When I say festival, what do you immediately picture? I’m guessing soggy tents, mass amounts of cider and young people partying into the night. A healthy break? Perhaps not. But the…
When I say festival, what do you immediately picture? I’m guessing soggy tents, mass amounts of cider and young people partying into the night. A healthy break? Perhaps not. But the new wellness festivals like Wilderness in Oxfordshire might change your mind.
Tucked away in the countryside, but just an hour from London, the festival combined music with art, debate, poetry, food and wellness. The idea was to create a gathering ‘where nature and culture could intertwine’ and in 2011, after much searching, Cornbury Park was confirmed. It’s an estate stretching across thousands of acres, with camping in between ancient woodland, cool spring-fed lakes and rolling meadows. On the nineteenth century estate maps of Cornbury Park sections of the land were labelled ‘wilderness’: the festival’s name was decided.
Wrapped in a woollen blanket, the rain gently pattering on the yurt, my face was gently fondled with REN products. It’s an odd experience getting a facial at a festival, but it felt almost like the most perfect time to pamper. My feet might have been muddy, with grass clumped between my toes, but my face was fresh and glowing. You know how fresh and fantastic you feel when you finally shower at a festival? That facial left me feeling like a goddess.
The Sanctuary is the main wellness area, run by Claire Hamilton and Colette Crespin (wildwellbeing.com) and was a cluster of yurts where you can book into a free yoga class, drink a yogi tea, pop in for a massage or holistic treatment, or pick up some eco friendly workout wear. For me, the definition of health is balance, and Wilderness definitely offered that. You can meditate as the sun sets, then cover yourself in glitter, drink sangria in a moroccan tent, and dance wildly in the woods to electro swing.
The food supplies are also varied and surprisingly healthy. You could book into a banquet where you’d get a four course dinner from a celebrity chef (but you need to book really early). Since we didn’t make the list one night we sat by the fire outside a traditional gypsy caravan, sipping chai tea and watching folk artists twang on banjos. Another we tucked into a hearty vegan massaman curry, or had tea and crumpets in a London bus at 2am. There are burger vans too, but let’s the ingredients crab, chickpeas and chia could be found on many a menu board throughout the festival.
The finale on Sunday night saw Burt Bacharach cranking out tune after tune: Magic Moments, What’s New Pussycat?, Walk on By and I Say a Little Prayer to name a few. The Black Kat Boppers, Metronomy, Jessie Ware, London Grammar, Joan as Police Woman, Connan Mockasin and Gregory Porter were also musical highlights. With nine stages there was always plenty of music to see, however the festival’s focus seemed to be more on a great atmosphere and varied experiences than a headliner heavy line-up.
The festival has quite a mixed crowd, from ravers to families and felt very middle class, with a Laurent Perrier tent and a Mulberry picnic hosted by Cara Delivigne. Generally everyone we met was friendly and when we stumbled into a yurt to avoid the rain we were warmly welcomed into a drumming circle complete with impromptu belly dancing.
Festivals may not be as extreme as a detox retreat, but being surrounded by nature, dancing, yoga, meditation and hearty food left us feeling both relaxed and very alive. The early bird tickets are already on sale, and we’ll definitely be going again next year.
For more info see: http://www.wildernessfestival.com/
Words: Lucy Trevallion
Photos: Featured image of a music stage by Seb Barros, first image in text by Jenna Foxton, second image down by Samantha Milligan, third image by Andrew Whitton, fourth image from Wilderness website, last image by Seb Barros
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