Into the Wilderness: A weekend at the UK’s poshest festival

Words by
Sphere Life

8th August 2017

From 3-6 August, the award-winning festival brought music, art, literature, wellness and first-class cuisine to Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire

Maybe the highlight was biting into a warm bao bun with kimchi and pork belly, under a ceiling festooned with wildflowers, whilst sipping a first rate Gamay. Or perhaps it was watching David Cameron dance his silk socks off with his wife Samantha in the Ayhoe backstage tent, after queuing for thirty minutes to buy drinks (watched closely by his very conspicuous special protection – the only ones without glitter on their faces). Or perhaps it was the feast that awaited diners in the dining tent when Tommi Miers took charge of the kitchen, with narcissus-flecked tomato and goat’s cheese salad followed by lamb and avocado tacos and a raspberry and mescal sorbet.

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Breaking Convention

Breaking Convention

Whatever it was, Wilderness was a corker this year. Something of a giant social gathering, seemingly everyone from the food, drink and fashion worlds congregated in the lushly landscaped Cornbury Park. After all, the poshest festival in the UK has turned into quite the showcase for restaurants and brands. Veuve Cliquot was there for the first time, housed in a jaunty orange tent with DJs, deck chairs aplenty in the back garden and visits from Benedict Cumberbatch. The surprise hit was burger restaurant Patty & Bun’s tent, which turned into the most ebullient rave every afternoon – and as a result was re-christened ‘Party & Bun’.

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Thomasina Miers

Thomasina Miers

With a diverse and creative programme on offer, there was something for everyone to enjoy, from dancing – live acts included Bonobo and Toots and the Maytals, while trance in the infamous Valley got crowds throwing shapes – to wild swimming, art classes, theatrical performances and even live debate, with interesting talks from the New Statesman and the Guardian’s Zoe Williams taking place over the weekend. Elsewhere, Neal’s Yard was on hand to massage away aches and pains, and Victorianox to teach the rugged arts of leather work or outdoor survival.

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Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club

Gastronomes were in for a treat. Cafe Murano served up delicious breakfasts every day, including bacon, duck egg and scarmoza rolls – Angela Hartnett herself was flipping rashers from 9am. Petersham Nurseries, Nuno Mendes and Tommy Banks were other names fuelling the jaunty crowd with their three-course-plus feasts. Sipsmith had a vintage decked tent, whilst Ketel One churned out the deluxe Espresso Martinis.

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Tommy Banks

Tommy Banks

Despite the late nights of revelry, the wellness trend was omnipresent. Mornings saw a lithe Lycra-clad army take part in group yoga or a punishing 10k cross-country run. Ella’s Kitchen and acai bowl stalls were as equally patronised as the bacon butty vans and rum shacks.

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The Turbans

The Turbans

There was no VIP area as such, although local character James Perkins – who owns local stately Aynhoe – put on a fun-fuelled show at his Backstage tent. Purring Rolls Royces sat waiting to ferry festival-goers to and from the site, meaning that when the heavens opened (as they did frequently, in true British summer tradition) people could journey in style.

Wilderness’ boutique camping sold out quickly this year, so be sure to get your 2018 tickets while you can: visit wildernessfestival.com for more details.