HUDDLED around a countryside kitchen table with my fellow retreaters, I’m cooing over a mug of infused stickyweed. I found this hedgerow herb, reputed to remove toxins from the blood and ease skin irritations like eczema, in the sprawling garden just minutes ago. I do wonder, though, if I’m only enjoying this bitter herbal elixir because it’s the last morning of our retreat and I am marvelling at the beauty of everything.
Mellulah Retreats, near Blandford Forum, is the work of yoga teacher and holistic therapist Saira Francis and I’ve joined her first retreat at the delightful seven-bed Springfield cottage, surrounded by green hills that roll through to the Dorset Gap, a track crossing dating from the Middle Ages.
The owner, an artist called Caroline whose art fills her home, has joined us on the retreat and by the end of the first day it feels like we’ve stumbled into a gem of a healthy house party where our new friends Ken, Preet, Finola and Saira take us into meditative states through gongs, Tibetan bowls, massages, facials and reflexology.
There are more of these long weekends planned throughout the year but in November, Saira will also launch an exclusive retreat for 16 guests in Symondsbury Manor in Dorset. This bohemian spot, home to an 18th-century panelled ballroom, is where 16 detoxers will learn about plant-based diets and how yoga cleanses toxins from the body. She will launch another first here too: a silent Saturday, which will allow her guests time to reflect and detox the mind.
The plan: The focus of my retreat is, in short, to heal the heart. Saira tells us it’s rare not to have at least one toxic relationship, or trauma from childhood, and that yoga, meditation and sound can help heal those wounds.
We also have plenty of time for treatments, walking and napping — it turns out this countryside bolthole even has a small infra-red sauna hidden in the house. During one gong bath, I feel sound waves wash through me — it’s a sonic detox.
During the afternoon yoga session in the gardens, we melt into the grass. One evening we participate in a fireside drumming workshop in the garden. Once we relax, we find our rhythm and release any pent-up anger we feel.
The food: Smashed avocado and fresh eggs from a nearby farm set us up nicely for the day. Chai tea and a show-stopping gluten and dairy-free carrot cake see us through to dinner.
The tribe: We are a mix of city and country folk, taking a break from the demands of running busy households and overflowing inboxes.
The real world: I leave with recipes and foraging tips in hand. While I may not keep up the stickyweed, I’ll cherish my new-found inner peace.
Day retreats from £50 per person, residential from £229 per person, mellulah.co.uk