By Charlotte Cox
'Restival': a festival at which you can rest. Sounds a contradiction in terms, right? Like a sun holiday in Siberia, or a civilised rave. But this is Wilderness we're talking about. Pulling off contradictions – and doing it in style – is this festival's specialty.
Set in the the Cotswold countryside, here you swap your average muddy festival field for 400 acres of beautiful private parkland in the Cornbury Park estate. And if that sounds terribly genteel, that's because it is. But the festival spirit is still alive and (elegantly) kicking. It's manicured, yet still magical. Stylised, yet not sanitised. It's the kind of place you can drink champagne despite having slept rough in a tent for three days. And the kind of festival you can actually return from feeling rested.
This is how:
- FIND SANCTUARY
A whole area devoted to all things zen, The Sanctuary is home to free yoga sessions (all levels of bendiness catered for), meditation pods, massages and facials care of Neal's Yard Remedies. Meanwhile at the Yoga Big Top, brave folk flip their way through acroyoga, Madonna moves meet downward dogs to become Voga, and drum n bass legend Goldie even hosts a Yogangster Yoglow class (DnB hard man turns wellness guru: another wonderful Wilderness contradiction). But, on the gloriously sunny weekend of 2016's festival, The Sanctuary is also a mighty fine place just to loll around in the sun, occasionally grabbing a Pukka Herbs organic tea. All together now: ommmmm.
2. HIT THE SPA
Those looking to go chicer and more relaxed still, take note for next year: the Lakeside Spa is where you need to be. Run by pop-up spa supremos Bathing Under the Sky, the uber-serene waterside area features blissfully warm hot tubs, spotless saunas and even a bar where you can buy champagne to take with you as you bathe. The swimmable lake is a big draw for Wilderness in general, not just at the spa – but here even squeamish swimmers might be tempted into the 'fresh' (ie bloody freezing) water, safe in the knowledge that piping hot showers, hairdryers and even straighteners await.
Tip: book well in advance for a Sunday morning spot. After three days of camping, it feels like HEAVEN.
3. CAMP IN STYLE
Not, we hasten to add,
that camping is a hardship at Wilderness. These spacious, spotless general
campsites come with free-to-all showers, plentiful water spots and tasty food
stalls (more of which later). Plus, the neighbours are universally friendly –
this festival has one of those lovey vibes where you can chat to anyone,
perhaps share around your quinoa salad (hey, we ARE at Wilderness), and make
bessie mates over a shared love of glittery costumes. Sounds cheesy, but day
three we were totally going with it.
Meanwhile, for those looking to REALLY
kick back, the pre-pitched luxury tents boast real toilets (Portaloos? Pff) and
showers, a private bar and eatery, private parking, fire bowls and seating
areas. Lavish – but hey, we can dream...
4. DRESS TO IMPRESS
Now, it may not surprise you to hear that to us here at ELLE, shopping is up there with meditation as a form of soul-soothing. It's called retail THERAPY for a reason. And happily, not only does Wilderness have stalls selling everything from sequin catsuits to feather headdresses to furry animal tails; but it's also the place to WEAR sequin catsuits, feather headdresses and furry animal tails. All at once, if you so wish. Which, of course, we do…
Alternatively, each day has a theme on which to base your dressing up, with 2016's being Kaleidoscope, Gold Rush and Goblin's Ball. Believe us, you've never known relaxation like dressing as David Bowie in Labyrinth.
5. FIND SOUL FOOD (AND DRINK)
Wilderness is as renowned for its food as for its music. And for good reason: somehow, this festival has persuaded the biggest names and the rising stars of London's dining scene to come and cook under canvas in the middle of a field (that whole high/low contradiction thing again). Raymond Blanc, Hix, Moro, Petersham Nurseries, Pitt Cue, Duck and Waffle, Korobuta… The list goes on and on. And on. Book a full-on banquet, tuck into a feast or grab a late-night rescue burger from Patty & Bun (which may just have saved our Saturday night). Here, whatever you eat, it will be GOOD. Importantly, the quality is matched by the drinking options – special mention goes to the Sipsmith Gin Shop, where they crafted creative cocktails with premium Fentiman's tonics and juices, letting us kick back in the sun in gin-soaked style. That's OUR kind of resting.
6. THE MUSIC AIN'T BAD EITHER
Rock legends. Pounding house. Psychedelia. A 30-piece orchestra. To say that Wilderness is varied in its booking policy is somewhat of an understatement. On the main stage, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant electrifies (Dazed and Confused = goosebumps a go-go), a Temperley-clad Lianne La Havas woos the crowd with smooth-as-syrup soul (loved the cover of Say A Little Prayer) and The Flaming Lips mix nostalgia, inflatable doppelgangers and an incredible lightshow for their run-through of 1999 album The Soft Bulletin.
Elsewhere, unexpected highlights include Karaorkestra (just as it sounds: members of the crowd karaoke-ing to the full strings, brass and wind ensemble) and rockabilly sets at The Juke Joint. It's in The Valley, however, where the late-night parties roll: Derrick Carter, Goldie and Tom Middleton are among those keeping the late-night beats pounding.
OK, it's not relaxing. But with so many restful options available at the festival, you gotta give yourself something to recover FROM, we reckon
7. MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL, THERE'S AN AREA DEVOTED TO CHAMPAGNE
Namely, the Laurent-Perrier Orangery. Where art-deco furnishings, 1920s costumes and – of course – ice-cold glasses of LP abound. And if, after hanging out here, you don't feel totally relaxed, restored and rested, there's only one thing for it. Another round of champagne, of course…
Wilderness 2017 runs from August 3-6; Lazy Bird tickets are now on sale for the special price of £169.75 (inc fees).