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:  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: 

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: 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

Mamma Mia!

Well, our dear Charmaine has finally fledged the Poulstone nest!  We shall really miss her, for her lovely nature as much as her hard work and support in the kitchen and house.  We gave her a good send-off – she had always wanted an ABBA-themed birthday party so we gave her a surprise ABBA-themed leaving do!  This involved quite a lot of spangly jumpsuits and dodgy wigs (it was quite scary seeing Steve with hair after all these years!) and a ridiculously bad dance routine to Money, Money, Money!  It was a huge amount of fun!


We hope that all goes well in her new job as a home care worker.  We’ve watched her grow in confidence over the years and we know that those of you who have chatted to her and got to know her a little bit on your visits to Poulstone all helped her to get more confident with people.   

So good luck, Charmie!  We love you lots and will miss you xx

Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Work Retreat 2012

Well, we’ve just had a wonderful week with the work retreaters!  What a band of lovely human beings!  There’s been so much laughter and fun through the week and we also got loads of work done in the garden and some overdue tidying up of paintwork in the house.  A delivery of manure has been mixed with leaf mould, soil has been replaced in the old greenhouse ready for the new one to go up, the whole garden has pretty much been weeded, garden compost has been put on the cut- flower bed and the first bed of the long border by the tennis lawn has been stripped out ready for planting.  In the house, much of the gloss work has had its chips and dents touched up with paint where luggage and vacuum cleaners have taken their toll!

We’ve also picked the remaining loganberries and blackcurrants, potted on the brassicas and cleared masses of garden waste from the compost area to a skip.  We managed to maximise the skip by dancing on the debris in it at regular intervals to compact it – either individually or in groups(!) – and this became quite a source of entertainment as the week went on!  Just like a green trampoline!

What always feels so magical about these weeks is how they unfold organically.  There’s the work in the morning which is a great way to spend time together, but then there’s also the connections made over cups of tea, taking walks together, giving and receiving sessions and generally hanging out at Poulstone.  We had a film evening one night, a few of us sat around the fire another evening and we had a field trip out to the local arts cinema at the end of the week.  Then on the last night we had a real treat; Austin Keenan, the partner of Hilary who cooks for us, came and told us folk and fairy tales by candlelight.  It was spell-binding and we managed not to embarrass ourselves by falling asleep en masse after a week of fresh air and physical activity!

The Friends’ Day on the Saturday was also really lovely.  Four people dropped in for lunch and then we were joined by a few others later in the afternoon for tea and cake.  People drank tea  on the front step in the time-honoured tradition, caught up with old friends, went for walks or enjoyed the gardens and had a look at what had been going on during the week.  It felt perfect in a very low-key kind of way and people said they enjoyed the opportunity to just be at Poulstone and hang out here for a while.  Thank you so much to those of you who came – it was kind of you to travel so far for a chat and a piece of chocolate cake!  A few people stayed on for supper and the story-telling.  A great day!

On Sunday we worked until tea-break and then went for a relaxing walk together along the river at Brockhampton before heading back to a delicious Sunday lunch cooked by Hilary, followed by a passion fruit cheesecake!  Thank you to everyone who came and made it such a great week.  If you’d like to see the full Rogues’ Gallery, follow this link to a slideshow on Flickr:

Lots of love

Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

A bit of catching up

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword when groups cancel.  After the initial “Oh no”, very quickly follows the “Oh yes” of a bit of less-busy time.  So we’ve just had a couple of weeks to catch up with some pressing jobs in the garden and take some nice long walks around the area to counteract the middle-aged spread!  We spent about five hours on the Wye Valley Walk from Poulstone to Mordiford on a blazing hot day.  It was gorgeous – a lot of the walk was through the dappled shade of woodland as well as blissful little sections along the Wye, amongst pink flowered hog weed, clematis and dragonflies of the most exquisite electric blue, turquoise and metallic green.  Beautiful.

In the garden, Steve has been tackling the yew and laurel bushes by the Buddha which badly needed pruning, having gone rather bald in the middle and ballooned out on the outside, swamping the poor walnut tree.  As you can see, he applies a high degree of health and safety considerations to his work……!

We’ve also been trying to catch up with the fruit-picking which is getting away from us, as other things have had to take priority.  Sometimes we just have to say we didn’t have time and the birds will be grateful for the food!  Mel has been picking loganberries and redcurrants, and the blackcurrants are starting to need picking now.  The loganberries are already featuring in berry trifles and other puddings.  We’ll also freeze a lot so groups across the year get to sample them.

And Poulstone has been given a new greenhouse!  Some clients of Dave (our once-a-month gardener) very generously offered us their old greenhouse if we were willing to go and dismantle it.  So we went off to their home on the outskirts of Hereford and took it down and lashed it to the top of the trusty van and brought it back to Poulstone.  Amazingly only one pane of glass got slightly cracked during the whole mission!  Steve’s been spending time dismantling the dilapidated old greenhouse here, ready to install the replacement.  We’ll be able to go back to growing tomatoes, peppers, basil and so on in the greenhouse without Gail feeling she should be wearing a hard hat in there!

Since then, we’ve had Alec Jones’s Dragon Spring Tai Ji School’s Summer Retreat here.  The sunnier weather held for them so they were able to play Tai Ji in the gardens.  It’s lovely sitting in the office seeing people playing the form on the lawn!

The day after they left, we were joined by Marianne Murray with her Holotropic Breathwork group.  Marianne is an annual Poulstone regular and we had a great week with her and the group.  They rounded off the week with a fire outside in the walled garden on their last night.

So we now have a couple of days to get organised ready for the start of the work retreat – time to walk round the garden and house and look at the jobs that need doing, check all the tools are where we thought they were (!) and so on.  It’s always a lovely week, hanging out with old friends and new, and we’re looking forward to it.

More soon!

Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre                                     P.S. These heleniums are our favourites of the moment – and the bees love them!

The Poulstone blog is here!

Ta-naaah!  The Poulstone blog is here!  We hope that you’ll enjoy keeping in touch with us via the blog and would like to thank our friend and webmaster Mick Tomlinson for creating it for us.  Thanks, Mick!

It’s a reflective time for us at the moment.  1st May saw our 5th Anniversary of running Poulstone and it’s an opportunity for us to pause and take stock.  The first 5 years have really been about being as thrifty as possible in order to pay for essential repairs and developments for the house and to renovate the gardens.

Having completed much (although by no means all) of the work that needed doing when we started 5 years ago, we now want to find ways of being here that have an even and constant feel to them rather than the huge bursts of energy that have been needed to get things to where they are now.  We want to arrive at a sense of just tending things.  There is more of a feeling of ease now which we’re really enjoying.

There have been many miracles along the way, both large and small, and we really want to express our gratitude to everyone for their support, including those in spirit. Particular thanks go to the teachers and friends who have helped us in the holding of this special environment.

We are holding a Friends’ Day on 11th August at the end of the work retreat as a thank you to everyone who has supported Poulstone over the last five years – by running or attending courses or by contributing work, expertise or resources, or by providing moral support!  (You know who you are xx)!

Do get in touch if you’d like to join us for lunch and/or for the afternoon – or indeed if you’d like to join the work retreat (there are still some places left).

We’re looking forward to the years ahead at Poulstone, as well as keeping in touch with you all via the blog and our quarterly newsletter.

Much love, Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre