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Short break: The Norfolk Farmhouse, Felmingham, Norfolk

The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat which is owned and run by Faye Yuasa. Photo: Sonya Duncan
The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat which is owned and run by Faye Yuasa. Photo: Sonya Duncan

I arrived at The Norfolk Farmhouse on a Saturday morning to sample a weekend of women’s wellness and relaxation – something I’ve been longing to do for years, but never seem able to prioritise the time. I am not sure whether it’s because I am (like many other working mums) generally exhausted and frustrated with the daily demands of life, but the invitation to this weekend retreat came at the most welcome time in my life. A country stay retreat for wellness, relaxation and events, The Norfolk Farmhouse is a beautiful white Georgian country house, with barn studios and an expansive enclosed garden dotted with fruit trees, nestled on the curve of the sleepy village of Felmingham, between Aylsham and North Walsham. Six individually styled boutique bedrooms and two cosy sitting rooms, a large dining room and a kitchen dining area make it the perfect retreat for families as well as friends.

I was ushered in with a huge smile by owner and founder Faye, who had planned to set up the retreat because she had always wanted somewhere like this to go, particularly at the difficult time of her divorce.

Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya Duncan

In 2020, Faye broke her leg in an accident and having time on her hands while in recovery, subsequently wrote and designed a number of retreat packages all based around women’s health.

‘The retreats were easy to plan because everything on them is something I love doing – I’ve been vegetarian since I was a child, I love cooking, and yoga provides the space my mind needs to gain clarity. I wanted somewhere I didn’t have to travel through an airport to get to, or sit in a restaurant on my own for seven nights,' she said.

Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya Duncan Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya Duncan

Those that arrive on the Friday afternoon receive tea on arrival, robes and bathroom goodies. I arrived first thing Saturday, at 8am; I met my fellow guests a little bleary eyed, but keen. Faye filled us in on the weekend’s agenda which went without much discipline (there were just a few of us, so we could be flexible) and was punctuated by lots of warm conversation and laughter. Being in the company of just a few other women without the expectations of work or domestic demands tugging at us was a delight, and we all immediately felt at ease with one another. I’ve never taken yoga very seriously, easily getting confused and distracted by everyone else doing impressive planks and downward dogs and inevitably topple over, giggling. This weekend was different though – I think in part due to my intention to finally immerse myself in the experience.

Saturday began with cleansing tea and fruit, (tiny grapes from a nearby vine) after which we had one-and-a-half hours of gentle Hatha Flow yoga with brilliant teacher Nell, in the lovely light filled studio facing the walled garden. Faye’s dear little lop-eared rabbits hopping around outside immediately make one feel all is safe and well in the world. Then brunch; a delicious and moreish salad of halloumi, crushed potatoes, seasonal veggies and a tahini dressing (I went back for thirds). We each had a cacao facemask, applied by Faye while we lounged on the patio with fresh lavender tea picked from the garden, then my new friends took a dip in the hot tub while I went up for an enormous, peaceful bath.

Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya Duncan

A 30-minute sound bath at 3pm was magnificent. I’d never experienced one before and it was a powerful and spiritually moving experience, and one that has apparently been used globally for centuries as a healing and balancing therapy. The ocean drum mimicked the sea; huge waves crashing in panoramic sound around us, and the gongs and various chimes and bells created a sort of mind journey into space and relaxation, where one’s physical presence merged with the sounds. I felt as though I had journeyed through time as sounds resonated with Ancient Greece, Tibet and Aboriginal Australia. For Faye, it’s important that her retreats aren’t exclusive, but for every woman who wants some rest, rejuvenation and comfort, she says, by ‘using food, movement and relaxation as self-care for mind, body and soul.’

Floating out from the sound bath, we were met with scrumptious locally made cakes (rich chocolate brownies and tart raspberry cakes) and pots of tea. I had planned on taking as many naps as possible but was having a lovely time chatting, which turned out to be just as restorative as a good sleep.

At 6pm we had an hour-and-a-half of of restorative yoga, which involved holding a series of relaxing, gentle poses for over five minutes at a time, using blocks, bolsters and blankets and felt gorgeously healing. Later, we enjoyed dinner of homemade onion bhaji, followed by a delicious curry with cashew, sweet potato and a glass of prosecco – all made and served by Faye.

Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat Photo: Sonya Duncan

The Sunday began with tea and fruit (after a very comfortable night in a giant bed) and then straight into more yoga, another hour-and-a-half of slightly more dynamic but still gentle Ashtanga yoga, followed by brunch of rye toast, poached eggs and avocado. Then I went for a gorgeous full body massage for an hour in the massage studio (you can book massages and treatments on top of the weekend package stay).

I have realised, through this weekend of connection and yoga, that it’s not about being ‘good’ or bad or anything in between, but in feeling it work and allowing the mind to quieten – there lies the clarity Faye talks of. The ‘sweet spot’ as the brilliant yoga teacher guided us, is exactly where you need to be to feel the full benefit of yoga; the in-between (the amber in the traffic lights of red, amber, green) of pushing oneself into a pose but not so much so that it is painful. Previously, I’m not sure I listened properly to my own body and the levels it was or wasn’t able to go to, instead I compared, as though yoga was a competitive sport, rather than an individual experience and in fact, a journey. I didn’t really want to leave but to remain in the bubble of female energy and kindness we had created. Faye is a super hostess and a great cook and clearly has a knack for creating special things for people. I’m so glad I went and feel positively changed from this retreat experience, and have three new friends, too!

Great British Life: The Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat which is owned and run by Faye Yuasa. Photo: Sonya DuncanThe Norfolk Farmhouse wellness retreat which is owned and run by Faye Yuasa. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Comments from the other women:

‘The retreat was amazing and so relaxing. Faye’s cooking is delicious and she took such good care of us. The whole weekend was such a treat, especially the sound bath and massage, heaven!’

‘A weekend of pure relaxation and self-care. Faye took care of us so well, with amazing food and activities. The yoga was perfectly pitched amongst lots of time to just be, chat and be pampered. What a way to press pause for a few precious days.’

The next Women's Yoga and Wellness Retreat at The Norfolk Farmhouse is from February 23-25. thenorfolkfarmhouse.co.uk



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