Last Autumn, I was given the opportunity to co-host a retreat. Initially, I was keen to take the role I was most used too; a background presence making the space beautiful, warm and inviting. But the request was explicit; that I actively head it up, a Seeds and Stitches live, so to speak. At that point in my maternity leave I had no idea what I wanted to do so, in the spirit of taking things lightly, I agreed, and thought i'd test it out. I am generally trying to be "a trickster, not a martyr", as Elizabeth Gilbert puts it. I'd made a commitment to stop working for free, to find work in Kent or London, and heavily limit travel elsewhere and this ticked all the boxes. So I went for it. I began to create my dream retreat along with yogi Kim Hill, and it finally happened last week. 15 women gathered at my favourite place on the planet. The weather was glorious, the setting flawless. We ate incredible vegan food. We stretched, we meditated, we journalled. We created and chatted and laughed. We slept, and connected and created much needed space for ourselves.
I have split the retreat up into 2 posts because there are simply soooo many photos and details I want to share with you. So here is part one, up to half way through the retreat.
Firstly, our accommodation. We were at Elmley Nature Reserve, an utterly idyllic nature reserve on an island just an hour from London, and my favourite place. Guests stayed either in Bell tents complete with real beds, robes and towels, and styled by me, or shepherds huts. I loved adding the finishing styling details; stonewear jars of fresh flowers, a vintage book, a shell, lavender on each pillow case. I wanted the guests to feel considered and actually yes, even loved, through these details. It really is my privilege to create these environments; both big and small; for people to rest and gather in, as part of my job.
In each tent and hut, we also laid out a goodybag for everyone; another thing we put a lot of thought and care into. See my instagram post for a list of exactly what was included and a link if you want to buy your own.
After our guests arrived and were settled into their huts and tents, they were whisked off on a Nature Safari around the reserve. Gareth, from Elmley, led this and talked guests through the wildlife on view and beginners tips on mindful bird watching. Everyone loved this, it was the perfect way to immediately get immersed in the heart of the nature reserve, and helped to situate the rest of the retreat perfectly. We packed vegan Oreo brownies made by local baker Hannah Perkin, and sparkling Elderflower Presse for mid safari refreshment. (I made sure there was lots of cake stops through the whole retreat, in fact!)
Rejuvinated by the safari, we gathered outside the barn and drank Fizz with Raspberry vinaigrette by locals, Mighty Fine Things-delicious! I then led a session on journalling; my history with journalling, why I love it so much, some beginners tips, and I also talked guests through the Elmley journalling questions I designed for the retreat.
Roz Miles, the resident Elmley therapist, then led us in a short group energy cleansing exercise and gave us some simple methods to help calm anxiety and clear away negative thoughts and feelings. She stayed for the duration of the retreat running 1:1 massages and energy treatments for the guests, which they all absolutely loved.
Our opening feast was courtesy of local farm shop Macknade. The light was golden and almost tangible and the food was unbelievably delicious (Panzanella salad for life, omg) Guests ate to repletion and drank Chapel Down wine (my favourite), then stayed chatting around the table until it got dark. Most sought their beds for an early-ish night.
Day two began with yoga led by my co-host Kim Hill, on the lawn, in the morning sun, and surrounded by bird song. Sigh. Breakfast followed, made by Sophie Gordon. Granola and yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts, served in my Grey House Of Fraser bowls. Hearty and delciious, they set us up for the day perfectly.
Our first session on day two was a candle making workshop with Studio Milkwood, a workshop I have done in the past and absolutely loved. The barn smelt incredible as guests first experienced the different pure organic essential oils individually, then blended their own bespoke scent. Heaven.
As the candles cooled on the counter, the guests were ushered back to the Linhay to collect their packed lunches. We designed this session to give guests some time in the nature reserve, and some time to do some journalling, following the prompts in the journals I gave to everyone. It was hot hot hot so guests found space in the shade of the trees. Lunch was a selection of salads, hummus and sourdough made by Sophie Gordon, which was packed up with a bar of Original beans chocolate, compostable cutlery and an apple juice. Guests were also given a linen towel to sit on, wrapped up in ribbon with a little spring of lavender tucked inside (because I am a details geek).
So that brings us to half way through the retreat! Part two will come soon, featuring our feast in the barn and more sessions too, so watch out for that.
Location- Elmley Nature Reserve
Vegan cake made by local baker Vegan Perks
Opening night feast sponsors- Macknade, a wonderful local farm shop
Our day 2 and 3 Vegan catererSophie Gordon
Our massage and energy therapist- Roz Miles
Linen table cloths, napkins and towels (used as picnic blankets)LinenMe
Dark grey plates, bowls and cutlery used throughout the retreat-House of Fraser
Our pre dinner drinks each night-Mighty Fine Things
Yoga led by Kim Hill
Candle making session led by Studio Milkwood