Travel writer Georgie Bentley-Buckle made a spring time visit to Fair Oak Retreat, a laid-back wellbeing retreat in West Sussex that re-nourishes rather than restricts.
Among the rolling fields of Sussex is Fair Oak Retreat, an inclusive wellbeing getaway on the private country estate of Fair Oak Farm. Complete with an entourage of alpacas in the neighbouring fields and brazen peacocks which patrol the property, the idyllic countryside farm is a world away from urban life; despite being just over an hour on the train from London.
Following a laid-back ethos that re-nourishes rather than restricts, I was booked into Fair Oak Retreat’s three-day ‘Renourish Retreat’, a slow-paced, ‘food-focused’ retreat that took place over three days in spring. With a programme to relax and refresh, classes were held in the barn at the top of the garden, whilst meals were devoured in the rustic open kitchen.
The remainder of the time, Fair Oak Retreat encourage its guests to enjoy the perfect English setting on their own terms. Whether it’s kicking back in your room, each of their retreats also offers the opportunity to explore the surrounding area, meandering country paths and lush green fields, or a visit to the local village for a taste of sublime Sussex life.
Rooms are spread across Fair Oak Farm’s twelve acres of land. From upstairs in the charming 16th century Grade II Listed Sussex farmhouse, the converted barns, two eco-lodges, two shepherd’s huts and the standalone Hay Barn where I resided. Welcoming the outside in with floor to ceiling glass windows, The Hay Barn perfectly framed countryside views of the peaceful field of alpacas and a magical woodland just beyond that was carpeted with bluebells. A place to switch off and slow down, the comfortable Hay Barn included a humble kitchenette, small shower room and double bed; the ideal space as a solo retreater to spread out and reset.
For those who prefer to settle themselves in the heart of the estate is the main farmhouse. A place where the retreat comes together each mealtime, the main farmhouse is an enchanting building where time has no bounds, complete with worn stone floors and ancient wooden beams. Push open a small wooden front door and enter a bustling country-style aga kitchen.
The central space for the group to connect, the kitchen leads onto a dining space and a reception room with an open fireplace for cooler evenings. Meanwhile next door, the converted barns include more rooms, from the barn and cowsheds, a stable cottage and a grain storeroom. These come with their own private courtyard with outdoor seating and a firepit.
Up in the trees on either side of my Hay Barn were the two eco-lodge tree houses. Situated in an ancient tree line with uninterrupted valley views, each treehouse sleeps two guests and includes studio space with queen size double bed, seating and a dining area. Lastly, in the orchard, the farm’s two shepherd’s huts feature log burners and also sleep up to two people.
Meals play a big part each day at Fair Oak Retreat. With a goal to ‘renourish’ the group, wholesome, plant-based sharing dishes were freshly prepared throughout the day in the open country kitchen. Created by the retreat’s private chef, Lottie, who fills the kitchen with her fresh, vibrant produce – Lottie is a specialist creator of gorgeous retreat food, also working with Lambay Island retreats, River Cottage and other private high net worth clients who are in demand of her food.
Lottie’s dishes embody her culinary craft, with lovingly prepared sharing plates that unite guests. Sharing plates included charred cauliflower with spiced yoghurt and toasted cumin, burrata topped with yellow courgette and samphire and baked honey and chilli feta with minted creamy hummus.
Classes were scattered throughout the day, either in the barn or outside in the garden (should the weather allow). Reflective of the given theme, the Renourish retreat switched between low impact classes of yoga, meditation and Pilates; to stretch the body and relax the mind. Yoga and meditation sessions were led by Kiri Rayner in the main barn, a slow-moving class where Kiri sparked the senses with her calming voice and with aromatic incense.
With a focus on stretching and strengthening the body, Pilates classes were led by expert trainer Emily Altneu. With a fitness approach that blends regeneration with preventative practices, Emily has been passionate about Pilates for over 15 years and joined Fair Oak Retreat in 2021 to share her wellbeing ethos that is all about enjoying a long, happy, healthy and active life. Striking a balance of honouring the classical repertoire with an evolved contemporary style, she is a true Pilates expert; also qualified to teach reformer, Cadillac, tower and chair Pilates.
In a nutshell
Each Fair Oak Retreat encapsulates the very best of wholesome country life. With some itineraries focusing more so on yoga and meditation, and others on Pilates and sweat-inducing HIIT classes; previous themes have included ‘Revitalise’, ‘Relax and Restore’ and ‘Reset’.
‘Recharge retreat’ – 19th -21st July 2022
Recharge is the next retreat programme from the team at Fair Oak Retreats, based at Fair Oak Farm, just an hour from London. The focus of the three-day, the two-night programme is centred around ‘recharging’ your body for Summer. For some, this will mean taking a mental pause, lazy strolls in the countryside and leisurely yoga and meditation classes. For others, they may wish to use the opportunity to improve their fitness, taking advantage of the three HIIT classes on offer with the in-house PT, Rosie.
Guests can expect to relish in the culinary delights provided by international private chef, Lottie Brook and also enjoy a facial or massage on-site, during their stay too. Prices start from £615 per person for single occupancy and include accommodation, all meals and expert-led classes.
Address: Fair Oak Farm, Witherenden Road, Mayfield, East Sussex, TN20 6RS
Phone: +44 (0)752 545 4790