Wow, my head is spinning with all the things I want to talk about after having such an amazing weekend. I really don’t know where to begin so I’m just going to dive in and hope you enjoy my ramblings as I revisit my experiences.
First though, a little explanation. I spent the weekend in sunny Somerset, in the stunning country house venue, Croydon Hall. The Retreat was arranged by the awesome Sally from Who’s the Mummy and founder of Tots 100. It was attended by around fifty bloggers all keen to learn and interact, and happy to be staying together for the whole weekend.
As you can see, my first sighting of Croydon Hall really had a wow factor, what a lovely place to be staying. On going around the back the views were stunning, miles and miles of fields and trees and beautiful countryside set against the horizon of blue sky and wispy clouds.
The house itself was aged but still beautiful and very cosy. My room was on the ground floor because of my accessibility needs. I shared my room with the lovely Lisa, who I’ve only recently met online, and now in the flesh. We had an en-suite bathroom which was a nice luxury until we heard how clamorously the water pipes announced their work.
My bed was cosy, if a little firm. The covers adequate although the first night I slept in my dressing gown to ward off the cold of an old stone building. The second night was much warmer as the heating was escalated.
The view from my window was probably not as stunning as those from higher up in the house, but I still enjoyed a lovely sunny day picture on my first morning.
I spent a lot of time exploring as much as I could in my wheelchair. The rooms were all large but welcoming and cosy, the dining room big enough to manoeuvre around and most of the door pretty easy to push or pull open. Being a wheelchair user you notice little things that others may not, like two doors close in proximity, or double doors that will only open together. I did manage to move around inside well alone but I also appreciated every door that was opened for me. There was no lift so I did not go upstairs, but as my room was on the ground floor, there was no need anyway.
I did have a little trouble getting to the barn but Sally and Jaime were so helpful, driving me right up to the front where I could access the barn by a ramp. Had I a more suitable wheelchair for outdoor use, or a scooter, then I would probably have managed the short journey myself. Maybe a tip for the owners would be to provide a scooter to be used by disabled visitors that would need to get to the barn.
Here are a few more photos of the inside of the house. The bar and lounge, the entrance hall and the two bottom photos are from the study.
The First Day
We all arrived late on Friday afternoon and after the general hellos it was time for the first session, yoga.
Out on the grass in the warm fresh air we were led by the lovely Rachel for a relaxing session of yoga. Rachel was wonderful, so warm and welcoming. She began by leading us into empowering poses and then on to a meditative yoga. I’ve never meditated like this in a group before and it’s something I probably wouldn’t have considered doing. However, I immersed myself into this session and enjoyed every moment. It really set me up for the rest of the weekend and I believed it affected everyone as we were all so relaxed and focused.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed with a little photography, dinner and movie.
Day two was a little more intense with lots of different sessions going on. Having chosen all of our sessions before hand it meant we all knew what we were doing. As we all had different needs and expectations I think this added to the community spirit, being in different classes with different people.
I had chosen carefully, making sure I had some down time. I didn’t want to burn myself out or run out of brain space.
I enjoyed a lovely creative writing workshop with Kirstie Pelling. I have attended many creative writing workshops and was expecting this one to be similar, but Kirstie took me on a completely new adventure that I’m sure will help me much more than anything I’ve learnt before.
Later in the day I attended a product photography workshop. Derek was a true professional. Suddenly I no longer want to throw my product on the coffee table, take a quick snap and then edit it so you don’t get my kids mess in the background. Derek taught me that it can be pretty simple to have a set up which will create the most amazing product photos. And his props do not cost the earth to buy, I can just imagine so many bloggers now running out to buy some tracing paper. Derek was informative and very patient as he let everyone get hands on with the props and their cameras. It all looked a bit complicated but it really wasn’t. I’m pretty sure my kitchen will be looking like this quite soon.
After the photography I went on to a Confidence on Camera session. I don’t do videos of myself, I really lack the confidence to do Facebook Live or Insta Stories. This really was the session for me despite the fact that I was terrified.
The session was held by Darren and Sean from Aspire Presenting.
I had a feeling that I had seen Sean before but was not entirely sure where or when. The guys introduced themselves and when Sean said he’d worked at Butlins, I blurted out “Are you Shiny Sean?”
So, that’s where I’d seen him before, at Butlins, some 21 years previously. I obviously have a good memory for faces! Actually, it was quite a memorable holiday for me, the first after splitting with my husband, and I took my Mum to help with the kids. We had a really good week and the kids had loads of fun. Shiny Sean was one of their favourite red coats so I guess that’s why I remembered him.
Anyway, I digress. After a really interesting talk, in which I learned an awful lot about how to present myself, along with tips to boost my confidence. It was then time to start doing a little piece in front of the camera, one by one. It was a real eye opener and there was so much to take away from the session. It was also loads of fun and that helps so much.
I guess this calls for a photo of me with Shiny Sean 🙂
On the evening of the second day we had a lovely meal brought in by caterers, it was a special occasion where we all sat together and conversed while enjoying our food. I also got to meet some more people that I’d not really had chance to chat to before.
Want to see my food? Of course you do.
I woke in the early hours of the morning with a throbbing headache and I had to get up and take some pain relief. It seemed to take forever to work but eventually I drifted back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and felt a little better so I dragged myself off to breakfast. After breakfast I didn’t have anything on my schedule so I went back to my room. I was going to lie down again for a while but instead I grabbed my kindle and went off into the study. It seemed a little strange switching on my kindle in a room full of books, but they had a cosy settee in there and I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed. So, headphones on, I switched to Audible and listened while I chilled. An hour or so later and I was feeling much better so I headed off for my next session.
I’d opted for a portrait photography class led by Sarah Mason. My camera is a little ancient, I know I need to get a new one, but hey, I have more expensive things to buy right now, like a new wheelchair that doesn’t stop at every little bump! Sarah was brilliant though. Not only did she give me the courage to take the plunge and go into program rather than smart mode, she gave me so many ideas to think about when taking a portrait photo. Things I would never had thought of myself. She was also really patient, taking a look at everyone’s cameras and helping them find the right settings. We were soon getting the hang of it all.
This was my last session of learning. After lunch we all gathered one last time for a little positivity workshop, which was fun and a real nice way to say goodbye. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos from that.
Then, just like that, it was all over! Until next year 🙂
I can’t leave it there though. I have to tell you how well we were looked after while at The Retreat. The first evening I watched Sally and her team rustle up a fabulous dinner of pizza, baked potatoes and sides. One thing that really struck me was the lovely smile on Lindy’s face as she beavered away. I can assure you I would not be smiling while cooking for so many guests, flapping maybe, but not smiling. Lindy was obviously in her element. There was a good choice for breakfast, on the first morning it was pastries, cereal, yoghurt and fruit, and on the second it was the same but with the added option of sausage buns. Lunch on the first day was sandwiches and on the second they sent us off after filling lunch of either fish pie, cottage pie or lasagne. And don’t forget the cake, there was always cake and cookies and even cheesecake.
I can honestly say, my tummy was full and pleased.
I have to say thank you to everyone who helped me, everyone who held open a door or fetched me a chair, or just simply just took the time to ask if I needed anything. I learned something even more valuable this weekend and that was how to accept help. I have always been fiercely independent and felt accepting help difficult. Now I realise it’s okay to need assistance, and there are so many lovely people willing to offer it.
And of course, a big thank you to the Retreat team who made all this wonderfulness happen.