So, it’s been a few days but I’m still on a high from what was such a special event. Wilderness is just pure love, and gin and tonic joy! Where you are in a community where you feel you all belong, where there is no outsider, there is no “better than” and there is no class divide. This was my first time and hopefully won’t be my last.
It was all rush rush rush leading up to getting on the coach and when I did, all my stresses (mainly at fighting my way through rush hour commuters which made me feel FML on several occasions!) literally seemed to melt away. Cornbury Park, the festivals location, is in a really beautiful location (I mean REALLY, so gorgeous) in a part of Oxford and the UK not really known to me. I now realise I need to fix that. It’s about a 10 minute drive from the village of Woodstock and the Royal Blenheim Palace and the grounds of the festival are just dreamy and almost made for such an event. Who has a freshwater lake in the middle of a festival?!
I arrived at 12.30pm via National Express on the Thursday. I was grumbling a bit that it was a bit early, as it left London just after 10am and we were unable to access the festival until about 3.30pm that day. However, on the positive it was absolutely perfect in that the fields were empty of tents and I got to see them in their untouched glory, plus we had our pick of where to pitch up. The National Express is also such a convenient way to get there and took me just over 2 hours direct from Victoria. Totally recommend it- easy and environmentally friendly too. It was super chilled both ways, with everyone snoring on the way back!
I have so many warm and wonderful highlights!
-The talks were exceptional. I’m excited to tell you about them, they were honestly so good. I listened to Anna Hart in the “Book Tent” discussing ethical travel and her book “Departures” which is a book of Anna’s solo travel adventures. Anna was funny and interesting in discussing her work, and answered questions on how to get published and committing to your own style of writing. She discussed ethical travel as to think about including getting the “holiday prep” such as nails and tanning done in the travel you are arriving in, to support the local people. To consider booking the local accommodation or bed and breakfast’s rather than chain hotels. To consider going further for longer periods of time or going away long haul less often. Small and totally achievable things. She made me think, she made me laugh, she has an impressive CV, and was so down to earth and lovely. She ALSO gave a really exciting sounding travel trip (I scribbled it down!) called “Do the North” which are short kayaking experiences in Sweden where you totally switch off and get away from it all. Including links for Anna’s book and the “Do the North” experience here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Departures-Guide-Letting-Adventure-Time/dp/0751569569 and https://dothenorth.com/
Roy Gill was one of the speakers in the Forum tent, who gave us just a 15 minute but so captivating overview about his life history and how he came to be running in own business: The Dairy restaurant in Clapham, London. I really enjoyed his chat and clearly his huge work ethos. Roy told us he dropped out of university, persevered with an interest in cooking and is now running a hugely successful restaurant. He, like Anna, was totally down to earth and answered questions around audience members cooking queries (I loved at this point how another member chipped in on the best way to cook a chicken!), and sustainable and ethical working. I also thought it was compelling what Roy had to say on the vibe and ethos he wanted the Dairy to uphold. The fact that his staff may spend 60-80 hours a week at work, so careful considerations were made of the plan of the restaurant (open plan element connecting the kitchen and its staff to the restaurant staff and clients), the choice of music, and choosing to “run it like a family” and how this informs for a positive and more upbeat environment. Roy has a farm in Croydon so he was explaining his meat is sourced directly from there, and his food waste goes into a recycle bin to return it directly to the farm soil. Sounds incredible. Here’s where you can check his restaurant out- it’s definitely on my list! http://the-dairy.co.uk/
-Swimming in a freshwater lake in +30’s temperatures were incredible. You can do it in your underwear if you forget your cossie: no-one cares here!
-It got me thinking more about the environment. The festival promotes green living and recycling highly, and all the plates/cutlery and cups advertised the green and recyclable message. Alice and I attended a talk on the huge amount of waste in the ocean and it got us talking about everything we use on a daily or weekly or monthly basis; cotton wool, sanitary pads, baby wipes, plastic bottles, feeling overwhelmed with the amount we maybe “should” be changing and instead opting to positively change 1-2 things in our lives going forward as small but achievable steps.
-There is a huge focus on health and wellness. Music is important, but it’s not the focus of the festival. Granted some of it maybe on the pricey side, but you can totally opt out of buying or purchasing things, as we did, and definitely not feel excluded. There was still free events that you could enjoy and partake in- not as much, but still available.
-Ok so I never went to this BUT The Togetherness tent sounded awesome- creative and alternative workshops on nipple decorating, “spooning”, “how to have better sex mindfully”. I just loved the options here! I don’t think you had to go with a partner necessarily either- some of these were talking only, no physical contact required 🙂
-Alternative festival options such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Gods Jukebox and the Alternative Miss Wilderness are Wilderness staples and I LOVED them! I cried at God’s Jukebox, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Members of the audience request songs to be played by the Wilderness Orchestra, with added dedications to loved ones. Tear jerking and humbling dedications that made you feel glad to be alive 🙂 Told you it was all about love this festival didn’t I?!?
-Travel with National Express if you want a fuss free journey. Yes if coming from London you do get there quite early on the Thursday but that has its perks, and the grounds are so beautiful to relax and enjoy until things get going.
-Ask the staff on arrival where the little bridge is and head to that campsite to pitch up there! It’s a perfect spot as you are close enough to the lake and getting into the event, therefore not far to get back to the tent in the evening
-Take note of the fancy dress theme and dress up! Or not- you won’t look weird if you don’t. But this is the festival to let your hair down and NOT CARE!!!
-Forget glass and cans. You can take cans to your tent but they won’t let you take the cans into the main festival area. Therefore just make sure you have something to carry your drinks in!
-There are ATMs on site, but they WILL charge you £2.75. it’s a festival, to be expected, so take enough cash to last you!
-Consider as Alice and I did the deposit scheme to pay for the ticket entry, however just note this charges you a little bit more (£20, £30 more?) for this option.
Final thing to say, just have a brilliant and beautiful time!! I honestly loved it- it was the right size for me, I loved the talks, the alternative workshops (we are still a little sad we never got to make the Frieda Kahlo headdress due to the popularity of the workshops though!), the yummy vegan and veggie options (especially the chocolate avocado pot from Onist and the yumminess from The Good Egg) You. Will. Love. It!!!
Please let me know if you book in for next year as I will be so so jealous- lazy bird tickets (early bird sold out!) for the super keen came out TODAY!! https://www.wildernessfestival.com/