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