Reading Retreat

Thorpeness, Suffolk. February 2019

For our February Retreat we returned to Sea View in Thorpeness.  The sea didn’t disappoint, stormy and wild at the weekend, and sparkling and still during the week.  When we could look away from the view, we were visited by our guest authors. Guinevere Glasfurd brought in some of the many books she used to research her latest novel (which will be out next year).  Humphrey Hawksley joined in a lively dinner debate on favourite writers and international thrillers, which led on to politics. Our readers came from across the UK and also from France and Germany. Meals included a fresh and colourful clementine and feta salad, and spinach, leek and blue cheese tarts.  Most importantly, a lot of books were read. Among others, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot sparked a lot of thoughts about medical ethics, and The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (set just up the road) got us talking about Britain’s class system.



"Thank you for the most blissful weekend. Being able to sit and read is so luxurious and you appreciate the stories and the characters in a completely different way with what could be called 'immersive reading'! You have been wonderfully welcoming hosts and all your thoughtful details ensured the weekend was perfect. Sara - your food is amazing and Cressi - I have thoroughly enjoyed all the book so far on my prescription and love having had my eyes opened to new and different ones too. Thank you."



Eastbourne, East Sussex. January 2019

Our first Retreat of the year was by the sea near Eastbourne.  We had a spacious reading room, a little snug at the back of the house and a beautiful conservatory overlooking the marina, so everyone spread out and found their favourite spots.  We welcomed back previous Readers and met some lovely new Readers (some of whom had travelled from as far as Edinburgh and Sweden!).

The weekend author was Chris Curran who told us about her favourite crime writers and how she had become an author.  Sophie Hannah came on Wednesday evening and entertained us with the somewhat curious story of how she came to be writing Agatha Christie novels and we had a lively discussion about the rights and wrongs of recent TV adaptations.

The ever-popular Bakewell Tart was wolfed down in record time and the fresh scones with clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam made an excellent afternoon snack.

Books read included a lot of Agatha Christie (as you’d expect), Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and a lovely first edition of Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.


"What can I say? The most wonderful couple of days in a beautiful house with delicious food and lovely company. Sara and Cressi are so friendly and welcoming . I felt at ease straightaway and to have time to read Agatha Christie uninterrupted is such a gift. To feel so comfortable in a house of 'strangers' is testament to Sara and Cressi's skills. I am already thinking about the next Retreat I can go in - Thank you."



Leominster, Herefordshire - November 2018

Our last Retreat of the year had proper ‘reading weather’ with rain and cold wind and was perfect for curling up in front of the lovely log burner in the spacious reading room.  The Readers got almost a sofa each so could spread out in comfort. The Marmite puzzle appeared again but still didn’t finished. It will reappear at the next Retreat for one last stab at it.  We did get some beautiful origami foxes and a jumping frog but the focus was, of course, on books.


Deborah Moggach arrived for the Saturday night dinner and had us in stitches giving us the inside scoop on a book’s journey through the world of film!  Bryony Doran was our weekday author and led a thoughtful and wide-reaching discussion about how we read, why we read and what we’re reading.


The pineapple, ginger and Thai basil sorbet was a huge hit, with Readers fighting over the last few portions!  Celeriac soup drizzled with a few walnuts gently warmed in walnut oil was also very popular.

Books read included a beautifully bound edition of Walpole’s Herries Chronicle (bound by the reader!), Milkman by Anna Burns and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Thanks to Slightly Foxed (our new sponsor) we had copies of their quarterly magazine for browsing and taking home, which proved very popular.



"Endless gratitude to Cressida and Sara for creating this Retreat and serving us so lovingly. THEY are the Retreat, wherever they go....every reader should do this at least once. I am so looking forward to returning to a Reading Retreat wherever they may create it. Heavenly. "


Holme Upon Spalding Moor, East Riding Yorkshire - September 2018

Our first autumn Retreat was in a lovely house, set in the peaceful surroundings of a working farm.  The farmer actively encourages local wildlife so we were visited by hares, rabbits, squirrels, partridges and pheasants.  George Mann was our returning author for the weekend, telling us about his reading journey. He brought along some of his childhood books which were pristine.  George definitely doesn’t fold over corners or break spines!

We brought along a fiendish puzzle of a huge Marmite jar which kept everybody frustrated in between bouts of reading.  It didn’t get solved so we’ve taken what was done apart and will bring it along to the next Retreat!

Our weekday author was Tom Harper, whose reading talk was all about books that make you feel deliciously cold. There’s very little that’s more satisfying than cold books over hot food and chilled wine and warm company.

Readers tucked into Middle-Eastern Roasted Sprouts (clean plates!  For sprouts!) Sara made extra Sticky Toffee Puddings which were greatly appreciated.  Books read included The Girl With All the Gifts, 11.22.63 and Ant Middleton’s First Man In.


"A weekend of utter bliss, peace & quiet to do what I like most - yet rarely have time for - hours and hours of having my nose in a book. Perfection. And the food?? Well, as far as I'm concerned it was a total foodie weekend as well! Completely delicious. Simply wonderful, in a nutshell. Thank you so much ."


Doddington, Lincolnshire - June 2018

Our June Retreat was near Lincoln, in a cottage in the grounds of Doddington Hall.  The grounds are lovely and even include a small pyramid which we eventually tracked down after several wrong turns! The weather was good enough for reading outside in the sun, but the reading room was also in use.  George Mann, our visiting author, enjoyed an hour in there making notes about his reading journey, which he talked about over dinner. We had a lively discussion about genres, being a bookseller and the various sorts of writing he now does.

When coming to a Retreat, you can choose to arrive by train (and have additional reading time) or drive and load up the car with books.  One of our readers brought four big bags, which was a new record! We do always provide a Retreat LIbrary just in case anyone does run out.

One of our guests showed us how he can solve a rubix cube in under 20 seconds.  We were quite impressed, then he showed us the one-handed version. Then he took his socks off and did it with his feet!

Puddings were very popular, especially the baked cheesecake with mango puree.  Books read included A Gentleman in Moscow, The Chrysalids, The Fifth Season and The Paula Principle.


" A truly amazing experience!  Thanks Cressi & Sara for effortlessly attending to my every need and setting the perfect tone for such a restorative reading retreat.  My reading prescription was spot on....I feel very assured that my reading journey this year will be particularly special.  Stunning food, interesting chats - feeling nourished in the soul.  Simply Bliss, I can't thank you enough - until the next time"




Taunton, Somerset - April 2018

We held two retreats in April at an incredible riverside cottage near Taunton which spanned all of April’s weather (except snow!). Roaring fires and hot chocolate the first half of the week gave way to sunny lunches outside and ice-cream snacks.

Our walks included a round trip to the nearby Willow and Wetlands centre.  I asked for directions for the way back and was told to ‘walk up the hill with the windmill on it.’  The woman then paused and said ‘although the windmill isn’t there any more.’ According to the plaque at the top of the hill, the windmill hadn’t been there for over a hundred years - but they have long memories in Somerset.

Our weekend author, Chris Ewan, shared some of the research he’d undertaken when writing his Good Thief series of books.  We can’t disclose what he showed us, but let’s just say that our readers have gone home with new and exciting skills that might be useful if they’re ever locked out!.

Our weekday author, Alice Jolly, led a really thoughtful discussion about what we get out of reading, and what we really feel connected to in books.  We also heard about her experiences with the crowdfunding website Unbound and her new novel, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, which will be coming out in June.

Books read included The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Charlotte’s Web, Middlesex, and The Last Tudor.

We loved the house which had plenty of good reading space, including outside on the riverbank when the weather allowed.  We’ll definitely be coming back for another Retreat here next year.


" I have so enjoyed such a perfect few days - tranquil and stimulating at the same time. Sara's food is so delicious and decadent it compliments the whole experience. Cressi, you are a fount of knowledge and enthusiasm for books, I feel we could have a 'discussion retreat' and never get bored! I will certainly return."



Sittingbourne, Kent - March 2018

Our March retreat was in a beautifully restored and unique Oast House in Kent and some of our readers had the unusual experience of sleeping in a perfectly round room!  The reading room led out into the garden but the rain kept everyone indoors. Our walks were… eventful. Lovely area but very muddy and Cressi lost her shoes at one point. Sara’s Bakewell Tart was hotly fought over - we think we’ll make this the first recipe in our possible new title Retreat and Eat.

Books read included A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towes, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater.

Our author Giselle Green gave a fascinating insight into her encounters with her mentor Rosemary Sutcliffe and also talked about the experience of being both self-published and traditionally published.

You can catch a glimpse of the Retreat on ITV local news in several regions - we’ll be putting the video on our Facebook page if you want to hear all about it from the readers who were there.


What a wonderful way to spend a few days!  So relaxing, reading where and when you liked, no distractions.  Discussing books and sharing opinions over lovely meals. Thanks Cressi & Sara for all the attention, everything was wonderful and I look forward to repeating the experience.”



Thorpeness, Suffolk - February 2018

Our first retreat of 2018 was in Thorpeness on the Suffolk coast, in a comfortable and spacious beachfront cottage with a roomy reading room that had plenty of couches to relax on.  The weather ranged from sunshine to hail, but we managed to stay dry while walking along the beach, and exploring Thorpeness.

Books read included The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby,  Women and Power by Mary Beard and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.  

On Saturday night, we were joined by Penny Hancock, author of the bestselling novel Tideline and two more books.  She led a lively and thoughtful discussion about what books have helped us through key moments in our lives, and we enjoyed getting very nostalgic about childhood favourites.

We were very excited to have been visited by BBC journalist Emma Jane Kirby who grilled everyone on the reading retreat experience for a Radio Four report - we’ll let you know where and when her piece is on air!


“Thank you, thank you, thank you Sara & Cressi, for the most gorgeously indulgently luxurious weekend I’ve spent in a long time.  It has met and far exceeded my expectations.  You created five star relaxation with more thoughtful special touches than I could have imagined. The food was out of this world - my five portions of Bakewell tart are testament to that! And the house was so well chosen for its sofas, candles, wood burner and cosy feel.  We were waited on hand and foot!  Plus the whole thing has really reminded me of the value of setting aside precious reading time.  I’ll be back!  Thank you.”



Bungay, Suffolk - November 2017

Our venue this month was a beautiful pink Suffolk house buried deep in the countryside, filled with character, creaky floors, latch doors and a roaring fire.  We huddled down and revelled in the warmth, letting the rain beat against the windows.  Our readers' many books included, How to Stop Time by Matt Haig; The Power by Naomi Alderman; Munich by Robert Harris and Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.  When the rain let off, there were walks to the local village and then to the nearby micro brewery. 

Our chosen author this weekend was Guinevere Glasfurd, whose debut novel The Words In My Hand, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.  Guin joined us for dinner on Saturday and shared with us the books and authors who have shaped and influenced her as a writer.  Food and refreshments flowed and many, many pages turned.  Here is what one of our readers had to say...


"I’ve been to lots of retreats over the last few years - generally for writing - but this was the most luxurious, indulgent, well-catered weekend I’ve ever spent. They really had thought of everything - goody bags full of wonderful gifts, spare essentials in case you forgot to pack anything, reading lights for borrowing, and an amazing range of food, to suit any dietary requirements. As someone with diabetes, I’m used to organisers just assuming I won’t have dessert, and that I’ll forego snacking, which is always rather depressing. Here, though, there were cheese plates to round off each delicious meal, low sugar muesli for breakfast, and both low sugar and savoury snacks, so I felt very well looked-after."