Window Wednesday used to be a pretty regular thing around these parts. And then it drifted off which always made me a bit sad if I am honest. So with a new vision and determination to write regularly I am bringing it back as often as I can, starting with the Tarn Centre in Cumbria. If you don’t know, I love windows. And doors.
I love photographing doors, and I love how a window frames the shot through it. It draws you into it. There is a whole Window Wednesday category so if you want a rummage, do have a look.
This week’s though is from the Tarn Outdoor Centre, where we stayed last weekend with Creative Countryside, up in Cumbria.
When I booked it I couldn’t really afford to do it but Annie had told me how amazing the winter retreat had been and back when I booked it nothing else was really in the diary so it felt like something nice to look forward to. And then I promptly forgot I had booked it and June became ridiculously busy (I won’t have a weekend at home during June) so it was lovely to get away. To escape.
Though the M6 did its utmost to kill the vibe with a nightmare 8 hour journey up there on Friday, and a breakdown, flat bed trucks and an AA van on the way home. But the bit in the middle was bliss. Absolute bliss.
And in some ways life changing.
That is a big statement, I know but I had a real epiphany (it might have been as I had a wee behind a huge clump of grass watching the sun rise) and began to start thinking about the connection theory I talked about briefly in a post earlier this week. I am wondering now if there is some connection between me finding myself (a phrase I am not particularly keen on but it kind of works right now) and the building being called Tarn. I have often been called Tarn, as short for Tanya. It’s a nickname I loathe and nobody uses it regularly but it made me think that if you believe in cosmic ordering there might be more to all this weekend than I had originally thought.
Anyway, I can feel you rolling your eyeballs so I will shut up and get back to the window.
The Tarn Centre sleeps 24, though there were only 14 of us and to be honest I think anymore might have been a squeeze. Certainly when you consider there were only 4 female and 4 male loos and showers. Big open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge gave us lots of flexibility with tables and chairs so we had plenty of space to all come together for breakfast, yet didn’t feel lost when we wanted to curl up with a cuppa and a book for half an hour.
Our days were spent making herb butter and a sleep pillow, whilst also learning about the medicinal properties of some of the plants we walk past every day. Heather (@north_star_nomad) on Instagram really knows her stuff and it was fascinating to hear her talk about using nature to heal. We then went on to make a sleep pillow, stuffed with camomile, rose petals, lavender and hops (yes, you know the way you want to fall asleep after a couple of beers? Well that is because hops have sleep inducing properties). I made mine with Mr B in mind who suffers from insomnia. Fingers crossed it works!
Then we made the most delicious herb butters, choosing our own ingredients from a whole range on offer. I had no idea you could add ingredients to butter in this way, and that it was such a great way of getting plants with healing properties into our every day diet.
And made our butters so colourful. Calenduja plant and chive flowers gave a real splash of colour, as well as tasting great!
There was also time to meditate, to focus on our breathing, to clear our heads. Elizabeth (@andthrive on instagram) has spent years learning various “alternative therapies” and was happy to share her knowledge and wisdom. Professionally Elizabeth is also a life coach so when we sat and chatted the questions Elizabeth put to me really made me think, and make it clearer just what it was I wanted to do in the future. Amazing what you can achieve when you stop being busy and just sit still for a hour!
Plus we ate the most incredible food. All vegetarian, it was incredible. Saturday night was Midsummer’s Eve (not to be confused with the summer soltice a few days before) so we feasted, and then we went outside to sit around the campfire and share stories.
And get eaten by midges. Oh my days the midges. If anybody has any foolproof ways of stopping these little buggers please share, we all got eaten alive both nights!
Sunday morning we had the most wonderful mindfulness walk starting from the Tarn Centre’s back door, led by Chelsea from Loving Life in Wellies, connecting with the world around, listening to the wind, feeling the moss on walls, and yes we hugged a tree. Tree hugging gets a bum rap from people who think it really is a step too far but you know what, it is scientifically proven that trees give off chemicals that can alter our sense of well being. So why not hug a tree?
I loved getting up at sunrise to watch the sun appear over a hill, there was a real stillness to the air. A feeling of promise with the day ahead. Just what was it going to bring? Other than a sneak back to bed for another two hours of sleep?
I left feeling energised with a renewed sense of calm, of being. A resolution to connect more. To listen to conversations. To watch TV and not also be on my phone. In fact since I got back from France I have made a point of putting my phone down in the evenings and to trying to be more present rather than connected to the outside world.
And this weekend really reinforced that for me. A huge thank you to Eleanor and her sister Jess for all their hard work in organising the weekend and making it so much fun.
If you don’t know about Creative Countryside you really should have a look. They produce the most beautiful quarterly magazine and organise these wonderful gatherings.