A place to bathe in nature and soak up inspiration.
Some days I feel I need to just go somewhere with a bag of notebooks, pens, my iPad and pencil and do whatever comes to mind. I live beside the sea, with fantastic sandy beaches and miles of dunes, but I grew up in a small village in the Lancashire countryside, surrounded by friends who lived on farms and we often spent our days making dens in woods or plodging in streams, and other outdoorsy fun.
Which is why I think I find Christmas Farm in Northumberland so comfortable and invigorating.
This weekend I was able to visit for a second time and not only enjoy the peace but further develop my creative writing skills with Michelle Nicol from ‘Wordstruck’. A day that started with a rather stern look from Parsley the alpaca as I trundled past him on the rough farm track. One of the delights of the farm are the animals, only a handful of each, but all there for a purpose, to earn their keep in one way or another. Sheep, cows, pigs, geese, ducks, dogs and cats, all live with Beth and Lee as one big happy family.
Christmas Farm – named by Beth who loves everything Christmas, has been built from scratch. Every shed, building, fence has blood, sweat, love and tears ingrained into it. The irregularity of everything, recycled wood and furniture, mish-mashed together, with pots of flowers, gardening tools, orange diggers and water butts make your heart sing. You can’t help but feel the love that has gone into making this place what it is.
And the views…
Having said hello to the other guests, Vicky and Kelly, visited the bathroom – which unfortunately didn’t contain a tabby cat sunning itself on the windowsill this time, we settled ourselves into the cabin, surrounded by cosy cushions, books and rustic furnishings. Fresh pots of tea, coffee and exquisite carrot cake tickled our tastebuds as Michelle went through her plans for the day and we all got to know each other better.
The phrase ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ definitely applies to a day like this. We spent the morning doing Free Writing, great to get your pen and brain warmed up, and something I do most mornings, although I call it having a chat with myself. Haiku – a form of Japanese poetry that makes you focus very carefully on every word you use, and there aren‘t many!
An old creaky gate
The entrance to another world
Announces the visitor.
The images that particular haiku conjured up in our heads, allowed us to fully appreciate the magic of haiku. It was actually a joint venture, one of us wrote the first two lines and passed it on to another to complete. Personally I thought of at least four children‘s books that I could write just based on those three lines.
Fuelled by a scrumptious organic lunch, carried carefully from kitchen to cabin in little wicker baskets by Beth, we wandered around the gardens, not just to admire the view and flowers, but to search for ‘an object‘ to use for one of the afternoon activities. I was attracted to a garden spade but decided to leave it where it was rather than take it to the cabin. Just as well as we were then instructed to write about our object, give it a life story, feelings, hopes and dreams, and once again we surprsied ourselves with the words we wrote.
I think it‘s fair to say that writers generally like to make lists. The last activity was to write a list of our own, having listened to an example by Maura Dooley. A difficult task, and one I realised needed more than a quick two minutes thought as I read through the words I’d hastily scattered across the page. Luckily I had a forty minute drive home to consider a better version for use in some form or another.
This was the second time I had driven away from Michelle‘s Creative Writing Retreat feeling totally inspired by not only the activities she had done with us, but also the setting and the others in the group. Thank you to everyone there for making it such an enjoyable day.
If Carlsberg did writing retreats….