Returning from a holiday often leaves me feeling strangely frazzled – so much work to catch up on, so many emails to answer, clothes to unpack and wash… But every now and then, I’m lucky enough to experience a break that’s truly refreshing and restorative.
One such getaway came a couple of weekends ago, when I was invited to Sisterhood Camp by the lovely people at Visit Wales. Part of a series of seasonal workshops and events set up by fellow blogger Lou Archell, the camp is a biannual retreat for women – a chance to switch off from work and other commitments, and embrace a slower, more gentle pace of life in a truly beautiful setting.
The setting in question was Fforest, hidden among wildflower meadows and ancient woodland a few miles from Cardigan on the stunning Welsh coast. It’s the work of Sian and James, who wanted to create a space for guests to enjoy simple pleasures and outdoor living. Spread across its 200 acres are teepees, bell tents, eco-domes, cabin-like crog lofts and a farmhouse sleeping up to 14; there are also colourful kitchen gardens, barn spaces that you can hire for weddings, a cedar-barrel sauna tucked among the trees, and a timber lodge whose rocking chairs and long veranda conjure up thoughts of the Wild West. It even has its own pub: an old stone cottage known as Y Bwthyn, lit by candles and a crackling stove and, it’s said, home to Fforest’s only ghost. Dotted everywhere are pretty little touches – jugs filled with fresh flowers, hand-written welcome signs, and a drinks station stocked with enamel mugs, coffee and all manner of teas.
I stayed in one of the domes, which come with proper beds and armchairs, decks with simple outdoor kitchens, and wood-burners to keep things toasty at night. I loved snuggling up under a thick Welsh blanket, drifting off to sleep to the sound of hooting owls and waking to the soft dawn light as birds warbled overhead.
I was one of 50 or so women on the retreat, but any nerves about meeting so many new people dissolved on the first evening, when we gathered around Fforest’s firepit for a welcome ceremony led by mentor and coach Sas Petherick. Among us were designers, makers, bloggers, photographers and more – some embarking on new adventures, others much further along in their journey – but we were soon chatting away like old friends.
Over the next few days, we were treated to fresh air, feasts and a host of fascinating workshops. We styled photos with Instagram guru Sara Tasker, we stretched our muscles during a sunrise yoga class with Melanie Barnes, and we discussed life, the universe and everything during a fireside book club with Laura from Circle of Pines. Many of the sessions gave me the chance to try new things: loom-building, jam-making, ceramics, weaving, flower-crown making, even plunging into the cold, clear waters of the River Teifi for a spot of wild swimming.
My personal highlights included a talk on flat-lay photography using the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi from Emma Rice, and a cookery demonstration by Toast co-founder Jessica Seaton, who introduced us to her new recipe book Gather Cook Feast and showed us how to make pancakes from Welsh laverbread. I also got to try acupuncture thanks to Gemma from The Quiet Heart, whose 45-minute taster session left me feeling calm and clear-headed.
Every day we tucked into delicious meals, cooked up by the talented Fforest team and beautifully styled with candles and foraged foliage by Hannah Bullivant and Lucy Franks. There was juicy grilled chicken, super-fresh salads, local cheeses and home-baked bread, gooey chocolate cake, and an Indian banquet where we donned our flower crowns to celebrate the summer solstice.
But most of all, Sisterhood was about reconnecting – with nature, with our own creativity, and with inspirational and supportive women from all sorts of backgrounds. There was no pressure to join any of the organised events, and I found myself alternating them with time spent alone, making the most of the tranquility and letting new ideas brew.
The weekend ended as it had begun: around the firepit, sharing stories, forging new friendships and laughing into the small hours. Readjusting to the real world the next morning came as a shock: the traffic, the never-ending to-do lists, the hustle and bustle of the city streets. But I found myself facing it all with renewed energy and confidence. And that, for me, is the true magic of Sisterhood, and of this incredible corner of Wales – it’s not just about the experiences you have while you’re there, but the memories and feelings that linger long after you leave.
All photography by Abi Dare
I was given a free place at Sisterhood Camp by Visit Wales, but as ever all words and opinions are my own.