8:00 PM August 15, 2022
Finding time to just be still, phone switched off and a good book for company, might come easier to some more than others. But taking some breathing space to do nothing other than focus on health and wellbeing is a luxury we don’t always afford ourselves. Before we can reset our pace, sometimes we need to literally remove ourselves from the daily grind to really shake off stress.
Better still, taking a wellbeing retreat not far from home is arguably a very sensible idea indeed. Norfolk is of course full of beauty spots and staying within the county means you can forgo lengthy journeys (and avoid fuel bills and/or queues at the airport) and simply roll up to your getaway with more time to spend on you. That’s what I found when I ventured to a wellbeing centre in the heart of the Broads National Parks recently.
Tucked away down a long track off Staithe Road in Hickling, you’ll find Heath Priory’s Breathing Space, home to meditation retreats and wellness weekends. Set in three acres of peaceful grounds, the wellbeing centre first opened over 10 years ago. Originally it began as a women’s-only centre, and since the pandemic has broadened its appeal to all over 16s. The centre is a three-minute walk to Hickling Broad and a five-minute drive to Norfolk’s coastline, with Sea Palling and Happisburgh being the closest beaches.
I stayed in Meadow View, a newly opened shepherd’s hut owned by Alexis Hawley, an acupuncturist and a member of the Breathing Space team. A shepherd hut, technically speaking, comes under the glamping umbrella but it took me a while to realise I was partaking in any form of camping. The only sign that I was in fact glamping was the realisation that I was centre-stage in nature - surrounded by trees, a beautiful lake with fuchsia water-lilies, a soundscape of birdsong, and of course, views of the small but perfectly-formed meadow.
The aptly-named Meadow View is impeccably clean inside and beautifully decorated in powder pink, buff, neutral colours and wooden finishes. There are contemporary edges throughout and other thoughtful touches include a pink Himalayan salt lamp for bedtime reading, an essential oil pillow spray, chemical-free toiletries, organic tea and honey, a packet of oats from The Norwich Porridge Co and filtered water.
The hut has hot running water and electricity, and at one end there’s a comfortable double bed with a fitting wildflower-themed duvet set, black-out shutters, a wood-burning stove and two armchairs overlooking the meadow. At the other end of the hut is a separate shower room with toilet and sink. In between these two spaces is a beautiful little kitchen with sink, kettle, toaster, a decent sized fridge-freezer, two electric hobs and plenty of crockery and utensils.
Outside the hut there’s also a table and two chairs for lazy breakfasts and a firepit for watching swooping bats over a bedtime drink. All in all, surprisingly roomy and a very comfortable base.
During my first afternoon I took a nap, dived into my reading materials and enjoyed some of the food supplies that I’d brought with me. In the evening I took a stroll to Hickling Broad and sampled the delicious fare from the pop-up pizza van at the pub (The Pleasure Boat Inn). I slept so well; Meadow View was incredibly peaceful, with only the occasional sound of a faraway owl.
The next day I had two treatments to look forward to. In the morning, Paulina Jones tapped on my hut door to welcome me to one of the therapy rooms. Paulina specialises in sound healing, emotional freedom technique (EFT), Gateway Technique and reiki. I had a two-hour session with her (£120), which included a combination of these approaches. I felt incredibly relaxed afterwards so much so I had another nap (when in Rome). However, it was during the days that followed when I really noticed a shift and a much deeper sense of calm, relaxation and focus.
Later that afternoon, I received another visitor at my hut door. This time I was met by Clyre Darke, once a qualified nurse and complementary therapist within the NHS in London, now specialising in massage, reflexology, Indian head massage, EFT and guided meditation. I didn’t think it was possible to feel more horizontal but after a one-hour reiki treatment (£60) with Clyre, relaxation went to the next level.
There are a wide range of therapists based from Breathing Space, each offering a range of holistic therapies, some recognisable, including: massage, facials, reflexology, crystal healing, mindful meditation and tarot readings, as well as lesser-known sessions such as numerology, yoni steaming, chakra balancing, hand readings and theta healing. Each cost £60 for an hour, with some double sessions available. Sound baths and art (painting) or floral design workshops can also be pre-booked during your stay, and booking in advance is essential for all treatments and workshops.
For me what made the retreat exceptional wasn’t just the well-appointed shepherd hut or bathing in nature, but the people. I posted a picture of the hut on Instagram during my stay and received a flurry of messages from people with a lot of enthusiasm for the heart-centred women behind Breathing Space. I couldn’t agree more. The ladies who run this place have created something special, you can feel it in the air.
Whether you're looking for a solo retreat, a group getaway or a romantic weekend, a wellbeing retreat will help you re-energise and reconnect with nature, and yourself. Meadow View Shepherd Hut was a space to do just that - take a breath and to restore some balance. Afterwards I felt lighter and more connected to myself and armed with pledges to make beneficial adjustments to my lifestyle. As I left, the framed inspirational quote on the hut’s wall said it all: Joy is now.
It’s £130 a night to stay at Meadow View Shepherd’s Hut. Bespoke packages including accommodation and treatments are available on request. Booking via Air BnB or call Alexis directly on 07378 765052.