AD | The following stay was gifted to me in exchange for honest feedback ahead of the retreat’s official opening to guests in January 2020
I tried yoga once with my mum when I was a lot younger. We were attempting a very dextrous move that neither of us could manage when an older lady parped quite loudly and unashamedly. I looked at my mum, my mum looked at me and I collapsed in a fit of loud uncontrollable giggles. We never went back.
Fast forward to the present day and an older, more frazzled me found herself very much in need of a break. At home my cat has been finding interesting ways to say ‘I love you’, with presents of vomit, wee and poop. At work it’s been as hectic as it always is. Most of the time that’s where I thrive, but when it gets too much I know it’s time to step away for some time out.
This is how I came to accept an invite to try out the new Fullers Hill Retreat; a weekend getaway with a chance to try out yoga, mindfulness and other wellness activities.
Before I left, I was a bit worried. My previous attempt at yoga was a disaster and at age 37 I’m about as flexible as a concrete post. My body confidence has been low recently so I wasn’t looking forward to wearing yoga appropriate gear and I also didn’t know if my cynical, overthinking brain would be able to handle the calm art of meditation. In retrospect I’m so glad that I didn’t let my insecurities stop me.
Fullers Hill Retreat is tucked away in the Cambridgeshire countryside in a pretty village called Little Gransden. The courtyard houses the luxury apartments that can accommodate up to 12 guests per retreat. If you’ve got enough people you can book out a whole cottage to yourself, but otherwise you may be sharing the space with other guests.
We all gathered at The Granary which is one of the retreat cottages. It’s a gorgeous space with a large open plan kitchen and lounge and a huge central table. The Fullers Retreat hosts made us a welcoming hot drink and explained what we’d be getting up to over the next day.
The rest of the group were really friendly and a mixed bag. Among us were complete beginners (as nervous as myself), yoga dabblers and one yoga teacher.
We headed over to the yoga studio, a cosy wood cabin filled with calming scents and candles that felt even more of a comforting haven due to the torrential rain lashing down outside.
The yoga class itself was something of a revelation. Our teacher had devised a beginners introduction that took us through the classic positions without ever feeling too challenging or out of my comfort zone. There was one move in particular that looked like a submission technique from the WWE. I was doubtful, but tried my best and OH MY GOODNESS did it feel good when I’d manouevered into it.
Somehow, we were in that studio for close to 2 hours. It flew by! I felt like I’d worked parts of my body previously unknown to me but I felt good…and like I wanted to do it again.
We headed back to The Granary for lunch, a beautiful freshly made soup and a selection of bread rolls. I had let them know in advance that I was vegan and this was all taken care of without fuss.
After lunch we stayed at the table for our mindfulness session. We were taken through some simple meditative exercises.
I couldn’t get into it at first, I find it very hard to clear my thoughts. However our coach’s soothing voice helped and I let myself embrace it. The sessions begin and end with the sound of a bell gently chiming. It’s simple but as it turns out, really effective!
We took a walk together through the countryside, chatting away as we headed out. On the way back we stayed silent, a mindfulness exercise designed to help us appreciate all the sights and sounds that we’d missed on the outward journey. As we were walking through a field a light aircraft zoomed past and set off into the air, an amazing sight to see up close.
Back at our base we made vision boards. It felt a little bit like being back at school as I cut out shapes from magazines and Pritt Sticked my collage together… but in a good way!
We had free time before the evening activities so we decided to make use of the shared hot tubs. It’s a wonder what a few hours can do for your wellbeing. By the time we were ready for our evening meal I was feeling extremely contented.
That evening we once again gathered at the large table for a wine tasting. Our sommelier Dominic (who used to work in a Scottish Michelin starred restaurant but now has his own local wine shop) introduced us to a variety of different wines. We tried whites, reds, sparkling, dry and dessert options.
He let us know where they were from and what sort of dishes they’d pair well with. In general he was just really knowledgeable but also full of funny anecdotes. It was a fun tasting, not at all stuffy or pretentious.
To finish things on a high note, we were treated to a 3 course meal cooked by a private chef. He expertly whipped up both a vegan and non vegan feast as our group chatted over our wine.
My meal was delicious, especially the main which was a roasted cauliflower curry.
It was a rare treat for me to have dessert. However this one involved dark chocolate oozy goodness and I devoured it!
After a long but incredibly fulfilling day we headed back to our own cottages. Some of us stayed up quite late playing board games, drinking prosecco and enjoying the chocolatey treats we’d been given.
I had a lie in the next morning as the bed was very comfy and cosy. Then I mooched downstairs and made breakfast from the complimentary hamper that had been delivered to the cottage.
After a peaceful walk in the surrounding countryside it was time to head back to reality. VERY reluctantly!
If you’re looking to relax, recharge and reboot, I wholeheartedly recommmend the Fullers Hill Retreat.
For more information on Fullers Hill Retreat, visit their website www.fullershillretreat.co.uk