I confess, I hadn’t knuckled down to working on my latest manuscript for a few months. My bad. So, when I had the opportunity to take a few days out of my busy (ahem, busy-not-writing) schedule, I headed off to Retreats for You in North Devon.
Once I left the motorway at Exeter, and set off towards Okehampton, along leafy lanes between cushiony, green fields, I could feel a change within. Ahead of me I had a few days all to myself; no cooking, gardening, supermarket runs or housework. Yes, my shoulders were relaxing, my spirits lifting and, quite possibly, a smile was tweaking on my chops.
Sheepwash is a village radiating from a central square with a shop, a pub and a church. On the same square is The Court, my home-from-home for a few days; a thatched house dating back to the 1600s. I don’t know how many of you sense moods within a building but, for me, this place resonates warmth and contentment that welcomes you from the moment you step over the threshold.
As a writer on retreat, I’m looking for my own space, a tranquil setting, regular nourishment and freedom to get on with it. All of that is here.
Our first meal was what I like to call ‘proper comfort food’ – a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, followed by Eton Mess. Just what I needed after a three hour drive. Our hosts, Debbie and Wendy, do all the cooking and baking; fresh products are locally sourced and many ingredients are organic, and all dietary needs are catered for. You’ve no need to go hungry!
The rooms have a table to work at, a comfy bed and tea/coffee making facilities. I must add, down in the dining room, there’s a large selection of teas, coffees, organic snacks and home-made cake to graze on – at any time – if the muse eludes you or you’re just feeling peckish. It was so lovely to wander down, grab a snack and sit out in the garden for a break or head back up to my desk.
For diversion, there are walks around the village, and the resident chocolate labs – Daisy and Gracie – take very little persuasion to accompany you. But they’re good girls and trained to keep out of the way when you’re busy or having dinner.
The cosy sitting room doesn’t have a telly – Hurrah! It does have three comfy sofas and a massage chair – which is an experience in itself. If you really must watch The News (personally, I was delighted to escape it for a while) or the latest episode of your favourite soap, there is a TV in the annexe or you could watch it on your laptop/tablet as the wi-fi connection is good.
Sleep for me was blissful – a cosy bed and hardly a vehicle passing by during the hours of darkness to wake me.
I spent two solid days on my latest project and produced five thousand words. Not record-breaking but since I was working from a standing start – not having written a jot for months – I was glad to be into it again.
So what have I been doing for the last few months, you might ask. Simple. I had been booked to visit Sheepwash, in February, but fell victim to a vile, debilitating cold virus, and had to cancel. Instead of indulging in five days of writing, I was festering in bed, watching back-to-back episodes of Portrait Artist of the Year on the Sky Arts channel. Inspired to put paint on canvas again, I’ve been flexing my creative muscles with a self-portrait and giving my writing brain a break. The painting’s not finished either, but it will be…
Truly, if you’re contemplating withdrawing from the hectic or the humdrum, check out Retreats for You and spoil yourself with a few days there. At the time of writing, it costs just £90 per day, all in.