Sunny Brow Farm - a holistic retreat in Hawkshead

Inside the apartments at Sunny Brow

Inside the apartments at Sunny Brow - Credit: Archant

How a derelict farm near Hawkshead was tranformed into a holistic retreat.

Philip and Suzy Saunders at Sunny Brow Farm with their Patterdale Terrier, Alice

Philip and Suzy Saunders at Sunny Brow Farm with their Patterdale Terrier, Alice - Credit: Archant

PHILIP Saunders knows all about executive stress and the pressures of modern living. For years, the furniture designer ran a successful business supplying customers in the City of London. It meant commuting from his Leicester home and being away from pre-dawn to nearly midnight.

It was gruelling but his working life furnishing receptions and boardrooms became even tougher when the recession hit in 2008.

He and wife Suzy had their first son, Roan, in 2009, and that prompted them to decided it was time to change lifestyles and pursue her dream of running a holistic retreat. They had a holiday home in the Lake District and Philip’s childhood memories of the area meant it was a natural choice for their business.

After selling up and moving to their holiday home in Far Sawrey, they found the ideal site. Overlooking Hawkshead and half way up Hawkshead Hill towards Black Fell, they discovered the derelict Sunny Brow Farm.

Much of the complex near Hawkshead is made up of restored barns

Much of the complex near Hawkshead is made up of restored barns - Credit: Archant

‘It had no kitchen, no working toilets and hadn’t been lived in for two years, but as soon as I saw it I said “this is it”,’ said Suzy.

In 2010 they moved and it has taken eight years of hard work to develop a holistic retreat that they are content will achieve their main aims.

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‘People come here frazzled and fraught and leave feeling grounded, centred, refreshed and revitalised,’ said Suzi.

‘So many people run around like headless chickens. They can come here and connect with nature and relax. It particularly helps people in transition or looking for a new way. We aim to show them they are not alone in facing anxiety and can use the beauty and nature in this place as an aid to healing.’

Massage therapy is one of many treatments

Massage therapy is one of many treatments - Credit: Archant

Philip has single-handedly reconstructed the house, originally built in 1759, and converted the barns into four apartments taking up to a maximum of 12 people at a time. Couples, families and groups are all welcome to enjoy yoga and movement and a variety of massage and consultations of every possible type of healing routines, including meditation.

The connection with nature is also used as a basis for a sweat lodge experience, walks and workshops.

They have a variety of woodland, beck, and pasture land that guests are welcome to explore, with a ‘sacred labyrinth’ to walk at leisure.

Their 33 acres, which was low quality farmland, is now forest – the couple planted 6,000 natural hard-wood trees last year – and the rest is used for grazing a flock of Shetland sheep, the only meat they eat.

Central to their healing process is the food. Suzy has just written and had published Conscious Cookery, which has seasonal recipes and inspirations from the retreat, based on whole food and macro-biotic principles.

‘The idea of the book is to build a love of simple organic whole foods that suit your body,’ she writes in the introduction.

Customers of Sunny Brow Farm can self-cater, order meals to be cooked by Suzy, or wander just up the road to the famous Drunken Duck. It is clear from web reviews that guests do a mixture of all three.

After eight years of hard work and developing their ideas, and having two more children – Aaron is now seven and Una is five – the couple finally have the business on a firm footing.

Their next steps are to build a new yoga studio, introduce hot tubs and a sauna and introduce hiking and yoga holidays.

‘We knew what is was to be frazzled and fraught. We wanted to create a place where people can come and unwind. They may even want to get out of the rat race themselves and come here to be inspired,’ added Philip.

It is certainly tempting.

For more information go to Conscious Cookery by Suzanne Saunders is published Austin Macauley, priced £27.99.

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