Full disclosure: this is the seventh (I think) time I’ve stayed with Deb and Bob in their writers’ retreat in Sheepwash, Devon. This is less of a review and more of a serious gush. The thing is, this is a very special place.
I first discovered Retreats For You when I was looking for a retreat that spoiled me. I didn’t want to stay in solitude in a rental cottage, because I knew I’d spend all my time sourcing food options and distracting myself on the internet – kind of like I do at home. I also didn’t want structured classes (though one-on-ones with Deb are available and there are often relaxed readings in the evenings). I wanted to write with no distractions. Deb and Bob provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, which means no meal planning or procrastinating trips to Tesco. They also actively discourage (nay, slap your wrist) if you try and tidy anything away. Deb nips in and makes your bed in the morning. AND she’ll do your washing if you wish. Their motto, oft repeated sternly if you’re approaching the washing up bowl, is ‘you are here to write.’ Sodding marvellous.
The retreat is in a gorgeous wattle and daub, thatched cottage overlooking a village square in the middle of rural Devon. As I live in a hermetically sealed new build which has a constant tropical clime, I always pack plenty of woolly jumpers and make use of the plug-in radiator in each room. You get your own room, no sharing (though there are double rooms and a twin should you wish to bring a buddy).
Each room is simply furnished, clean, with fresh white bed linen and towels, a desk, a lamp, tea and coffee making facilities (and a hairdryer and slippers and a dressing gown – that’s the kind of detail I like to know!). There are a maximum of 5 rooms, so a maximum of 5 other writers to convene with over mealtimes. There are two shared bathrooms, which are well stocked with beautifying goodies. During all the times I’ve stayed there’s never been more than a 5 minute wait for the bathroom. And even that was a rare occurrence. I guess each person has their own rhythms and they don’t tend to overlap.
Meals can be taken in your room if you’re gripped by the muse, or don’t fancy chatting. I always eat downstairs with the others, as I enjoy the supportive and stimulating environment a group of writers creates. I also find the return to the rooms after meals, and the air of productivity that indicates, propels me in a vaguely boarding school fashion to my desk. Everyone else is working, so I should be working too. It’s fantastically effective. My word count is always ridiculous at the end of each stay.
When the weather’s nice meals are taken in the garden. If you’re lucky a trip to nearby Cornwall and a barbecue on the beach may be in order one evening. Included in the cost of your stay (bed, full board, and all that tidying up) is wine (really, you got to love this place!). Each evening I adore savouring a glass or two of plonk in front of the roaring fire, which is lit every night in the lounge. Make sure you try Deb’s famous flapjacks, which are available for snacking on throughout the day. Trust me, they’re not to be missed. A separate TV room is available for those who want it, and Deb always has an interesting selection of films from Love Film to peruse.
It’s worth noting most mobile phones don’t work in Sheepwash. To be honest this is a blessed relief (there’s a landline should you need to make or receive calls). There is Wi-Fi throughout the house, but I stick my out of office on and focus on the task at hand. It’s funny given how dependent I am on all my techy gadgets how I never miss them here.
Isabelle, a local therapist can be booked for beauty treatments at the house. I always have a massage or two to keep my shoulders and back in good working order, before lolling in my pjs in front of the fire. I love that fire!
At the retreat I keep the kind of schedule I’d love to maintain at home. I rise early, I bash out plenty of words, I eat healthily, I enjoy a daily stroll through the surrounding fields or along the river, I have interesting and inspiring conversations round the fire at night and I retire early. I come away with masses of words under my belt, AND I feel rested. I told you it was a special place.
Further details and booking information about Retreats For You can be found here.
With thanks to @geowriter and Retreats For You for images 1, and 2, 3, 5 and 6, respectively (my camera corrupted and I lost half my photos).