I’ve been off on my travels again, this time with three other writers from Skelmersdale Writers’ group. The intrepid four set off for an isolated log cabin on a farm three miles from Hay on Wye at the beginning of this month. Our first problem was getting there and finding the place which was up a single lane track on top of a hill. The weather was pretty bad all week, but hey ho we’d gone there to write so we weren’t too bothered and when the rain stopped the views from the cabin were fantastic. We had a few cows for company but otherwise that was it. The cabin was very comfortably furnished with all mod cons except that the wifi was down and the phone signal not too good, but we had plenty of material to keep us going.
We each had our own room so could retire to write whenever we wanted. I think we were all a bit apprehensive about how it would work out as none of us had been away with any of the others before but it actually worked really well. We shopped together twice with a kitty for food and took daily turns in cooking. We also had a couple of trips into Hay which is a haven of books, nice cafes and restaurants. I wrote every morning, most of the afternoon and every evening for an hour or two before supper, then we all sat down after supper (lots of wine)to read and critique what we had produced. Evenings usually finished off with a bit of TV or a movie but I worked most nights as I was keen to complete the first draft of the ghosted biography I was writing.
On the Wednesday night the proprietor invited us up to the farmhouse for her book reading discussion group. It was a welcome break, lovely to meet some local women and hear their points of view as readers, even though we hadn’t read the book in question ourselves.
The week passed really quickly, we all got on well together and I achieved my target so I was well pleased. I found it better than the retreat I took alone in a Pontin’s chalet earlier in the year. Then, although I had absolute peace and quiet, I found myself going out a lot to relieve the tedium of being totally alone. Of course I suppose it depends on who you go with and how you get on together.
We found this venue when the proprietor Sally Herdmann contacted our writers’ group with a discount offer. In case you are interested, the cabins are at Wye View Lodges, Clyro Hill, nr. Hereford. http://www.premierlodges.net/wye_view_lodge.html
In November when we went, it cost us only £70 each which was about the same I paid to stay at Pontins but I had to pay for electricity there where everything was included at Wye View including the wifi which was restored in the middle of our stay. Ideal for writers on a tight budget. It must be really beautiful in summer, ideal for walking or painting but of course much more expensive then. It is also pet friendly so that is another bonus. I would definitely go again, hopefully a little earlier in the year.
Are retreats of this kind useful? Well definitely for me, with all the distractions of home and a busy life, it’s fantastic to be given the gift of a week’s space just to write. I have another retreat planned in January, this time a coach trip to Scotland but a very quiet location. I will have finished the biography I am currently working on and am looking forward to writing some fiction. I have begun a novel about a sixties’ Liverpool family but I’m hoping the Scottish scenery will inspire me to write something completely new. I’ll let you know how I get on.