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 wore red army tunics, animal costumes and were sprinkled with glitter. It was an 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!”

Ten thousand people descended on Cornbury for the inaugural Wilderness festival — with many of them hailing it 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 two ‘happenings’ — a fancy dress ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ party organised by the crew behind the cult Secret Garden Party festival, and a Saturday night masked ball.

But music there was — with a bill 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 stomping Romany tunes, reeling Balkan rhythms and fiery vocals which culminated in the wild-eyed Ukrainian gypsy hurling himself into the crowd, before whipping them into a frenzy with the rousing Start Wearing Purple, Wonderlust King and Think Locally.

Sunday was the band-lovers’ day of choice, with appearances by acoustic angel Laura Marling, Guillemots, and The Low Anthem, who provided heart-wrenching vocals and fragile melodies. They were followed by another cult hero — quirky oddball Daniel Johnston, the True Love Will Find You in the End star making a very rare appearance to the delight of fans, and the bemusement of others.

The best musical moment came with Mercury Rev, who performed seminal album Deserter’s Songs — and featuring the breathtaking Holes, Opus 40 and Goddess on a Hiway — which left even casual observers with a tear in the eye.

They topped it off with possibly the defining festival moment — an arms in the air sing-along to Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. It was clearly going to be hard to follow, and headliner Antony & the Johnsons failed to capture the passion and energy. But then that’s not what moody, transvestite Antony Hegarty does.

What he did do was to bring this extraordinary gathering to a lilting, emotional end — with delicate, ethereal songs interspersed with bizarre musings on sexual politics. And, with everyone already looking forward to next year’s Wilderness, there cannot have been a better end to this freewheeling weekend of new friendships and good times then the beautiful Hope There’s Someone. Truly sublime.