After a stressful and traumatic 2015 which resulted in me falling back into bad eating habits and not exercising, my blood test results came back from the doctor with several exclamation marks.
It was a harsh wake up call. I began searching for a UK retreat that could help me get my health back on track and my mind focused on having a more active and positive 2016. I was not in the mood for a starvation detox or to be physically pushed to my limit in a military boot camp. I needed nourishment, nurturing and to reconnect with myself and nature. That is exactly what I found at Yeotown.
Nestled in a quaint green corner of North Devon, this multiple award-winning mind and body health haven attracts guests from all over the world and it is not surprising to see why. Co-founded
by one of the UK’s leading Vinyasa Flow Yoga teachers Mercedes Ngoh Sieff and her husband Simon Sieff, a former art and antiques dealer and avid surfer, the 5 day Yeotown healthy detox and lifestyle pro- gramme has been designed to perfection. Their aim is for every guest to leave not only stronger in body and clearer in mind, but with a renewed sense of commitment to looking after your health and wellbeing.
The journey from London to Tiverton Parkway was easy, apart from my strug- gling to open the train door from the out- side and literally falling onto the platform. I looked like a real city slicker setting foot in the countryside for the first time. After a 45 minute drive with another guest, through the green rolling Devon hills, we arrived at Yeotown. From the moment
I set foot inside the grounds I felt trans- ported into another world, a far cry from the pollution and frenetic energy of the city. I was struck by the dewy clean air, rustic textures, colours, sounds, smells and tranquillity. Walking through the enchant- ing courtyard and entering the main house felt like walking into the pages of ELLE Decor, a shabby chic designer dream. Every item of antique furniture, every book, piece of artwork or time enriched ornament was expertly placed and put together in a series of charming intercon- necting rooms that lead to a magnificent vaulted ceiling kitchen. Everywhere you looked there was something wondrous to capture your attention and the team were all incredibly warm and welcoming.
The bedrooms were designed in a modern luxury-barn style, each featuring unique pieces of furniture and art work. I had a large wet room complete with ayurvedic toothpaste, natural mineral deodorant, tiger balm, Yeotown’s own brand aroma- therapy natural shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Other touches included herbal teabags, mineral water, fluffy bath towels, robes and slippers. Best of all was the electric blanket hidden beneath the sumptuous cotton sheets and billowing down pillows and quilt. Quite simply the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in, and the reason why I may have accidentally missed a couple of early morning yoga sessions.
The group of guests all bonded quickly around the magnificent dining table where we devoured our delicious and wholesome healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The food created by the talented chef Jim- my, was out of this world. It was exciting, inventive, organic, seasonal, nutrient-rich, dairy and gluten-free, delicious, perfectly balanced and apportioned. Healthy food never tasted so good.
Each day started with an energising yoga session in the courtyard yoga shala. The classes were managed brilliantly for all abilities by Mercedes, I was not able to do all the moves but an alternative easier option was always presented to me. For once I felt able to partake without feeling too self-conscious.
For breakfast there was a choice of 4 options. All came with a small berry, dairy-free smoothie sprinkled with seeds. My two favourites were the home-made muesli with berries, apple compote, flax and chia seeds, freshly made almond milk and the half an avocado, boiled egg, oat cakes and home-made almond butter.
After breakfast it was time to wrap up warm, don our waterproofs, hats, gloves and boots to tackle our daily hiking challenge, whatever the weather. As I was
totally out of shape I lagged behind a little on our first stunning hike from Croyde Bay to Baggy Point, in torrential relentless rain, and so on the following hikes I took slightly less brutal routes with my own guide. I can proudly say that I conquered Trentishow Down in hail and strong winds, Ilfracombe to Lee Bay, Lynmouth and Valley of the Rocks, where the sun broke through and the stunning Heddons Valley. All the expert guides made you feel like you were in very safe hands, I was lucky enough to get Davy “the encyclo- paedia” Johnson, who brought the history of Devon to life with his brilliant stories. He also knew how to keep me going when the going got tough. His inspiring words and encouragement gave me a much need- ed boost. Many of the paths we trekked along had magnificent views of Devon’s expansive Atlantic coast, it was inspiring and energising to be in such a place of raw beauty.
During the hike we had an apple and a few nuts and when we returned to Yeotown, often chilled to the bone, we were welcomed with a warm and satisfying fruity drink and the sauna pre-warmed ready to thaw our frozen bodies. Lunch was always something light and delicious, a vegetable soup with raw seed crackers or a beautifully cooked piece of fish with pistachio crust on a bed of courgettie. Although the portions were substantial, I was still eating much less than usual and so I was definitely feeling sugar withdrawal and hunger, but I never felt deprived. All the food was nutrient-dense, free from gluten, dairy, caffeine and sugar.
The afternoons involved an exercise
class and another small healthy snack, a nutrition talk or a cooking demo, followed by an evening relaxing yoga meditation before dinner. Jimmy’s evening meal was always warm and comforting and mouth- wateringly delicious, a seafood paella or a vegetable coconut curry, but often using clever carbohydrate substitutes.
After dinner we retreated to the snug where a roaring fire was always burning. We nattered and browsed through the impressive collection of health books until it was our turn to have a body treatment.
The massages were some of the best I have ever experienced. There is something magical about the therapists in Devon, I am convinced they have healing powers. The cosy and ethereal treatment rooms were beautifully designed in cleverly converted animal barns – a luxurious spa barn.
After five days at Yeotown, I had got back in touch with my body and shocked myself at how powerful it was. I never imagined I could conquer the uphill hikes which I had been dreading, but thanks to Yeotown’s fantastic team I managed to achieve more than I thought possible. I strengthened the muscles in my body which felt great. My skin cleared and I slept so well.
As I munched my healthy packed lunch on the train on the way back to London I felt restored and inspired to really take control of my health and my life.