THE sounds of music, fun and wholesome activity return to a wooded hillside in the Chilterns this weekend for Oxfordshire’s first real festival of the summer.

Held over three days among the trees at Braziers Park at Ipsden, in the rolling hills beyond Wallingford, Wood festival is a pioneering event combining high quality live music, creative participation and a celebration of the start of summer.

The gathering has a strong ecological ethos, generating its own green power and offering visitors a rural respite from the pressures of urban life. But while intimate and organic, the line-up is strong, attracting a wealth of international and local talent

It was set up by musician brothers Robin and Joe Bennett as an environmentally-friendly offshoot of their larger Truck Festival in their former home village of Steventon.

The festival, which began yesterday, is intentionally small – strictly limiting its numbers to avoid overcrowding the scenic site – yet packs a big punch with its line-up, which veers towards the mellower end of the musical spectrum.

Acoustic, folk, Americana, country and world music rule – but with a quirky, rock & roll edge.

Acts include Oxford’s homegrown folk-popsters Stornoway; English/Irish folk doyens The Ciderhouse Rebellion with Molly Donnery; Canadian singer-songwriter Gerry Leger; roots and country-flavoured artist Willy Mason; indie-rockers Frontier Ruckus; electronic experimentalists Masal; and Albert – featuring Reid Morrison of country-rock favourites The Treetop Flyers.

“It is a fun, intimately sized and unique festival on a lovely site south of Wallingford, says Robin – who is renowned as an accomplished musician and member of country-rock band The Dreaming Spires, but also as a Green councillor and deputy leader of South Oxfordshire District Council.

Oxford Mail: Wood festival. Picture by Jason Warner @ Fyrefly Studios

“It’s a special temporary community with its own ethos running through everything.

“The moment you walk onto that field, it feels calming. There is something about that location. It is like being in a really cool summer camp. And after the spring we’ve had, I was really looking forward to it.”

And he’s not alone; tickets for the festival, which comes to a close tomorrow night, have all sold-out.

This year marks 16 years since Wood was launched, and it has managed to hold on to its quirky – and leafy – identity.

“We started this as we were trying to start a more sustainable festival after Truck festival was flooded in 2007,” says Robin. “It has now grown its own identity with regular features and sound.

“It seemed to attract a family audience from the beginning and that’s how it has stayed. It now has a lot more teenagers though – some of whom will have come here as three year-olds in the early days.”

Oxford Mail: Wood Festival Picture by Jason Warner

As well as sticking to its sustainable and environmentally kind roots, Wood has retained its egalitarian, democratic sense of community.

The main stage is only a few feet above the ground, and was built of wood by a south Oxfordshire carpenter – the much-missed Rory Bernays – with a living roof of greenery. It is powered by solar panels. Elsewhere power is generated from vegetable oil or pedal-power.

While the line-up is always fresh and interesting, many perennial favourites return. They include Nick Cope – an Oxford rock star, formerly of the band The Candyskins, who now tailors his amusing songs to fanatical younger listeners – and West African (via Witney) kora player Jali Fily Cissokho.

Also back are Wallingford’s Band of Hope. And while there won’t be a performance by The Dreaming Spires this year, Robin, Joe and their musician sister Katy Rose Bennett, will take to the stage as The Bennett Family Singers.

“We’ve been lucky with the line-up,” he says. “We could only get people like Gerry Leger over from Canada because he is touring here. And we are pleased to have Stornoway, who we have known since their early days playing Truck festival.

“We like to try new things, but there are certain things people expect too – like CBeebies star Nick Cope, of course, who everybody loves. He is playing twice and is the only reason we have a crowd barrier in front of the stage!”

Oxford Mail: Kids’ rock star Nick Cope at Wood Festival. Picture by Tim Hughes

Music aside, there are workshops and sessions teaching everything from rural crafts, to nature conservation and music classes. There are also talks from experts in their fields (often literally).

Highlights include everything from T’ai chi to tye dye. Sessions include instruction on the likes of animal origami, yoga, clay creations, Japanese visible mending, solar power, wood craft, pilates, making bee habitats and Indian head massage.

Oxford Mail: Wood Festival, 2023. Picture by Tim Hughes

Each year the festival is given an animal theme. This year’s is the year of the damselfly – the smaller relative of the dragonfly. Damselfly fancy dress wings and even full outfits are welcome.

Robin says: “It is a lovely festival. And it’s important to say that it’s not just about music. There are many brilliant activities that people can get involved in. Some of our workshops have become cult activities in their own right.

“And while tickets have sold out for this weekend, they will go on sale for next year’s festival soon after. And we also have our end of summer Septembersong festival to look forward to.

“So see you there!”

Wood runs at Braziers Park, Ipsden. See

Tickets have sold out for this weekend