I’ve just returned from a weekend at the Wild Women Retreat with Honeywoods Camping over in Tortworth, near Bristol. As I sit here typing, I can still catch the faint whiff of wood smoke coming from clothes that will need a second spin in the washing machine, and I’m already penciling in the dates for next year – or if you’re quick, the second one this year, happening next weekend!

What is the Wild Women Retreat?

The Wild Women Retreat is an opportunity for a group of 20 – 30 women to get together and make, create, learn or simply be in a gorgeous ancient woodland area.  It’s very basic with a composting toilet, no showers and no running water, though drinking water is supplied, meals are prepared and an insane amount of cake always appears out of tents and backpacks at ad hoc intervals.

It is a back to basics set-up with a focus on connecting with nature, with other women, and with yourself.

What can you do at the Wild Women Retreat?

The plan changes from year to year and even from event to event. This year we had a Shiatsu practitioner, we learned wood carving from a professional, spun wool, learned to make fires with just a flint and steel and collected materials from around the woodland. There were early morning yoga sessions under the trees, and forest bathing sessions, and even aerial hooping from a 200 year old oak tree.

But more importantly, while you could do any of these sessions, you could also do none of them. There’s a communal fire for cooking food and endless supply of coffees and teas, and there’s always someone at the fire, ready for a chat.

Wild Women Retreat

What if none of my friends want to come? 

While most people come with a friend or two, the whole layout of the retreat lends itself to making new friends. No one is left in a corner alone. By Friday night you’ve met and spoken to most of the other people present, and over the weekend it becomes one large group. There’s no need to come with friends because it’s not long before everyone is a friend.

The beauty of this particular weekend was in the fact that, as I sit here now, looking back on it, I remember the dappled sunshine on the parachute that covers the fireplace, I remember the elation at making a willow dragonfly successfully and discovering someone happened to have some beads I could use to thread on the tail. I remember eating satisfying and wholesome meals, having deep and meaningful conversations, and playing random games around the fire. I remember the joy in being able to share finger-knitting with people excited to try it, and the companionship of friends – one I’d brought along, a few I’d met before and some brand new.

Wild Women Retreat

What about this year’s camp?

None of my memories even focus on the fact that rain drenched us on Friday or that my clothes were still wet on Sunday. Instead, I can still feel the thrill of slipping cold limbs into a warm, fluffy sleeping bags and drifting off to the sounds of a nearby owl hooting away in the dark, as the splatter of raindrops on canvas lull me to sleep.  The memory of waking up to the sounds of a newly blazing fire, the hushed laughter of fellow campers, and that first breath of fresh morning air as you open the tent to meet the day still lingers on.

I didn’t go hooping or do the yoga, but I carved a spoon and I managed to successfully not batter myself to death with the poi (though I did try a few times, ouch!) and I made a dragon fly and helped start a fire, I shared rocky road and finger knitting and stories and experiences, and for a weekend, I wasn’t a mother, a worker, a home-maker, a fetcher and carrier and bringer of food –  I was just me, carving, sitting, resting, and being restored.

I can’t wait for next year. Just 362 days to go! But on the upside, our favourite family camp by Honeywoods Camping will be coming around even sooner.

(But there are still tickets for the August 2017 Wild Women Retreat, and if I can get my ducks in a row, I may just see you there!)