As summer quietly slips into an autumnal coma, and the nights start to draw in, it's hard to believe that less than a fortnight ago, I was frolicking around in the New Forest, clad in just a floaty frock and sandals, enjoying my last summery hurrah of the year. My friend Roz and I attended Wyndstock, a glorious country house party set in the splendid forty acre grounds of Pywell Park, a large country pile overlooking the sea near Lymington. Despite the huge grounds and the array of colourful tents erected in the adjacent field, a crazy festival it certainly was not. With around only 500 revellers, it felt very intimate and a bit like being a guest at some very eccentric, decadent and bourgeoisie wedding. Party goers were dressed in various attire, some wearing simple dresses with wellies, men sporting the country squire look, numerous vintage get-ups, and some looking as if they had walked straight off the set of Downton Abbey. One man created the most brilliant hat - a stuffed owl inside a lampshade, perched on his top hat. It even had real lights which glowed in the dark. Genius. A fabulous party for people watching!
We arrived late afternoon and found our way, past the Punch & Judy show, into a marquee which had the remnants of afternoon tea, so we snaffled a few cucumber sandwiches, and made a bee-line for the bar. Then armed with a bottle of chilled rose wine, we went off to explore the grounds and find out what our Wyndstock adventure had in store for us. As accomplished spectators, we watched from a safe distance, as men wearing garlands and ladies spinning hoops attempted to play croquet, badminton and boules, whilst others headed off to the water garden, bouncing giant beach balls along as they strolled.
On the other side of the perfectly manicured lawn, a Vegetable Animal competition was well underway. Various pretty ladies in colourful polka dot dresses and flowers in their hair, beavering away feverishly carving cucumbers, mushrooms, marrows, carrots and aubergines into a multitude of assorted animal creations. Some were exceptionally creative, whilst others were hard to make head nor tail of. I'm not sure which was the winner, but the butternut squash lion with mushroom eyes, a yellow pepper mane, and chive whiskers certainly got my vote.
It was soon time for a spot of dancing, so Roz & I headed off to an area where several professional looking dancers were jiving and swinging all over the show. A man dressed in tails, took charge and arranged a whole load of us into a large circle around him, then gave us a hilarious swing lesson. Whilst he and his partner showed us a few moves, we had to copy them, and just as we had the hang of a little step here and a twirl there, it was time to change partners and all move around, which was a fun ice breaker to get all the guests mingling. Step forward, step back, step forward and twirl! Once we had finished treading on several toes, we had worked up a good appetite and it was time for dinner.
As guests congregated at long tables in the marquee, we were given large bowls of lamb curry, vegetable curry and new potatoes. Some received plates of giant prawns. I have to say dinner was pretty disappointing and very chaotic. The food selection wasn't particularly appetising and took an age to arrive. But like a wedding, I suppose we weren't really there for the food, and the main thing is it was hot and filled us up. We met some lovely people on our table, and once we had all finished our tasteless chocolate gateau, we took our red wine and headed to the enormous bonfire to keep warm, whilst a strapping lad lobbed giant logs into the flames. Then as we gazed into the night sky, we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display.
It was a really fun party, and even though we missed the late-night storytelling, the after dark life drawing classes and the 2am ballad hour, we felt we had enjoyed just the right amount of fun, as we stumbled merrily across the field into the night and the safety of our lift homeward (conveniently, Roz lives within skipping distance of Pywell Park, so no camping, glamping or otherwise for us). Those who stayed overnight, would have woken up to a hearty breakfast and a rounders tournament which I'm sure was a great way to start a Sunday in the countryside. I thoroughly enjoyed Wyndstock and would love to go again, but think they could do with a few more guests and a revised dinner menu. Meanwhile, I think I may check out one of the other upcoming parties that The Last Tuesday Society have to offer. I imagine Viktor Wynd (the wizard behind these eccentric occasions) has an intriguing and slightly wicked sense of fun. And if you haven't been to his Little Shop of Horrors yet, you should. You can read my post about it here.
The Last Tuesday Society