Frequently Asked Questions - Sharpham House Retreats
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.
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.
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.
Will I be required to do any day to day tasks as part of my retreat?
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.
Can we buy and drink alcohol at Sharpham?
Alcohol is not available during the retreat and we ask retreatants to refrain from using drugs and alcohol during their stay except for prescribed drugs in order to support their mindfulness practice. Sharpham Wine and Cheese is available to buy however at the end of your retreat from the vineyard shop or online at www.sharpham.com
How sustainable is it to stay in the House?
We take sustainability seriously! All of the hot water and heating in the house is produced by a state of the art bio-mass wood chip boiler and we have 2 large photo-voltaic arrays on barn rooftops. Our gardens are managed organically and we only use biodegradable cleaning products.
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.
Who do I contact if I have more questions?
Please contact our bookings secretary if you have any questions about the retreat [email protected] / 01803 732542
Accessibility and staying at Sharpham House
Sharpham House is a Grade 1-Listed Palladian villa constructed in 1765 and as such there are certain limitations that prevent the building complying with modern access requirements. The Trust is endeavouring to make the building as accessible as possible given these constraints.
We have installed a lift to our upper floors.
We have an accessible ground-floor single bedroom in Sharpham House, located close to the lift. The Clare Milne room has an attached accessible bathroom. Click here for more details and how to book this room
All of the downstairs rooms in Sharpham House are wheelchair accessible and there is an accessible toilet.
The South Wing Hall is wheelchair accessible with an accessible toilet. Parts of the gardens are accessible to wheelchairs but some parts are not.
The Trust owns a Conversor Pro assistive listening device which visitors are welcome to use on request. To reserve, contact the Programme Manager on [email protected]
We have a House Accessibility Statement that goes into fuller detail
To book the accessible bedroom please read the accessibility statement and contact our programme and bookings administrator to discuss your needs - (01803) 732542
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.
How do I find out more and book?
Do you offer bursaries at Sharpham House?
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.
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, 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.
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