Just recently I went on a ‘Making Winter Creative Retreat’ https://silverpebble.net/product/making-winter-retreat-february-2017 in a tiny little village in Cambridgeshire fens called Reach.
I was headed to a creative weekend retreat in a small medieval village at the edge of the Fens
to quote Emma’s blog: The aim is to use seasonal creativity, good food, good company and cosiness as an antidote to the grey days of Winter. It will be a two-day dose of British hygge based in a beautifully converted 19th Century barn’ , ‘As well as a wood burning stove to nestle near to in the beautifully converted barn, hearty, delicious food and gin’ .. there would be four creative workshops, a country walk and lots of sitting around, relaxing, and chatting.
My mood doesn’t really drop during winter, I enjoy wearing big jumpers, sitting in front of fires, and lighting nightlights and candles. I usually feel quite miserable in the summer as I am allergic to it! However this weekend was in February not July, so, after a wee bit of organisation, I was able to go, so I did!
My weekend away started on Thursday leaving home and going to Glasgow, I was staying in a hotel overnight (the lovely ‘Z Hotel’ off George Square – highly recommend! - to avoid a panicky drive across country at silly o’clock in the morning. However, there were a few panicky hours after I discovered I’d managed to leave my train tickets at home. Long story but they were finally delivered just after 11pm. After that inauspicious start, I went to the correct station, found the right platform, and caught the correct train PhEw! I was on my way south. Next stop Ely, (via Edinburgh and Peterborough).
I had a couple of hours to kill before meeting my B&B landlady I wanted to go to the Cathedral.
Ely Cathedral is vast and very stately. It’s quite breath-taking in places, especially when you stop to consider that it was all built by hand. The Stained-glass museum is also very interesting with some ancient pieces of glass work.
Then to my B&B Norfolk House in Cheveley, which was lovely and very comfortable. Early to bed! Tomorrow the Barn.
Despite major anxiety attacks all morning, there wasn’t a single monster in the Barn, everyone was lovely. It was a delight to meet Emma aka Silverpebble at last. We worked it out that we started following each other’s blogs nearly nine years ago. After swiftly dividing us in to groups we were off to our first workshops. Mine was silver clay work with Silverpebble herself. After making moulds of natural finds; seashells, seed pods, leaves, etc. we cast them with silver clay, dried our shapes in the oven, and then fired them in a kiln. Then brushed and polished, oxidised and buffed our pendants before hanging on a chain, and wearing with pride for the rest of the weekend! I’m keen to have another go sometime soon. Watch this space!
After a delicious lunch in the pub, we went for a walk in the wintery sunshine around a small woodland created 20 years ago by the villagers. Emma, took time to point out the early signs of spring, snowdrops and …. listening to a Robin singing … watching the mating dance of a pair of bluetits … enjoying the acid yellow bright of lichen covered branches … spotting last year’s bird’s nests in the leafless, still life-less, trees.
When we returned, it was time for willow weaving with the superb ‘Dotty Cookie’. Val took us through the craft of weaving, and in the space of a seemingly short couple of hours we had produced some very handsome lanterns & birdfeeders.
A few gin cocktails were made before a dinner of hot and hearty and (w)holesome stews made by Emma and her husband Andy, followed by perfect puds of Chocolate olive oil cake & Apple Streusel cake, the recipe for which will be in the book Emma’s writing which will be published in October (you can pre-order it here)
After much chat and laughter, it was time to return to our various residences and thence to bed.
Sunday dawned with a lot of mist and the paddocks at the bottom of the garden, viewed out of my bedroom window the day before, had all but disappeared. I took a short walk around the outside the little flint built village church which was built in 1260 and has very pretty windows.
On arriving at the Barn it felt absolutely right to head upstairs, to the rooms tucked in under the roof rafters of the barn. We curled up on sofas and chairs and learned how to crochet, with the warmest, softest, wool from Loop London, a cashmere, silk, merino blend. Jemima was an incredibly patient teacher with four absolute beginners. Casting on with Chains then Double and Treble Crochet stitches. I am so pleased to be able to do this at last. First stop, long straight bookmarks, then maybe the pattern for wrist warmers Emma has written, by the end of the year, or maybe next!
Lunch was incredible Middle Eastern Mezze delivered and cooked by the ‘Wandering Yak’ in their van parked up outside the Barn. Pudding, and amazingly indulgent dessert of warm chocolate, orange and almond cake with a hot coconut and vanilla sauce. It looked almost too pretty to eat! http://www.wanderingyak.co.uk/privatehire/
Then the afternoon workshop lead by Emma and Lu summers, who describes herself as a ‘Designer, Printer, Stitcher, Maker’ and has designed fabric ranges for Moda among others. As with all the tutors on this weekend Lu was warm, and friendly, generous with her advice, and inspirational. I knew I was going to find this workshop difficult. I find drawing from ‘real’ things problematic and in ‘class’, uncomfortable. I would rather use the sewing machine to draw with! Although I ended up laughing there were also tears of stress, which were dried up when Emma provided me with a stiff gin cocktail!
Then suddenly it was all over and there were goodbyes and promises to keep in touch.
What an incredibly inspiring, fun and uplifting weekend it was. You can read more about the weekend and some more lovely photos on Janis Issitt’s blog here and Jeska Hearne, aka Lobster & Swan also blogged here.
I'm already cooking up plans to go again next January, although this feel like a veerrrry looong way away it's good to have something to look forward to!