I wrote this feature for 50 Connect, a popular online publication dedicated to people over 50
Dominic went the extra mile, literally! I missed my stop at Sherborne Station and he had to hurtle through the lush Dorset countryside to retrieve me from remote Yeovil Junction. I waited stoically wrapped in my thickest, longest winter coat deep in the belly of rural southern England on this drizzly, foggy day.
I had journeyed two hours by train from London’s bustling Waterloo for a relaxing stay at an enticing retreat called Middle Piccadilly run by Dominic and Lisa Harvey; a beautiful, historic guesthouse founded by his artist parents, Eliana and Gerry Harvey in 1985.
So now I am finally here, this Friday afternoon in January! Dominic shows me to my charming, private room, and then leads me across the crunchy courtyard to the cosy living room where tomorrow I will recline on a comfy sofa before the therapist collects me for my keenly anticipated treatments. The hub of the homestead is the rustic kitchen with warm earthy tones, a rich terracotta floor, forest green tiles, unique handcrafted timber cupboards and weathered wooden table where guests dine on scrumptious vegetarian meals or pure fresh juices if they’ve opted for a revitalising Detox.
Lisa greets me and does a health consultation. Fortunately I’m a straightforward case, with no medications, allergies or major health problems, just the persistent extra poundage I can’t seem to shift! But I’m not here to diet; I’m here to enjoy the therapies and the tranquil get-away!
Friday evening I meet fellow guests, two young women, lifelong friends who are having a girlie weekend away from stressful hospital jobs, and we chat over our delicious lentil and feta stuffed roasted peppers and veggies followed by apple crumble. Versatile Dominic is the accomplished chef who can cater to all tastes and dietary needs.
That night in my warm and toasty room, I snuggle down with facebook friends on my laptop and the Graham Norton show on the wall telly before drifting off to sleep with no sound but the hooting of a distant owl.
Saturday morning, it’s the sweet birdsong I hear, not a blaring alarm, and after breakfast I’m all set for my first treatment.
I’ve never had LeStone therapy before and I’m feeling wary because those stones are scorching and I’m prone to hot flushes! I’m worried I’ll start sweating like I’m in a sauna! But Maya places the smooth volcanic stones in a row and covers them with a cloth and I lay on the massage table so that my spine is resting on the hot rocks! It is surprisingly comfortable as the heat seeps into the neglected tense muscles that support the spine.
With my spine relaxing, Maya massages my legs and feet with a smooth hot stone. The sensation is divine. The heat gently eases tight muscles without digging in and stimulates blood flow. And then she applies a cold stone for a tingling rush! She gives the same luxurious attention to my arms and hands, my stomach and neck and shoulders before I turn over. The velvety stone glides all over my aching back, unravelling knots caused from endless hours of laptop hunch!
The lovely Maya, skilled in a range of therapies, explains that LaStone, which originated with the Native Americans, is her favourite style of massage because the heat works very deeply but gently. I have to agree, my body feels relaxed all over without any painful deep tissue pressing and probing.
After Dominic’s homemade courgette soup, crusty bread, a selection of irresistible cheeses and fresh salad, the other girls bravely head off for a country walk in the blustery, icy wind while I relax in my room and later have a wander around the garden.
Guests can take a country stroll on the Peaceful Lane circuit, which takes about 70 minutes, explore Dogbury Wood or venture to the Cerne Abbas Giant, a famous turf-cut outline, depicting a large man wielding a club. The intriguing figure, listed as a scheduled monument on a site owned by the National Trust, dates back to the late 17th century and locals say it is well worth a visit.
Back at Middle Piccadilly, facilities include an impressive mini spa with a sauna and Japanese soak tub and the awe-inspiring towering Starhouse, a six-sided building for meditation, yoga and pilates that exudes tranquillity.
The vast array of exotic therapies on offer tantalise with names such as the Ginger and Cocoa bean Wrap, Mulled Wine Scrub, Green Tea Body Wrap, Atlantic Seaweed treatment, Acupressure, Indian Head Massage, Thai Foot Massage, Organic Facial, Exfoliating Body Scrub and Shamanic Healing.
The intimate retreat can accommodate up to nine guests seven days a week and privacy and seclusion is assured for those wanting to de-stress or guests keen to socialise have plenty of opportunities to chat over meals, in the living room or outdoors.
Dominic excels himself on Saturday night with a gourmet nut burger dressed with hot spinach and drizzled with tasty gravy, served with a hearty dollop of ratatouille and fluffy baked potatoes. Dessert of rich chocolate tart with berries is just heavenly.
Come Sunday morning I am scheduled for a session of Shamanic Healing with Maya and slightly apprehensive. I’ve done loads of psychotherapy over the years and figure I don’t really need any emotional release however I decide to try it out.
And I’m so glad I did. I rattle off my “story”; all the things that are troubling me in my life and Maya is the perfect listener, silently present and empathic and then she guides me, using a soothing, resonating drumming through a powerful relaxation and visualisation that has me connecting with Nature, the elements of fire, earth, water and wind, and drawing on Spirit to find my connectedness with all living beings in my belly and heart. This stillness is just what I need to disentangle from my overactive brain.
I see a vision of my future, all my cherished dreams wrapped together in a joyful scene of family and friends laughing and loving together in a cosy room with an open fire, and outside a vibrant garden of fruit trees and veggies, hens, puppies and grandchildren running free. It is a vision that guides me now and I am grateful for the kindness and sweetness of Maya who led me there.
A tranquil, nurturing stay at delightful Middle Piccadilly retreat in rural Dorset with the lovely Dominic, Lisa and Maya and the rest of their talented therapists might be just what you need too.