Frequently Asked Questions - Sharpham House Retreats
What is the difference between The Barn, Sharpham 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.
Woodland Retreats are a chance to stay 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.
Do I need to have prior knowledge or experience of mindfulness before coming?
All of the retreats at Sharpham House 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 formal 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 half-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. More experienced meditators might want to consider The Barn Retreat Centre also on the Sharpham Estate which includes longer sitting and silent periods, as well as taking your practice into shared work periods of cooking, cleaning and working on the land.
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.
All rooms are single occupancy. 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 retreat with a friend or partner?
We recommend you come on a retreat without anyone you know. Part of coming on a retreat is to take some time away from your everyday life and relationships. If you bring an important part of your life with you may not fully benefit from your experience of being on a retreat.
We've been told by some retreatants that they regretted coming with a friend as it distracted them from their personal journey, compromising their investment and preventing a deeper experience of self-reflection.
After considering all this, if you do decide to come with a partner we recommend you that you discuss how you will share the space together on retreat beforehand.
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. Although Sharpham is a very grand house, we try to maintain the informal feel of a family home. 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. The house is surprisingly warm despite the size and age of the building thanks to a state of the art and environmentally friendly biomass wood chip boiler.
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.