The grass is always greener….

We looked out of our bedroom window at 6.00 a.m. last Thursday morning to find a herd of cattle from the meadow in our garden!  They weren’t easy to herd out again either!  Steve and Mel managed to get them back in the field in two groups with much flapping of arms and shoo-ing. The farmer has now repaired the metal fence so we are not expecting any more unannounced visitors but Steve then had to do some industrial strength pooper scooping before the Tai Chi group arrived!

It’s been a Tai Chi-ish kind of month this month.  We had Richard and Marigold Farmer’s group in at the beginning of the month and then Alec Jones’s Dragon Spring Tai Ji School here last weekend ( who arrived with fans and walking sticks and other props for the various forms they practise.  We greatly enjoyed their visit and there were lots of sunny days for working outside. Interestingly, Alec was doing an exercise about “the herd” so the events with the cattle wove into their workshop thematically – they say there is no such thing as an external event!

Between Tai Chi courses we also hosted the European Shadow Work Facilitators’ Guild ( who have come here for the last couple of years for their annual gathering.  It’s a peer group and these guys have worked together over many years so there is always an immediate feeling of them being at home here when they arrive.  Easy chairs are wheeled into the group room and we always enjoy the friendly and warm atmosphere in the house.  We hope to see them again next year.

We are now hosting Deb Dunning, Holly Harman (   caitbran

and Cait Branigan ( with their Freedom of the Soul retreat.  This retreat is a blend of Holotropic Breathwork and Celtic shamanism and we have had a great week together.  We were also delighted to see Marianne Murray again who is facilitating the breathwork sessions with Deb and Holly on this retreat.  Marianne brought the original Breathworks groups to Poulstone of which this course is a continuation.

Right!  That’s all for now!

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Summer news!

Well, we have just said farewell to our second group of massage therapists this summer.  BCMB Worcester’s group was followed by her big sister BCMB Bristol!  (  We had a lot of fun with both groups and great to see lots of young people especially  getting involved with healing and bodywork.  We also had our fair share of skeletons!  The Worcester group arrived with “Lucy” in the passenger seat of a vintage car (and Colette was kind enough to send us some photos she took before setting off from home – we expect she had a few funny looks when she pulled up at traffic lights!).  And “Adam” was seen enjoying the view from the group room windows and hanging out with the group in the gardens……!

This weekend we are joined by Richard and Marigold Farmer’s Giant Leap 2 group ( and  We have lots of old chums on this group so a nice, relaxing few days – some people even attended Richard’s very first group at Poulstone with us back in 1993!  It’s warm and pleasant outside so lots of opportunity for them to practise Tai Chi outside.

The house is looking lovely especially with Gail’s beautiful flower arrangements with cosmos and sweet peas taking centre stage.  We’re needing to do lots of watering at the moment but it’s a pleasant job whilst watching the swallows and martins around the gables (and later the bats!). This group are particularly lucky as the veg garden is currently overflowing with produce for the kitchen – chard, herbs, courgettes, turnips for the delicious turnip and watercress salad, lots of different salad leaves, rocket and mange tout – yum!  Hilary is doing very well in the kitchen these last few weeks because it is very HOT in there in this warm weather despite all the fans we can throw at the situation!!

We had a little unexpected help in the garden last weekend.  Hilary hosts “woofers” (Work on an Organic Farm) on her smallholding over the summer and brought along Elena from Spain on Sunday who helped Steve weed the stone garden and fairy circle and joined us for lunch.  Thanks so much, Elena! 

We are still searching for new suppliers since Windhorse Trading closed.  Our friends at Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Monmouthshire have put us in touch with Tibetan Dawn in South Wales.  They supply some lovely gifts, the proceeds from which help Tibetan refugees to make a living, especially those in remote areas a bit off the tourist circuit.  You can see their full range at and so far our small selection in the Poulstone shop is going down well.

Well, that’s about all from us this week!

More soon,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Comings and goings and patience rewarded

We are hosting our fourth group since last writing (the blog has rather fallen by the wayside in all the busyness!).  We had a lovely weekend again with Judge Choudhry and Michelle Falcone of Heart2Heart Events returning to Poulstone at the beginning of the month.  They were followed the next day by the Gordon Moody Association ( with the second of their residential programmes here for women with gambling problems, following on from the success of the first and the securing of further funding.  Ruth and her team work very hard but said they managed to make more time to enjoy the space too this time around.  We were delighted as always when many of the participants expressed their surprise at how scrumptious vegetarian food can be – and bought the recipe book!

The day following GMA’s departure we welcomed for the first time Rajesh Rai with his students of Malvern Bhavan (  Rajesh was introduced into the many different faiths of India including Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Sufism and Buddhism from a very early age. These faiths formed a large part of his upbringing.  His formal training started in 1997, when he was taught a systematic practice of Meditation by the Himalayan Institute. In 2001 he was initiated into the tradition of the Himalayan Masters on the banks of the Ganges at the Maha Kumbh Mela and has been a student of the Tradition since this time. We were interested to learn that Rajesh is also a barrister by profession specialising in Human Rights Law from Chambers in the Temple, London. He is also a humanitarian and environmentalist and has worked with and founded organisations around the world whose objectives are the rejuvenation of land and communities. He also helped found the first Indian vegetarian restaurant in Worcestershire with his family! It was a great pleasure to meet Rajesh and his family and the group of students who came to learn from him.  We are very pleased that they intend to come again later in the year and in 2016.

We are now hosting the Worcester branch of Bristol College of Massage & Bodywork ( who arrived yesterday.  It’s lovely to see Sarah, Tara and Colette who are teaching this year’s students on their professional massage training course.  It’s Anatomy and Physiology today and judging by the laughter and hilarity coming from the group room, it’s now taught in a more lively fashion than when we learnt it in the 1990s!

Out in the garden we could use a little more rain for the lawns but generally the garden is looking good  - lots of poppies and roses out and the long borders looking great – and a few more sweet peas appearing for the house.  We are also cropping lovely fresh salad greens and chard and spinach from the garden as well as radishes and herbs.  The white roses on the side of the house look fantastic!  It was a big decision when we decided to take down the old roses from the side of Poulstone and plant new ones.  The old yellow roses were lovely but had a short flowering season and the pink rose was very prone to mould.  Finally, finally, our patience has been rewarded and the new white roses have been flowering for weeks and weeks now in the best show so far since we put them in.  And if previous years are anything to go by, we will be enjoying them till winter.  The ramblers are getting nice and tall and the bush varieties are providing lovely scent through the group room windows when they are open.

It’s Hilary’s birthday today so Steve is cooking so she can enjoy her birthday at home with the family.  He’s cooking up a yummy Asian-style ratatouille with marinated tofu – and we’ll sign off as it’s nearly serving time!

More soon,

Lots of love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

All hands on deck!

We have just enjoyed a lovely week with Joy Hicklin-Bailey (, her partner Tim and students of her Joyful Loving retreat.  They were treated to a beautiful warm sunny week with lots of opportunity to be out in the gardens.  Joy has team leaders for various aspects of house care and Poulstone felt very looked after during their stay!  Joy left us on Tuesday afternoon and the next afternoon we welcomed Alaric Newcombe with an advanced group of his Iyengar yoga students.  Details of Alaric’s work are at These guys are mainly from London and say they are loving the fresh air and how quiet it is here, and are enjoying exploring a little of the Herefordshire countryside in their afternoon breaks. We had a wonderful deluge of rain this morning (making Gail and Mel smile as no watering will be needed in the garden tonight after all!) and are now back to blue skies and sunshine with a fresh breeze so everyone can go walking before the afternoon session.

Hilary traditionally takes the end of May off so Steve is at the helm in the kitchen for a couple of weeks.  We are also joined over this period by Faye who cooked for us a while ago before the birth of her first baby, Finn. Faye has cooked in all manner of settings on retreats and camps and is a great asset to the team. We hope she will be able to work with us some more over the year as Finn gets older.

It’s pretty much all hands on deck with several groups back to back now till the middle of June so the garden is taking a bit of a back seat in everyone’s minds.  Fortunately, at this time of year there are lots of plants in bloom so the garden looks great without much help – the white roses on the side of the house are in profusion and all the borders are full of colour and interest. Gail’s managed to get everything planted out in the veg garden already and has reserved Sunday for the final transplanting of the flowers which we eventually use for the dining tables.  She is experimenting with planting according to the bio-dynamic system and Sunday is a flowers day!  We have lovely table decorations this week of aqualegia, bronze fennel, tiny pink gladioli and nigella topped with perky sprigs of the ornamental quaking grass briza maxima which has beautiful seed heads.

We have been taking a lot of inspiration from Sarah Raven’s seed catalogue, a lovely resource if you are interested in growing cut flowers:

That’s about all for now.  We’re all in the office this afternoon, working or taking our breaks – so surely time for a tea-break and some quality controlling of the biscuits in the tea bar tin??!!

More soon

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

The joys of Spring and friends over the border

We’re really enjoying Spring at Poulstone.  The meadow is full of buttercups and cow parsley and looks beautiful, and today it’s fresh and sunny.  As we write we can hear the cuckoo calling in the meadow and are watching the cattle herding themselves up and down the field. On rainy days, Mel and Steve have been camped out in the store under the barn, completing the potting up of all our dahlias to bring them on for summer. We were in there on a particularly squelchy day last week but the reward was a stunning rainbow in the late afternoon behind the stand of beech trees.  The sweet pea wigwams are up with the promise of summer to come.  Gail has finished planting out most of the seedlings in the veg garden and Mel had a pleasant late afternoon diversion from the office putting the courgettes and squash seedlings in under cloches.

Birds are everywhere – swallows, martins, robins, bluetits, blackbirds, wagtails……This year a robin has pipped the swallows to nesting space in the paint store in the kitchen yard. We are enjoying watching the male going in and out to the nest with worms and Mel managed to snap him this morning on one of his visits!

Following on from Clive Tempest’s chi gung retreat, we were joined by a Course in Miracles group last weekend led by Angela Hoskins and Terry Butler. We enjoyed their warm and friendly presence in the house over the weekend and all the singing and laughter around the place.   In both groups even the meat-eaters were very vocal in their appreciation of the vegetarian fare on offer. It is always a real pleasure to feel that we have opened people’s eyes a little to what vegetarian food can be – delicious, varied and satisfying. We are now joined by regulars Jan Adamson and Desiree Emery of Ancient Harmonies with their advanced shamanic student’s group who will no doubt be making the most of being outside over the weekend.

Some of you may remember Ellie who cooked for us a couple of summers ago.  She and husband, Tom, also cooked on one of the work retreats together and Tom came and supplied some much-needed gardening help for Steve. Following their wedding last autumn, they have moved from round the corner in How Caple to Felindre near Newtown, Powys.  Mel went to visit them last week and see their new home which is set in lovely woodland and backs onto heathland with views to Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and Shropshire hills.  They are in a really special spot and are running two delightful holiday/retreat spaces. If you are looking for a beautifully quiet and regenerating holiday or a place for solitary retreat, check out their agent’s website for details of  Llethrau Barn and Long Barn Mel enjoyed the full tour of the land and the lovingly prepared holiday barns, and it was great to see them both so fully bedded into their new place already. We wish them lots of good wishes for their first year there and look forward to visiting again soon xx

It’s nudging up to lunchtime now, so time to bag a bit of the delicious mushroom soup Hilary is making and her wicked quinoa with sweet potato, rocket and feta. Yum!

More soon,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


New friends and the pleasure of returning

We have just returned from holiday,  taking our new (we use that term loosely!) camper van around the west coast of Scotland.  Had a beautiful time touring around and staying below the Ben Nevis range, on Mull and Iona and above Loch Ness – even got to test-run the van in some unscheduled snow (and survived)!  We found though that even in remote parts of Scotland we had to work quite hard to find places free of electro-magnetic pollution.  We probably could have happily toured round for another few weeks. We loved the wildness up there but Poulstone welcomed us with its vivid greens, gentle landscape and profusion of blossom and flowers and we were also glad to be home. We made a cup of tea before unpacking the van and sat under the apple blossom and felt very lucky to be returning somewhere so lovely (and without wi-fi)! Mel has been around the garden today and taken some photos of the garden which we hope gives you a flavour.

Before leaving, we hosted the second Gordon Moody Association residential ( for women with gambling problems.  It was very nice to see the group again and we really  hope Poulstone helped support their process in making the necessary changes to improve their lives and overcome their gambling addiction.

We now have Clive Tempest ( with us with his Conscious Connections chi gung retreat. The weather has improved yesterday and today, and they have been able to practise outside as well as in the barn.  Two thirds of the group are Finnish and we are greatly enjoying the Finnish vibe around the place! We love it when the world comes to us.  Visitors from abroad often bring us little treats from home and we are now officially addicted to blueberry liquorice which is made by Panda in Finland. We will have to track down a source in the UK!

Steve and Gail are out in the garden in earnest at the moment before we get really busy later in the month with some back-to-back bookings.  Steve is potting on dahlias and preparing the soil for our sweetpeas and Gail is busy planting out all the seedlings that are ready for the veg garden. There’s a brisk wind today but all in all not a bad day to be out there.

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Freefall 2015

Such a wonderful week of Spring sunshine!  Primroses and daffs are brightening everywhere and the first martins arrived yesterday – we heard them around the nests above the utility room.  Our Freefall writing group are having their final celebratory meal at the end of their week-long course and, inspired by the Spring weather, we’ve been decorating the tables with primroses, forget-me-nots and tulips for their last evening.
Barbara Turner-Vessalago ( runs this course here at Poulstone annually and all the writers and would-be writers who attend rave about her ability to facilitate and guide their writing.  We send out an invitation to the course each autumn so send us an email if you’d like to be added to the mailing list – it books up fast!  It makes a nice change for Mel to have regular visitors to the office each morning as people come to print their work and have a chat.  This group has at least two published authors attending which is testimony to the usefulness of the course.

Last week we hosted Manda Scott ( Chris Luttichau ( bringing Manda’s advanced students here for a shamanic course on death and dying. Both teachers have a strong reputation in shamanic circles and we enjoy hosting them every time.  Manda’s new novel “Into the Fire” is out in June and details are on her website.  The synopsis sounds really intriguing:

Next week we say hello again to the Gordon Moody Association (  This is the second residential part of their 12 week programme for women with a gambling addiction. The group really enjoyed the supportive environment here when they came in January and we look forward to seeing them all again.

Things are really getting going in the garden.  Steve is on a pruning-fest around the place and Mel has been weeding between the paving in the kitchen yard to smarten up the back.  Gail’s been weeding the top yard and working in the veg garden. Mel has sown the beetroot, carrots and parsnips into the raised beds as well as sowing the courgettes and squash indoors.  The window ledges in the barn cloakroom are full of Gail’s seedlings including kales, peas and beans.  It definitely feels like the year is getting underway now!

Right!  Time to slope round to the kitchen to see if there’s any of the delicious walnut and cashew wellington left!

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Silly glasses, blossom and lots of yogis!

Bit of a delayed start to the day today as we sat in the garden and watched the eclipse.  Well, you have to, don’t you?!!  Mel had saved the 1999 eclipse glasses (which hadn’t got any more stylish in storage!!…) and Gail, Mel and Steve had breakfast sharing the silly specs and watching the moon move across the sun. With all the little details that need attending to in our lives as in everyone else’s, it felt good to have them all put into perspective by this mighty event. I think it was Professor Brian Cox who said that an eclipse always reminds him that we are living on a very small rock in a very big universe!

And after that we unpacked the grocery deliveries!!!!

Richard & Marigold Farmer ( and and their Giant Leap 1 group are arriving tonight and just having their supper.  It’s lovely to see all our old Rising Dragon Tai Chi chums arriving and settling in. Over the last few weeks we have had a steady stream of yogis moving through the house. Burgs and The Art of Meditation ( brought two retreats in, pretty much back to back and it was very restful having the house in silence for that period. And Burgs was followed by Feel Hot Yoga ( who were new to Poulstone and really enjoyed their first stay.  Tutors Nina, Shasha and David were great to work with and Shasha has written a very lovely account of their time here at We were particularly pleased that they enjoyed being without mobile phones and wi-fi, seeing it as part of decompressing from busy urban life. We hear news of their return and look forward to it!

Chief amongst our garden pleasures this week is the blossoming cherry plum. This is an annual delight and usually one or two groups are lucky enough to be here when it bursts forth!  The bees were loving it today and the fragrance is wonderful.


That’s all from us right now!

Much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Spring is around the corner

Despite the icy rain of yesterday, Spring definitely feels like it’s around the corner.  Daffodils are coming up in enough quantity now to use on the dining tables and it’s been warm enough to sit outside in our tea breaks and take in some sun.  Swans have migrated in numbers to the field the other side of the walled garden and we can see them every morning from the bedroom window. The helibores are looking lovely as too are the dogwoods and snowdrops outside the dining room windows. Steve and Dave have been putting a mulch down on the borders which has had a very neatening effect (it’s an experiment and remains to be seen if it suppresses weeds effectively or provides a rich medium for their growth!!). A couple of days ago, Mel had a wander around the garden to take some February pictures.  We hope you enjoy them.

We’ve had three groups in since last writing.  We met More to Life trainers Pascale Ascher and Richard Perry for the first time and greatly enjoyed hosting them and their group.  You can see more information on their work at:  We’ve also had Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork here for their annual winter residential.  Andy Fagg and his team have been synonymous with massage in Bristol for well over 20 years ( and we always enjoy supporting their work here.

BCMB were followed by Jan Adamson and Desiree Emery of Ancient Harmonies who bring their advanced shamanic students here three times a year.  They have been coming to Poulstone for over two decades now and enter into the house like a hand into a favourite glove! As usual it was great to have their work in the house and we look forward to seeing them in May.

We have a number of new teachers visiting in the coming months. This Spring we will also be saying hello for the first time to Nina Sebastiane and her team from Feel Hot Yoga (, Clive Tempest of Conscious Connections with his Chi Gung group(, Joy Hicklin-Bailey of Secret Garden with her Joyful Loving retreat ( and Alaric Newcombe ( bringing his Iyengar Yoga retreat for advanced students.  All their courses are open to the public and details are on the calendar on the website or click direct to: for full details.

That’s all for now!

Much love,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Back in the swing of things

Happy New Year from us all at Poulstone!  After a very refreshing break, we are now thoroughly back in the swing of things with our second group now here with us.  Last week we hosted the Gordon Moody Association ( which helps people with an addiction to gambling.  This was a new residential programme for women and we really enjoyed providing the residential support for this excellent work and meeting all those involved.

Last night we were joined by Chris Luttichau of Northern Drum ( and his group.  Chris is a shaman of many years standing and after 30 years of study with indigenous teachers and elders, Chris is the keeper of an integral body of teachings that he shares in workshops and ongoing one-year and three-year training groups. The teachings cover a broad range of topics from healing and dreaming to spirit contact and self-development. This weekend we understand that the group is working with plants and herbs and they have a beautiful crisp, sunny day today for working outside with the plants. Chris’s book “Animal Spirit Guides” is available in the Poulstone shop or direct from Northern Drum. 

Poulstone is enjoying the presence of a large number of swans and geese at present camped out on the field next to Poulstone.  We’ve had some beautiful frosty mornings just recently and it’s lovely seeing them flying overhead in the early morning light.  Steve and Dave have done the winter pruning of the apple trees and cut back the perennials in most of the beds now the birds have had a chance to eat the seeds up so we are nicely tidied up in the garden.  Mel and Steve have relaid all the garden irrigation piping  before the plants in the borders start to bush up and were kept company all day by a lovely little robin. Gail has re-lined all the curtains in the group room so it feels extra cosy in the evenings.  We all sat down the other evening and have ordered all our onions sets, potatoes and seeds for this year’s growing in the veg plot.  It was a nice time to review what worked and what didn’t last year and also order a few new varieties to see how they do.

We were very sorry to hear this month that Windhorse Trading is shortly to cease doing business.  Products from this wonderful Buddhist trading company have been in the Poulstone shop for 20 years and they were a great organisation to work with.  We wish everyone well with whatever they do next, particularly David and Jim who used to bring the mobile showroom around for us.  The search is now on for another ethical and fairtrade company for craft goods, incense, candles and the like.

That’s about all from us at the moment.  We hope the year is starting very well for you all.

Warm wishes

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court