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