In a new book that celebrates the glory of rural getaways, Glastonbury Festival co-organiser Emily Eavis explains why spending time in nature – and protecting it – is so important.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand that Glastonbury Festival – which my dad and I organise on Worthy Farm is an event that means so many different things to so many different people: the Pyramid Stage, the performers, the late-night areas, the mud, the magic.
But, at its very heart, our festival has always been a celebration of nature and the outdoor life. Each June, we welcome more than 200,000 people to these idyllic Somerset fields and, for those five days, they have no option but to live a simpler, more pastoral life.
They sleep under canvas, get around by foot and find themselves very closely attuned to the weather. If they need shelter or shade, they’ll search out a tree. If they need to relax or slow down for a bit, they’ll sit on the grass and have a chat or read the paper (they can’t keep looking at their phones, because they need to preserve the batteries). And the toilet facilities? Well, let’s just call them functional.
Yet, so many people I meet tell me that Glastonbury is their favourite place in the world, those five days their most cherished. And I’m sure that the back-to-basics rural lifestyle is a huge part of that. It allows people to reset, slow down and live in the moment. And, when they do, they realise what a special thing being outdoors in the countryside is.
Certainly, I feel hugely lucky to have grown up on Worthy Farm, where my family has lived for six generations. I’ve lived in London, too, where I often found myself yearning for the valley, the trees and the birdsong. But what I think I missed most was the seasons.
The power of nature
When you’re in a big city, you might notice whether it’s raining or hot, but the seasons – indicators of ongoing life and the beauty of the natural world – can pass you by.
Now I’m back in Somerset, I take so much comfort in nature: seeing the first snowdrops of spring or the autumn leaves beginning to bronze. That seasonal ebb and flow gives you perspective.
The wonder and power of nature is all around us, and I think that maybe explains why my dad and I have always seen protecting the planet as such a big part of the festival’s mission. For decades now, we’ve tried to raise awareness of climate change and campaign for ways of living that can help preserve and heal the world. On the farm, we have Europe’s largest privately owned solar farm (on the roof of the cowshed); we convert the Worthy herd’s dung into electricity with our anaerobic digester; and we were proud to save millions of single-use plastic bottles from potentially going to landfill after we banned the sale of them at the Festival.
We’re very fortunate to be in a position to make those big gestures – and having that platform is something we take seriously – but the small things count, too. All of us can make changes and choices that will make a difference. And one of those is simply to take time to enjoy and appreciate the natural world. The countryside is there for all of us. Use it, value it, cherish it.
Three places to stay in the UK for reconnecting with nature
Dabinett Treehouse, The Orchard, Fenny Castle, Somerset
This beautifully crafted cocoon of a treehouse stands on a tripod. Beside it, a deck is home to a wood-panelled bathtub beneath low-slung branches. Lights twinkle in the trees at night and, come morning, the air fills with birdsong. The stylish cabin comes complete with a king-sized bed, luxury bathroom, mini kitchen, wood burner and sofa. Guests can idle away the hours admiring views across Somerset while they plan walks in the Mendip Hills. From £205 per night for two.
Digital Detox Cabin, Rockells Farm, Duddenhoe End, Essex
This small cabin overlooks open Essex countryside. The quiet, back-to-basics, secluded hut has a ban on digital devices – guests have to lock away their smartphones upon arrival. A “Digital Free” box of goodies includes a Polaroid camera, cassette player and postcards. Visitors are free to stroll to the village pub or to simply sit on the bench outside the cabin and do absolutely nothing. The retreat is the creation of start-up duo Hector and Ben, who believe you can only truly escape the manic pace and long working hours that come with city living when you take a break from digital devices. From £130 per night for two.
Midsummer Meadow Bed, Southcombe Barn, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon
Picture a glade in an ancient woodland surrounded by wildflowers, their heads bobbing in the summer breeze. There’s a bell tent pitched on the grass and, beneath the trees, a four-poster bed carved from the branches of a fallen eucalyptus tree. This idyllic scene is a glamping-retreat reality crafted by co-founder of Canopy & Stars, Tom, and his partner Vashti, on a Devonshire Dark Sky Reserve.
Available during the summer, the Midsummer Meadow Bed offers guests a rare opportunity to sleep in the wild. Just a stone’s throw
away, there’s a barn with a private bathroom and tea-making facilities. And the bell tent? It’s the perfect place to chill after trail walking. From £145 per night for two.
(Story source: Inews)