I pulled over the car to wander in the New Forest with wild ponies, something so peaceful and beautiful. We drive through the New Forest a couple of times each year, en route to the mother-in-laws house. I always want to stop but we never do. Normally, I spot the ponies when the kids are hangry or we are all exhausted from a long drive and simply want to get home. This time I was alone and the journey was already feeling like a retreat.
Fast forward a few hours and I was wishing I had a different sat nav. Winding through the beautiful fields of rape seed, the start of the bluebell woods and single traffic roads I was a little lost.
A couple of tense reverse up the road situations and some fifteen point turns on a tiny lane and I arrived at the venue for The Retreat. A weekend of photography, video and writing workshops set up for bloggers by Sally Whittle from Tots 100. I spotted The Retreat in a Facebook discussion when I was in bed with the hideous flu over Christmas. I loved the sound of all of the many workshops on offer and booked up straight away. Then, I panicked. I am really shy when I meet new people, normally go pretty red and either say nothing or talk rubbish. People in the group promised to be friendly and they really were.
On arrival I was welcomed by the lovely Monika XXX, she was telling people which room they were in and I was one of her roomies, along with Claire XXX from Flip Flops and Wellies. I knew that Claire and I would get along when she sent me a message a few days before the weekend discussing what prosecco and gin in a tin.
The house itself was huge, my room was a dorm room with five beds and the view was incredible, looking out to the rolling hills of Somerset with sea glimpses and the swimming pool in the garden below. I dumped my bag and headed outside for a welcome yoga session. On the way down, I bumped into the lovely Penny Alexander from Parentshaped. I have followed Penny for a long time, both on a personal level and when I ran social media channels for First News and a few other social media clients. Penny promised to say hello when I arrived, she knew that I was on my own and made sure I felt welcome.
All weekend people were like that. I would sit down and someone would chat, jump in the pool and someone else came too, a bottle of prosecco open, people shared it. I have been to a couple of blogger events and found some of them very cliquey. This was the total opposite, I laughed lots, learned lots and had a very relaxing break too.