Green Farm, Kent, England
A delightful country retreat on a working farm with an extensive ESPA spa in Kent.
Best for: Those in search of a quirky, inspiring and peaceful antidote to urban living. Ideal for anyone looking to be immersed in a warm, nurturing family home. Families welcome in the self-catering barn.
Not for: Anyone looking for the anonymity of a large hotel, a restrictive detox, or an intense yoga schedule. Also, non-dog lovers, there are currently three dogs in residence.
This relaxing country home in beautiful rural Kent offers the flexibility of tailor-made spa breaks with yoga, outdoor fitness, art and gardening sessions year-round. There are also scheduled yoga days, yoga weekends, singing with nightingale retreats, and art retreats to join throughout the year. Stay over for a Spa Stay in the family home, a lovingly restored historic medieval house, or with a group of friends in a restored self-catering barn. There is a professionally-run ESPA spa with excellent facilities, an uplifting glass-fronted yoga ‘hay barn’ studio, a community farm to muck in with, and 12,500 acres of pristine countryside to explore. Expect a warm welcome, home cooking, farm animals and woodland walks.
The warmth of the welcome and Martin and MaryAnn’s enthusiasm for sharing their beautiful home, vision and surroundings with their guests. This is a unique project built on passion, team work and a real commitment to preserving and nurturing the environment. The flexibility, range and quality of activities on offer – which is ever evolving, a current highlight being the ‘Singing with Nightingale’ folk music evenings. In essence, book the accommodation that best suits and then everything else can be added to create your personalised country retreat.
The 600 year-old listed house means that a stay can involve sharing bathrooms, though luxury gowns are provided and you may well have the place to yourself for a Spa Stays.
You can stay at Green Farm for a night or more to experience life on a working farm, pampering in the spa, attend a yoga day, pre-book private yoga, fitness, art or gardening sessions, or enjoy woodland walks, bike rides and wine tasting at local vineyards. There’s also the option to join in on the regular weekly group yoga classes, run for the staff and local residents. Come alone or with a friend and stay in the house, or bring family or friends and stay in the self-catering barn.
The spa offers an extensive range of beauty treatments and massages working with innovative, natural ESPA products, and their expertly trained therapists. Choose body treatments such as reiki, hot stone, deep tissue or aromatherapy massages, a back, face and scalp treatment, a stimulating hip and thigh treatment or a detox body wrap. There are facials and other skin treatments, as well as beautifying treatments like waxing, pedicure and manicure.
You can arrange to have private yoga and meditation sessions before you arrive as part of your spa break, or come for yoga days or yoga weekends on set dates. Classes are taught outside by the pond in good weather or in the haybarn.
Private yoga classes and weekly group classes at Green Farm are run by local teachers, Sally Bayly and Caelia Butcher. Sally has practiced and taught yoga in all styles for over two decades, her strong, energetic and uplifting classes are complemented by fun partner work, posture correcting and simple meditation techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing and candle-gazing. And, Caelia, with 20 years of practice, is an experienced and nurturing teacher, her classes range from a dynamic morning flow incorporating gentle poses, stretching and breathwork, to a deeply relaxing and restorative afternoon session.
You can book a Yoga and Food retreat on set dates which focuses on healthy eating, whilst adopting the Green Farm Principles of home-grown with meat, fish and vegan and vegetarian options. Alice Yeates, who is a qualified naturopath, cooks with you in the kitchen, using as many fresh Green Farm ingredients as possible. You will pick, prepare and eat a delicious healthy lunch and then have the opportunity to chat with Alice during and after the meal. You even cook using stone ground flour for the home-baked bread.
Wonderfully, you can come here for workshops on wildlife vegetable gardening, how to set up an inner city wildlife garden and sustainable gardening with Catherine Farr, an artist and former teacher who manages the farm’s community garden.
Catherine also offers private or group art classes in the community garden shed on request – book a life drawing session with a nude model or a general painting, drawing or mixed media session. She generally works from observation, painting the landscape, animals and still life.
Two weekends a year, they offer a nutrition weekend with Alice Yates. It’s a chance to focus on your own nutrition and start to build a personal plan for lifetime healthy eating.
The farm is surrounded by ancient woodland, and Martin and MaryAnn work closely with the Kent Wildlife Trust to maintain and enrich the habitat and keep their meadows and woodland as natural and diverse as possible, it’s a great place to commune with nature. Your hosts will be delighted to guide walks through the local woodland; you can join them on their daily dog walks, or take a map and explore some of the many walks from the farm on your own. Close to the farm is Fairyland, the name Martin and Maryann have given a secluded area of the woodland where sunlight often glimmers through the trees creating a magical atmosphere, perfect spot for meditating and being immersed in nature.
This makes a perfect escape for Londoners – it’s a 10 minute taxi ride from Ashford International Station which is only 38 minutes from St. Pancras. Abandon all preconceptions and go with the flow. The owner’s encourage you to make your own retreat, the stay that you want, rather than the stay that they give you. Allow the weather and animal feeding times to dictate your activities and mood. If the sun’s out, that’s the time for a walk, or if it’s chilly, warm up in the sauna. They have lots of wellies and fleeces to borrow so you can pack lightly.
If the sun’s out, that’s the time for a walk, or if it’s chilly, warm up in the sauna. They have lots of wellies and fleeces to borrow so you can pack lightly.
When to Go
Any time. It’s like visiting friends for a weekend and there will always be something to entertain both curious adults and children alike, whether it’s lambs being born, chicks hatching or bluebells carpeting the woods in a shimmering haze.
Spring is an especially good time, when the woods are starred with tiny pink and white wood anemones. Later they shimmer with bluebells. In the late spring there are special evenings of listening to the nightingales with ornithologists and folk singers.
They abide by the simple philosophy of cooking fresh, in-season, home-produce when possible, which comes largely from their Community Wildlife Vegetable Garden, and their own farm animals. This farm-to-table process currently provides them with pork sausages, home-cured bacon, lamb chops, and cottage pie. Bread is always homemade and organic, and vegetables and salads their own, freshly picked from the gardens. French and local wines, as well as local ciders, gins and ales, are all available at an extra cost.
If you stay in the house you eat with the family – in the mornings you help yourself to breakfast in the sunny breakfast room one side of the kitchen but at night you may eat in the more formal dining room. Breakfast and lunch is always included, dinner costs £15 for two courses.
If you stay in the barn, you eat there, enjoying having meals cooked for you on the yoga retreats but otherwise self-catering (or you can arrange for a private chef). The barn’s big open plan area includes the kitchen and dining area with a dining table that can seat 18, and there’s a range cooker, American-style fridge/freezer and two dishwashers as well as a barbecue outside.
Vegetarian and vegan food is served on the yoga retreats, so a typical meal might include lentil dahl, vegetable soup or risotto with lots of salads consisting of home-grown produce.
The garden and nature: Martin and Maryann are recyclers and their commitment to cutting back on the amount of plastic they use is admirable. Everything possible is composted and most bits and pieces others would throw away are recycled and used to build and add to their Community Wildlife Garden. Crops are rotated to ensure diversity.
Catherine Farr, artist and former teacher, manages the Community Garden and runs workshops on wildlife vegetable gardening, how to set up an inner city wildlife garden and sustainable gardening, which focuses on re-using rather than just traditional recycling.
The House: The house is a Grade II listed Kent Hall House dating back to the 15th century, when it came to restoring it, Maryann and Martin insured that it was done as sustainably as possible. They insulated the roof and walls, removing tiles and tile hangings to do so. They put in underfloor heating and installed a ground source heat pump to provide all central heating and hot water as well as a solar panel to generate their electricity. Grey water comes from the old Victorian well that they restored. There are log burners in both the barn and the house, with logs sourced from their own woodland.
Giving back: They’ve also started a charitable foundation, the Pearce Coggan Foundation which works in partnership with The Outdoor People to bring inner-city and disadvantaged kids to Green Farm so that they have an opportunity to be active outside in the fresh air and understand where their food comes from. Deprived families from Hackney camp in the woods and learn to plant seeds, cook on a campfire and share food. Apprentices and part-time workers in the Garden are vulnerable adults.
Green Farm, Church Lane, Shadoxhurst, Near Ashford, Kent TN26 1LS
Ashford International Station
Transfer Time: 10 minutes