When was the last time you truly switched off? Turned your phone off for days without feeling like you’ve had your right hand chopped off? Shunned life’s daily demands in favour of massages, lie-ins, nail-painting and jigsaws? Silenced the endless chatter in your head – so much so, that restful sleep feels like the easiest thing to achieve?
If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably ‘I can’t remember’ – or possibly ‘never’. Before nabbing a spot on one of The Wellness Tree Retreat’s peaceful breaks, the thought of surrendering to two days of doing next to nothing in a fluffy robe – and with limited WiFi access – I must, admit, left me feeling a tad uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for carving time out of your week for a bit of me-time. A face mask and a good book before bed, perhaps. Time spent in the kitchen preparing a slow-cooked feast for two. But, for me, that’s as far as it tends to go.
I am, after all, a bit of a busy-body. Lying in feels like a waste of precious time – the same goes for afternoons spent Netflix binging on the sofa. My mind is never quiet, either. I’m always looking ahead to tomorrow, next week, next month and so on. I think quickly, I move quickly, I even speak quickly (or so I’m told). Slowing down and ‘being in the moment’ has always been a hard task.
Fortunately for me, the folk behind The Wellness Tree Retreat know just how to remedy this and, after a weekend in their care, I’m happy to report that I’ve never felt less ‘wired’ in all my life – and it was wonderful.
So, what are the retreats all about? Well, think of them as wellbeing bootcamp – but without the barking orders, sweatiness or sore muscles (unless you over-stretch during your yoga session, that is).
Bagging a spot means you’re given a chance to really work on what matters – your own wants and needs – for two whole days. Even if all that means is not really chatting to anyone other than your best pal (I advise booking up with a friend – it’s a perfect chance to catch up and reconnect), indulging in a massage, having someone else cook for you, or time to enjoy a bath
Hosted by Emma Pratt and her mother, Angela, the bespoke, women-only programmes offer guests a mix of chill-out time, spa treatments, freshly-prepared, wholesome food (prepared by an on-site chef), rejuvenating morning walks and expertly-led yoga, mindfulness and relaxation workshops.
All under one very good-looking roof, too. Ours was held at Irton Manor – a grand, five-bed holiday home, not far from Scarborough. Think pristine, five-star accommodation set in 35 acres of rustic, rural loveliness. Wander around the
grounds and gardens and you’re unlikely to meet a soul – heaven if you’re on the hunt for headspace.
Angela and Emma – both of whom are North East natives – are the perfect hosts. Non-fussy and non-pushy, the duo are on hand if you need anything, but will happily let you do your own thing, at your own pace, throughout your stay. Meditation not your thing? Feel free to skip it, they say. Don’t fancy yoga at 8am on a Sunday? Stay in bed. But for those who do want to get involved, well, you’re welcomed with open arms.
Angela, an accredited psychotherapist and registered counsellor, leads the way when it comes to the meditation and relaxation workshops (she also offers free one-to-one sessions to anyone who wants one during their stay), while Emma, a former teacher who recently swapped marking books for a working life dedicated to soothing others, is your go-to for anything else you may need. Think of her as the retreats’ warm and bubbly master of ceremony, gently guiding you through the days’ activities.
For my chum and I, that meant arriving late Friday afternoon with a do-what-you-fancy-themed night ahead of us. After being greeted with hugs from our hosts, we curled up in one of the manor’s snug lounges with cups of herbal tea, before being shown to our room – a large, sumptuous suite, overlooking tranquil gardens and fountains, with a swanky master en-suite.
After unpacking and eyeing up our itineraries for the weekend (these are by no means strict – just a way of keeping you in the know of each day’s agenda), it was time for a pow-wow with Angela, Emma and the rest of the ladies.
Groups are kept relatively small – 12 or so in total in our case – and everyone is encouraged to share a little bit about themselves and what they’re looking to get out of the experience, before being let loose to explore their surroundings and sitting down to dinner in the main dining room.
The food here is nothing short of spectacular; dishes made with fresh, organic produce, locally-sourced where possible, by expert hands. Ellie, our dedicated chef for the weekend, did a mean job of creating a wholesome, good-for-you menu that satisfied all diets, whether vegetarian, gluten-free or dairy-free.
Dinners included tandoori-scented cod and cauliflower steaks with chickpea curry and Asian-inspired sesame chicken and sticky, soy-glazed aubergine. For lunch, Mediterranean-style salads and veggie goulash, and a mix of wild Alaskan smoked salmon, silky eggs, roasted mushrooms and juicy, hand-carved ham on rye for brekkie.
Desserts were divine, refined sugar-free creations – real showstoppers. On this occasion, moreish toffee pudding with praline yogurt one night and thick wedges of caramelised pineapple and coconut cake, another.
The former yacht chef, who now runs her own catering business, cooked up a storm from start to finish – and we often sat at the breakfast bar to watch her live in action and pick up some culinary tips. You also get to take away recipe cards, just in case you
fancy having a go at whipping up some of the dishes at home.
With satisfied tums, we took part in a relaxation workshop on night one, led by Angela, before laying our heads for the night. Sitting in a circle, we perched our bottoms on mountains of comfy pillows, closed our eyes, and listened as our resident coach delivered a peaceful reading, gently lulling us into a state of stillness – the perfect before-bed ritual.
Saturday was particularly dreamy. After stretching things out in an early morning yoga class with qualified and well-travelled yoga instructor, Jennie, and a spot of breakfast, we entered the world of mindfulness, with Angela as our guide.
Some opted out, but what a little treat – in more ways than one – it was for those who chose to stick around. We were each handed a chocolate button and asked to study it for a while; feeling it in the palms of our hands and smelling its creamy aroma, before popping it in our mouths and allowing it to melt, noticing its texture changing and savouring its sweetness.
Being ‘in the moment’ was the aim of the game and taking time to stop, touch base with our senses and actually appreciate our food, was a fun way to explore the notion of so-called ‘mindfulness’.
Our afternoon was filled with all good things; lunch, nail-painting, swimming, blissful Indian head massage, coffee and cake, jigsaws and scrabble and strolls to the nearby ‘secret’ garden.
Angela and Emma’s refreshing no-pressure approach means you’re free to do what you please between workshops – which we loved. We even snuck in an early evening nap (unheard of for us) and a bubble bath, before a candlelit meditation session around the indoor pool.
The weekend came to a close with a delicious lie-in, a spot of brunchy goodness and a silent woodland walk, which everyone agreed to participate in. A chance to kick-start our Sunday, fill our lungs with fresh, country air and get our bodies moving once again after lots of (deserved) rest.
Departing stirred up a mix of emotions – though all of them positive. Angela and Emma’s calmness washes over you and you somehow leave feeling like a new, sparkly, revitalised version of yourself – with fewer eye bags and more get-up-and-go.
After undisturbed time to reconnect with yourself and what’s important to you, you feel mentally ready to take on whatever
your daily life may throw your way – and with greater perspective. It’s the stuff money can’t buy.
Due to the success of the retreats, Angela and Emma are branching out for 2018, bringing the best bits of The Wellness Tree Retreat directly to you, wherever you may be.
Enjoy one-hour workshops (from mindfulness to meditation and yoga), workshops with added brunch or Afternoon Tea, or a full day retreat, during which you’ll be spoiled with fluffy robes and luxury pamper packs, an hour’s workshop, food, a 15-minute spa treatment and access to the women’s seven-day online detox programme – perfect for the New Year.
Prices from £25-£79 per person, based on a minimum of 10 people. For more information, or to enquire about a booking, contact 07539338437 or visit: the-wellnesstree.co.uk