Architecture like Downton Abbey on acid, wild swimming in an enchanted lake, ethereal sounding gongs and gluten free goodness. DOSE reports on a soul awakening retreat with Balance Holidays, who offer high-end retreats in wellness destinations.
Living with the demands and distractions of frantic everyday life had left DOSE contributor Helena feeling disconnected from her authentic self and starving for a spiritual sabbatical. When the opportunity arose to embark on a rewilding retreat at the historic Broughton Hall estate, it seemed like the perfect antidote to post- lockdown frenzy and fatigue. Here’s how five days of breathwork, ice baths, blindfolded walks and raspberry blowing turned an anxiety ridden worrier into a wild swimming barefoot warrior…
From the minute you’re absorbed by Broughton’s 3000-acres of lush green grounds, you are instantly transported to a harmonious haven away from the hustle of modern existence. Take the opportunity to go off the grid and revel in all its glory. Luxury is woven into the wilderness at this regal manor house. From the grandeur of the emerald drawing rooms, exquisite marquetry and opulent oak wood panelling, to the richly decorated boudoirs, lavishly furnished with fireplaces, four poster beds and free-standing roll top baths.
It’s a setting perfectly paired to the theme of the retreat by Balance Holidays founder Livia Manca di Villahermosa. Growing up in a parallel stately property in Sardinia led Livia to feel an instant and innate connection to the Tempest family, admiring their profound promise of eco sustainability. Just as the retreat aims to rewild guests and encourage an authentic way of being, the Tempests have made it their mission to transform the land to its former natural and much wilder state, encouraging a more harmonious co-existence with the environment. In doing so they have created Mother Nature’s nirvana – a place where one can’t help but reconnect and fall back in love with the Earth.
Suitable for stressed out city slickers suffering from burnout who are craving an enlightening experience, without having to leave the realms of Europe. The retreat offers an opportunity to rediscover, recharge and reboot without the recovery time inflicted from long haul travel. Townies fed up of the rush of modern urban life can hop on a train to Yorkshire and be embraced by the clean country air within a couple of hours. The small number of spaces available enables an exclusive and highly personalised retreat for like-minded individuals. Travelling solo? Not an excuse to shy out of the trip. After a week filled with belly laughs, bear hugs and the occasional cry, I’d formed new friendships for life.
Mouth Watering Menus From Field to Fork
Don’t let the term ‘wellness retreat’ fool you. They like to do things differently here. You will not be subjected to a depressing and depriving diet of kale and fresh air. Instead, four-course dinners are devoured, there are platters of pasta at lunch and always second helpings of pudding available – an offer hard to resist. Livia’s artisanal flair is evident as she works hard with the talented catering team at Broughton to curate each individual menu with care and craft. Organic, locally sourced and seasonal produce steal the spotlight, seamlessly fusing the tremendous trio of health, sustainability and indulgence. Nutritious food never tasted this good.
Each morning at sunrise we’re greeted by the warming aroma of homemade ginger tea. As a self-diagnosed coffee addict, the thought of giving up my caffeine kick was enough to give me the shakes. However, by the end of the week I had fallen for the fiery, immunity boosting brew. The fresh air-filled morning activities left our tummies rumbling and ready for feasting. Eggs from the resident hens feature at every breakfast. The outrageously orange yolks ooze out onto avocado toast – it’s eggporn capable of blowing up any Instagram feed. I savour the selection of seasonal fruits cultivated not to survive long intercontinental journeys, but to tantalise the tastebuds. At lunchtimes, plates are piled high with restorative gluten-free goodness. Falafels, heaps of hummus and scrumptious salads provide forkfuls of fuel and flavour. Suppers are just as delicious and nutritious, which you come away comfortably satisfied, but never overfull.
Upon arrival, looking out into the distance I caught a glimpse of a gazelle-like animal effortlessly gliding through the trees. However, as the graceful creature grew nearer it became clear that this was in fact a human. Springing playfully from one barefoot to the other, I had never witnessed anyone so light and agile on their feet. Indeed, it could only be the ultra-endurance barefoot athlete and natural lifestyle coach, Tony Riddle. Chosen as our lead expert, his mission was to rewild a group of stiff, square eyed zoo humans back to their nimble and natural state. This involved five days of mobility workshops, barefoot walking and running, tree climbing and down in the dirt childlike play.
On our first night we rewild our voices, guided by vocal coach Kate Lister who has a dangerously contagious smile and soul made of sunshine. Equipped with her ukulele, she unites us without the need for words. We om, hum, shout, giggle and blow raspberries, ending with a colossal and collective primal roar into the night sky.
We spend afternoons trekking barefoot to a Finnish style sauna with panoramic views followed by invigorating wild swims in the lake to blitz our senses. Post supper we bliss out with a serotonin stimulating, sound healing session with practitioner Paris Ackrill which sends me into the depths of a serene slumber.
Soon the time had come to take the dreaded plunge. After performing countless winged duck walks to warm up our muscles, equipped with gentle giant Artur Paulin’s breathwork techniques, we were prepared to face (and maybe even make friends with) the ice bath. Two minutes submerged and totally worth the discomfort, I reaped the rewards of an endorphin rush like no other.
An al fresco lunch was followed by guided forest bathing, sheltered by the woodland canopies. Blindfolded to focus the senses, I became entranced by the textures beneath my bare feet. The rough bark, prickly pines, moist sludge and firm wet pebbles tickled and teased my toes. These were simple yet substantial pleasures, nature’s gift to man, forgotten and discarded by our 100-mph modern society.
On our final evening, graced by the rejuvenating energy of the Aquarius Full Moon, we returned to the fire temple one final time. Layers of inhibitions stripped back by childlike play and laughter, shoes abandoned, angsts and fears discarded, we threw our parting intentions and promises into the flames. Leading with our hopeful hearts, we walked through the portal of transformations as wild, connected and empowered barefoot beings.
In a nutshell
If you’re looking for a sanctuary for self-discovery away from everyday life that is luxurious and nurturing, rather than minimalist and depriving, then this getaway is ideal for you. Balance Holidays merge the comfort of boutique retreats with unique experiences that encourage personal growth. One doesn’t need to jet off to Switzerland for a month-long juice cleanse or go trekking in the Himalayas in order to find themselves. Strip things back to basics and be grounded by the simplicity of nature. I came away feeling energised and enriched by the skills and habits I had accumulated over the five days. I had welcomed in the wild (admittedly unexpectedly at times) and awoken my potential. I’m ready to take on life with my new rewilded perspective, one barefoot at a time.
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By Helena Holdsworth