We arrived at Wyck Hill House Hotel in the Cotswolds in glorious autumn sunshine and were welcomed with coffee and pastries, plus a goody bag of treats from Hannah. Everyone was smiling – delighted to get away from real life for a couple of days and enjoy good food and wine, the comforts of a luxurious hotel…….and, of course, the prospect of four sessions of pilates. The hotel was a delight and full of character – like a country house in an Agatha Christie novel (without the murders) – an oak-panelled library, chandeliers galore and really comfortable, spacious bedrooms in which to relax.
There were twelve of us – mostly strangers – and all at different stages of experience in pilates. None of this mattered – everyone got on well and as usual Hannah catered for a wide range of experience and aptitude, not to mention the exercise variations for those with parts that don’t quite work (mine include: knee, lower back, wrist and neck). The schedule of activities was just right with two sessions of pilates each day and plenty of space in between for coffees, lunches and other activities (or none). Some opted for the sensual pleasures of the spa – saunas, massages, pedicures or just ‘chilling’ in the relaxation rooms. Others ventured out to visit local attractions such as the nearby organic farm and café – a splendid place to browse and admire all those fabulous items for sale which you never knew you needed. Nearby Stow-on-the-Wold and the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water were also popular. Or you could just retire to your room and watch Escape to the Country.
Our dinners together were enormous fun. We had a beautiful private room so there was no need for the usual restraints of a restaurant and we all enjoyed the stimulating company of like-minded people with loads of laughter and hilarity. Topics included shopping (not all women are shoppers), politics (but trying to avoid Brexit and Trump), books, films, dogs and, naturally, why we all think Hannah is such a great teacher. Oh and the food was outstanding.
For most people four sessions of pilates meant they were doing four times their usual weekly effort but everyone seemed to benefit from the opportunity to really focus on their practice away from the usual pressures of home life and we all made it through happily to the end. I felt my flexibility increased over two days and I’m sure I had a longer walking stride thanks to all those hip exercises. Hannah was her usual professional self and, while the atmosphere was completely relaxed, the concentration and commitment to getting our positions just right, was as high as ever. The afternoon sessions ended with a blissful relaxation, enhanced by the soothing sound of birdsong (rather than the usual distraction of lorries thundering through Monmouth).
As we came to the end of our retreat someone summed up beautifully why it had been such a joy: ‘Unlike some exercise retreats this felt as if we had nurtured our whole bodies – with the comforts of an excellent hotel, delicious food, convivial company…..and the benefits of sustained pilates exercise with a first-rate teacher.’ I think we would all agree with that. Only one question remained as we left our haven:
‘So when can we do this again?’