It is crazy to think that at the start of March I headed off on my much planned out and looked forward to reading retreat at Kirkfield Guest House. At the time, COVID-19 was something we were aware of, certainly, and myself (as host) and Sian (as the B&B owner) took extra precautions and care but we had zero idea of how just a week later the country would enter into lockdown.
I’ve actually put off writing this post for a number of months as it didn’t feel right with everything else going on and especially after we had to make the tough decision to cancel the retreat we had planned for October. BUT I am looking forward to putting some more dates in the diary for 2021 and beyond so I wanted to cover what takes place at the retreat for future guests.
Guests were free to arrive at the B&B from 4pm onwards. Gift bags were awaiting them in their rooms and we had planned a Prosecco toast to enjoy along with a fish and chip supper. We followed this by sitting in the lounge and enjoying some reading in the quiet with the roaring of the fire. Some of the attendees retreated to their bedrooms and others chose to socialise, which was absolutely fine. The retreat is about doing things at your own pace, whether that is sitting with others or reading solo.
Saturday is our ‘main’ day at the retreat and although we offer a number of diversions, this really is about doing what you feel most comfortable with. The day started for all with a delicious cooked breakfast courtesy of Sian and we followed this up with a reading session. Again, some people preferred to read in their rooms and some preferred the shared lounge area. The views out of the bedrooms and the lounge are stunning so it really does lend itself to curling up and being cosy. With free access to hot drinks in the lounge as well, if you don’t ever want to leave the B&B you don’t have to!
There was also the option mid-morning to head out into either Grassington village or for a walk to the surrounding countryside. We are very lucky that the local bookshop, The Stripey Badger, offer a discount to all our reading retreat guests so there’s plenty of reason to pop in and have a browse. But there are also a number of great walks on the doorstep of the B&B if you feel the need to break up the reading with some fresh air or perhaps even take your book on the road and find a quiet outdoor spot to sit and read. Our guests on this retreat did a mixture.
Whatever the guests had been up to in the morning, we made a point to gather today again at a set time for lunch. This is always a bit of a picky fixture with soup and rolls on offer along with some more ‘help yourself’ bits such as local pork pies, chutney and crackers and the like. Although I can appreciate that many of us are introverts, this does give a nice opportunity to get to know some of the other reading retreat guests. in a non-pressurised way as you can always focus on eating if you feel the need! Having now run two retreats, I have never found it to be awkward or stilted and there is always plenty to talk about; whether it’s sharing your current read or talking about your favourite and least favourite books.
Lunch was followed by another opportunity to read. Hot drinks and the log fire were much welcome additions; especially for those who had been out walking in the morning (myself included!). We decided to break from our reading session mid-afternoon for some afternoon tea with scones, cream and jam and then we went right back to reading. Some of the guests chose this opportunity to head out into the village but most remained within the warmth of the B&B and put some serious reading time in.
Around 7pm on Saturday evening we headed out into Grassington village for our evening meal. All other meals bar this one as provided by the retreat and the B&B. In October we went to The Black Horse Hotel so for the March retreat we decided to try The Devonshire Grassington. Both were great and again, it’s a chance to get to know some of the retreat guests a little better whilst supporting a local business and eating some seriously good food.
Once finished with the meal we headed back to the B&B; the majority of our guests decided to change into something a little more comfortable and then gathered to read in the lounge. To me this encapsulated perfectly what I always wanted the reading retreats to be about and it brings my heart so much joy to see bookish folk enjoying the chance to sit and read together.
Again we began with a delicious cooked breakfast. Sunday is definitely a day when we throw it open. Depending on how far people had travelled, some preferred to head off right after breakfast whilst others remained for one final session of reading. We were able to stay in the B&B until 2pm so there was no immediate pressure to rush off; although I do understand the desire to get home as well!