Tree hugging isn’t optional on this full moon retreat in countryside near the capital
THE WEEKEND: The historic market town of Cuckfield in West Sussex has changed little over the centuries – and residents plan to keep it that way. In a passionate effort to retain the area’s bucolic setting, they even clubbed together to buy (!) the New England Forest to stop developers building a holiday camp. In this serene location I decided to head on my full moon retreat.
WHERE? In this rural part of Sussex, it’s easy to feel immersed in the outdoors. And the outdoors is what inspired me to go on a Full Moon and Fabulous retreat at the Ockenden Manor hotel, part of the Pride of Britain Hotels collection. Each retreat takes place during the full moon and includes a meditative trip into Cuckfield’s New England Forest aimed at ‘rewilding your senses’ by focusing on nature. Sessions are led by Helena Skoog who has been living off-grid in ancient Sussex forests for six years. Each day begins with energising Qigong yoga sessions, and the retreat includes two nights’ full board accommodation, three yoga sessions, polestar meditation, a massage and full use of the Ockenden Manor’s award-winning spa including in- and-outdoor swimming pool. Helena also skilfully guides participants through sensory invitations to connect with the forest. This lasts about an hour and a half and is simply about walking amongst the trees and engaging with the scenery, nearby scents, or perhaps just being aware of leaves moving with the breeze. We took yoga mats and laid down for deep breathing and guided meditation and I found I left the experience feeling way more relaxed and calmed. Yes, there was even tree hugging involved.
THE STAY: Ockenden Manor is a 16th century manor house tucked away down a quiet residential street. It’s been lovingly converted into an exceptional hotel with wonderful staff. It has a generous hedge enclosed outdoor space for lounging or dining and inside, most of the furnishings and décor are Elizabethan, with gorgeous stained glass windows to gawp up at. The original oak panelling is well maintained. The pièce de résistance is Ockenden’s modern spa. The pool is both indoor and outdoor and there are plenty of loungers. Treatments include Isopod floatation which has the appearance of a sunbed but filled with water on which the participant floats. I had a full body massage which was not only blissful but helped soothe my sore muscles after yoga.
THE FOOD: As the manor is surrounded by farms, fresh local produce is a mainstay of the hotel’s restaurant. Guests ordered breakfast from an a la carte menu with a continental buffet option including juices. Lunch and dinner were based around three course set menus. Starters were exceptional and included goat’s cheese mousse and white onion panna cotta. There was also thrillingly fresh cod as a main course and delicious cheeses on offer from nearby purveyors.
ASK ABOUT: Cuckfield is a delightful village only a few minutes’ walk away. It’s a blast back to normality: boutique clothing shops and houseware outlets sit side-by-side with bakeries and eateries.
NEED TO KNOW: The Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, near Haywards Heath, offers the Full Moon & Fabulous Retreat for two nights priced at £851.00 single occupancy. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929; Prideofbritainhotels.com. Next Full Moon sessions are 9 – 11th September and 8th – 10th October.
There are two more Full Moon and Fabulous retreats at the Ockenden Manor spa hotel in 2022, 9 – 11 September and 8 – 10 October. There are also more dates throughout 2023 listed on the website