Where the wild things go

Ever since the sun-baked, hedonistic days of Woodstock, Britain has prided herself on a vibrant festival culture. While the world-famous Glastonbury still juggernauts along booking the big names, dozens of smaller niche festivals have cropped up all over our green and pleasant isle.

Cornwall’s Post Elliot, Wiltshire’s End Of The Road, the infamous Bestival on The Isle of Wight…the opportunities to pack up the car, hand the kids over to their grandparents and hit the open road in search of music, freedom and £9 cheese toasties seem endless. But they take planning. They take guts. And they take all your cash. There’s also the additional factor that we are none of us, ahem, twenty-one anymore and sleeping on the hard, unforgiving ground might not appeal quite as much as it once did.  

So where do you go if you’re over twenty-one, love music, art and spectacle but need just a tiny dash of luxury to go with your hedonism? We think we’ve got the answer: Wilderness.

Feel free to go big on the fancy dress.

A handy hour-and-a-bit’s drive from London in Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Park, Wilderness Fest is a celebration of all things decadent and whimsical. In their own words:

Nomads and gastronomes. Rockers and roamers. Drifters and dreamers. The reclusive, the wise, the weird and the wild. Welcome. Step in and linger. We invite you on an escapade like no other. You are embarking on an all-guns-blazing tour of the arts and heart-stopping delights that we have chosen to import to our paradise corner of the world. Explore far and wide. It’s all for you.

Well quite.

Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect if you do go down to the woods this year…

Swim naked

A Wilderness rite of passage, you simply have to do it at least once. There’s a beautiful lake in the middle of the festival with rustic hot pools dotted around the edge. The hot pools are part of the ‘Lakeside Spa’ which you can book ahead of time. They throw in a hot shower (a festival luxury if ever there was one) and a fabulous goodie bag packed with body beautiful treats.

Clothing optional.

Try the taxidermy

OK, hear us out on this one. This festival has taxidermy lessons. While not to everyone’s tastes, it is much more fun that you’d think. Create a furry masterpiece (mouse playing a tiny violin, anyone?) to take home for the mantlepiece. You’ll never own a more effective conversation-starter.

If you go down to the woods today…

Lose yourself in sequins

Wilderness is ALL about the fancy dress. Each day is themed around an eccentric fancy dress idea and it is not at all unusual to see Arabian princesses riding five foot high snails or swashbuckling drag pirates with mermaids shimmying by their sides. But a continuing theme each year is all-over sequins, and the lady to buy them from is Rosa Bloom. Go big or go home.

Shine bright like a diamond

Give in to gastronomy

Wilderness boasts an unrivalled and unashamedly posh foodie scene. Not only are the food trucks a notch up from usual festival fare, you’re invited to sit down and dine at one of the Long Table Banquets, hosted by some of the best chefs in the world. Duck & Waffle usually have a table, as do The Pig and Petersham Nurseries, and this year Deliciously Ella is making an appearance.

Take a seat at the Long Table Banquet

Catch the cricket

When we say, “You have to go to the cricket match they have on the Sunday” we really do mean it. Don’t look at us like that. It’s commentated by a resident comedian and is absolutely hilarious. A festival favourite, streaking is actively encouraged. Need we say more?

The Sunday cricket match is…different

Oh and there’s music…

Lastly, don’t forget about the music. While Wilderness’s seven or so stages don’t usually host current chart toppers (and the festival is all the better for it) there’s still something for everyone. This year, the Main Stage will be welcoming the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and the incorrigible Grace Jones. The Folk Stage is a quirky delight and various pop-up stages and wagons around the site offer comedy, drama and children’s theatre. Oh and did we mention that the whole festival is ridiculously child-friendly (just in case Granny and Grandpa turn you down)?

An orgy of colour and magic

This year’s Wilderness Festival takes place at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire from 3rd to 6th August. Visit www.wildernessfestival.com for more info.

Kathryn Bellamy


Farmer’s daughter turned Londoner, writer and interiors lover Kathryn lives in Battersea with her boyfriend and chilli plants. When she’s not writing or re-decorating, she’s working on a series of children's books. At the weekends she regularly swaps London for Devon or Herefordshire.

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