We've launched our new retreat venue The Coach House!

24th March, 2022
by Julian | 4 Min Read
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Coach House

The daughter of the founders of Sharpham Trust, Claire Ash Wheeler, formally opened the charity’s Coach House retreat venue on Thursday March 24, 2022 at a glittering launch event in a brand new glass & timber meditation space.

The striking and contemporary venue is the result of a £1.6million investment by the Trust, five years of planning and a year of renovation (during the pandemic) of the Grade II-listed former stable block. 

The Coach House will host mindfulness retreats specifically for deepening a connection to nature and tackling the effects of stress and burnout. It's already been tipped as one of this year’s Best UK & European Meditation Retreats by The Times.

The Coach House at night

Claire was joined by an array of guests to celebrate the opening including Chairman of Sharpham Trust Daniel Stokes, Trust Director Julian Carnell, Trustees William Lana, Charlotte Rathbone and Martin Wright, as well as Sally Everton, CEO of Visit Devon, BBC Gardeners’ World’s Toby Buckland, filmmaker and writer Ash Ghadiali as well as members of the Coach House’s design and build team from Savills, Carpenter Oak and Classic Builders.

In her speech, Claire gave a fascinating history that included moving memories of her time growing up in the Sharpham House in the ‘60s. She was positive about the evolving story of the Sharpham Trust - a charity that promotes mindfulness and a strong nature connection.

She spoke of “this exciting new addition to the Sharpham ‘stable’,” adding: “Here so many people will benefit from taking time out of their lives for reflection, connection and unstructured time. What a wonderful gift that is! What vision from the Sharpham Trustees!”


Quoting her father and Sharpham Trust founder Maurice Ash, Claire said, “Sharpham, after all, has adapted before and it could adapt again, you can see in the stones. The justification for its continuance at all is that it has a role to play in the re-inspiration of the countryside.”

Daniel Stokes, Trust Chair, thanked Maurice and Ruth Ash for putting Sharpham House and Estate into Trust in 1982 and said that their “spirit of generosity” characterised all that is done by the charity - including the new Coach House.

He also paid tribute to the work of Trust Director Julian Carnell in managing the 12-month project on a listed building during a pandemic, with escalating costs, staff shortages and with retreatants staying in nearby Sharpham House.

"It's been a mammoth task and Julian, our director, has shouldered the burden of that unfalteringly. Special thanks must go to him".

Launch night guests enjoyed the opportunity to explore the newly converted stable block and its 18 lovely bedrooms - most of them en-suite - and its stunning new timber-framed space that extends the historic quadrangle and creates a place to meet, meditate and eat. The building is set beside the South Lawns where meditations and nature practices take place with a breath-taking view of the River Dart.

Retreats incorporating nature’s ability to comfort and heal will take place at The Coach House on The Sharpham Estate, world renowned for its high-quality cheeses and wine, making a stunning setting beside the River Dart near Totnes, South Devon. The entire Sharpham Estate is within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Part of the estate is being rewilded and Coach House retreatants will be invited to uniquely experience and explore the fields being restored to nature, performing mindful tasks and nature practices that will deeply connect them to the land.

The leadership team at Sharpham, left to right: Trustee William Lana, Trust Chair Daniel Stokes, Trust Director Julian Carnell, Trustee Martin Wright, Trustee Charlotte Rathbone. Not pictured: fellow Trustee Julie Richardson.

Coach House retreatants will also be helping to grow organic food in the Walled Garden – but they’ll also be tasting it too. 

Lots of the vegetables served to retreatants are grown at Sharpham by Head Gardener Bryony Middleton with the help of previous guests, so participants undertaking daily mindful gardening tasks will be joining in a cycle of abundance.

See the story of the Coach House meditation space extension here:

Here's Paul Slemmings, of Carpenter Oak, and his reaction to seeing his design for the timber frame realised: