Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone at Poulstone!

We hope you had a peaceful and relaxing time over the Christmas break?

Ours was quiet and cosy and spent with family.  We did have to remove a flock of sheep from the veg patch on Boxing Day morning (!) but otherwise it was a wonderful opportunity to unwind…

We’re looking forward to receiving our first guests soon and hope we see you here some time in 2013.

Warm wishes and love,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Merry Christmas!

So, last day in the office today (hopefully….!) before we break for Christmas.

We had a lovely pre-Christmas celebration with Hilary, Gail and Gemma.  We met in Hereford at the Cathedral for craft stalls and carols before having lunch and coffee & cakes at the wonderful All Saint’s Cafe in All Saint’s Church.

Later we went and saw  that old Christmas favourite, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, at The Courtyard Arts Centre Cinema, which got us nicely into the Christmas spirit – the jury is still out over whether Hilary or Mel cried the most over Tiny Tim!!  More tea and cake afterward before we said our end-of-year goodbyes and headed home.  Despite the grey day, it felt a lovely start to the festivities.

From everyone at Poulstone, we wish you a wonderful festive season, however you celebrate it, and a peaceful and happy New Year to come.

With love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Freefall Writing Competition – get scribbling!


We spoke a few posts ago about Barbara Turner-Vesselago’s new book, “The Art of Freefall: Writing without a Parachute”.  To mark the launch of the book, her publishers have a writing competition which anyone can take part in.

So if you’re a budding writer, visit their website at www.valapublishers.coop/freefall-writing-competition.  First prize is a coaching session with Barbara by phone or Skype, a signed copy of her new book when it is published in February and your entry published on-line.

So, if you find yourself looking for a diversion from over-eating and James Bond films over Christmas, get scribbling!!!  Closing date is 12 noon Monday 14th January 2013.

We’ll post the flyer for the book launch in Bristol as soon as we have it.

Good luck!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

End of year retreat

We’ve just hosted a three week silent retreat at Poulstone from mid-November onwards, with meditation teacher Burgs (see www.theartofmeditation.org).  Some of Burgs’ more experienced students came for a seven day silent Vipassana retreat followed by 9 days of continued silent practice with some teacher input.  The final week was a foundation retreat for beginners upwards.  And we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit in on the retreat too.

It’s obviously not all bliss looking at the (mainly unwholesome) contents of one’s mind over a prolonged period (!) but everyone felt they benefited hugely from the retreat.

Particularly over the Vipassana period, there’s been a lovely still atmosphere in the house, very conducive to practice and rest.  We’ve also been treated to some extraordinary sunrises (see above and below)…..






















We also have had gales and flooding too.  The Wye burst its banks at the end of November, transforming the landscape.  Unlike some areas of the country, we were very lucky that the floods were only a minor inconvenience here.  In fact, it was rather wonderful not to have to go anywhere or worry about people getting here/being able to leave!  The winds, unfortunately, had their way with the half-constructed greenhouse which we had to take down completely in a high wind!  We’ll try again in the Spring….












This wasn’t the only thing to test our equanimity after the retreat – the rabbits and squirrels had discovered a rich source of food while we were on retreat – our newly planted Spring bulbs!  We think the flood waters may have driven a lot of the wildlife from the fields into the Poulstone gardens.  Ah well, we were rather disappointed to say the least but we hope some will survive to brighten the Spring months.  The wildlife is part of what makes living and working here so wonderful, so we have to accept these occasional conflicts of interest….!

Anyway, we are back now into the end of year activities – finishing up the admin, washing valances and undercovers, putting the garden to bed for the winter (Gail has been doing lots of raking and cutting back over the last couple of weeks).  It’s nice to be working quietly at our own pace and it feels very peaceful here as we enter the darkest part of the year…..

Anyway, we hope you’re enjoying your approach to the festivities x

More soon,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


The helibores are out

The lovely helibores are out!  We thought you might enjoy some pictures?!






They are usually flowering until February, sometimes later, so do take a look along the wall of the walled garden if you’re visiting next year.  You need to lift their heads to get a good view of the exquisite detail on them.







With love,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Books, books, books!

Many of the teachers who come to Poulstone Court Retreat Centre are published authors in their various fields.

Barbara Turner-Vesselago who has been running her successful Freefall writing workshops annually here for over a decade has her new book coming out early next year.  She will be holding a launch for the book, “Writing without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall”, on 2nd February 2013 in Bristol (more details coming soon).

Barbara teaches all over the world and has a wealth of experience and insight to share.  For anyone interested in the writing process, with or without a view to being published, this book is an absolute must.  It gives you all the guidance you need to follow the Freefall Writing™ process and may even inspire you to come on one of Barbara’s workshops.  For more information about Barbara’s work, visit her website: www.freefallwriting.com.  Details of her Spring workshop at Poulstone can be found on the Courses page of the Poulstone Court website.

To pre-order a copy of her book, visit: www.valapublishers.coop/writingwithoutaparachute 

Burgs brings seven-day silent meditation retreats here for beginners and advanced students throughout the year and has taught widely in Europe and Asia.  He has also recently published two highly detailed books on meditation.  The first, “The Flavour of Liberation” which is published in two volumes, covers everything from your first sit through to developing insight and concentration practices at a more advanced level.  The book is so clearly written and conceived that it’s very easy for the novice meditator to follow and, for those with more experience, provides a huge amount of clarity about how to practise.  The second book which comprises the third volume is for more experienced meditators and covers advanced practices including Vipassana.

The books are made up of Burgs’ discourses over the course of several years of retreats, many here at Poulstone, and as such are very enjoyable to read as well as providing probably the only meditation manual you’ll ever need!

For Burgs’ full programme of retreats at Poulstone, visit the Courses page of the Poulstone Court website.You can find out more also at Burgs’ website:  www.theartofmeditation.org and order the books there on-line.

The website also has video and audio discourses and is a wealth of information on meditation and Buddhism.

We definitely recommend a visit!

Mel & Steve xx

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

5000 bulbs (what were we thinking?!)

We had a fabulously sunny morning to start our bulb planting day on Tuesday. Despite the prospect of 5000 bulbs needing to be planted (!), Steve and Elaine Hackett from Hereford joined us for the day and Gemma and Gail kindly volunteered their time to help as well. We planted several varieties of daffodil around the apple trees by the tennis lawn and within the walled garden. We have also put a drift of crocuses around the silver birch tree by the box hedges, and Steve and Dave have finished planting up the new white border with bulbs for the Spring.

We also planted daffodils and tulips in trenches above the vegetable plot for cut flowers  next year for the dining tables.

It was a lovely autumn day and really nice to have good company as we planted all these marvellous little promises of Spring colour. After making and filling hundreds of holes, we ate a welcome hot lunch outdoors under the pear trees in our wellies, and then in the afternoon made hearty inroads into a wonderful coffee and walnut cake Elaine had brought us, with our cups of tea.  Perfect!

Steve now “just” has the area under the copper beech to plant with daffodils.  He was still making holes as dusk fell last night and Mel came to get him to join the welcome talk for the new group arriving!  Bye the bye, there was a rather striking sunset last night too:

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Some golden days

Finally! a couple of glorious sunny autumn days in which to take some photos of the trees around Poulstone changing into their autumn colours.  Mel sneaked out yesterday while the group were in their session to take a few shots around the place, especially the shining yellow maple along the driveway which was positively glowing in the late afternoon sun against an iron-grey sky.

We have a group of psychotherapists with us this week and they have been shrouded in mist all week which they tell us has been perfect for the work they are doing on the “shadow” side of our nature.  For us, it has felt very cosy and internal, the beginning of that hibernating feeling as winter approaches.  However, as the course comes to a close tomorrow, they are finishing in wonderful autumnal sunshine!

It’s been a busy time with the course this week and we now seriously need to get out there with some rakes!  Steve has been also starting to put together our “new” recycled greenhouse which is looking great.  It will have to live without its roof for a while but otherwise is looking really good and sturdy.  Gail and Steve had some fun putting it together and it will make potting up and growing tomatoes, peppers, aubergines (and perhaps the ever-elusive melon…) a much nicer proposition.

Also, on an autumnal note, we’ve been harvesting our squash before the frosts come.  A rather diminished crop compared to last year but enough to have made the effort worthwhile.  The garden is full of wonderful greens which are coming into the Poulstone kitchen – Swiss and rainbow chard, leaf beet, kales and cabbage.

We’re also now the proud owners of about 5000 Spring bulbs which we’ll be putting in next week (starting to wonder if we have bitten off more than we can chew there!).  We’re hoping the daffodils, tulips and other bulbs will give you an even lovelier array of  colour if you visit in the Spring.

Since our last post, we’ve been busy with a Tai Chi group, a seven day meditation retreat and two shamanic groups.  We’ve also been joined on a part-time basis by Nicky, Alanah and Emma who have joined the team since Charmaine departed.  Everyone is learning the ropes and fitting easily into the team.

That’s about it for now except for a few more autumnal pics!


More soon!

Love Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


A final burst of summer?!

We’re having a last little burst of summer sunshine here before the autumn sets in properly.  This month we’ve had a seven day silent meditation retreat here with Burgs and a Tai Chi-based long weekend with Richard & Marigold Farmer.  Both groups were blessed with some lovely, warm sunny days and were able to do exercises outside and enjoy being in the gardens.

There’s still a fair bit of colour in the garden, most notably the yellows, oranges and pinks in the circular bed by the box hedges, the sweetpeas and cosmos.  We’ve just noticed that more butterflies seem to be belatedly appearing as the rainy weather has taken a short break, and they are especially enjoying the last remaining buddleia flowers.

The wildlife is so abundant here.  We’ve had the pleasure of encountering a few hedgehogs recently around the place at dusk and we also managed to get a sighting of the kestrel that is spending its nights tucked up in the recesses of the front porch.  The swallows and martins are all intensifying their flying activities during the day ready for their migration.  Flying school is in full swing and it’s a delight to see them all lined up along the guttering outside our kitchen window preening their feathers before swooping away for another practice run!  All rather wonderful!

We now have Jonathan Horwitz’s shamanic group in for the week.  Each marvellously sunny morning this week, while we were doing our morning practice at home, we were treated to the lilting, magical sound of Jonathan playing his flute in the garden.

A beautiful start to the day x

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


Why not Wi-fi?

We’re getting asked by some groups about why we’ve switched off our any-time Wi-fi connection.  There’s a bit of a story behind it….

A while ago a friend asked us to take a device which measures electromagnetic fields to a property he was interested in buying.  It had large electricity pylons nearby and he wanted to know if their field was within the boundary of the property.  To our surprise the field emanating from the pylons was well within what the device showed as a “safe zone”.  We wandered around the garden and as we passed by the front door of the house itself, we hit a very high reading and asked if there was an underground cable there.  The owner said there wasn’t but commented that his wife was using their broadband connection in the room adjacent to the front door and he wondered if it was that.

Anyway, we concluded our visit and when we got home we were curious to do some readings in the office.  The results were horrifying!  Most places in the office were in the “caution zone” which means the electromagnetic field is getting higher than you might wish to be in.  And this was also true in other areas where the Wi-fi could be picked up which included the meditation/group room.  However, when we took readings by the broadband router, the cordless phone base and the wireless keyboard and mouse, all these readings were in what was shown as the “danger zone”.  Needless to say, these were all on or around Mel’s desk.

So what? you might be thinking.  Well, as an experiment, we switched off the wireless connection and replaced the phone, mouse and keyboard with wired versions.  The readings returned to the “safe zone”.  What clinched it for us, however, was the fact that after the first full day in the office with the changes, Mel felt so much better than she usually would after a day in the office.  She felt mentally more alert and without the sort of dragging tiredness she’d been feeling that she’d been putting down just to doing computer screen work (and to getting older!).  And the room felt less heavy somehow.  Anyway, after a couple of weeks, she was feeling like she had so much more energy and that mentally she was less scattered and stressed.  We turned the Wi-fi back on to see what difference it made and we could instantly feel a sort of irritation and pressure on our heads.  Mel hadn’t been able to feel this before so we felt that it is possible to become numbed to these vibrations and that when given a rest from them, our ability to feel more sensitively returns.

Some friends we have told about it have said they felt better having turned the Wi-fi off and returned to corded phones.  Anyway, we’re not expecting people to take our word for it but just saying why not try living without these things in your home for a while and see if it makes any difference to how you feel?  If you prefer to see for yourself what the electromagnetic field readings are, you can easily purchase an electromagnetic field meter online.  Why not try at least turning the broadband router off at night when your body is trying to rest.  Obviously, we’re none of us in control of electromagnetic fields emanating from outside our homes, but we can at least reduce what we’re exposed to at home.

Some people may think our experiences are unfounded, and we’re not on a crusade to convince people or interested in engaging in any great debate about it, but what we’re saying is no-one has anything to lose from seeing whether they feel better having given themselves a rest from wireless devices and cordless phones for a while.

PS For people visiting Poulstone, we have ethernet cable and USB port cable for internet connection at any time.  For those with completely wireless devices, we are happy to turn the Wi-fi on for agreed periods of time.

Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre