In 2015 I went to Wilderness Festival with my friend Hannah, and it was everything and more than we thought it would be! The festival takes place in August at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire and has everything from music to yoga, stand-up comedy to mindfulness, crafts to hunting courses; it really is a festival for everyone!
This is truly what festival heaven looks like
Having never been to Wilderness, I was excited to go to a festival which was so different from any of the others I had been to before. It was quirky, colourful and let’s be honest, a tad posh. There were hot tubs, a spa, morning yoga sessions, comedy cricket matches and river boating; it was far from any other of my previous festival experiences.
After arriving mid-morning, parking the car and strolling through security, we went to find a spot to pitch our tent. Unlike other festivals, where there is normally a mad dash to get the best spot, at Wilderness… it was a much more civilised affair. We pitched the tent, unrolled the sleeping bags and proceeded to crack open the gin. Brilliant!
Admittedly we were extremely lucky with the weather, the wellies didn’t make a single appearance, unlike most other British festivals where they are an outfit staple. On the first day, we decided to go on a little explore to see what experiences and workshops we could book (as we hadn’t arranged any in advance) and see what the vintage stalls could tempt us with! We came across a little parade of beautiful boutiques which were covered in sequinned garments galore, dream catchers, fedora hats covered in feathers and clothes that I can safely say are only acceptable to be worn at a festival. We did, however, spot a vintage stall selling beautiful fur coats and we quickly snapped a couple up to wear in the evenings.
The Food at Wilderness Festival
WOW. Both Hannah and I consider ourselves ‘foodies’ however this was on a whole other level. We tried everything from Vegan Sushi from Happy Maki, to Lobster Mac & Cheese from Bob’s Lobster to pulled pork burgers from Le Bun… I mean we pretty much ate our way around the arena. There were Michelin-starred chefs aplenty there too; Petersham Nurseries, Raymond Blanc and Hix to name a few, all of which had beautiful marquees with banquet style tables, floral displays to die for, and a waiting list as long as the queue to get in.
The reason I loved Wilderness, and the reason I love festivals in general, is that you can go knowing who is headlining, make a great schedule of who to see and when, but then forget all that when you stumble across some amazing bands that were not even on your radar before you came! Festivals are a fab way of discovering new music, new bands and trying different genres of music.
The music at Wilderness was so different from what I had experienced at other festivals. It still had mainstream headliners like Ben Howard, Caravan Palace, and Bjork; however, it had more alternative bands as well. A band I particularly enjoyed were Josh Flowers and The Wild. They played in a small tent sponsored by Zubrovka Vodka, where all the audience either stood or sat on hay bales, which added to the quirkiness of the tent!
Take a listen to Josh Flowers and The Wild here…
Wilderness Festival isn’t just about the music….
There is so much more to Wilderness Festival than just the music. With such a beautiful lake in the middle of the festival grounds, it’s hard to resist a bit of wild swimming… The first chance Hannah and I got we dove straight into the lake, it was amazing. Slightly cold… but amazing. You can also if swimming doesn’t whet your appetite, (sorry for the pun) go to mindfulness sessions, morning yoga with Sweaty Betty, go on a run with fellow festival-goers in the mornings and even attend poetry readings and live theatre. Plus if you’re feeling crafty you can try your hand at wood whittling, stone carving, jewellery making and basket weaving in the Greencraft Village.
Wilderness also has some incredible workshops on offer. Hannah and I did one with The Hunter-Gatherer Cook which was incredible. We were taught how to hunt and forage for food in the surrounding woodlands. We had the opportunity to skin and fillet a deer, which they had shot earlier in the day, it really was an amazing experience. I have linked a picture to the hunting part here as the photos might not be to everyone’s taste… As well as learning how to hunt and gather, all the workshop attendees were asked to return back later that evening; they had made canapés and cocktails for everyone with the food that was hunted or gathered and it was.. DELICIOUS!
Like any festival, the drinks are important! There was a huge choice of up-market drinks vendors at Wilderness. They still had the stalls selling the standard beer, wine and cider but they also had sponsored tents, like the Zubrovka Vodka tent, which were actually incredible places to see alternative bands, socialise and party into the night when the music on the stages had finished.
Laurent-Perrier had a beautiful tent called the Orangery which had a 20’s, Great Gatsby feel to it. The tent was covered in palm trees, fairy lights, chic little booths and had a huge circular central bar. The staff were dressed to the nines with bow-ties and beautiful dresses, which made Hannah and I feel like we had accidentally stepped into some form of VIP area. During the day, they had a beautiful garden with Parisian style umbrellas and tables all laid out. Having a glass of champagne in the dappled shade, looking out on one side of the lake, and to the buzz of the festival on the other was fabulous.
On the second day, Hannah and I decided to do another workshop which was a mixology class where we learnt all about bloody marys and the art of making savoury cocktails. We sat at a bar covered in all sorts of juices and ingredients and proceeded to make our own version of bloody mary’s under the watchful eye of the barman. It was lovely; we sat, chatted, learnt about making cocktails and got a drink at the end of it… Safe to say it was £5 well spent.
Overall Wilderness just kept surprising us over the whole weekend and both of us were sad to say goodbye to it at the end. Hannah had never been to a festival before and she left this one with the desire to do another. It really was a fabulous festival and both of us would recommend it to anyone!