Witherdens Hall, Kent, England
A bespoke, boutique retreat for treatments, life coaching, me-time and relaxation in rural East Kent
Best for: Friends, couples and solo travellers looking for relaxation and privacy
Not for: Those who don’t want to prepare any meals
Takes up to 6 guests
This tranquil not-for-profit wellbeing retreat at Wingham near Canterbury is a short drive from miles of sandy beaches yet only an hour from London by train. It’s run by long time mindfulness practitioner and owner of Mindfulness at Work Louise Cox Chester, who lives here with her family and hand-picks local therapists to offer bespoke stays with mindfulness training, one-to-one yoga classes, organic facials, massages, holistic treatments and life coaching. Accommodation is in a sweetly converted self-catering cottage or barn, and there’s a far infrared sauna and steam cabinet on site.
This is a highly affordable place to create a totally bespoke retreat with a a wonderful array of therapists – as it’s a not-for-profit, the retreat takes no commission from the local therapists used, which means you get everything at refreshingly reasonable prices.
The accommodation is self-catering and although breakfast can be included, it wouldn’t suit anyone who needs a total rest from cooking and shopping as well as everything else. It does mean, of course, that you can really hole up and be entirely private.
Come here to write, read, paint, do nothing and access a range of activities and treatments, from mindfulness, life coaching and yoga to massage, holistic therapies and organic facials. You book directly with the therapists, who are very flexible with treatment times and work evenings and weekends.
Witherdens Hall retreat is the creation of long time mindfulness practitioner and owner of Mindfulness at Work Louise Cox Chester, and mindfulness is a key focus here. Book sessions with practitioners Adrienne Ayers or Caroline Armstrong to help settle your busy mind and bring your attention gently to rest on the only moment where life is really happening – the present moment.
You can book effective, life-changing coaching tailored to your personal or work situation with Suzi Tyler, a well qualified and experienced life and success coach and NLP Master Trainer. She offers a 1-2-1 session called Breakthroughs for Health, during which she will help you to unlock your potential and coach you in the skills you need to move forward confidently, clearing out the blocks, fears and anxieties which are holding you back. Suzi is also a qualified hypnotherapist.
To invest in your future, it’s worth booking a life coaching session with owner Louise Cox Chester, a personable, vibrant and friendly former investment banker and long time mindfulness practitioner. You’ll need to book in advance, and note she isn’t always available, though she will always try to fit you in, even at weekends.
Called ‘What’s Your Purpose?’, the session coaches you through a series of questions to help you clarify the over-riding purpose in your life and turbo-charge your ability to achieve it. Many people, from CEOs of multi-national companies to young mothers and those planning retirement, have benefitted greatly from being coached through this life-transforming process. A one and a half hour session costs £300.
One to one yoga sessions can be booked with Jem or Loretta, who have both been teaching yoga for many years and are highly experienced. Their yoga sessions can be 1:1 or a small group, and last for 90 minutes.
Jem is a British Wheel of Yoga registered teacher, Yoga Academy trained and certified and is Yoga Alliance registered. He teaches a mindful Hatha yoga practice: a balance of Yang energising but gently flowing sequences and held asanas countered by calming Yin restorative postures. Loretta trained in Physiology from University College, London, and interweaves anatomy and yoga in her teaching.
There’s a wide range of massage available to choose from, including hot stones massage, Indian head, Thai herbal compress, soft tissue, Swedish and Three Dimensional Massage, where guests lie face up on cushions of warm water and experience a guided visualisation alongside physical bodywork. Relaxing organic facials include a double cleansing, exfoliation, treatment mask and a shoulder, neck and facial massage using Tisserand aromatherapy oils.
There’s a good range of holistic therapies on offer, including acupuncture, reiki and Native American Healing, a wellness system that treats pain, inflammation, stress and anxiety by connecting you back to the earth. For those in bodily pain, McTimoney Chiropractic treatments are available – a light method of adjusting the bones in the body to relieve pain and discomfort and increase mobility.
The retreat has a mini spa with a far infrared sauna, steam cabinet and massage chair you can use whenever you choose. If other guests are staying, you are always booked in for exclusive use to ensure you can enjoy quiet and privacy.
Louise and her family are also happy to share their private gym and small outdoor pool (when it’s open in warmer weather) with guests by arrangement at no extra charge.
You can go off on the Wingham and Four Watermills ramble which takes you around Wingham, Wickhambreaux and Littlebourne – chooses either a five or seven and a half mile route. Or there’s the Goodnestone Circular Walk starting in the next village, about 20 minutes walk from Witherdens Hall. It’s 4.5 miles through Goodnestone which is known for the fascinating gardens at Goodnestone Park and past Chillenden Mill, a Grade II listed windmill.
If you’re here for a longer stay and would like to mix in some culture, Canterbury has great theatres showing a huge range of work, a wealth of museums headed by the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge and galleries such as the Sidney Cooper Gallery. There is also a wealth of new music offered by the City Sound Project and Beautiful Town Music, spoken word nights, a Wise Words Festival each Spring and an International Arts Festival every October. Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England, forms part of a World Heritage Site.
The Suite: The wooden-floored suite is in a converted barn, finished to a high standard and a light, airy and calming space to be. It has a small double bedroom, a fully equipped kitchen and a huge living space which can also be used as a workshop area. Large glass doors open out onto Witherden’s central courtyard. The Suite is open plan with the bathroom in a separate room just off the bedroom area.
To avoid disappointment do book all your treatments before you arrive, especially if you want a life coaching session with the owner Louise. The retreat is about 20 minutes drive from Sandwich beach, so you will need a car if you want to get out and about.
When to Go
Any time – cosy up in winter or enjoy the courtyard and gardens in the summer. It’s a great place to escape to over Christmas and New Year.
The Retreat Cottage and Suite are both self-catering. You can book an organic breakfast to be left in your kitchen to prepare at your leisure, then use the several fantastic farm shops with cafés within walking distance to get ingredients for other meals.
Breakfast includes freshly ground coffee, a myriad of teas, milk, home-baked bread, butter, jams, marmite, honey, yoghurt, cereals, fruit, local organic apple juice and Witherden’s own eggs, which are delicious.
If you don’t feel like preparing your own meals, you can eat out at various spots from pubs to farm shop cafés in Wingham, Chillenden or Canterbury or order all the food for your stay to be delivered from MyFood. If you want to come here to detox, you can also book a consultation with Natural Juice Therapist, Carol Brace, who offers a 3, 5 or 7 days juice cleanse during your stay. Your hosts can help you arrange everything in advance.
Louise Cox Chester, the owner of Witherdens Hall, is a mindfulness practitioner of 25 years experience and Director of Mindfulness At Work. She runs the Witherdens Hall on a not-for-profit basis so that others can share this very special and healing place. Where possible all aspects of the retreat are run on an organic and eco-friendly basis. Staff are local to the area and share in the mindful ethos, and monthly mindfulness meetings are held here and open to all.
Wingham, Nr Canterbury
London City Airport, Gatwick
Transfer Time: 1 hour 20 from the airport, 20 minutes from the train station