I always look forward to Shepherd’s Dene. As soon as you climb out of the car and walk up the drive to the birds and the wind singing in the trees, you can’t help but feel an inner calm. Approaching the Arts and Crafts house, which appears to have sprung up seemlessly from the garden, you ring the bell and turn the handle of a solid oak door which gives the reassuring clunk of an old fashioned latch.
Inside the house, nothing appears to have changed in over 100 years, it has retained it’s wonderful wooden panelling and stone carving. Today we are based in the Newall room for our retreat, light and airy with tables for our laptops and those characteristic Arts and Crafts leaded windows looking out across the garden and valley beyond.
We also have the freedom to wander and find a window seat or a settee or the sheltered Summerhouse in the grounds and then there’s the lunch in the dining room with its tudor fireplace and did I mention chocolate cake in the afternoon?
There are eight writers booked today, each with their own work. Despite playing hostess and making sure everyone is happy (an easy task as the Shepherd’s Dene Staff are so accomodating), I even manage some writing myself.
Today I decide to work on my Oriental Museum / Nissan exhibition project. I go through the notes of the fact finding tour that I did earlier this year around the Sunderland Nissan Plant – its vastness and automation a far cry from my present environment. Nevertheless, the space and time here allows my mind to form a creative narrative to the tour in the Japanese verse form of Haiku (3 lines verses of 5/7/5 syllables per line)
Take Care: open stair
Clang along open gantry
Feel the heat, heavy air
To see the paint shop
Eyes strain through stained plastic strips
A spectre floats by
Silent carcass of Qashqai
It’s early days yet but I’m looking forward to developing that further.
Late afternoon, the daylight fades over the garden and it’s time for home. Everyone agrees they’ve had a really productive day with their writing and can I arrange a summer date?
That’s in process and in the meantime here are some more up and coming retreats in amazing places with time for you and your writing!
Auckland Castle – details soon