WITH vestiges of the last of the big summer music festivals washed away in the bank holiday rain, it’s finally time to dry off that tent and pack it away for what promises to be a long grey winter.

But there is still one last chance to soak up a weekend of great live music outdoors. And this one requires neither a tent, wellies nor even a ticket.

Wallingford’s BunkFest has evolved into a popular gathering of bands, dancers, performers, music-lovers and, uniquely, railway buffs, since it began in 2002 – as a birthday party for folk enthusiast and then-landlord of the town’s Cross Keys pub Bob Wyatt.

Now in its 16th year, it pulls in thousands of people attracted by a laid-back and fairly diverse feast of music, in an attractive setting on the town’s Kinecroft.

This year’s bill features a mix of familiar faces and relative newcomers. Highlights are set to include Oxford soulful country-rockers The Epstein; folk, gypsy jazz and bluegrass act Mad Dog Mcrea; reggae band Talisman; Yorkshire six-piece rock group Hope & Social, Monmouthshire folk-rockers Rusty Shackle and local singer-songwriter Megan Henwood.

Music also comes from Mr Tea & the Minions, Hippy Haze, Moonrakers, Foxglove Trio, Hot Rock Pilgrims and Pure Queen.

“BunkFest has changed a lot over the years,” says its chairman Colin Dolton, a founder member of the festival team.

“It has grown way beyond what we thought it ever would, to the point where we have had to think about changing the site to accommodate people. We now get up to 10,000 people at peak times –which is as big as we want to go.

“The type of music has also changed, from purely folk to different genres – with rock, pop and reggae.”

And Colin is determined to keep it free, after dropping entry charges for its 10th anniversary and losing what had been a ticketed venue at the Cross Keys.

“It is now a free event for everyone,” he says. “In fact it needs to be free as we hold music on the Kinecroft, which is common land criss-crossed by footpaths – so we can’t charge anyway.”

As well as music on the Kinecroft, there are other attractions around the town, real ale bars with beer by the local Loddon and Loose Cannon breweries, craft activities and events linked to the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway – nicknamed the ‘Bunk’ – which gives the festival its peculiar name.

Organisers are hoping for kinder weather than last year’s event, which was hit by torrential rain.

“I am really pleased with the line-up this year,” says Colin.

“I have invited back two bands, Talisman and Hope and Social, who were booked for last year but hit by the bad weather. I thought they deserved a second crack with a decent crowd.

“I have also asked back Mad Dog Mcrea, who came 10 years ago and have since grown much bigger. The Crimps are a local band and The Epsetin went down very well last time they came, which is why I’ve also asked them back.

“Rusty Shackle have been three times and are always great

“As a free-access family festival we try and have a line-u that appeals to everyone and we think we’ve got that.

“The BunkFest is the biggest weekend of the year for Wallingford. The whole town has a good time – and everyone else is invited too.”

Playing his first BunkFest is Dublin singer-songwriter Eoin Glackin – an artist Ed Sheeran once described as “smashing it”.

“It’s always one of the great joys for me travelling around the island of Britain playing my songs to new people in the cities and small towns,” says Eoin (pronounced ‘Owen’).

“Bunkfest looks like the kind of festival that is right up my street. It’s a great gathering of like minded lovers of live, original music and a place I’m sure I will meet people I will stay in touch with for a long time to come.

“That’s always an exciting prospect and I cant wait to get stuck in.”

He will perform songs from his album Fires of Innocence – part classic country and part rock opera. It includes new single High King Falls.

He says: “The song is about the frustration and confusion of watching things we felt sure of for so long slip from their perch and show themselves to be fallible, then slowly coming to a realisation that there is no one all-encompassing truth or way.

“It’s up to every one of us to piece our own jigsaw together and not settle for comfort in some shared identity where our own nuanced thoughts and opinions get eroded. That’s when we get left open to bad things.

I had the words of the great Bruce Lee in my ear writing it,” he adds.

“Where there is a way, there lies the limitation!”