The good, the bad and the ugly on my experiences at the dreaming retreat in Rhayader, Mid Wales.
Myself and two goddesses booked the wanderer room which slept 3 people. We turned up on 31st October with excited anticipation and minimal expectations, just excited to be there and have the experience unfold for us.
Let us rewind back a little.....my interest stems from watching Charlotte Church's venture of buying the beautiful property as it was in my home county of Powys. I may not have watched it if it hadn't have been there. The reality programme followed her from getting the keys to gutting and rebuilding the property brick by brick, regenerating the land around and making it into a retreat centre. I feasted on the wondrous beauty of the waterfalls and the lush green lands and thought she did a wonderful job. My sister kept me up to date with newspaper articles on the retreat and on reading one of them, read that she offered affordable spaces at her retreat. I followed the links and realised that I could afford to go to the retreat.
I announced in my women's circle that I was booking to go and two people asked if they could come with me, we then booked the 3 bed accomodation and that was that!
As it was October 31st, I was expecting to met with pumpkins galore! Alas, not a pumpkin to be seen on the property, and no pumpkin served at our first meal. We did however get greeted in a lovely manner by one of the volunteers who enthusiastically showed us where to park, gave us a guided tour of the house showing us where the healing room was, the refectory, the cwtch and then our bedroom.
Ann at the Fairy Door on arrival
Wow! Our room was a-mazing. Each bed was made up as a settee-seating area with big squashy cushions and surrounded by drapes made of lace to give privacy. The room was huge and each of us had our own little wardrobe, plenty of electric sockets, mood lighting and a chaise longue situated by the window.
My bed sharing in the 3 beds room with 2 others
Looking out of the windows we could see we was situated at the front of the house and see for miles, sweeping lawns, streams, majestic oak trees and in the near distance the mountains of the Elan valley. Breathtaking. Our bathroom was huge too, holding a huge tub bath and a separate shower, and an invitation to sit on the windowsill to gaze out at the land. Outside our room was a blue bureau holding bottles of water taken from the well (bore hole), a kettle with a good variety of herbal teas. We felt looked after for sure.
From our bedroom window the elemental garden and fire pit
We congregated in the refectory, the timetable of the retreat was written on a blackboard so we had times of the offerings which we could choose to partake in or forgo if we wished. Flapjacks and turmeric and ginger teas was set out to welcome us.
We had an opening circle which consisted of essential housekeeping and again went over the proposed timetable, which could be subject to change due to the weather, Welsh weather tends to be varying shades of wet! Due to the impending storm, our guides decided to bring the walk around the grounds forward, and we found ourselves greeted with a weak Welsh sun which made us all trot along happily taking it all in.
We also got to meet our fellow retreaters and it was a manageable number of 9, as a few people had to rearrange at the last minute.
We sat shoulder to shoulder to eat our first meal, it was tasty vegan fare of Moroccan tagine and finished with (my favourite) apple crumble and vegan icecream. The dresser groaned with a choice of coffee, tea, herbal teas to help ourselves whenever we wanted, decanters of water plain and flavoured. Chatting and sipping our drinks getting to know our new friends.
That night we had a soundbath (which I snored through) and then we decided to go to bed. A combination of excitement and a long drive made us feel tired. However, the lentils in the meal did keep us awake for a time whilst we tried to settle our stomachs.
The welcome snacks at the refectory
Next day we could choose to meet for meditation before breakfast, then people could come and help themselves to breakfast at their choosing. I liked the laid back attitude and was starting to relax. We had group activities to do which we all groaned at when they was announced but we all got a lot out of it. They took us for another walk around the grounds which was lovely as we got to speak to the gardeners, very knowledgeable and interesting for sure.
Annmarie and I decided to go for another walk to see and enjoy the waterfalls, sheltered by the tall trees, we climbed up manmade bridges and steps and followed the pathway that others had made. As it became steeper and muddier we had to use the ropes set out like handrails, literally pulling ourselves up inclines. Hearts beating furiously we had to stop for rests whilst admiring the cascading waterfalls beside us, breathtakingly beautiful, I felt incredibly one with nature, the vibrancy of the water, the quiet calling of animals above, it felt like we had stepped through a portal and it was magical. Alas we didnt make it up to the very top which housed a platform that you could walk under the waterfall as it was just too steep, slippery and muddy for us.
We walked and slid back down (I think I jarred by back at this stage). On coming back down to more level ground we reached the court of the Holly King, the pool which we said we would try and swim in, and the empty fire pit. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a lady in white but then the froths of water from the many waterfalls was probably what I actually saw. I did feel a presence I must say.
Halfway up the waterfall walk
Lunch was served, a slightly undercooked minestrone with local sourdough bread and a feta salad. The soup was generous, the bread was plentiful but the salad was scarcily enough to go around. I supplemented the food with some fruit from the plate of fruit in the cwtch the seating area which houses the biggest must comfiest settee I think I have ever seen or sprawled in. We sat and looked at oracle cards and chatted amongst ourselves whilst sipping hot drinks.
In the afternoon we was encouraged to take part in an offering (activity). When we heard what it was we all showed reluctance as it was talking about our feelings. We all groaned but the exercise was profound. I returned back to the group having shed a few tears. We then was invited to do some art. Again, it was not something that I relished but I actually enjoyed the activity. Fiona was rather sweary at this point! We talked amongst ourselves as we drew and little conversations and snippets of info came out. I felt that we had began to bond with each other by this time.
And then an invite to do another activity with wicker. We all sat around happily crafting.
Wicker lantern making with Nick
We sat for our evening meal, a rather bizarre mixture of Korean style food, again not the most generous of portions. Pudding was panacotta.
The evening event was a silent disco, as it was raining on and off it was decided not to set up a fire pit which was a shame, we ended up on the terrace in the gardens dancing and then in the healing room infront of a roaring fire.
The next day we started with silent meditation and breakfast, followed by an invite into the healing room to discuss creating a ceremony. We had a little meditation to get us in the mood. Then we went to the potting shed outside which was filled with craft items and encouraged to plan and co-create a ceremony and use the craft items to prepare.
Lunch was called, another soup and MORE bread and a little salad, not enough to go round really.
We asked for cake or some snacks and told that they didnt do that, so we decided to rebel and put out our own booty of mixed nuts, crisps and chocolate which everyone seemed to appreciate. Sitting on the settee choosing oracle cards and drinking cafetieres of coffee feeling very comfortable with each other.
What was lovely was we started sharing our rooms with each other, as I was determined to see every room before I left. The mushroom and the moon rooms was now the only rooms unseen, but we got to peek at Forest, Dawn, Womb, and we showed off our room the Wanderer.
We then continued preparing for the ceremony. Annmarie and I went for a walk around the grounds to collect items to feature in it. We came back rather wet, so I went to my room for a long welcoming bath. We all sat around in the cwtch talking and having a relaxing time.
We met for the ceremony and was told that we would have a celebratory feast, music and roaring fire. We got back from the ceremony to no fire, no music and had to wait for our meal. It was nice but it was small portions. Again we sat around talking for a while before retiring.
The next day we sat around the tables waiting for breakfast and it was more bread, and chia pudding which looked and tasted rank. As it seemed that nothing else was available I asked and then demanded an egg for my breakfast as I was worried about being hungry on the way home.
We met for reflection and closing ceremony and lots of hugs and exchanges of numbers to make a whats app group. We then went to see the mushroom and the moon rooms before we packed our car to travel back.
Before I left, I had visualised items that I needed from the land to create a ceremony back home, so looked for slate, moss and water from the waterfall.
Gathering my self ceremony items
We left feeling happy that we had attended and sorry to leave but it was time to return.
We loved discussing the retreat on our drive home, we laughed about the lentils as they seemed to feature everyday, as well as tough to eat and digest sourdough bread. We all had very distended stomachs and the need to visit the toilet. The food was not the highlight of the stay. The staff was mainly made up of volunteers and the retreat co-ordinator. I felt that they seemed to do as least as possible, however, if you did ask them to do something they generally did it for you with grace. On talking to the workers, it seems that Charlotte rarely comes to the retreat centre now it is up and running and the website she doesnt feature in it.
I feel rested and relaxed, I feel recharged. Would I go again? Lots of little missed opportunities to make the retreat an amazing experience would make me return if they were addressed. A retreat is what you make of it, and you can do as little or as much of the group activities as you like. It gives you the opportunity to unwind, and with that you have the chance to defrag and welcome in clarity. As I run retreats myself I am mindful of what each person needs and wants with a little challenge thrown in. We cannot be everything to everyone but we can try.
My welcome bath
Ann attended the dreaming retreat, Rhayader, October 31st 2023.