Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's
How has The Barn Retreat changed for Covid times?
The main change that you will notice is that things are done at a safe, socially-distanced spacing and that everyone is wearing face coverings inside.
More of the retreat has been adjusted to be taking place outside, in order to increase our safety while increasing our connection to the land.
The Barn may be slightly cooler, due to increased need of ventilation, and there are no sofas or armchairs in common spaces in order to discourage chatting at unsafe distances. In addition, we have more spaces outside to sit and contemplate or socialise (at a distance).
The tasks we ask you to do have changed slightly. Retreatants are returning to cooking for each other, and are being given easy-to-follow recipes to assist.
The library has been transformed into a second dining area so that we can be 2 metres apart from each other while eating.
In order to have enough time to deep-clean between retreats and to give the coordinators enough down-time, the retreats end on Friday morning, so each retreat is one day shorter than it was previous to March 2020.
For the time being, there will be no treatments offered to limit the number of people entering The Barn.
The schedule is very similar, with a few adjustments because of the shorter length of the retreats. There is no dharma talk with a teacher on Wednesday afternoon, although this is still a silent day.
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?
The Barn is about three miles by road and about 10-15 minutes from Totnes Train Station.
A taxi will cost about £12-18.
We are not able to provide rides from the Totnes station at this time. If you travel by rail, you will need to take a taxi or walk or bike to The Barn. And this is a great way to draw yourself out of the world and into retreat.
How do I find out more and book a Barn retreat?
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.
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 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.
What dietary needs can you accommodate?
We can accommodate the following dietary needs as long as you have included these on your Booking Form:
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.