The Larmer Tree festival in Wiltshire is a magical place to spend a summer weekend
By Emily Anderson
Larmer Tree Festival 2016, dubbed as the ‘the happiest, friendliest, quirkiest festival in the land’, took place over a scorcher of a July weekend (13th – 17th July 2016).
The name relates to its setting, at Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire, (www.larmertree.co.uk), which are in turn named after the majestic tree that once stood on the site in the 10th century; so not a festival of musical llamas, then.
The gardens are steeped in the history of music and entertainment. In 1899, ‘Larmer Tree Pleasure Gardens’ created by General Pitt Rivers attracted more than 44,000 revellers a year. The garden was then closed for almost a hundred years until General Pitt Rivers’ great grandson, Michael Pitt Rivers, brought the gardens back to their former glory and revellers could once again enjoy the gardens.
Kept small by choice, say the organisers, the festival managed to retain an enchanting and tranquil atmosphere throughout. It also means that the walk from the campsite to the festival hub – known as the ‘Village’ – can be made in a matter of minutes, a dream for the serial festivalgoer. Anyone who has done the gruelling walk from the car park at Glastonbury will breathe a sigh of relief. Larmer Tree Festival organisers also managed to fix the glorious weather over the July weekend, “we don’t allow mud here, we’ve banned it in the whole county”, said one of the stewards as we drove in.
Despite the lack of llamas, Larmer Tree Gardens were not short of a peacock or two, happily roaming the ‘Main Lawn’ where the largest stage was situated. This year it played host to artists including Jamie Cullum, The Stranglers, Gabrielle Aplin and Tom Odell. An un¬crowded community of all ages gathered on the main lawn to watch, and even from the very back, whilst enjoying a sheep milk ice cream from Shepherds, (www.shepherdsicecream.co.uk) or a quality craft ale from Ringwood Brewery, (www.ringwoodbrewery.co.uk) you could see the whole stage.
The ‘Lost Wood’, an enchanting woodland just off from the main lawn, hosted storytelling, poetry and talks. I felt like an adventurous child again exploring the winding paths. ‘The Secret Garden’ was another hidden escape from the main areas, where revellers could indulge in a range of pampering therapies. If you wished to escape the festival altogether you would not be disappointed. Cranbourne Chase is one of the UK’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty where you could enjoy birdsong walks; foraging, a tour of Myncen Farm and even a cycle ride with the Festival Director, Rob Challice.
As I left as the event drew to a close, it occurred to me that Larmer Tree Festival is not about the big names you might see or even about the mix of eclectic music that was on offer, but about new experiences, a stunning location and enjoying time with family and friends. I can’t think of a better way to spend a hot sunny summer weekend.