Autumn days…

Steve’s just been rained off from the mowing and we are waiting for the group to arrive so we have a little time to write the blog. It’s a little colder here now in the evenings and we’ve been having heavy rainstorms interspersed with sublime autumn sunshine. Still feels very mild for October. In the garden, Dave and Steve have been putting the garden to bed ready for winter – cutting back perennials, weeding and tidying generally.  Gail has been clearing the raised beds of crops that are finished and planting green manures to enrich the soil. There’s still plenty to pick from the veg garden – lots of chard, spinach, kales, carrots, tomatoes.

Berries are beginning to appear everywhere and we are leaving deadheading some of the rose bushes this year in the hope of some nice rosehips for winter colour. We’ve picked all the apples and pears – some for cooking and for the fruit bowl and the rest have gone to Ragmans Lane Farm for juicing. Not such a bumper crop as last year but plenty enough to keep us in juice for the year. It’s one of our favourite things, clanking back from Ragmans with all our bottles in the back of the van!! Mel’s re-done the hanging baskets to cheer up the kitchen yard for the end of the year and we shall soon start potting up the geraniums and fuchsias from the yard to over-winter them up at the bothy.

This is generally a month of shamanism for us – and very lovely we’re finding it too!  Manda Scott has returned for two weekends running with her advanced students and then a foundation course for people who are beginning their work with her. Manda’s site is: and contains contact details for anyone interested in her classes.  Tonight Jan Adamson and Desiree Emery join us for the beginning of their next cycle of meetings with their advanced students.  This group has been coming for over 20 years and come from as far as East Anglia – and Germany! We greatly enjoy their warm, friendly presence in the house and the work they offer to the land here at Poulstone.

Next week we have a weekend off and Mel has a group of old school mates (a.k.a. The North Walsham All-Stars!) coming for a weekend of walking, eating, hanging out and reminding each other of what we were like when we were young….(not always pretty)! We’re hoping to not need a Diary Room for de-briefing anyone……!  Most of them haven’t a spiritual practice as such but really appreciate the peace and stillness of the environment when they stay.

Then Richard and Marigold Farmer ( returning for their second Giant Leap group so lovely to see lots of our old Tai Chi colleagues on that one. And then Jonathan Horwitz’s shamanic group brings the month to a close with his hugely popular Shamanism, Death and Life course and a full house of students (  Should be fun!

Well, the sun is blazing outside now after the rain so time for a little tea-break in the garden before the guests arrive.

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Sep 20, 2014 - Around the House, People    No Comments

Drizzly day blog….

Well, we’ve just had a bit of time off between groups which has been nice and relaxing. Gemma and Mel put another 18kg of apples in the freezer last week and we will now begin boxing up the rest for storing and making juice. The squirrels have also been enjoying the fruit – unfortunately we could only get a grainy photo from a way off!

We had a huge fall of rain last night which has bashed a few things down but generally it’s is rather a relief for the garden. The mulberries are now ripe and need picking so we’ll try to get out there later in our wellies if the rain holds off. The dahlias and sweet peas are still in full swing and providing some welcome colour indoors on this grey, drizzly day.

We were joined last night by Richard and Marigold Farmer ( with the first of their Giant Leap groups – always a pleasure to have so many Poulstone old-timers (or should that be long-timers not old??!) about the place doing this advanced course with Richard and Marigold. We hope the weather picks up for them so they can do some Tai Chi outside as well as in the barn.

We’re just adding some stock to the shop today – more CDS, some new card designs from Anne Thomas and some more of Jenny Shutler’s wonderful re-purposed cutlery jewellery!! ( She makes lovely bracelets, earrings and pendants from vintage silver-plated spoons, knives and forks. They’ve been selling very well and we have just asked her to stock us back up again.  If you’re not coming to Poulstone soon but live in the area, you can catch Jenny at her stall at All Saints Cafe, Hereford from October 22nd – 25th (this is where we first met her and Steve cheekily asked her if she’d like to supply us!).

In the rainy weather, Steve is at home experimenting with some new recipes for the kitchen – most notably the rather wonderful mung bean dumpling in spicy tomato sauce!

Looking forward to lunch now – tomato borscht, cheesejacks and falafel, turnip and watercress salad (extra yummy with our own turnips), Greek salad…….yum!

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Sep 8, 2014 - People    No Comments

Farewell to our yoga therapists………and to Alanah……

We have just said goodbye to Heather Mason and her group of yoga therapists. We very much enjoyed their stay and were pleased that they had such a lovely return to summer weather for their visit. We were very impressed that their work is geared towards helping people facing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and also specialised areas including work with young people with anorexia and those suffering from post-traumatic stress. They incorporate yoga and mindfulness training with insight from neuroscience and psychotherapy and psychology.  For more information about their valuable work, visit their site at

We also said farewell yesterday to Alanah who has been with us for two years, helping in the kitchen whilst studying for her A-levels. We’ve really enjoyed having her on the staff team and watching her grow in confidence over her time here. After lots of hard work and dedication, she has just achieved her grades to go to Exeter University to become a radiographer. Due to being camera-shy, she never made it into our staff gallery on the website but we did manage to snatch a quick photo in the kitchen for the blog! We wish her very well for her new university career!

It’s a glorious hot sunny afternoon here at Poulstone and the cleaning and bed-making are in full swing. The leaves are just beginning to turn in the garden but the maple at the top of the drive is already a stunning red  blaze (see above)! After a lazy post-group morning, we’ll be out in the garden picking peas, beans and tomatoes and doing a bit of dead-heading to keep the roses in good shape.

That’s all for now!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Comings and goings and the apple season

Great excitement this morning as we saw, from the Bothy windows, a heron sitting on top of one of the fir trees by the tennis lawn!  (Where is the camera when you need it??)! This huge bird perched weightlessly on the uppermost branches of the tree and then took off and glided into the cover of the beech trees. They are so easily disturbed by human activity even down by the river bank so it feels like a great honour to have them around in the garden! What a great start to the day!

Today we are preparing the house for Heather Mason’s yoga teachers’ group arriving tomorrow. Heather is one of the founders of the Minded Institute ( and we are delighted to have her back with us after her first visit in 2012.

We have had a couple of groups in since last writing. A fortnight ago we welcomed Judge Choudhry and Michelle Falcone of Heart2Heart Events with their Heart Awakening Experience. This is the start of a series of events they will be running at Poulstone and the students were brimming with enthusiasm for the work as we chatted to them in the shop on the last day. Many of the group we had met from some of Christian Pankhurst’s workshops here too so it was very nice to welcome them back. Keep an eye on our Courses page for more information about their work.

Last weekend we welcomed the Summer Gathering led by Richard Farmer and his teaching team. Richard has led Summer Gathering events at Poulstone for many, many years originally for his Rising Dragon Tai Chi School students.  This new incarnation is open to old RDTC students, to students of Soul Moves ( and his newer work, Tai Chi Movements for Well-being ( The TMW training is bringing the benefits of Tai Chi to the NHS and healthcare organisations in the UK and Europe. It was wonderful to see people spanning almost the entire length of Richard’s teaching career working with Tai Chi in different ways and enjoying some of their classes out on the tennis lawn in the late summer sunshine. Wonderful!

In between the comings and goings, we have been collecting all the windfall apples and peeling, coring and blanching them for the freezer for puddings in the colder months. We had a couple of little helpers on Monday, when our friend Vicki, fresh from the Summer Gathering, brought her grand-daughters Freya and Isla over to show them where grandma comes for her courses. Isla, only 3, was the perfect height for collecting under the smaller trees!  Thank you, girls! We also played a great game of hide and seek and musical chairs in the walled garden!

Yesterday, Gail, Mel and Steve had fun spending the afternoon and early evening, preparing the two barrows of apples. We were rather pleased with ourselves as we slipped 33 3/4 kgs of apples into the freezer!!

Today, after the housekeeping and mowing, we are going to make gooseberry & ginger, and blackcurrant jam!  Yum!

Right, time to get on with some office work!

More soon! Don’t forget to look out for the herons if you’re here in the next few weeks!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

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 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 (\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 (  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 ( and then two massage groups at the end of June and beginning of July – Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork ( 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