New faces at The Coach House

21st February, 2023
by Julian | 4 Min Read
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The Coach House Gardens

We welcome Rachel and Nicky to The Coach House as our newest Volunteer Coordinators.

Rachel joined the team in January, while Nicky arrived here just a couple of weeks ago.

Rachel Cottam GP leading retreats at Coach House at Sharpham Trust
Rachel Cottam

Meet Rachel

Rachel Cottam is a doctor who is a complete convert to mindfulness - even though she thought she'd done the wrong thing in booking a Sharpham House Mindfulness for Beginners retreat after she had a breast cancer diagnosis.

"I thought that mindfulness was all about positive thinking," she said. "I thought I'd made a terrible mistake but I decided to stay for 24 hours."

"It blew me away, even though I'd come with no belief or aspiration," she said. 

She stayed for the whole retreat and In the closing circle she declared she was going to use Sharpham's resources twice a week for the next 15 months. "I found it was so amazing. Before I knew it I was meditating every day".

She then took an 8-week course in mindfulness. She booked at The Barn but pandemic lockdown meant that never happened, so she used Sharpham's recorded practices and meditations. "I almost knew them off by heart!" she said.

"Some seed was planted because I knew I had to be here," she said. "I decided I needed to train to teach mindfulness and did an online 12-week course and then a teacher-training course with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (who regularly hire Sharpham to host their own retreats). Then I came back and did a walking retreat and each time I loved it more. Then I realised I'd lost my heart to here! I even brought my family down to Devon. I wanted to be back on this landscape. I did a silent retreat and then the Coach House opened. I was there within the first 3 weeks!" She also did September retreat there too.

She realised she wanted to be a Coach House coordinator. "I knew I had to do this. I've never done anything like this before in my life."

So even though she is still working as a doctor in Brighton, and her husband and daughter live there, she re-organised her life to give a year's service at The Coach House.

"I think other GPs in my practice can see how valuable this is as a way of resourcing oneself and looking after patients," she said.

"I feel so grateful every day for Sharpham because it really did shift something," said Rachel.

"It opened a door to a new way of connectedness and dealing with challenges. As a GP, most of what you do is solving problems and learning not to solve problems but to sit with the problem is so powerful."

Meet Nicky

Meet Nicky

Nicky Reed is a qualified counsellor who - before arriving at The Coach House - lived in Oxford and worked at the University of Oxford's Student Union as a senior student advisor/wellbeing lead.

She was also a volunteer previously. She gave service at The Listening Centre (a low-cost counselling centre) and had also helped a charity working to house refugees and asylum-seekers who would otherwise face destitution. 

Nicky has left her job and her counselling is on hold while she spends the next year with us.

"I wanted to do something very different," she said. "I really wanted to live my practice and following lockdown, I wanted a simpler life. Being able to practise here in this environment and being out in nature are all of the things that I really love."

Nicky has had a meditation practice for the last 20 years and completed a mindfulness teaching qualification during lockdown. She's also a past Sharpham retreatant, having participated in a walking retreat in Sharpham House, a Woodland Retreat and a Coach House retreat in November.

"I just think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so lucky to have it," she says.

"I love it here and Totnes is so friendly. It's a beautiful part of the world. It also looks really different to where I'm used to. The soil is really red and the landscape feels wilder. And I've never lived this close to the sea!" she said.