Frequently Asked Questions - Coach House Retreats

  • 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 Sharpham's various retreats?

    The Barn Retreat offers 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 meditations, 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 I-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 Mindfulness for Beginners, as well as a variety of themed retreats such as seasonal, walking, silent and retreats for stress/burn-out.

    The Coach House offers retreats with accommodation in a converted stable courtyard 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, including experience of our rewilding land.

    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.

    Solo retreats are for experienced meditators and take place in The Cabin, within the grounds of The Barn Retreat Centre. They offer the chance to take a personal retreat and be immersed in solitude and nature, with daily work on the land.

    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.

  • 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. 

  • Why are Sharpham retreats so cheap?

    The Sharpham Trust is a registered charity (number: 285767) and a social enterprise which endeavours to keep the costs as low as possible by subsidising various aspects of the courses and retreats.

  • What I should wear and what should I bring with me?

    We recommend that you bring loose comfortable clothes for indoors as well as a pair of slippers / indoor shoes. There are some fantastic walks and opportunities to be outdoors including helping out in the garden, so we recommend that you bring outdoor clothes and walking boots / wellies as well as warm, waterproof outdoor clothes for all times for the years. A notebook and pencil can be a good idea for occasional notes / reflections during your stay. A full list of what to bring will be sent to you when you book.

  • Do you offer bursaries on Coach House Retreats?

    Limited bursaries are available for those experiencing financial hardship. Please contact the bookings secretary at least 4 weeks in advance if you wish to apply.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    The Grade II-listed Coach House has been sympathetically converted to create accommodation in the four wings which surround a central courtyard. Accommodation is in single mostly en-suire bedrooms.

    The eastern wing features a lounge, library, catering kitchen and has a new timber frame extension which serves as a dining room and meeting space.

    The extension has large French doors which open out on to a patio and garden with direct access out on to the beautiful lawns surrounding Sharpham House, overlooking the River Dart.

  • Can I arrive a day later or leave the retreat early?

    We try to ensure you get the best out of coming to Sharpham and that your group develops a positive sense of cohesion and support during their stay. If you are not able to come for the whole retreat you might compromise your own experience and that of the group. It can be disruptive when people arrive or leave the retreat at different times and the opening and closing sessions are often the most important. If a retreat date doesn’t work for you, we recommend you choose another of our retreats where you can attend for the whole experience, in order to ensure the full benefit of the retreat for yourself and your fellow participants.

  • 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.

  • How do I find out more and book a Coach House Retreat?

    You can view all of our retreats, courses and events and book easily and securely online through our calendar  or by phoning 01803 732542 or emailing

  • 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's the food like at the Coach 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 is a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat?

    What is a mindfulness meditation retreat?

    Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally (Jon Kabat Zinn)

    A mindfulness meditation retreat offers a valuable opportunity to step out of everyday life to focus on being rather than doing. Without our usual distractions and diversions we meet our experience as it arises with a sense of spaciousness, care and compassion.


    When we sit in meditation we begin with developing mindfulness of our breathing to help us to steady our minds. Each time our mind wanders and we become distracted (which naturally happens), we bring our attention back to our breath. This practice of focus and awareness can be extended to encompass all of our experience including our physical sensations, thoughts, feelings and emotions. Being with our direct experience in this way can allow us insight into the nature of our lives, which in turn can lead to self-knowledge and wisdom.

    Mindfulness and retreating can sometime be portrayed in the wellness industry as being all about generating a sense of calm and relaxation. Although this can sometimes be the case, another perhaps more helpful way of seeing mindfulness practice is the way in which it can support our capacity to be with and transform our difficult feelings, emotions and life challenges. In this way we can live out of awareness rather than reactivity and make better choices for our lives; cultivate positive rather than negative thoughts and feelings states and be better placed to contribute and be of benefit to the beings we share with this planet with.

    What happens on a Sharpham Mindfulness Retreat?

    When you come on a mindfulness retreat at Sharpham you will experience the following across all of our retreat venues:

    • Three 30-40 minute formal meditation sessions per day. This is mainly sitting meditation, some silent, some guided. Leaders can help with sitting posture which can be on a chair, stool or matt or even lying down where people might have physical difficulties.
    • Nature-based mindfulness practice either through gardening or nature-connection and nature-sensing activities on the land
    • Self-compassion or metta-based practices
    • Some mindful movement or embodiment practice
    • Periods of silence to help you deepen into mindfulness practice
    • The chance to bring mindfulness into some everyday tasks and activities
    • The opportunity to share your mindfulness experience in the supportive company of fellow retreatants (sometimes we learn the most from listening to each others experience)
    • Guidance about how to integrate mindfulness practice into your everyday life