence for a few years now this boutique event is steadily growing to meet demand, but despite the 29,999 other guests I did not feel cramped or crushed by crowds, in fact queues barely exist here. The secret? Everything is worth experiencing so there’s never a squash to try the best food or listen to the best music, the festival-goers are evenly spread amongst the tents and stages.
Wilderness takes places in Cornbury Park, near to Oxford and just 90 minutes drive from London. There is also an affordable and speedy train which delivers you there in just over an hour. We arrived late afternoon on Friday to set up our tent, though some had come to nab the best spots on Thursday. Wellies on and glitter applied, we set off to discover the wilderness.
This festival truly embraces the quirks of the countryside; stages are cleverly placed at the foot of hills (to increase viewing possibilities) and the lake and valley are put to good use with swimmers splashing about throughout the weekend and parties being held amongst the unruly foliage.
I had jotted down a few acts I was keen to see and food outlets I wanted to try, but aside from that let myself be relaxed and ruled by chance. There are numerous free activities to take part in: I made a lovely hand stitched leather Mulberry bracelet, glazed a ceramic bowl, created a floral headdress with Accessorize and even carved my own wooden spoon in the Victorinox tent.
Food is extremely well represented at Wilderness Festival. Magnificent 10-course feasts are put on by the UK’s finest foodies: Angela Hartnett presented an Italian banquet whilst Moro held a dinner of sherry and Middle Eastern recipes. Other chefs, like the Saltyard Group’s Ben Tish, host cookery classes to teach particular techniques and styles of cooking. If you couldn’t afford these pricey options there were plenty of cheaper but equally flavoursome alternatives. We ate a scrumptious bacon butty at Hix and tried the revered donuts at St John. I excitedly tried to sample as many of the other vendors too; strong roasted coffee from Allpress was a blessing in the mornings, burgers from Bleecker Street were unmissable and pear and pink peppercorn ice-cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium provided the perfect dessert.
To drink, guests have a daunting choice. Laurent Perrier‘s whimsical Orangery had a selection of sparkling cocktails for a special treat whilst Zubrowka taught us about the history of the famous Polish spirit whilst mixing fruity cocktails for us to try.
Musical highlights included Gregory Porter‘s soulful set – his smooth voice paired beautifully with his virtuosic sax player’s runs. Joan as Policewoman gave a sterling performance with her devoted 3-piece band; I loved The Magic with a rising arpeggio sequence very similar to JT’s Cry me a River. She finished with a particularly heartfelt rendition of classic acapella with her team. It was very special to see artists new and old thrill the crowd; Saturday night saw Burt Bacharach majestically entertain us with a set list of renowned classics, of which Raindrops keep falling on my head was especially relevant. On Sunday night younger, more mainstream star Sam Smith sung with sparkling tone and unfaltering commitment even as the rain soaked the audience.
Wilderness is about so much more than the music, you turn every corner to find a new curious and creative surprise, whether it be trapeze artists tumbling through the air, Shakespeare enthusiasts reciting sonnets, a white-clad cricket match or simply a sunset yoga class to get involved in. You will leave Wilderness feeling inspired, more knowledgeable and enthused about life. The early bird ticket offer for 2015 is now available, join the sequined brigade and buy a ticket here.
More information and book ticket for Wilderness 2015 here.