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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's

  • What previous meditation experience do Barn retreatants have?

    All retreatants have had some (from little to lots) experience of meditation. 

    Meditation sittings are up to 40 minutes, and many are not guided, so we recommend complete beginners attend a Sharpham House Mindfulness for Beginners retreat before coming to The Barn.

  • Can I come on a Coach House retreat with a family member, friend or partner?

    We recommend you come on a retreat without anyone you know.  If you bring an important part of your life with you then you aren’t really retreating!  However, we realise for some people it isn’t possible to come separately (eg visiting the country together). In this case we ask you to engage with the retreat as individuals.

  • What is the difference between The Barn, Sharpham House, Coach House and Woodland Retreats?

    The Barn Retreat offers 5-night meditation retreats throughout the year in a wonderful converted old Devon Linhay. Retreats are based on a contemporary approach to Western Buddhism and participants have the chance to experience a schedule of mindfulness practice, teacher-led inquiry and working meditation in the organic garden.

    Sharpham House offers secular mindfulness retreats with the opportunity to stay in a beautiful Grade 1-listed Georgian mansion house at the centre of the Estate and surrounded by superb gardens. Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered for with cooks and house-keeping staff in attendance. Retreats include 3-night Mindfulness for Beginners, as well as a variety of themed retreats such as walking, silent and for stress/burn-out.

    Coach House Retreats offers 6 night retreats with accommodation in a converted stable couryard in the grounds of Sharpham House. The retreats have an ecological focus and offer an opportunity to live in community and explore the benefits of nature-based mindfulness. The daily rhythm of the retreats revolve around mindfulness, gardening and nature connection.

    Woodland Retreats offer a chance to stay under canvas in our woodland campsite in the grounds of Sharpham House with a focus on mindfulness and connecting to nature. Guided by our experienced leaders, participants will explore mindfulness in the inspirational setting offered by the Estate’s woodlands, gardens and parkland.

    All of the above retreats are set at different locations across the beautiful 550-acre Sharpham Estate with views over the River Dart in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

  • Are Coach House retreats helpful for people with mental health difficulties?

    Mental health difficulties and Sharpham Mindfulness Courses and Retreats

    Although mindfulness can be helpful in managing stress, depression and anxiety, our courses and retreats might not be suitable if you are experiencing an episode of clinically diagnosed anxiety, depression or other more serious psychiatric illness.  If you are at a low point in a cycle of depression for example mindfulness and meditation can sometimes make matters worse. This is because it can be just too difficult to concentrate and thoughts and feelings can quickly start to feel overwhelming.

    For these reasons we have a process designed to make sure that the course or retreat that individuals wish to book on to is right for them at this point in time.

    Our booking process

    Once you have booked on to a retreat you will be sent a link to a confidential questionnaire where you can provide information about your health needs. This questionnaire will be reviewed by a member of staff and if needed he or she will make contact with you.

    If you are supported by a community mental health care team we might ask for your permission to speak to a psychiatric nurse or other relevant professional to help us make sure a retreat is right for you at this time.

    In some cases we might recommend that you wait until you’re feeling a little better or suggest that you undertake an 8 week course or similar to gain more experience of mindfulness as a more gradual introduction to this practice. If this is the case – you will of course be offered a full refund or transfer to a course at a later date.

  • Why do retreats at the Barn cost less than at Sharpham House?

    Costs are kept lower at The Barn because gardening and household tasks are shared in community by volunteer coordinators and retreatants.  

    Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered. Also, Sharpham House is a large Grade 1-listed building with far higher overheads.

  • What dietary needs can you accommodate?

    We can accommodate gluten-free and/or vegan dietary needs. However, our kitchen is not gluten, dairy nor nut-free.

    Please make sure you include dietary restrictions and any food allergies on your Booking Form. We may need to communicate further with you about specifics.

    The booking form will be sent as a link once you have booked and paid for a retreat.

  • What's the food like at The Barn?

    Excellent! All of our food is vegetarian, and 99.5% organic.

  • Do I need to be fit to work in the garden?

    No. The work is as easy as you like. We can find work to suit all abilities and physical conditions; even indoor tasks if you wish.

  • What time do Barn Retreats start and finish?

    Arrival time for all Barn retreats is between 2pm and 4pm.  Departure time is after 9am and before 11am.

  • How do I get to The Barn from Totnes Train Station?

     

    Sharing a taxi from Totnes train station
    We are committed to reducing the environmental impacts of cars arriving on the estate as well as offering participants the opportunity of sharing the taxi fare.

    Our taxi share arrangement is with South Hams Cabs - 0777 2744 598 (tbc)

     It takes approximately 10-15 minutes to get to Sharpham from the Totnes train station
     
    To join a taxi share

    • Book your taxi in advance on the number above giving your name, phone number, date and time of arrival
    • When you have made the booking, the taxi company will then meet you at the station with a board saying Sharpham Trust and the names of people to share the taxi (if others are arriving at the same time)
    • You then divide the costs with your fellow travellers (please remember to bring some cash)
    • For Sharpham House, Coach House and Woodland Retreat we recommend you aim to arrive at Totnes station around 2.30pm (registration 3-5pm). For Barn retreats we recommend you aim to arrive around 1.30 (registration 2-4pm)

     

    Other Taxi Numbers below: We recommend you book in advance

     

    Local taxi cabs, in no particular order or preference: 

    Kobi Taxi - 07548 798 957 (runs an electric vehicle

    Roadrunner Taxis Totnes - 01803 732834

    Badger cabs - 01803 840400

    Brutus Cabs - 07979 615349

    Sam's Taxi - 01803 220406

    Go 2 Taxis Totnes - 07496 163747

    South Hams Cabs - 01803 840404

    Connect Cabs Totnes - 07443 518087

     

  • How do I find out more and book a Barn retreat?

    You can view all of our retreats, courses and events and book easily and securely online through our calendar  or by phoning 01803 732661 or emailing [email protected] 

  • How do I get to Sharpham House?

    Sharpham House is 10 minutes drive from Totnes, Devon. Trains to Totnes run frequently from London and the North of England.

    For full details and directions click here

  • Why do Sharpham House Retreats cost more than Barn retreats?

    Costs are lower at the Barn because it is run by volunteer coordinators, and gardening and cooking is carried out by retreatants in mindful work periods.  Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered. Sharpham House is also a larger Grade 1-listed building with much higher overheads to cover. Any surplus made from retreats goes towards supporting the charitable activities of the Trust.

  • Do I need to have prior knowledge or experience of mindfulness before coming?

    All of the Coach House retreats are suitable both for people new to meditation and mindfulness, as well as those looking to reconnect with their practice. Each retreat typically involves x3 20-30 minute guided sitting meditation sessions per day. The retreats are not held in silence, however there are usually silent periods in the evening and first thing. Most retreats also include a day of silence to deepen your mindfulness experience. If you are totally new to mindfulness we recommend that you visit our mindfulness resources page and some pre-reading on the subject would be useful before you come. 

  • I have some mental health difficulties - is this retreat for me?

    Mental health difficulties and Sharpham Mindfulness Courses and Retreats

    Although meditation and mindfulness can be helpful in managing stress, depression and anxiety, according to UK best practice guidelines, the practice might not be suitable if you are experiencing major depression or other clinically diagnosed psychiatric illness such as bipolar disorder, psychosis or current self-harming. If you are or feeling very stressed and anxious, meditation can make matters worse. This is because it can be just too difficult to concentrate and thoughts and feelings can quickly start to feel overwhelming. 

    For these reasons we have a booking process designed to make sure that a course or retreat is right for you at this point in time.

    Click here to read more about mental health and mindfulness at Sharpham

  • What is the accommodation like?

    Sharpham House has a mix of 24 Heritage, Premium & Standard bedrooms in the main House, the South Wing and the West Wing.

    Our Heritage & Premium bedrooms are larger and offer views of our beautiful surroundings. Our Standard rooms are simple but homely. All bedding and towels are provided.

    On some retreats, all rooms are single occupancy. Other retreats offer shared rooms. There are 4 en-suite rooms including an accessible bedroom and bathroom, which can be reserved only if you have specific medical or health needs. 

    Retreatants also have access to beautiful rooms for relaxing and resting including the Octagonal, Music & Maurice Ash rooms.

    Retreatants have access to the woodland, formal and walled gardens as well as the open air swimming pool (with conditions).

  • What's the food like at Sharpham House?

    Our cooks regularly get rave reviews for the high quality seasonal, vegetarian food they produce. We source food whenever possible from our kitchen garden and support local food suppliers.

    We can accommodate the following dietary needs as long as you have included these on your Booking Form:

    • vegan
    • wheat-free
    • gluten-free
    • dairy-free

    Please alert us to any food allergies you have. The booking form will be sent as a link once you have booked and paid for a retreat.

  • What dietary needs can you accommodate?

    We can accommodate the following dietary needs as long as you have included these on your Booking Form:

    • vegan
    • wheat-free
    • gluten-free
    • dairy-free

    Please alert us to any food allergies you have. The booking form will be sent as a link once you have booked and paid for a retreat.

     

  • Is there Wi-Fi available?

    Wi-Fi is available on some ground floor rooms, though we cannot guarantee a signal because of the thickness of our walls. Likewise, mobile phone coverage is not very good in the main house.  We strongly encourage participants to turn off their mobile phones during their stay and keep use of laptops/tablets to a minimum.  This helps you and everyone else to disengage from daily life and provides the rare opportunity to live fully in the simplicity and quietude of a country retreat. If someone needs to contact you urgently then please ask them to call 01803 732583 leaving a message if there is no reply.  Please be assured this number will be checked regularly during your stay, allowing you the chance to relax into your retreat.

  • Will I be required to do any day to day tasks as part of my retreat?

    Building Community

    NB: The below has changed due to our Covid-19 measures. Please click here to see our latest arrangements

    During your stay at Sharpham you will be invited to engage in building a spirit of community, generosity and co-operation with your fellow participants and staff, including the opportunity to practice mindful awareness in simple everyday tasks. We ask for your support in tidying the kitchen and dining room after meals as well as vegetable preparation on some retreats. Our staff will provide a rota and offer guidance with these activities at the beginning of the retreat.