A couple of years ago some friends of mine, Mark and Sarah Driver, bought a farm in Alfriston, a beautiful part of Sussex not far from the sea. They had plans to build a vineyard. On a walk with Sarah we visited the potential site of the winery and tasting rooms before exploring the ruins of some derelict flint barns. Sarah conjured up a vision of beautifully restored barns to accommodate potential seasonal workers, walkers and wedding parties. As I glanced at the piles of flint and rubble and the empty fields beyond, I wondered to myself if my friends had lost their marbles. I’ve since been fascinated to watch as Mark and Sarah's leap of faith evolved into a new business. They’ve assembled a great team, planted countless vines and built a state of the art winery, while maintaining the integrity of the unique landscape of the South Downs.
Early last autumn, I was invited back to Rathfinny Wine Estate for dinner and to spend a night in the newly renovated Flint Barns. I felt utterly spoilt by the experience. Sarah, a fellow writer, thought the place had great potential as an arts venue including a possible writing retreat.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend loads of writing masterclasses and a few residential retreats over the years. One of the joys of a retreat is it affords you the luxury of space and time. It’s a chance to think, muse, get feedback from writing professionals and meet like minded people. Most importantly it gives you time to rest and write. For me, one of the best things about a retreat is the break from everyday life, that includes preparing meals. After my lovely night at the Flint Barns and the conversation with Sarah, I started to think about what a special place it would be to host a retreat. I got together with Emma and we’ve devised out first ever Words Away Retreat to take place next spring, 17th -19th March. You can have look at the full programme on the website.
I’m really looking forward to hosting the retreat at Rathfinny; it should be a great writing weekend break in a glorious location with the superb accommodation and delicious home cooked meals. Come join us in the spring when Words Away flies south to Sussex.