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: http://moretolife.org/index.cfm.  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 (http://bristolmassage.co.uk/) 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 (http://feelhotyoga.co.uk/), Clive Tempest of Conscious Connections with his Chi Gung group(http://www.bigger-picture.net/), Joy Hicklin-Bailey of Secret Garden with her Joyful Loving retreat (http://www.secretgarden.eu.com) and Alaric Newcombe (http://www.alaricyoga.com) 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: http://www.poulstone.com/courses.php 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 (http://www.gordonmoody.org.uk/) 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 (http://northerndrum.com/) 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

Do Not Disturb!!

We’ve had a short break since our last group.  Mel & Steve have been on retreat and Gail’s been away to spend time with family.  And Hilary and Gem have enjoyed a bit of a break from the kitchen too.  We had some high drama last week when a pheasant flew into and through Gail’s sitting room window showering the place with glass.  The pheasant was able to be released and flew away, seemingly with just a few scratches but leaving a trail of devastation behind it (and a rather shocked Gail who had been in the next room!).  Fortunately, we managed to get the window fixed the same day and Mel & Gail spent time painstakingly shaking out throws and rugs and vacuuming every inch of the room for glass.  Anyway, we hope the pheasant survived the shock….x

Later the same week, Gail had a slightly more relaxing encounter with wildlife when she discovered a hibernating hedgehog under a mass of nasturtium foliage she was removing from the veg patch whilst we were all out in the garden working.  We could just see its little flank breathing through a gap in the leaves around it.  Mel was raking up leaves nearby and brought over a few good handfuls to keep it warm.  It was right on the path so we put up a sign and put a chair over it and a notice to avoid it being trodden on by unsuspecting guests!  Steve was going to make a little shelter for it this weekend but we see with the warm weather back again, it must have woken up and moved on (hopefully to a more private spot).

There are at least 25 pairs of swans on the field next to Poulstone meadow at the moment, often delighting us with their flight overhead.  Today they seem to have been joined by a flock of geese, apparently co-habiting quite happily.

It’s been lovely being out in the garden on these autumn afternoons, especially at dusk.  Today started with teeming rain but now we have golden sunshine making every surface out there shine. We currently have Heart2Heart Events with us (http://heartwisdom.co.uk/events/) who arrived last night on a chilly evening. They are always a pleasure to work with and we enjoy having them in the space. They usually work quite intensively through the weekend but we hope they get some time to take in the late autumn sunshine as well.

Our minds are turning towards end of year jobs – repairs and a deep clean of areas we don’t always get time for. It feels like a nice gentle wind-down towards the Christmas break with just one more group here before we close for the holidays.

That’s all for now!

Mel & Steve xx

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Late autumn news

We greatly enjoyed hosting Jonathan Horwitz’s Death, Life and Shamanism course here last week (http://www.shamanism.dk/).  We had a full house for 5 days and two thirds of the group were new to Poulstone so it was very nice meeting more of Jonathan’s students.  They’re a very appreciative bunch and we felt cushioned on a cloud of goodwill all week!  Very lovely.  They make good use of the outside spaces whatever the weather and had a ceremony outside with a fire one evening. Jonathan is trying to travel a bit less these days so we shan’t be seeing them all next year but look forward to their return in 2016 (and hopefully we may get to see them before that if we can make good on invitations to visit Jonathan and his partner Zara in Southern Sweden next year!).

Around the place we are generally doing end of year tidying jobs.  Mel has been potting up geraniums and fuchsias from the hanging baskets to over-winter them and Steve and Dave have been taming the roses against the walls in the walled garden – some were still flowering! 

Today Gail and Steve removed our mini tunnels from the veg garden from over the brussels and kale and Gail is clearing out some of the raised beds, getting a final crop of dwarf beans and mange tout into the bargain as she did so.  She was enjoying the company of a robin who was sitting on her bucket hoping for some tasty morsels to be unearthed as she was working. Steve’s finishing off the rose training today under the barn windows and then this afternoon Mel will be escaping the office to rake up some leaves in the back garden and under the Wellingtonia.  It’s a beautiful sunny day today so a good opportunity to get things done and enjoy the fresh air before the forecasted rain tomorrow.

Spectrum Psychotherapy’s Women in the World group are with us this weekend (http://www.spectrumtherapy.co.uk/).  It’s very inspiring to see a peer group like this, many of whom having been working together for decades. We always enjoy the blend of warmth and professionalism they bring to the space (and it’s nice to be round the fun and laughter that is always present when they’re here). Last night we all had a free firework display as the Kings Caple Bonfire Party set off their fireworks a couple of fields a way.  Very noisy but wonderfully vibrant against the night sky!

These evenings have been very clear and as the mist creeps over from the river, there’s an ethereal shroud of moonlit mist around the house and gardens. It’s nice to be out in the garden then and feel the stillness of the space, the delicate rustling of the breeze in the beech trees and see Poulstone looking cosy all lit up at its windows. The turning of the season has its compensations, to be sure.

Warm wishes

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

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: www.mandascott.co.uk 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 (http://www.tmwtraining.com/)are 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 (http://www.shamanism.dk/courses.htm).  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

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 (http://www.yogaforthemind.info/) 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 (http://www.soulmoves.co.uk/soulmoves.php) and his newer work, Tai Chi Movements for Well-being (http://www.tmwtraining.com/). 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 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