Retreats are a rite of passage in a self-care era, where matcha lattes and reformer Pilates reign high. Escaping the mental clutter of your everyday life is, from experience, the most effective way to hit reset. Retreating comes in all shapes and sizes in 2024, from 10 days in silence in the remote mountains of Nepal to ½ a day in the heart of London, the diversity of retreating only gets greater as our passion for dedicating time to ourselves grows.

If you’re new to this ‘retreating’ lark or after a slightly more laid-back approach, a self-guided retreat may be your cup of tea. In the bucolic county of Somerset, 20 minutes outside of Frome, 42 Acres are championing self-guided retreats with their Wild Weekends. This spot is an idyllic nature haven spanning 173 acres of regenerative landscape and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including a family of bevers I became infatuated with! 

Ambling up the olive tree lined-up track on my arrival to 42 Acres, a wet and windy front greeted me, but the typical British weather didn’t stop the beauty of this 13th-century Hermitage shining through. Trundling up the cobbled path with umteen bags brimming with clothes I didn’t wear (note to self: all you need is leggings and a cosy knit on retreat and Ugg’s serve no purpose in rural woodlands), it became clear that the sacredly historic building has undergone a fresh refurb with an extension to maximise space. Tastefully decked in oak wood and minimalist furnishings, I switched my trainers for slippers, following the no-shoe policy, which made me feel right at home from the moment I stepped foot into my retreat weekend.

What is it about being plucked away from the commotion of London, for me it’s a matter of minutes in a place like 42 Acres and I’m instantly more zen…there’s something in the countryside air! Not to sound too cliche but managed to adopt a new persona from offset, a less agitated, level-headed version of myself and one I much prefer. After a quick tour around the building I was settled into my new home for the weekend, delighted with my sumptuous room. The vaulted nook, accented with original oak beams and leaded stained glass windows, has been beautifully brought up to date with a jute woven wall hanging and a 6-foot bed scattered with teal and terracotta cushions.

Being a well-seasoned retreater, post-check-in would typically be the time an orientation would commence, but as this element was out of the equation, I had much of the afternoon to myself, utter bliss after a full-on week of work. The drizzly weather made it all the better to curl up by the fireplace in the living room flicking through the extensive collection of well-being books, sipping on the unlimited supply of Pukka Love tea with a freshly baked turmeric buckwheat cookie… oh how I love the art of self-care.

Think of the Wild Weekends as a build-your-own retreat package, centred around the land, food and wellbeing! Pick-n-mix the activities, workshops and classes that catch your interest. Whether you’re a worldly retreater, looking for a less regimented schedule, or you’re a newbie, the carefully curated programme 42 Acres has devised with two to three activities per day grants you autonomy, taking each day at your own pace.

Plant maven Russel, who heads up the ornamental gardening at 42 Acres, guided us through his ‘edimental’ garden grazing tour, tasting plants along the way which would later appear on my plate. His brief for the gardens ‘make it beautiful and edible’, has certainly been achieved. Wandering through the wilding secret garden to the pristine walled garden, sniffing and sampling as we trotted along, I began to feel more attuned to nature. The agri-wilding landscaping project at 42 Acres embodies their mission to harmonise guests with nature, a concept I fully grasped as I rambled along. In essence, this self-guided retreat is a journey to re-spark your connection with the great outdoors, and this majestic woodland is the breeding ground to adopt nature’s rhythm.

Like a group of eager primary school kids before the lunch bell rings, my fellow eight retreaters and I huddled around the open kitchen at 6pm for our evening meal. Head chef Jo, an advert for her culinary skills with a glowing complexion, introduced us to the nourishing “Soil-to-Gut” menu. The 80-20 philosophy uses 80% of food grown on-site or within 40 miles radius, and 20% of items such as tea and cupboard staples that they can’t source locally. Scoring points with Tim Spector, my plant diversity went through the roof throughout the weekend, ingesting an abundance of hyper-seasonal foraged plants, picked freshly the same day. 

Each veg-dense meal was sublimely executed to send your taste buds skyrocketing. Roasted celeriac steaks dressed in tamari, maple and caper sauce, with steamy greens, birch polypore honey glazed carrots and creamed potatoes set the tone for the food, followed by a dairy-free take on delicate crème caramel. The spreads seemed to get more elaborate each day, climaxing with a beetroot lasagne that inspired me to get creative with my layers the next time I assemble one at home. Mealtimes gave you moments to mingle with the other retreaters, chatting away as we relished the delicious food, unanimously agreeing that we must eat more vegetables! The option to dine solo is there, with no pressure whatsoever.

I’m all ‘go, go, go’ in my day-to-day, cramming any free hours that crop up with Barry’s classes and catch-ups with friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love keeping busy but when I step back, the things I gravitate towards are all energy givers…not to mention my side hustle coaching F45 which requires every ounce of energy I have in the tank. Candlelit yoga, nature walks, morning flow and a woodland sauna session formed the outline for a calm weekend, with the choice to take part in all or cherry-pick the experiences that call you.

Scanning over the ‘experience’ timetable, my initial instinct was to squeeze in a few extra exercise blasts where I could. This way of thinking, that I always have to get as much exercise as possible is something I’m trying to unlearn. Sometimes a gentle yoga session is enough, and there is nothing to feel bad about if that’s your only exercise for the day. I did test out the 5km loop for a trail run, but apart from that I slipped into a calmer way of moving my body. 

Restorative yoga was completely new to me. In the candlelit yoga yurt, an array of props, pillows and blankets were sprawled out over the decking with a roaring woodburner keeping it nice and toasty. I’d liken this soothing experience to guided napping, using the cushy equipment to help you reach the utmost comfort. 

I spend long bouts of time engrossed in my book with no interruptions or disturbances other than the crackle of the fire. Soaking up the nature, interludes of slow-paced strolls around the lake (hoping and praying to bump into the infamous Bever clan) filled much of my time. I couldn’t quite muster up the courage to dip into the lake but there were others brave enough to take the plunge into the nearly freezing temperatures, I cheered on from the dock with towels at the ready! I think I’d be more accustomed to the wild swimming, paddleboarding and canoeing that takes place in the summertime.

Untethered from expectations about what this weekend would bring, I came away with an unanticipated wealth of takeaways, and not the greasy kind! I rarely lean into time alone and found my thoughts unravelling in the hush, bringing a better perspective on the dilemmas I’m currently facing. Food diversity, an area I try and dismally fail at conquering, falling back to the same salmon rice bowl and chicken salad on repeat, is something I want to prioritise, starting with a trip to the local greengrocers. 

The crux of the ‘Wild Weekends’ is the power of nature, from the organically-grown food to the guided nature walks and the passionate people who translate the story of 42 Acres, every element is laced with what nature has to offer. I’ve got a newfound knowledge of Bevers and ornamental edible plants, thanks to Russel and Raff, but most importantly the culmination of nature-inspired endeavours brought me back down to earth. Wrapped up in city living, time immersed in nature should be prescribed to cleanse our souls!

Click here for more information on 42 Acres Wild Weekends

words by Isabelle Shury