I was delighted when, a few short wintry months ago, a beautiful invitation landed on my doorstep asking my attendance to a retreat by Canopy and Stars and Wknd:In at Elmley Nature Reserve. My yes didn’t take long to form; the mix of gorgeous ethical brands, attendees and location (hello favourite place) were all very exciting! I also styled the evening dinner in the barn so I was there in a mixed work/play capacity. I try to use my platform to support ethical independent brands, and a conscious way of life, and the brands that Olivia had brought together were so inspiring.
I have been so excited to share photo’s from this dreamy event. Everything was just so beautiful, from the flowers (brought by me, so of course I would say that!) to the food, and the thoughtful sessions we attended. I learned so much about photography over these two days. I loved having chance to really play with my camera settings, and be able to ask the help of some incredible photographers too. I also enjoyed being there with a crowd of women who get similarly excited about magnolia blooms and beautiful decaying textures and the light in a huge black barn. Oh, the light! It was wintry and low and directional and I couldn’t stop shooting it. Anyway, I have finally had time to edit and upload my photo's, and pull together some information about the sessions we attended.
(All links will be at the end of the blog post. All photo's are by me unless specified below)
This event was run by Canopy and Stars, who specialise in small scale, bespoke, luxurious and sustainable accomodation. This time we were all at Elmley nature Reserve here in Kent, which is the only nature reserve in the country that you can stay over night in, and a place very dear to m’ heart!
The day began with a shoe making session with Aerende, a shop I love and have been following for a some time now. Aerende work with a wide variety of makers facing social challenges, who would otherwise struggle to find work. I adore the ethos and style of this shop. As we chatted, and sewed and drank coffee, butterflies and birds hovered above our heads or gently tapped at the windows. Magical.
Last 3 photo's above by Sophie carefull.
A delicious informal lunch was provided courtesy of Abel and Cole, a brand I am good friends with, and so it was predictably delicious! My love of Hurley Burley sauerkraut was born during this sacred lunch time. Mmmm.
We then got a tour of the reserve. Despite my many visits over the years, I had never made it to this hide. I don’t know birds very well so appreciated having certain species and bird behaviour pointed out to us, all in a really engaging and interesting way (thanks to Gareth) We saw Lapwing, redshank (bright orange legs!), and grebes alongside the entrance road, often guarding their eggs. (which will now have hatched!)
Lunch was followed by a talk from Syreeta from Moments of Sense and Style, a scented candle company with a difference. Syreeta and Rob started MOSS after a life altering brain haemorrhage rendered Rob paralysed on one side. A whole life re-think ensued and Moss was born- a choice of light over darkness. Each scent is based on a place that is important to the couple, and we were lucky enough to be given a candle to take home with us. The range also includes custom illustrations, journals and matches- with more products coming soon.
Photo by Sophie Carefull.
Dinner was cooked by Tom Herbert. I was grateful that he catered so wonderfully for the vegan/gluten free among us. Everything was cooked on an open fire outside, and I have Tom to thank for the term “maximum deliciousness” now circulating in our family! His bread involved ingredients which sound marginally magical; fermented rosemary water, ancient grains, and a sourdough starter which is older than me (If I have remembered that correctly) and he served it with melted butter with shredded wild garlic in it. Oooooofff.
Then I stepped in to work mode and got set up for the evening dinner. I timed my Magnolia gathering to utter perfection, even if I do say so myself! The flowers opening to their fullest on the day of our feast. I dressed long trestle tables with LinenMe linen, and then laid my House of Fraser crockery and cutlery on top. I kept the flowers simple- just branches of magnolia- and laid a small flower on top of each napkin. Candles were in really simple Lucy Rutter ceramics dotted down the table.
Above photo's of dinner table by Sophie Carefull.
I didn’t stay over night for this retreat, so the following morning I returned…. in the middle of the yoga session led by Melanie Barnes. Doh. I’m sorry I missed it but it was gentle and restorative according to all who attended.
Gareth and Georgina then let us all loose in their currently derelict farmhouse. Talk about kids in a sweet shop. We all got giddy about the light and the texture and the decay and took turns photographing each other. I have Julia to thank for my shot, below!
The final session of the retreat was led by Katy from The Owl and The Apothecary. Katy talked to us about herbs and crystals that can support our wellbeing. We made smudge sticks whilst katy introduced the healing properties of the different crystals and herbs she had brought.
All photo's of session with owl & Apothecary by Sophie Carefull.
We returned home with a goody bag that was bursting at the seams. The whole experience was such a pinch-me treat, and I felt so grateful to have been able to be a part of it. It was really special to spend time with brands who I share such an affinity with, who care so much about the their product and the way in which it's made. If you want to have a stop at some of their websites, please see below. Highly recommended!
List of websites for you to explore:
Location: Elmley Nature Reserve
Event run by: Wknd:In
Shoe making session run by Aerende
Lunches provided by: Abel and Cole
The story of Moments Of Sense And Style : MOSS
Dinner styled by me, using:
Linen by: Linen Me
Crockery and Cutlery by: House of Fraser
Yoga session by Melanie Barnes
Smudge stick making session by The Owl & The Apothecary
Some brands I discovered and loved in the goodybag:
The British Blanket Company- gorgeous soft blanket, in the most beautiful shade of soft pink!
Evolve Beauty, some gorgeous organic cruelty free beauty products.
Timmy’s, my personal favourite- a mesh shopper plus two shampoo bars to try! Great for my zero waste experiments.
Genevieve Sweeney- the softest woollen socks- and personalised! Living my best life.
So you can see how excited I was to be invited along! Thank you again, Canopy and Stars, Wknd:In, Elmley nature Reserve and all the brands involved for a truly special couple of days.
I was invited along as a guest on a gifted basis, (and in a work capacity).