Vital Detox review
Nurturing juicing retreats in Somerset
The Quick Read: Vital Detox run rigorous and safe week-long juice detox programmes just outside Glastonbury aimed at people who really want to get to grips with their health and wellbeing (both physical and emotional). The closely-knit team is highly experienced, well-qualified (in nutrition, herbalism, homeopathy, colon hydrotherapy and life coaching) and knowledgeable. Aside from the physical detox, they will gently guide you through emotional issues. Set on a converted farm with views of Glastonbury Tor, the accommodation ranges from converted barns to eco-pods. It’s honest and down-to-earth, comforting and caring, and many people return year after year for a top-up of the Vital vibe.
More on the detox drinks: Vital Detox offers a classic juice detox based on tried and trusted naturopathic principles. You sip four freshly made organic predominantly vegetable juices every day (at 9am, 12am, 3pm and 6pm). Bentonite clay is added to help ‘pull out’ toxins and you also take a variety of supplements – psyllium capsules to help move everything through (and to keep you feeling full), spirulina to alkalise the body and digestive enzymes. Juices can be adapted according to your individual needs – on our retreat, two guests had ‘green’ juices as they were following an anti-candida diet. Fiona, the in-house nutritionist and herbalist may also prescribe herbal tinctures to help with health concerns (which are added to the last inch of juice). Each evening at 8pm you have a mug of hot broth (to keep mineral levels balanced and provide a bit of warming comfort) – read a word from the queen on her detox week.
More on the colemas: The second major element to the detox is ‘colemas’ – self-administered colonics. These are entirely optional but the majority of people get to grips with the equipment and find they help the process. These take place in your own bathroom and are totally hygienic and not uncomfortable.
More on the emotional & practical support: Emotional issues often come up during detox, and so Anna offers a ‘Journey’ session (based on the work by Brandon Bays) to look into any unresolved emotional pain. Meanwhile coach and astrologer Annie gives a session looking at how to move forwards with your life, post-detox. The team are available around the clock if you have problems (‘you can knock any time, even if it’s 2am’ they insist). There is a talk every day around midday giving background information on the detox process and how to incorporate healthy eating and living into everyday life.
Before leaving, after the Break Fast Feast (see Food & Drink below), you can go into the local natural wholefood supermarket to stock up on healthy provisions (with the Vital team in attendance to give advice – a nice touch). You’re given a ‘goodie’ bag on departure, containing a mug and teabags, a course of probiotics to restore intestinal flora, and a herbal pill in case of any constipation plus a ‘picnic’ for the journey (to save wrecking your detox on the way home). As well as instructions on how to ease back into normal living and useful recipes and tips.
More on the treatments: Treatments are not included in the price of the detox but most people opt to include a few (or more) in their week (they cost from £30 for 30 minutes and £60 for an hour). Andrew is the resident massage therapist, offering Thai massage, reflexology, Indian Head massage, acupuncture, MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) and ‘Double detox’ (ear acupuncture and deep abdominal massage). We didn’t try the treatments on this retreat but other guests reported they were good, although a couple felt the touch wasn’t deep enough for their liking – be sure to ask for what pressure you need.
More on the activities: Activities are kept gentle as your energy is taken up by all that detoxing – and they are all optional. There’s a morning meditation session at 8am – a very gentle breath-based practice leading into full-body awareness. It’s very casual, with everyone swathed in blankets (some lie down over with feet up on a beanbag). Anna then leads the ‘Massage Train’ – a lively session in which you line up and massage one another’s shoulders to some cheesy yet invigorating tunes. Annie usually leads a gentle walk at 2pm around the surrounding countryside (one stroll takes you to the base of the nearby Tor; another circles through the ancient woods and fields).
More on the yoga: Yoga takes place at 4.30pm and is a kind 90 minute class, suitable for absolute beginners as well as more experienced yogis. When we attended, the usual yoga teacher was away and local teacher Julie took over with sessions of Zen yoga – some very gentle vinyasas, bandas, breathing exercises and a few static postures (but not held too long), all aimed at supporting the detox process. Sessions ended with a relaxation and hit just the right note for the retreat.
More on the property: Vital Detox takes over Middlewick Cottages near Glastonbury for its retreats. Outside it’s all rather magical. There are plenty of benches and chairs to sit in the sun (weather permitting) or you can wander off into the woods and commune with the trees (two ancient – as in thousands of years old – oaks are close by, going by the names of Gog and Magog). Children have built huts in the woods and there are also log benches on which to sit and muse.
There’s an indoor swimming pool and steam room (you will need to turn the steam room on and off and remove and replace covers on the pool yourself). It’s not terribly aesthetic but it’s warm and, if you want to do some lengths, it does the job. There’s one communal room, a light, airy space with pale wood floors and a cosy wood-burner. There’s a large sofa and a couple of leather armchairs but most people gravitate to the fake-leather bean bags to sip juices, chat or cosy up to watch DVDs in the evenings. Yoga takes place here too. An ante-room has a pretty good selection of books, DVDs and games you can borrow. Unusually for a retreat, the property is dog-friendly (providing your dog is friendly!)
More on the accommodation: There’s a large choice of rooms: some are in converted old farm buildings; some in purpose-built cottages and some are more quirky alternatives (two ‘glamping’ eco-pods sit in the orchard with fabulous views of Glastonbury Tor). All are spotlessly clean and very comfortable (though don’t expect top-end luxe). Opt for your own cottage if you want total privacy. There’s wifi throughout (more reliable in some places than other) and the cottages have digital TV and DVD players. We stayed in Cider House, a lovely little cottage with an open-plan living/eating area and kitchen downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom up a steep flight of stairs. It was very traditional – whitewashed plaster walls with some exposed stone. Furnishings were kept simple (oatmeal carpet, white blinds and bedlinen, soft cream throw – with a splash of colour from tartan blankets on the beds). It had a pleasing, almost Quaker-ish feel – perfect for retreating.
The Vital team made everything welcoming with fresh flowers on the table alongside an information file and timetable. There was a good selection of Pukka herbal teas in the kitchen, along with fresh lemons and a pot of coconut oil for morning mouth swooshing – to cleanse the mouth and protect teeth). Upstairs, there were tea lights around the bath, a bowl of magnesium salt and a body brush (along with all the equipment for colemas). The most spacious option is Meadow Barn with a lovely large upstairs living space and two bedrooms (one shared) downstairs. We also really liked Tor View, a new-build with a more modern vibe that smells deliciously of pine and has a real woodburning stove (some properties have these, others have electric fakes), a veranda, and magical views over the orchard to the Tor. If you like to feel part of nature, the ‘E-dens’ are lovely little eco-pods – small but madly cosy with wifi but no TV.
Food and drink: You’re given a warming vegetable soup on arrival on the first evening. Then it’s juice time (see More on the Detox above). Throughout the week, you’re also encouraged to drink plenty of a specially brewed detox tea made by herbalist Fiona (packed with herbs to support all the organs).
The fast ends on Thursday lunchtime with a tasty raw food ‘feast’ of beautifully prepared and presented salads and dips, and Anna demonstrates how to make a raw tomato and herb sauce for raw ‘pasta’ (made from courgette). Raw chocolate ice cream follows. In the evening there’s soup and raw ‘cheesecake’ (utterly divine) and the next morning’s breakfast involves a demonstration of how to make a raw nut porridge. Everything is organic and made immediately before eating to ensure you get the maximum nutrient content from the ingredients.
Fellow guests: Groups are quite large – up to 22 guests – so there’s a social atmosphere here, though it’s also possible to retreat alone if you so choose. People tend to come on their own with an 80:20 split between women and men on most retreats. While Vital has had guests ranging from 18 – 83, most tend to be professional women in their forties and fifties. Most come from the UK, Ireland and Channel Islands, but the retreat also attracts visitors from the continent and occasionally further afield. When we visited the group had a fair few return guests (who come every year for a tune-up) and comprised a wide mix – including a psychotherapist, an osteopath, an RSPCA inspector and a chef. They occasionally have famous guests but are far too discrete to name names.It’s really comfortable and cosy but the homely feel won’t suit all-out glamour pusses.
What’s queenly: You’re treated as a real individual here, with everything tailored to your needs – the depth of knowledge is impressive. It’s pragmatic and practical yet also has a warm, nurturing soul.
What’s lowly: The swimming pool and steam room (while they do the job) aren’t terribly inviting. Some people found sharing a bathroom less than ideal (when DIY colonics are involved) – choose a single occupancy cottage if that’s a concern.
Getting there: The retreat is about half an hour’s drive from the M5; 2.5 hours from London by car and about 2 hours 20 mins from Birmingham and Exeter. The nearest mainline train station is Castle Cary and Vital Detox offer free transfers.
Costs: Prices start at £900 for a single bed in a shared cottage. The Cider House costs £1,590 single occupancy and £1,150 if shared. Tor View costs £1,790 single occupancy (£1,300 per person if shared). An E-den costs £1,200 (single occupancy only). Everything is included in the price, aside from treatments which cost £30 for 30 minutes and £60 for an hour.
Reviewed by Jane Alexander
© Queen of Retreats
Caring, cleansing breaks in Andalucia