It’s early Sunday evening as I drive into the North Yorkshire Village of Bagby. The birds are singing and chilled out cats trot across the lanes as I pass the picturesque village church and up to Split Farthing Hall beyond.
On the passenger seat lays a recently devoured family pack of pick and mix, save for five emergency sweets that I can eat at will, in the privacy of my room, if the raw diet leaves me craving for sugar.
With an acute technology addiction, a body suffering from a business travel induced diet and a mind full of mush I am feeling overwhelmed. I am entirely committed to getting the most from the programme and to bring balance to my hectic life.
A warm welcome from Andrea awaits and she gives me a full tour of this beautiful 18th century Georgian home. The energy is peaceful, warm and inviting and I immediately feel at home.
I’m shown to the Blue Room and my stress levels instantly drop. The beautiful room facing West with far-reaching views across to the Vale of York and the Pennines beyond, is warm from the afternoon sun. I’m already thinking that with this beautiful big bathroom, piles of magazines, the library stacked with inspirational and foody books, that five days might not be long enough.
The groups at Split Farthing Hall are small and intimate, usually around six ladies, so you can be as sociable or reclusive as you like. Once settled in, we meet the amazing Dr Claire Maguire. I am comforted to know that whilst she has a PHD in Medical Biochemistry, Claire also confesses to being a little bit ‘woo-woo’ too, so I know we are going to get along.
Claire gives us an outline of the programme and I’m more than a little apprehensive to learn that Raw Food, also means food served at room temperature. As one of those people who is always cold, I’m very much a Shepherds Pie kind of girl, taking my warmth and fuel from good old-fashioned fayre.
I quickly learned that Claire is not only a passionate food genius, she also has a great sense of humour and each dish is named as something that it isn’t! For example, Sunday dinner is a pesto pasta that isn’t pasta but a delicious and hearty serving of Courgetti with Pesto.
After dinner, we settle into our first meditation, to ground us and prepare us for the week ahead.
The Balance Your Life programme focuses primarily on stress relief. The days and meals are structured in such a way that your mind, body and spirit is nurtured and the coaching sessions give you practical strategies for dealing with stress. Cleverly all you need to do is ‘show up’ and put as much into the activities as you wish to get out. There is free time to do your own thing, whether that’s relax in the outdoor hot tub, warm your aching limbs in the infra red sauna or enjoy a massage or Reiki session.
Days typically include a 90 minute session of Kundalini Yoga, with chanting and meditation, life coaching and a range of other activities from country walks, vision boarding, dance and the highlight for me was the fire pit ceremony. I don’t want to spoil the anticipation for those of you who are considering a retreat at Split Farthing Hall but I will say it was magical, under the stars, gazing into the fire, making commitments to oneself in a powerful and symbolic way.
Food plays a big part of the experience at Split Farthing Hall. The alkalised menu is dairy, sugar, gluten and wheat free and it goes without saying that there is no alcohol but there is a huge selection of herbal teas.
The hearty breakfasts include a wholesome smoothie, a great way to get your five-a –day (or as I counted at Split Farthing, your 17!). We even got the opportunity to experiment and make our own smoothies and chocolates.
Meals are beautifully presented, worthy of gracing the tables of any top London restaurant. My favourites included the Tabbouleh stuffed peppers and falafel made with pumpkin seeds, tahini, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, garlic and lemon, and the beetroot chilli with refried beans. You’ve guessed it, there was no ‘carne’ but with a wholesome mix of beetroot, tomato, onion, peppers, celery, acai berry and a whole host of other super foods and seeds it was simply delicious.
Surprisingly the food is very filling, I had to ask for smaller portions and, rather unexpectedly, eating at this temperature seemed to regulate my own body temperature. I was toasty and warm throughout my entire stay with none of that familiar energy crisis I usually experience after eating.
Because the days were so full, varied and interesting, the retreat kept me engaged and after five days the changes in me were tangible.
For the first time ever, I began to feel resentful of my smart-phone, its call on my time, to its agenda rather than mine, so I decided to reconnect with some of my most positive and inspiring friends, to ditch a whole host of negative emotions and committed to taking weekends off and booking holidays like a ‘normal’ person. I committed to strategies for ditching the food ‘baddies’, to purchase a Nutribullet, incorporate more fruit and vegetables into my diet and to wrestle control of the weekly menu planning from my habituous husband.
Was I ready to leave? No. Number of sweets remaining? 5
One month later it still feels like I have an umbilical connection to Split Farthing Hall. I have made some major changes to my eating habits, nowadays I rarely eat anything that doesn’t look like it did at source. I use my Nutribullet every day and am adventurous with my daily fruit and vegetable smoothies. I now keep a health and fitness log which includes daily exercise, drinking lots of water and meditation. I’m much more chilled out and those negative emotions banished in the fire pit ceremony rarely surface. Some of the things on my vision board have already started to manifest and yes I’ve also booked 3 holidays. All in all, the retreat at Split Farthing has been life changing and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Split Farthing Hall is close to the town of Thirsk, accessible from London by train in just 2 hours. I would strongly encourage you to head north and see the county that is often referred to as ‘God’s Own Country.’ However if venturing north of Watford breaks you out in a sweat, you will be pleased to know that there are two equally beautiful venues in the South: Brooklands Barn in West Sussex and Chaffeymore Grange in Dorset
Leave the makeup at home, pack your slippers and an open mind and prepare as much as you can in advance by relaxing, cutting down on the food ‘baddies’ and alcohol.
For more information see: www.rawhorizons.co.uk/
Maiden-voyage.com members receive a complimentary massage with any retreat, remember to quote ‘Maiden Voyage’ when booking.