Living a slow paced life is always something that we've promoted in In Clover, so when I was invited to take part in the Slow Living Retreat with Wknd.In at one of the Canopy and Stars beautiful locations I jumped at the chance to turn off and meet new creatives. After two solid weeks of being on the road, shooting for Volume Five, it was a welcomed respite.
I'll be the first to admit that I might not've done too much research into the day. Like none... So when the taxi drove onto the Elmley Nature Reserve, I was sure he'd taken a wrong turn. There was nothing in sight, just the bumpy dirt road in front of us, weaving through all the wildlife. Two miles and ten minutes later we pulled into the drive and were welcomed and shown into the beautiful black barn, where we soon learned would be the main hub during our stay. It's awe inspiring to say the least, I instantly began picturing all the beautiful events that must have taken place here.
The afternoon started with a workshop by Aerende and Juta Shoes. Aerende is an ethical online store, selling curated home goods produced in the UK by people that might otherwise not be able to find work. Juta Shoes is a lovely organisation working with these people, teaching them new skills, creating a community while building their confidence. Joanna who was our teacher for the day, walked all of us through the process of making shoes. I was quite impressed with my results!
We gathered back around the table where we got to meet Syreeta and hear her story. Syreeta is the Founder of MOSS, Moments Of Sense and Style, a curated lifestyle brand. I currently have her candle burning as I write this and can already say that I'll be buying another one to replace it soon! After a horrible tragedy, her hectic work driven life was turned upside down. From that change came MOSS. I highly recommend going to her site and reading her story, it's an inspiring one!
Before supper we had a chance to check into our huts for some quiet time. This was something that I'd been particularly looking forward to, I'd heard great things from some of the other ladies that had seen where we'd be sleeping. I was staying in the Vanellus Hut, an absolute dreamy escape from my usual London flat and view.
As I sat going through my photos from the afternoon, dark clouds rolled in from the west and heavy raindrops began to fall on the tin roof. Thankful for the late start on the itinerary, I began thinking of the quiet morning I would have in here tomorrow.
Upon returning to the barn, I furiously began taking photos in an attempt to race the sunset. There's nothing quite like a banquet table, though they might not be the most practical thing when wanting to talk to everyone at the table, I find that they create a great sense of togetherness and encourage conversation from the people around you.
With a glass of Most Wanted Wine in hand, I headed outside with the other ladies where our Chef, Tom Herbert was cooking up a storm over a roaring fire. I'm very happy to say that we received a copy of his book Do Wild Baking, otherwise there'd be no chance of me recreating this on my own.
As we snacked on the fire roasted padrons, Tom told us about his life story, from leaving the family business to making sourdough in Kenya to coming back to the UK to start his own venture, The Long Table. His aim? To battle food waste and provide jobs to people who might have trouble finding one otherwise.
The following morning we met in the main house for our yoga session with Melanie from Geoffrey & Grace. It was the perfect way to start our day together and something I rarely indulge myself in. We were even able to use our new British Blankets during savasana at the end of our session!
Heading back to the black barn we met with Kate from The Owl & the Apothecary where she taught us how to make our own smudge sticks. It's something I'd never tried before and had been a bit skeptical of. The more and more Kate spoke about the thought and meaning that goes into the process it reminded me more and more of visualisation techniques as well as meditation. Smudge sticks come from Native American rituals and are used to help create positive energy in your life and hopefully bring change your way as well.
Before we knew it the retreat was over and we were getting into our taxi to take us back to the train station. I'd like to take a minute to thank some of the lovely brands that also took part in the retreat and donated their beautiful products.
We had a lovely bag of goodies waiting for us in our huts, from soap from Timmy's, to a necklace from Wanderlust Life, a night time drink from Sleep Well, bath products from Evolve, socks from Genevieve Sweeney and my new favourite market bag form Turtle Bags. This was a complimentary event but every word was written by me about this relaxing retreat.
I've now added the Elmley Reserve to my Community Map, to see the rest of the locations that I recommend, sign up for my newsletter here to get the free link!