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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE: IN REVIEW // THE RETREAT, ESSEX

 

WHAT: The Retreat, Essex
VENUE: Creeksea Place Barns, Burnham-on-Crouch
STAY: 3rd November – 5th November

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This time last week (eeek, I started writing this the weekend after The Retreat in November, life took over – apologies for my tardiness!) I was sat around a huge, dining table, surrounded by 26 other Women who were complete strangers, sampling the utter delights of the incredible Chef, Susan Foynes. (You have NO IDEA how long I’ve been desperately seeking the cuisine by Susan, and my god, it was worth the wait!). I was on The Retreat, located at Creeksea Barns in rural Essex, the concept born by Wonder Woman, Kate Irwin.

Back in April this year, I actually won my place on The Retreat; nobody could have foreseen how rubbish this year would have/has been, nor just how NEEDED The Retreat would really be by November.

Without being a total misery, our year has been filled with ‘life experience’, let’s say. From car accidents to family medical complications, anxiety, depression, loss and most recently, my miscarriage. It’s been tough and stressful and intensely sad – but we’ve learned a lot. Had I not won my place on The Retreat, I most certainly would have been up for the 2 night stay and the agenda that Kate had so perfectly organised.

So, what went down? (Bear in mind, I ain’t so good with the concise stuff, so this could be lengthy!)

Friday 3rd November

I just about managed to get the house in order and Eli sorted ahead of my 40 min drive in time. We live in Billericay and have quite a lot of country lanes in the area, so the drive to Creeksea Place Barns wasn’t a total shock – though the amount of bends was pretty crackers! It was dry and chilly and bright and our countryside is just stunning, isn’t it? I had the company of Harry Styles’ debut album for the journey. I arrived at 4:30 and was greeted by Kate. It’s a funny old world, chatting online with like-minded Women, you immediately feel like you’re pal’s when you finally do meet – this was no exception after receiving the BEST squeeze from Kate upon meeting for the first time!

I grabbed my suitcase and bits and bobs from the car and Kate took me along to my room. I was sharing with ‘Hanna’, I didn’t know a Hanna… I was nervous, but figured, she didn’t know me either, we were in the same boat. Turns out, I did “know” Hanna, or rather I did know the @the_savvy_mummy and was following her on IG.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few introductions (and the most delicious flapjacks from Susan!) acquainting eachother with our Instagram accounts, we were led to the decked area outside for a Group Mediation, as guided by Sarah Grattan of Yoga, Health & Wellness. I’ve only practiced Mediation in the past year or so, following an event with Mothers Meetings & the Mindfulness app, Quility. The session was brilliant (though, I was petrified to ‘sing’ my name as means of introducing myself, but hey, we all did it and it definitely helped  break the ice!) and a great way to relax before dinner and engaging in more conversation with the other attendee’s. Also, just wanted to highlight that there was the most incredible full moon on Friday 3rd November. This of course was fully to blame attributed to my emotional state.

So while we’re on it, dinner on Friday evening was >>

 

 

After din din’s, a group of us relaxed on the sofa’s in the main barns before heading back to our own rooms. Hanna and I chatted till probably *too late*, but it was great to have such a lovely talk with someone so likeminded! I should at this point give Hanna a little apology for my snoring; me, snoring, who’d have thought it!

SATURday 4TH November

I had one of those sleeps where you’re mega comfy and cosy…. but also clock watching. I knew I had to be up super early for our ‘silent walk’. And just couldn’t get into a proper slumber (despite the snoring).

My alarm went off at 6:45am. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled to get out that bed! But just shy of 7am, I found myself wrapped up and with the Wellingtons on, we were gearing up ready for our Silent Walk. I’d never been on one before so was intrigued but also curious as to what I was ‘meant’ to do exactly. Truth is, nothing was expected of me. The entire weekend was pressure-free. Kate made is completely explicit that if we didn’t want to take part in something, that was fine, likewise, if you wanted to do something else, that was fine. The Retreat had to work for us all, as a group and individually.

Kate asked us to refrain from speaking on the walk, to take time to think about whatever we felt we needed to – to reflect – to also take in the beautiful surroundings. I desperately tried not to reach for my phone to take photos – but I took just this one, below. I took it at a point where we stopped for just a few minutes along the walk. I was ready to burst into tears. I found the walk particularly intense – which I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for. How could such silence make you feel so overwhelmed with emotion? I was very grateful for taking the walk with everyone, it was actually really quite poignant for me, in the end! I will definitely be trying this again – whether on my own or with friends/family. It was really interesting – and lovely not being distracted by conversation or the old phone!

Post-walk, we all made our way to the main barn for the BEST breakfast ever.

Susan & Natasha had prepared the most incredible feast. For the first time, I tried baked porridge – topped with CREAM – which was a total revelation. Susan, please send me the recipe – it was just incredible! We also had plenty of other bits to munch on ahead of the Nutrition & Training session with Jemma of @trulymadlyhealthy.

 

So from 10, Jemma joined us in the outdoor barn for the Nutrition session, where she talked through what fuel she takes on, on a typical day. Jemma gave us a take-home sheet with examples of good/bad foods and alternatives. The hot topic’s raised were ‘What Milk should we be having?’ and ‘How much BEEF can we eat?’ (LOL @LoveForTheMama).

Following the nutrition session, Jemma took us through a Training session with warm up and straight into stretching, using an elastic gym band. I paired up with mega Mama & Photographer extraordinaire, Charlotte Green. We then had to work together using the bands to stretch and pull – which was part difficult/part hilarious.

By the end of the session, I was SO HUNGRY. Susan & Natasha had prepared a warming bowl of Butternut Squash Soup, topped with yoghurt and pumpkin seeds, served with freshly baked baguettes. SO GOOD I went in for seconds.

 

After lunch, we had a few hours of ‘free time’ – I already had a back massage booked in at the Saltmarsh Spa – and had planned on being completely chilled for the rest of the time between. But what is this? A mobile gift shop filled to the brim with wondrous treats?! MERAKI GIFT is a brilliant concept, founded by Nadia following a curry evening with friends, in 2016. 4 months after the initial idea, the UK’s first mobile gift shop was ready to hit the roads! Meraki is a Greek word meaning the soul, creativity and love you put into your work – the Meraki gift truck is just that, packed full of soul, creativity and love,  travelling throughout London and the UK providing gorgeous gifts at markets, fairs and events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t leave the van empty handed – I wanted to buy SO MANY things! It was such a treasure trove. I went for a very me necklace – gold with Lightning Bolt pendant – by Ophelia.


HUSH have a similar design // Click here to shop

I also did a bit of hanging out with the ladies from @Black_and_Sigi, @AWhittinghamphoto and Charlotte, where we proceeded to sit in front of the WORST Christmas films ever, on channel 5 (whatever else!?)

Soon enough it was time for my massage. Now, I have an incredibly bad back, full knots and tension and stiffness –  especially since my car accident in March. I actually *need* massages often, so I guess I know what I’m looking for. While my massage was ‘good’ and the ‘time out’ was soooo needed, it wasn’t quite what I’d usually go for. I was also a little distracted by the ticking of the clock in the room – but hey, thats just my personal hearing issues going into over drive there, I think!  Nevertheless, the treatment was on the cheaper side, so it was fine.

I jumped into my swimming costume and headed back into the Spa. I spent a good half hour, on my own, in the jacuzzi as the sun set, looking over the rolling fields. It was just total bliss.

Caitlin Scheybeler joined ahead of our final dinner – the evening however, was quite emotionally charged, to say the very least! Caitlin is a psychotherapist and fellow mum, also founder of @MamakaLondon.

Through Caitlin we all (I tried to, through sobbing face) shared something that we had going on in our lives that we’d like to let go of – and also, what we’d like to let in – in order to lead a happier life. This evening proved, once again, that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you have no idea about – so be kind, always. Once we’d gotten over the tears and great words of advice from Caitlin, we all dug into the most beautiful final supper from Susan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, just the most glorious of meals. Susan Foynes, you have surpassed all expectations. Just stunning! I really must get to one of The Yes Mum Moon Club’s!

At this point, Kate handed out the most jam-packed goody bag I’ve ever seen! Each tote was hand embroidered by Dawn, founder of @girlfridayembroidery – such a lovely touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all enjoyed a few more glasses of wine than we’d anticipated, I think! And a lot of the group headed over to the dutifully named, “Party Barn” . We all had a more relaxed conversation with eachother, with the best music blaring! (YEP, it was that kind of retreat! We all definitely let our hair down!)

I initially attempted to get to bed at 1am. But am placing blame firmly at Kate’s door when I say I didn’t end up getting to ‘bed’ (on the sofa!) until way gone 3:30am. I’d spent a lovely time chatting with Kate’s brilliant sister, Natalie.  Natalie, I have to just say, you’re one of the most kind and caring souls I’ve ever met. Completely selfless, beautiful human.

SUNDAY 5TH November

I woke  on the sofa, to the smell of baked porridge – the time was 6:15am.  At 7am the majority of us were out on the field, with moderate hangovers. The temperature was 4c (though it felt much, much colder) and it was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. We prepared for ‘Grounding’ by slipping off our socks and shoes, so we could connect with the Earth. Though it was absolutely freezing underfoot, it was also pretty magical – and again, I felt pretty overwhelmed with emotion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following our outdoor session (with a little bit of help from @motherofall_tings!) , we went back indoors for our final breakfast. Baked porridge and sour dough, doesn’t get much better does it! This all set us up for a Yoga session with Keeley Beech, founder of Yoga4all. Having only ‘practiced’ Yoga in the comfort of our living room, I was again nervous for a proper session – and one in front of others. Thankfully, Keely was brilliant in her approach as she caters for all abilities – also, the environment was so calm and I didn’t feel conscious about my own abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 11:30, Jemma of @Mummas_health_hub came along to talk through her own fitness journey, whilst also  giving us her amazing hints & tips on fitness planning and fitting it all in. Jemma is a personal trainer and Mum to 2 boys, who started writing down little tips for herself, when times were so busy and she couldn’t train for the length of time that I would have liked. She talked through how she’d stick post-it notes around the house to prompt her, short exercises, sequences that took only a few minutes but were quite intense, and tips to remind her to relax too – that’s how her Pack of Hacks was born. In the time that I’ve known Jemma, I’ve found that she’s a force to be reckoned with – a true Mum-Boss with a heart of old (and abs of total steel!). 

Time soon ticked away and before we knew it, we were saying our final goodbye’s for the weekend. Though, I absolutely knew I’d be seeing a lot of these wondrous women again soon. That’s been the beauty of The Retreat – the brilliant culmination of REAL Women. There was a real sense of sisterhood across the entire weekend. We were all in it together and there for oneanother. This weekend has changed my life in so many ways. I can’t thank you enough Kate.

Can’t wait to meet up again soon – and please do give @the_retreat_essex a follow across all the channels too – there’s so much more up Kate’s sleeve and it’s bloody exciting!

 

C
✖️ ✖️ ✖️

NB: I did win my place on The Retreat, but was not asked to write a review/did not accept payment for doing so. All opinions are my own and are 100% honest. 

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IN REVIEW // BFLF Events | Wringer + Mangle, Hackney – 23.04.17

Helping parents be responsibly irresponsible since 2013. The Real Family Rave. Award winning, critically acclaimed, internationally acclaimed. Created by parents who love clubbing, for parents who love clubbing. Dance/Create/Play – see you on the dance floor! 

I had been following Big Fish, Little Fish Events on Instagram for a long while and sadly, every time an event came to London town, the date would clash with other plans… or as it happened, we ended up moving to Berlin! If you don’t already know, Big Fish Little Fish “are an independent, grassroots music and events crew that put on family raves with all the freedom and excitement of a mini-festival, right in the heart of cities and towns across the UK”.

So when we moved back, I was desperate to take Eli off to the Family Rave. Fast forward almost a year, and the same things happened – clash of dates. Then finally, FINALLY the 23rd April event came up! At first we thought we wouldn’t be able to attend because Greater Anglia are messing about with the tracks EVERY single weekend for the next few months – which means some weekends, a 3 hour journey into London (which would normally take 35 mins btw). We checked out the trains and realised it was the weekend of the London Marathon – which meant the trains were RUNNING – with no replacement buses, no random journeys. Just direct! BOOM.

Natasha from BFLF got in touch with me and mentioned the theme was ‘Popstars & Rockstars’, as part of the Camp Bestival 2017 tour. Many are now aware, Eli is obsessed with his Starman. So for him, it was a no brainer. He was going as Ziggy. He wanted the red hair and the lightning bolt face. He wanted to complete the rest of his outfit himself, of course. Natasha also mentioned a potential venue change, due to the recent happenings at the Hackney club. I imagine this was quite a stressful week between the event for the BFLF team, through horrendous circumstances. But as it happened, they managed to be able to continue with the same venue – and what a venue to boot!

The Wringer + Mangle was really easy for us to get to. A short journey on the Overground took us to London Fields station, where it was then a 2 minute walk to the venue. Eli was clarted out in full Ziggy regalia – and loving all the comments along the route!

Upon arrival at the location, we saw the queue leading down to The Mangle. We were advised by both Natasha and Hannah that there may be a delay for entry as all bags were searched. Rightly so. The airport style security was very thorough, which is great and welcomed by all. Safety first. I was asked to try the water we had in our bag – as well as test my trusty Lipcote. We then went into the depths of the venue. It was dark, there was neon, there was a craft table (Captain Cookie Crafts), cakes and bar for the adults. PERFECT.

These events are aimed at families with young children (birth – around 8 years old) – though we definitely did see folk of all ages there!

 

Facepainters PHACE by Philly, were also on hand, transforming the faces of both Adults (£7) and Children (£5). Had I not already painted Eli’s face myself, I can guarantee he would have had his face decorated – we loved the designs we saw!

So what else can you expect from a BFLF event?

  • Top DJ’s playing club classics (DJ Food, The Orb, Tom Middleton, Terry Farley, Hatcha, Mixmaster Morris, James Tec and Nihal have all played – check individual events for details)
  • Fancy dress themes.
  • Bubble Machines, club visuals, giant balloons, glitter cannons and parachute dance finale.
  • Captain Cookie craft area with themed crafts, giant colouring mural, play-doh table.
  • Licensed Bar.
  • Home Made Cake Stall and savouries.
  • Face painting stall.
  • Play area with tents, tunnels and inflatables.
  • Villa Pia Babies-only chill out safe space with soft mats, beanbags and ball-pool.
  • Free glowsticks and transfer tattoos.
  • Baby change and buggy park.
  • One-off installations/workshops (at selected events only).

 

DJ’s Terry Francis (FABRIC) and David Fosci (BFLF resident) were on the deck’s for this event.

Parachute Dance – something that the Kid’s and Adults all love, of course.

 

 

Entry into the event also includes free glowstick and transfers. Eli chose a Skull & Cross bones tattoo, obviously.

As this event was in conjunction with Camp Bestival 2017 On Tour, there was the opportunity to pose against the photobooth backdrop (Eli needed zero coaxing).  Photos shared and tagged with #CB17ontour and #BFLF would be entered into a competition to win one of 3 Family Guest Passes for Camp Bestival 2017 itself! (Fingers firmly crossed!)

 

All BFLF events are based on the concept – 2 to 4 Hour Party People (ha), so by 4:30pm the event was drawing to a close. The  glitter cannon finale was epic and Eli proceeded to swim/create snow angels in the remnants.

 

Photo: BFLF on Facebook

We had the best afternoon! I cannot recommend these events highly enough. The music isn’t too loud (for newborns, you might want to bring a set of ear defenders – but the volume was more than acceptable for toddlers). Everything was incredibly well managed, organised and maintained by HannahNatasha and their team. The most brilliant amount fun for a few hours – the 3 of us had a good old dance, with Eli getting the ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ dance suspiciously easily…

As parents, with no local support, we don’t get out often. AT ALL. So this was a fantastic way of reliving a little bit of youth and letting our hair down – with Eli absolutely loving every second too!

Just to also highlight, you will need to take cash for additional extra’s once inside (for Face-painting and the cake stall etc), though at this venue, the bar did accept cards.  We had 2 cans of beer from the bar (which does alleviate a lot of spillages I imagine!), but the cans were on the expensive side. So do bare that in mind too. We don’t get out often, so this was fine for us. Adults are not admitted unless accompanied by a child and there is a max of 3 children per adult. This made us feel very safe in a new and very dark environment. Pre-Walking infants do need a ticket, though this is free! (Bonus for new parents!). These events have limited seating (just dance!), club lighting rigs (no strobes) are used and events are busy with around 500 people at each party – which helps create the rave ambience. Each event is stewarded and risk assessed in advance – we saw lots of stewards in high-vis, so you couldn’t miss them! Buggies must be left in buggy park and are not be allowed on the dance floor.

We can’t wait to join the next event! If BFLF visits a city near you, don’t miss it. Travel to one if you can. I urge you. You won’t be disappointed!

C

✖️ ✖️ ✖️

Special thanks to Natasha for inviting us along to this event. This is in no way a sponsored review. All opinions my own. Some quotes and details taken from www.bigfishlittlefishevents.co.uk 

THE STORY

Drawing on our experience as seasoned clubbers and parents the BFLF crew create anarchic, social, daft fun for all ages. Inspired by Hannah’s (the founder) lifelong love of clubbing and her babies’ enjoyment of festivals. BFLF is something we want to take our own families to – somewhere relaxed, entertaining, and where the adults enjoy themselves as much as the children and vice versa with grandparents, uncles, aunts and carers all in the mix. Raving always came from the heart, a way to express a love of music and dancing with your friends. BFLF extends that across the generations so you can rave with your family too. It’s a celebration of life, love and music.

We work hard to make sure each event is unique – different DJs, creative themes and guest artists running everything from hula-hoop demonstrations to synthesiser workshops to interactive light installations.

Our parties are held in interesting and quirky venues; clubs, arts spaces and pubs, which help create the ambience of being at a real rave.

Started in Brixton, summer 2013 BFLF now runs on weekend afternoons across the UK, and also works with other festivals and organisations (Glastonbury Festival, Camp Bestival, South Bank Centre, Edinburgh Festival, Beautiful Days, Coventry Mysteries, Kendal Calling, National Gallery, Stratford Circus, The Museum of London, London LGBT Pride, Out With The Family, Winterville, Mini VAULT, Farnham Maltings, Dreamland Margate and the London Electronic Arts Festival).

Regular events are now held all over the country including:  Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham,Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Leicester and Manchester and many more.