A busy August

It’s a beautiful morning here at Poulstone – the garden is alive with the quickness of birds especially around the vegetable plot – swallows, martins, sparrows, wagtails, greenfinches, blue-tits and a greater spotted woodpecker looking for grubs on the pear trees. Can’t believe it’s a fortnight or so since we last wrote!  August is fairly back-to-back so we are gearing ourselves up for lots of cooking, cleaning and bedmaking!  We have just had a glorious week with Marianne Murray and her Holotropic Breathwork group, sadly the last time this group will come in its present incarnation (although the students are planning to take on the booking so we hope to see a number of this delightful crew next year).  The weather was fine and sunny most of the week and they were able to end with a fire in the walled garden (and lots of singing – some very lovely voices among them).

Marianne is taking a break from teaching next year but still offering her other work.  We notice she has a lovely new website at http://www.mariannemurray.com and she offers sessions by Skype, phone or in person for individuals navigating their transformational process (not only those who practise Holotropic Breathwork). We wish her well with her sabbatical and hope to see her here at some point in the future xx 

As Marianne left us on Sunday morning the heavens opened and we have been blessed with some much-needed rain for the last few days, interspersed with brilliant sunshine.  The grass is greening up nicely again and the meadow looking less of a prairie! We noticed a couple of days ago that two herons have started to make the meadow their territory. We occasionally see them flying over or at a distance but this pair are around the ha-ha terrace and rather comically standing around amongst the cattle! They’re so huge in flight and it’s such a treat to have them at close quarters.


Yesterday we welcomed Muz Murray’s group (http://www.mantra-yoga.com/) in and are enjoying the chanting coming from the group room this morning! This group is new to Poulstone and we very much hope they enjoy their stay here this week. Hilary has the week off so Steve is taking up the apron for the next few days and enjoying being able to incorporate lots of our own produce as the veg garden is at peak production in August.

The lunch bell beckons so more soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


Picking and snipping

We’ve just said farewell to Alec Jones’s Dragon Spring Tai Ji School Summer Gathering (www.dragonspringtaiji.co.uk). It was a wonderfully hot and sunny weekend so they were able to play Tai Chi outdoors for most of the time, under the cherry tree when it was very hot!. We were watering the veg plot at dusk one evening and a group of the students were playing their form on the tennis lawn – very peaceful and still, the Tai Chi and the evening beautifully meeting one another. We really enjoy having the school with us every year and look forward to seeing them again next summer.

We have a few days now before our next group and so are catching up on garden jobs – today we had a lovely day picking clean the dwarf bean and mange tout plants so they keep producing and picking the plums which are starting to fall off the trees. We also picked all the dahlias and sweetpeas so more keep coming ready for the August groups to enjoy, and now we are awash with flowers for home and the office! Some of the new varieties really are stunning. We like this white one and the purple pom-poms especially:

Whilst picking and snipping, we’ve been seeing a lot of interesting insects at the moment. We loved this raggedy bee on a raggedy dahlia: 

And there were grasshoppers about too – on the dahlias and one visited us while we were de-stoning plums and arranging the flowers. He took a fancy to Steve’s knee and then started nibbling our flapjacks!

We also came across this amazing caterpillar – if anyone knows what it will become, we’d love to know! We’d never seen anything like it before!

Well, that’s about it from us and the Poulstone creepy crawlies! Hope you’re enjoying the sunshine and time outside too.

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Berry berry fruity!

We’re enjoying having the European facilitators of the Shadow Work Guild (http://www.shadowwork.com/) with us this week. It’s an international group of practitioners meeting for on-going professional development in Shadow Work.  We had already met John and Nicola Kurk (http://www.goldenopportunities.org.uk/) when they visited Poulstone a few years ago and it’s been a great pleasure to see them again and meet their colleagues. It’s their last evening tonight so we hope the forecast rain holds off for their celebratory evening around the fire.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the swing door we’ve been picking the vast quantities of berries that are ripe around the garden – loganberries, gooseberries, red and blackcurrants. It’s been lovely hunkering down in the dappled shade of the bushes or getting the full sun on our backs. Some of the berries we will be freezing for use at other times of the year but we also plan to make some jam and chutney this year. We’ve found a W.I. recipe for Gooseberry Chutney so watch this space!

We have a week off next week (probably to pick more berries!) and then Alec Jones’s Dragon Spring Taiji School (http://www.dragonspringtaiji.co.uk/)\will be joining us for their annual summer gathering. We look forward to seeing them.

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


Masseurs, skeletons, squirrel frenzies and messing about on the water!

We are joined by Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork’s Worcester branch this week (http://bristolmassage.co.uk/).  It’s always a pleasure showing in new groups of people and enjoying their pleasure at finding out they have a beautiful old country house to themselves for the weekend or week! (we’re on hand throughout each course, but very much in the background unless needed).  We’ve enjoyed having Sarah Cohen, their tutor, back here again with her new team – Sarah used to come with the Bristol team until 2010 and has been gradually building up her branch of the college in Worcester.  Despite torrential rain this morning (much needed by the garden – and quite exhilarating after all the heat!), they’re hoping to let their hair down on Saturday night and have a fire outside and a bit of a party after all the hard work of their course assessments. It’s Anatomy & Physiology this afternoon and anyone passing the group room windows yesterday would have come face to face with a life-sized skeleton, wearing a sun hat, looking out across the fields!

It was also a nice surprise to find out that Tara Kane, who used to work here with us a couple of years ago, is now a fully qualified masseur (or masseuse?!) and working as an assistant teacher on this course.  She’s clearly loving it and has found her new vocation.

Generally we’ve been blessed with a heatwave here the last couple of weeks.  We’ve been out watering the veg plot every other night which is quite a nice relaxing after-work job, watching the swallows and martins wheeling around.  We’re supplying lots of kale, spinach, mange tout and rocket to the kitchen at the moment as well as nasturtium and calendula flowers for decoration.  Everything is thriving out there (apart from some rather stubborn lettuce seeds!!) and there’s been time for annual jobs like weeding the kitchen yard and Mel’s been revamping the hanging baskets out there.  Good to get these jobs done before the summer work really gets under way. Masses of poppies are coming out now and the white roses along the side of the house are full of blooms now, and are finally growing up the wall by the office and group room windows – and on past performance will now be flowering until November!

We’re so abundant with wildlife here. This morning saw the return of the kestrel we saw a lot of a couple of months ago – he came in low across the back lawn below our bedroom window, much to the alarm of the smaller birds…..He’s fascinating to watch and often camps out on the little platform where the old bell used to be so we can watch him through our telescope.  Young squirrels are out and about – if you’ve ever seen your cat having a “cat frenzy”, you will be able to imagine what an early morning squirrel frenzy looks like!  They were randomly attacking low branches on the cherry tree, rolling on their backs and attacking their own back legs and racing up and down tree trunks and across the lawn in erratic high-speed fashion! Highly entertaining! If you’re here over the next couple of weeks, 7.30-8.30am on the back lawn seems to be where the action is!

Away from the garden, we’ve also had some time for cycling and wonderful walks along the Wye and even managed (after living by the river for over seven years!) our first canoeing trip from Ross-on-Wye to Symonds Yat – a wonderful day meandering along the river in bright sunshine with cool river breezes, with a couple of picnics along the way.  We even saw a kingfisher!

Well, time for supper now!

More soon

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Owl watch!

We’re having a wonderful time with tawny owls at Poulstone this month!  Last year we bought some night viewing binoculars and we think word had got round in the garden because no wildlife was ever to be seen whenever we went out!!  We kept hearing them calling after dark and went out to take a look. We have been able to watch them whenever we’ve gone out at night this week. And they have been watching us – from the Wellingtonia tree, from the cherry tree in the walled garden, from the telegraph poles and from the roof of the house!  We’ve seen them in flight and we were also amazed to see one of the three pouncing on worms on the back lawn! Very exciting!

Of course, lots of birds are nesting around Poulstone at the moment but we were particularly delighted to find not only a swallows nest in the open garage but a wren’s nest too – the tiny babies are almost spherical!  We have to remember not to put the light on in there after dark so nobody gets woken up.

The garden’s enjoying lots of rain and we had two thunderstorms with pink sheet lightning this week.  In between times, it’s been sunny and fresh and we’ve been out gardening and enjoying walks along the Wye in this break before the next groups start coming.  A pair of swans down by the bridge have cygnets already.

Our cut flower beds are yielding some nice offerings for the dining tables.  Favourites at the moment are white and pink irises, purple salvia, nigella and the blousy peonies are making their brief but lovely appearance.  Around the side of the house by the group room, the white roses are out in profusion and our dream of rose scent coming in through the open windows has arrived at last!

Manda will be back with us on Friday (www.mandascott.co.uk) and then two massage groups at the end of June and beginning of July – Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork (www.bristolmassage.co.uk) and their Worcester branch which has just got large enough to bring their group here.  We’re looking forward to seeing them all.


More soon

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


Just sitting still and being quiet…..

The veg garden is now nearly fully planted – Gail just has some peas and basil and some kale that she is bringing on up in the barn cloakroom where it gets nice and warm throughout the day. Mel planted out the courgette, squash and pumpkin plants in the gap between Manda leaving us and Burgs arriving, and Steve did some major weeding of poppy plants out of the cut flower bed to make room for dahlias and sweet peas. We began making the wigwams for the sweet peas today and will be planting them out with the dahlias over the next few days if the weather isn’t too wet! We’ve had some very nice days all out in the garden together in the short space between courses, joined by robins and blackbirds looking for worms and masses of bees enjoying the pollen on Gail’s green manure (called phacelia – it attracts bees like almost nothing else and is extremely pretty too!).

It was like high summer here last week for Burgs’  seven day silent Healing Meditation Retreat .  We were lucky to be able to join this retreat and it was gorgeous between sessions to lie out and doze on the lawn in the sunshine or sit quietly enjoying the hum of the bees in the flower beds or the birds nest-building and catching insects on the wing. Even the first applications of suncream occurred!

Friends who don’t meditate often ask us why we might want to be silent and “just sit there” all week! There  is often so little space in most people’s lives, with so much pulling on us, that the very idea of being quiet and having that much space for so long seems wierd.  The only break that people get is when they’re asleep! Nearly everyone has felt the urge to have more peace and serenity in their life and so we often answer with something to this effect.

However, the truth is that when we do sit still with ourselves – without a drink or a snack, without a book or the radio, or the TV or daydreaming about the past or planning for the future, (or in many people’s cases these days, without checking their phone!) – it isn’t very peaceful or serene at all!  In fact, what we see immediately is how restless we are, how unable to settle, how the mind is constantly hankering after something to keep it amused and distracted from the moment it’s in. This is not a comfortable revelation!!  Taming the restless mind is not easy and it doesn’t happen over night, but with skilful instruction and by patient repetition in our attempts to concentrate, it begins to happen. We start to access a different reference point, glimpses of peace, of just being able to rest quietly with ourselves and for that to feel enough, to feel complete. When we have access to this feeling of completeness within, then the need for external distraction becomes less, we are less likely to feel bored or need things to be a particular way to feel happy. Gradually a feeling of contentment arises out of this simplicity where we experience the world more spaciously and as a felt experience rather than a collection of ideas. It’s a lifetime’s work, of course, but we start to get the feeling of the freedom that lies ahead.

Because freedom lies not in having to have what we want in order to be happy, but being content regardless of what we have. And without the ability to sit quietly at peace with ourselves, this is often just an idea rather than something that actually starts to happen to us.

Much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Getting wisterical…

Sorry!  Couldn’t resist that!  The wisteria at the front of the house is looking wonderful right now.  It’s a lovely sight for guests sitting out on the front step in the Spring sunshine having their cups of tea.  Also, the clematis that we planted to cover the old conservatory at the front is finally maturing after a few years and showing huge dark pink flowers. In between showers Steve has been busy trying to manage our beech hedge which has over the decades expanded to an unworkable depth without dangerous goings-on with the electric hedge trimmer!  He’s managed to take alot of growth out from the back so the visual impact is minimal.  We had a pleasant afternoon cutting the debris up into lengths for kindling and use around the garden, surrounded by all spring green-ness of early beech leaves.

Gail is out and about in the veg garden planting out seedlings and bringing up the muck ready for the squash, pumpkin and courgette plants that are being raised in the old conservatory.  Steve’s been cracking on with the weeding today in a high wind!  It’s been beautifully sunny though most of the day.

We’ve just said goodbye to Jan Adamson and Desiree Emery’s shamanic group on Sunday and welcomed Manda Scott and her shamanic students on Wednesday evening (http://www.mandascott.co.uk/).  Both these groups are old hands around the house and it’s lovely having them return here year on year.  Manda is also a historian and author of many historical (and other) novels.  The new novel  in her Rome series is now out and you can see details about it and her other works on her website.

Right! time to check on the kitchen before supper!

More soon

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Spring giveaways!

We’re still very much blessed with Spring weather here.  No stock has been put on Poulstone meadow as yet and so it looks beautiful with dandelions and buttercups coming up all over it (we’ll try to remember that when the dandelions start popping up in the garden!). Burgs’ Towards Samadhi retreat was in for seven days and really saw the blossom in the garden at its peak – drifts of petals came down like gentle snowfall against impossibly blue Spring skies.  Very lovely.  The group were able to do their Qi Gong sessions outside and enjoy the gardens during their breaks, walking meditations and rest period. The swallows and martins arrived on the Sunday of that week too, adding their chitter-chattering song to the dawn chorus.

Burgs was followed by Barbara Turner-Vesselago with her annual Freefall Writing course here with us for a week.  Half the group were new to Freefall and Poulstone and many have already asked to sign up again for next year!  The group has a long break after lunch while Barbara studies their daily manuscripts and there was plenty of time for people to go walking and explore the gardens and along the river – or do more writing! Everyone said their writing benefited hugely from the week and Barbara’s expertise and the support of the group.

We stock both Barbara and Burgs’ books in the shop and are giving away some free copies.  We have two copies of  Barbara’s “Writing without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall” **and five copies of Burg’s “Beyond the Veil” book to give away as gifts. We also sold a lot of recipe cards during Freefall for the newer dishes in the Poulstone repertoire and are giving away five sets of the illustrated recipe sheets (unlaminated in a plastic wallet). To claim a free gift, all you have to do is email the name of your choice of gift (one per person) and your full postal address to info@poulstone.com together with the answer to this question: what type of tree grows in the new Japanese style stone garden at Poulstone? The first emails received will be sent the gifts. Good luck!!!

With much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

**please note, for Freefall gifts, we will add your email address to the Freefall once-a-year mailing list unless you ask us not to**

Blossom and sunshine

Still enjoying the Spring weather and all the cherry, plum and pear blossom is starting to come out in the garden. Lovely and bright and fresh.  The cherry tree in the Japanese-inspired garden we made last year is looking particularly good.  And the pheasant eye daffodils around the small apple trees are also looking beautiful and smell gorgeous.  We went out last night at dusk for a wander round the garden and walked into the walled garden to waves of beautiful scent.  The last light in the sky was picking out their pale petals against the dusk.  Magical.  All the tulips are beginning to come out in the long border and the round bed near the back porch too. Everything feels like it’s coming alive!

Gail and Mel have been planting potatoes this week and preparing some of the other beds ready for seedlings we’re bringing on indoors.  Mice have had their wicked way with our courgette and squash seeds, so we re-sowed them last night in slightly more protected circumstances on a trestle table they won’t be able to climb (we hope)!!

Following on from Burgs’ introductory course last week, we were joined by Manda Scott this weekend, again for an introductory course, this time in shamanism (www.mandascott.co.uk). It was very nice to have so many new people arriving at Poulstone over the last week or so and from their enthusiasm for the courses they took, we expect to be welcoming them here again before too long.  Burgs (www.theartofmeditation.org) is back in again from today for a Towards Samadhi retreat for advanced students which will take us right up to Easter.  We have the Easter weekend off before our Freefall writing course returns for its annual residential starting Easter Monday (www.freefallwriting.com).

That’s about all for now.  Enjoy the sunshine!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre