Bees, Tai ji and a whole lot of lycra!

We’ve had three bee swarms in the last couple of months and on the last occasion, Steve managed to get close enough for a photograph.  It’s wonderful to see wild honey bees thriving like this and we can easily give them a wide berth until they fly off to make their new nest.  The noise is tremendous and it’s quite an interesting sight to see them clustered together like this:  

It’s been really hot and sunny here now for weeks and Alec Jones’s Dragon Spring Tai Ji school ( was with us last weekend, enjoying being able to play their forms and do their exercises outside.  Their practices included cane and fan forms which were lovely to watch.  After dark one evening we kept hearing a cracking sound on the tennis lawn and eventually realised it was the crack of the fans being opened and shut!  Two of the students were kind enough to let Steve photograph them whilst they practised their fan form.

 Meanwhile, the final touches to the stone garden have been happening.  Some sempervivum plants have been nestled in amongst the rocks and look rather good against the stone.  

As the weather has cooled off a bit and some rain has finally come, we now have a lot of lycra around the place with the very wonderful Bicycle Beano vegetarian cycling holiday.  These guys laugh in the face of British weather and bring a lovely homely and communal atmosphere to the place.  Jane Barnes and Rob Green have been running these holidays for years and attract a really great crowd of people.  They always enjoy themselves whatever the weather.  If you’re ever tempted, their website is

That’s all from us!  More soon!
Mel & Steve
Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Thoughts and reflections……it’s all about power….

This post Jonathan Horwitz writes for us about power as seen through the eyes of a shaman.

He writes:

“Power is such a loaded word, and for many of us, when we hear the word “power”, it evokes a fear response. We think of the misuses of power, perhaps times when we have felt overwhelmed by how others have used power over us, or we feel engulfed by images in the media showing the destructive effects of power.

This view of power can often lead to fear. Power seems strong, controlling, forceful. It can leave us feeling as if there is too much power around us and we need to protect ourselves so we don’t get hurt. The sad thing about this is that we end up protecting ourselves so much that we shut life out. The only thing that protection does is build a thin shell around us, giving us an illusion of security by separating us from our surroundings and even ourselves.

But we are a part of the whole. There is no separation except for the barriers we put up around ourselves, and even those barriers are an illusion.

To cultivate another attitude to power, it can  be more helpful to think of it as “life force” – the power we need to stay alive, to be full of vitality, to help us meet daily challenges. This is not something we want to shut out! Instead of protection, we can ask for help to fill ourselves with the power we need. Then when you meet challenging or frightening situations, you do not retreat into a shell, but are more able to stand on your own two feet and face what is coming towards you. To do this, the shaman calls on the Spirit Power of the Universe. Essentially, the shamanic work I do is teaching people how to connect to this power so we have the energy we need to live life fully.

Power, like any energy, is not meant to be static or stored – it is meant to move and flow. If we feel we need more energy in our lives, the best thing to do is open ourselves to the Power of the Universe and let it flow through us. There is so much help around us all the time, if only we remember how to open and connect. A truly remarkable aspect of Power – not as controlling force but as vital energy – is that the more we share it, the stronger it gets. The more you allow it to move through you, rather than trying to hold on to it, the more the power can energise and support both you and others.

Power is in all that exists, and if  we fill ourselves with it there is no need for protection because we have all we need. We are made of the Power of the Universe. We forget this, but when we know it, we can step into life with an open heart, steady feet and power in our hands”.

Jonathan has been teaching shamanism in the UK and Europe for over 25 years, including many courses held at Poulstone. He lives with his partner, Zara, in southern Sweden and we feel very fortunate to have him visit us each year to teach.  He will be holding an advanced shamanic retreat called “Peace & Power” here from 9-13 October 2013. For more information, you can visit or visit the courses page of our website:

At least for a while…summer is here!

Mmmm, we’re enjoying some glorious days at the moment.  Bright, hot and hazy.  The sweet peas are finally in enough quantity to start using them inside the house, despite our rather delayed planting out.  Many other shrubs and plants are flowering and there are some lovely things to look at and enjoy around the garden.  We’re having to water quite heavily in the evenings to prevent our crops going to seed and to prolong the flowering of the borders.  Such a nice job though, the watering.  Time to just be, whilst pointing the hose at something!  Time to watch the swallows and martins wheeling about catching insects for their young, and to enjoy the cattle ambling up and down the meadow and to enjoy the scents and the feeling of the garden.  As dusk finally falls, the bats also join us for their raggedy flight paths across the darkening sky.  Our last group (Bristol College of Massage & Bodywork) included Jojo, a bat enthusiast complete with bat meter (!) so we now know we have Soprano and Common Pipistrelles.

File:Pipistrellus flight2.jpg

They are apparently identifiable by the frequency of the sounds they make.  There was also an exciting unidentifiable frequency which may mean we have a less common species in our midst too…!

We now have the British School of Shiastsu-Do ( with us who arrived yesterday evening.  BSS-Do have been coming to Poulstone for many years and we always enjoy their friendly and focussed energy in the house.  This morning saw a number of people up early doing their meditation and movement practices outside before their pre-breakfast session – impressive!  The morning was lovely and still and perfect for practising outside.  They’re hoping to maybe be able to do some of their shiatsu sessions outside during the week.

Well, time for us to get out there now!

Much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre





Thoughts and reflections…

This post our thoughts and reflections about these challenging times are from Terry Cooper and Jenner Roth, founders of Spectrum Psychotherapy. Spectrum, established in 1976, is a London-based centre for psychotherapy providing space for personal enquiry in which people learn to manage all aspects of their lives, develop self-knowledge, resilience and the capacity and skills to solve problems.  (  Spectrum have been coming to Poulstone for many years and we always enjoy their warmth and friendly professionalism.  In addition to the residential week of their foundation course, Jenner also brings an annual Women in the World group which is a peer group for women therapists.

They write:

In running the Spectrum psychotherapy practice we are only too aware of the pressure and stresses individuals, couples and families are dealing with as a result of world change. Massive changes in lifestyle and personal circumstances have happened since the September 11th disaster and the subsequent collapse of the financial industry and many of its institutions.  Living has become more expensive and jobs less secure.  Most of us are dealing with stresses we never imagined we would see.

But one of the great things about humans is that we have an incredible ability to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances and it is this in-built imperative to reorganize and form a better future that is our friend during times of great uncertainty.

As psychotherapists we utilise the natural formative forces that are innate in people to help them develop a variety of skills to manage themselves in the change process. Recognising whether we isolate or open up to others when we are stressed and feeling low on resources is very important. We are weaker when we don’t respond to our desire to be close to others, when we are overwhelmed and frightened of life’s challenges.

Communication often breaks down under stress and we go back to old, learned survival patterns, which usually involve withdrawing from others and this adds to the stress picture. Being close to others when you feel like withdrawing, and talking when you feel there is no point are essential in reducing stress levels and maintaining balanced relationships with one’s self and others. Often more stress is generated by our negative reactions to a stressful situation than the actual circumstances we are having to face and deal with.

Personal development workshops can provide a rich learning environment to get support and develop personal management skills.  We have run residential workshops at Poulstone Court for a number of years and having the peace and reflection of this venue for a residential workshop adds a special energy and support to learning new ways of moving through daily life.  We invite you to visit our website and talk to us.

Rocks and roots and lots of grit…..

The new stone garden is coming along very nicely and proving a wonderful shady spot for sitting now that summer appears to have finally hit (we write that with some trepidation, but our group of masseurs and masseuses this weekend have enjoyed glorious hot weather).  The gravel has been raked around the exposed roots of the cherry tree which look rather lovely in the dappled shade.  We hope you enjoy trying out this new area of the garden next time you visit.

More very soon

Mel & Steve xx

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Poppy time, veg news, food wastage and our new stone garden

It’s that time of year when the poppies which have self-seeded all around the garden start to flower and they look so lovely (even if they drive Gail a bit mad in the vegetable garden!!).  We let them flower each year and then remove most of them, leaving a few to go to seed.  They freely interbreed so we’re getting some wonderful new shades of purple and pink this year.

The veg garden is pretty much there in terms of planting out and sowing.  As June got busier with groups and quick changeovers between them, Mel needed to turn her attention back indoors and Gail has been continuing to get everything ready.  Our home-made micro tunnels are now up protecting the brassicas and salad greens from the prolific cabbage white caterpillar and other munchers.  We ate the first of the new potatoes today at lunchtime – such a delicious taste straight from the ground, adorned with nothing but a little bit of salty butter.  Even if you only have a small back yard, we highly recommend just growing a couple of potato plants in a large tub.  Very different to anything you might encounter in the supermarket.

The weather’s good today so Mel is washing blankets. Only another 20 to go!!!  Gail’s continuing to spend time adjusting any recipes we have which are over-generous and tend to lead to wastage.  We recently heard horrific statistics about the amount of food that’s thrown away every day in Britain.  For example, according to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, every day in Britain we throw away 1.3 million yoghurts and yoghurt drinks, 7 million slices of bread, 5.1 million potatoes, 1.6 million bananas, 4.4 million apples and 2.8 million tomatoes.  We’re reading the excellent Book of Rubbish Ideas by Tracy Smith ( and have been further spurred on to make sure we are not wasting food unnecessarily.

Steve and (the camera-shy) Dave have been putting down the foundations of the new stone garden under the cherry tree by the potting shed.  Influenced by Japanese Zen gardens, the area features some beautiful old lichen covered stone which Steve managed to find and grasses and bamboos whose movement and sound in the breeze should be pleasantly relaxing.  Eventually we’ll be adding two wooden seats so it can be used for small group work as well as just sitting, listening to the bamboos and the fountain. 

Since last writing, we have had Christian Pankhurst’s lively Accelerated Awakening group (, a Heart Essence meditation silent retreat with Burgs ( and we are now getting ready to welcome Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork ( for the residential part of their basic foundation course.

Perhaps we’d better stop blogging and get on with something!!!

More soon!

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre