I've never been on an official writing retreat... I wonder if I'd be more productive if I wasn't at home...
What springs to mind when I think of these so-called 'writing retreats'?
Peace. Productivity. Creativity.
That sounds perfect to me. Send me some of these good vibes this weekend, please!
Leaving town, escaping the house/family/work/most recent dilemma to concentrate on your writing. Sounds appealing. Writing itself aside, did you ever think of the kind of accommodation you might be able to find for such a retreat?
A recent acquaintance of mine, John Errington, inspired this post, really. He collects old shepherd's huts and turns them into mini (stationary) caravans, some of which are purchased with the intention of letting them out to writers who want some peaceful isolation. They're kind of like camping (no toilets on board), but with a solid roof above your head, and often small kitchen facilities built in.
The original shepherd's hut: The magical accommodation John creates:
John started refurbishing these huts around 10 years ago, when he discovered an old one on a neighbour's farm. Aside from the shepherding history this hut had, it had also been used to house Prisoners of War in World War II. Some of the older huts have been found to have poems written by shepherd hand - some more with more raunchy content than others!
"The first hut I acquired was destined for the bonfire," John says. A lucky find then, for him, and a great way to recycle something and preserving a bit of history at the same time.
The task of refurbishing this hut was bigger than John originally thought: "Everyone thought I was mad, wanting to undertake such a task- even I nearly gave up when I realised how much work was involved," he says, laughing now. "I think it is a primeval instinct we have and knowing these huts had a really valuable purpose in a former life makes them more desirable."
As the first hut slowly came together over five years, it was used for dinner parties for John and his wife, and the occasional sneaky Sunday afternoon nap as it became a more suitable lodging space. Many of the orders John takes now are tailored; he's built garden rooms, huts used on glamping sites, and painting studios. Beds are optional, but what is a retreat if you can't stay overnight? Another bonus of these huts is that they blend in with the natural landscape and don't need planning permission. Huts can also be customised with painted surfaces and external cladding can be installed using the original builds (normally timber or corrugated steel).
The most impressive improvement to these refurbished huts is that they are insulated, top, bottom and sides. You guys know what it's like sitting still typing all afternoon - it can get chilly! And when you feel like your circulation could do with a boost, you only need step outside the room into the fresh country air and take a stroll to clear your head and perhaps, gain more inspiration.
"Refurbishing shepherds huts is very important in making sure they are preserved as living proof of part of farming’s history," John tells me. "I am very proud to be able to restore a 100 year old part of history, hopefully for another 100 years."
Peace, productivity and creativity. Those three words sound entirely appropriate for John and his shepherd's huts. Peace - what he creates for people to enjoy. Productivity - a project to be proud of on completion. Creativity - what an amazing use of a piece of history otherwise destined for the bonfire. May many more writers and non-writers find these three words in John's huts for years to come!
If you'd like to know more about John's shepherd huts, please contact him direct on 07530 395152 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. UK orders only.
If you're looking for a writing retreat to try out, take a look at the following websites. I can't promise they'll have one of John's huts on site, but there are lots of opportunities in the UK and abroad for a peaceful, productive writing escape.
Writers Online Directory The Writer's Compass
Writers Retreat (international) Urban Writers Retreats (e.g. in London)
That's it for this week! I won't be posting for the next couple of weeks as I'm off to Costa Rica. I may have intermittent internet, but in the main, I'm getting married, so I'll be a bit distracted! See you back on the first week of September. Adios!
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