COOL, slim and effortlessly fashionable, Lady Rotherwick stood on the lawns stretching away from her stately home and surveyed the scene over Cornbury Park. A clutch of figures dressed in crisp white flannels were playing cricket, while a blow by blow commentary was delivered gently over a tinny public address system to ripples of applause from the outfield. A timeless image, it seemed, at first, the very essence of rural England. But on closer inspection something wasn’t quite right. The batsman, for one, had a giant lizard’s tail emerging from his pullover, while a fielder sported a bright pink tutu. The rest of the players were equally odd, while the spectators worse red army tunics, animals costumes and were sprinkled with glitter. It was a surreal image – at once vaguely familiar but strangely surreal. But then this was Wilderness, and nothing is quite what it seems. “Isn’t it fabulous,” Lady R said excitedly. “I am loving every minute!” 10,000 people descended on Cornbury, near Charlbury, for the inaugural Wilderness festival – with many of them hailing it as the best one of the summer. Among the woods, lakes and valleys of the rolling deer park, they found live music, drama, discussions, a forest spa, wild swimming, fine food and many impromptu happenings. Unlike most festivals, the action on the main stage played second fiddle to what was going on in the quirkier corners of the site – where visiting artists busked in trees and among hay bales, and where thousands gathered for the two set-piece ‘happenings’ of the weekend – a fancy dress ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ party organised by the crew behind the cult Secret Garden Party festival, and a saurday night masked ball. But music there was – with a bill designed to appeal to those who take their tunes seriously. Highlights included Saturday’s appearance by elder statesmen of reggae, Toots & the Maytals – with the crowd gently dancing to familiar hits from the dapper-looking Toots’s vast back catalogue. Things shifted up a gear for the headline set by Gogol Bordello – Eugene Hutz’s band of gypsy punks blasting out rousing romany stomping tunes, reeling Balkan rhythms and fiery vocals which culminated in the wild-eyed Ukrainian gypsy hurling himself into the crowd. Sunday was the band-lovers day of choice, with appearances by acoustic angel Laura Marling, and The Low Anthem, who provided one of the most sublime moments of the festival with heart-wrenching vocals and fragile melodies accompanied by a strange assortment of instruments – unusual brass horns, and even, at one point, two mobile phones held together.