With a stage roofed with wild flowers, classes in yoga, mindfulness and protecting earthworms, and music from Oxfordshire to the Sahara, it’s clear Wood is not your normal festival.

Formed by musician brothers Robin and Joe Bennett with their wives Megan and Claire and assorted friends, this family-friendly gathering in the Chilterns Hills is billed as a celebration of nature and music. Among the most popular festival of the summer, it is also the earliest – this year’s three-day instalment having kicked off today.

On offer is a high-quality line-up of music, much – though certainly not all – of an acoustic nature, along with workshops on wellbeing, spirituality, arts, crafts, creativity and the natural world, and food and drink by local independent producers. It all takes place among the trees and beneath the gaze of red kites, in Braziers Park, Ipsden, just south of Wallingford.

“It looks like being another great year,” says Robin, speaking from his home in Dorchester.
“The site has come together well and follows the same template as the past couple of years. Every year is different – but also the same!”

The event was designed as a smaller, greener spin-off of the Bennetts’ popular Truck Festival, which still continues, albeit under new new corporate management, near their family home in Steventon. 

Designed with the environment in mind, Wood aims to leave a minimal footprint on the land, with its wooden stage, dependence on solar energy, support for locally-produced refreshments, composting loos, and huge respect for the natural world.

So successful is it in its aims that it won a coveted UK Greener Festival Award – setting it up as an example for other events to emulate.

“It’s a real festival of music and nature,” says Robin. “We try and be as sustainable as possible and our award shows we are doing something right.”

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Robin Bennett
Given Robin and Joe’s musical heritage – the brothers found fame with the bands Goldrush and The Dreaming Spires, both play with the dream-pop band Saint Etienne and Robin (and sometimes Joe) star in the Americana supergroup Bennett, Wilson, Poole – music is at the heart of the event.

This year’s line-up is suitably eclectic, with electro-folk act Tunng, acoustic roots guitarist Martin Harley, folk-rockers Belshazzar’s Feast (featuring Paul Hutchinson and Bellowhead’s Paul Sartin), all-female bluegrass band Midnight Skyracer, Oxford ‘Turkobilly’ band Brickwork Lizards, and kids’ favourite Nick Cope.

Then there’s Senegalese kora player Jali Fily Cisskho and his band Couté Diomboulou, slide guitarist Gwenifer Raymond, Morganway, Ak Patterson, Frankie Lee, Wood regulars Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou, The Katies, Pete Gow & the Siren Strings, The Hanging Stars, Archie Faulks, Lieutenant Leek, Sorceress of the Sky, Hannah Rose Platt, The Rivers, Band of Hope, Toni Monserrat Inc, Marcus Corbett & Nitin Gaikwal, Reason to Live, The Prairie Clams, Malibu People, and Oxford Ukuleles.

The biggest buzz, however, is likely to be reserved for Sunday night when Robin and Joe throw in ‘surprise’ sets by The Dreaming Spires and Bennett, Wilson, Poole.

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Bennett, Wilson, Poole

Robin says: “There is some electronics, but bands and artists are all acoustic to the extent that if the power goes out – which is not unknown – the music can still go on. And it’s lively too. It is still early in the year and it can be cold at night, so we like to keep people moving. You don’t want to be standing around too much!”

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With a small and very safe site, friendly atmosphere, good camping, cool clientele and huge range of activities – musical and otherwise – it is no wonder Wood has become a hit with families. Of the approximately 2,000 strong audience, about half will be children. 
Robin has his fingers crossed for good weather, saying: “There might be the odd shower but the local farmer says it’s going to be okay – and he should know! But we have indoors spaces, including the second stage, anyway.”
A new addition this year is an Extinction Rebellion ‘Rebel Rebel’ space, which will host talks and teach techniques for non-violent direct action.
“We like to be quite radical,” says Robin, who was recently elected a Green member of South Oxfordshire District Council.
Following previous celebrations of badgers, hedgehogs and bees, this year’s festival is billed the Year of the Owl – and revellers are encouraged to make their own ‘strigine’ outfits.

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“Owls need our support,” says Robin. “They also nest on the site, so it is particularly relevant. Look out for lots of owlish mask making, fun and puns.”
Other unusual workshops will teach festival-goers how to make a hedgehog from an old book, qigong, shamanism, spotting insects, birds and animals and making twine from nettles.
“The workshops are all about connecting to life in a spiritual way and doing things for yourself and in unison with nature,” says Robin.
But, he admits, it’s not all about self-improvement. “It’s also a lot of fun, and with locally-sourced Butts ale, organic cider, cold lager and wine you’re as likely to come way feeling a little bit hungover as spiritually refreshed.”

  Where & when
Wood takes place at Braziers Park, Ipsden, this weekend. One-day tickets for Sunday are available.