Cleansing & relaxing at The Raw Retreat in rural Cornwall
Caroline Sylger Jones reviews a bespoke health retreat in the rural village of Polyphant and feels deeply cared for by trusted clinical nutritionist Beverley Bird
Day one, and I arrive late in the afternoon at Darkes Farm one chilly January to be warmly greeted by Beverley and her husband Simon. I’m here for a short, three night pick me up just after the indulgences of new year, though many come for longer and for niggling or serious health issues. I’ve chosen to do one day juicing, with a broth in the evening, and one day of raw food. We have a chat, and I’m served a (warmed) raw soup and courgette pasta with an (extremely tasty) tomato-based marinara sauce. Beverley prepares me a deliciously hot epsom salt cleansing bath, and I do a spot of my own post-driving yoga. I crash in front of the TV to watch David Attenborough’s Africa on the enormous High Definition TV. I feel very glad I’m here.
Day two, and I’ve slept well. Beverley brings my first juice of the day to my kitchen at 9 am (celery and cucumber, little bit of apple juice, lemon, ginger, carrot, beetroot tops, parsley, spring greens and spinach, home grown wheat grass). It tastes, erm, green and healthy, though not unpalatable.
To get some air I do a quick walk up a country track and admire some horses, before a 10 am massage in my bedroom with local therapist Suzie, who uses some wonderful trigger point tools to get deep into my screamingly tight back muscles and tells me my back pain is all a part of me. (Susie has since left, but I’m reliably informed all the local therapists on hand here are excellent).
I rest a little, sitting up in bed in the white robe Beverley has provided, have another juice (tastes just as green), then go for a two hour walk with her along country roads. It rains on and off (well, it is January in Cornwall), but we have a genial chat and it feels good to move my limbs and breathe fresh air.
4 pm, and I’m surprised I don’t feel hungry. It’s yoga time with local teacher Emma, who’s calm and serene and very slender. The session is deliberately slow, as Beverly had briefed her on my back issue and Emma wants to teach me a set of easy yogic poses to do when a painful episode strikes, including some core stabilising exercises.
Next is a raw food demo, during which I’m introduced to Beverley’s Manual Masticating Juicer, which she uses to make juices at a low temperature to keep all the nutrients in, and her Vitamix, a high powered blender and the raw foodist’s equivalent to an oven. The reason to eat raw food, says Beverley, is because cooking (at 42 degrees centigrade or 118 degrees farhenheit) destroys the health-giving enzymes in ingredients. We need enzymes, she says, to help everything function, and as we’re born with a limited supply, we can only get more of them from food.
I sit on a high breakfast bar stool, and learn about the importance of soaking nuts (to make them easier to digest), that almond milk is the most alkalising, and that hemp milk is high in omega 3. In a particularly cruel move, Beverley then allows me to taste some macadamia nut cheese, which is utterly divine and makes me want to cram large fistfuls of it into my mouth.
I start to feel hungry, and distract myself by jotting down the recipe. It’s a two day process – soak macadamia nuts overnight in water, with a probiotic tablet broken into it – it’s this that feeds on the food and gives it a cheesy taste. Blend together, then put in a strainer bag (you can buy ones used for jam making in a hardware store), hang up and allow to strain slowly and naturally over another night. Add Himalayan Rock Salt, garlic, lemon juice and yeast flakes to taste. Become addicted to it.
Later, another bath (I do love my baths) while Simon lights the woodburner and stacks more logs, followed by a herbal, vegetable broth – there’s cayenne pepper in it, but it still tastes like, erm, herbal vegetable broth (many people love it and ask for the recipe on leaving). I do yoga in front of the fire, make a few fuzzy-headed notes about intentions and head to bed around 11, feeling a little jaded. I know they say a day of juice fasting a week is good for you, but right now in my head I like food – warm, cooked food – too much.
Day three, and I wake at seven singing with energy. Damn, the juicing must be working. Another, yoga to the sound of bird song, a little writing, all feeling clear and light. Delicious breakfast of (raw) granola and apple with almond milk and stacks of fresh fruit. Weirdly, I find I can’t eat it all.
I then have my live blood analysis, which is fascinating. Beverley pricks my finger with a sterile pin, then takes three samples on different slides so she can look at state of my red blood cells. For healthy, stress-free blood, they should be spaced apart and round, and you shouldn’t see any white blood cells at all. Mine are ok, she says – some are slightly oval, which suggests I need more essential fatty acids in my diet, though I do have just a few teeny tiny ones joined together – which means I need to alkalise more – like the majority of the population, Beverley reassures me. She treats a lot of people with serious illnesses here, and the blood analysis helps her with this hugely.
Alkalising more means more raw food, less protein, more water, less wine. Beverley believes that it’s better to be vegan than raw because all flesh is toxic for the body and our oceans are so polluted. At home I already have a hot water and lemon each morning and a juice of apple, carrot, beetroot and ginger, but I’m to add more leafy greens and some green powder (she inspires me, and I buy wheatgrass once home).
Later, a lunch of beetroot soup and supremely tasty salads, then we go in Beverley’s cosseting car to her local spa at St Mellion Hotel. It’s great to have a steam and swim in a decent 25 metre pool, though the water is chlorinated and the hotel feels teeming after the peace of the retreat. It’s no matter though – I’m only here on a juice fast, but many guests who come – from far and wide and often after a major event in their lives – relish the privacy, the impersonality and the fact that no-one stares. It’s only been a couple of days but I feel re-energised. I have a Thai inspired raw meal to celebrate, and watch The Tourist, a fun and silly film during which I get to drool over Johnny Depp. I skip the colonic – not feeling it worth while when I’m home tomorrow – and fall happily into bed. The verdict? I really like this place, and would stay for longer. Beverley has inspired me to route out my sprouting jar, to make my daughter some raw chocolate brownies, to add more raw food and green powders into my diet. She arms me with recipes, healthy notes and a large, warm hug, and sends me on my way. For many others – those who come here with serious health issues such as cancer or diabetes – she also changes lives.