The Cold Ash Centre, and the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who live there

welcomed us warmly and looked after us so well, under the guiding hand of Sister Tram, in a way that was both efficient and completely, quietly discreet. The food was good and plentiful (thank you to Gary and his helpers) as were the copious amounts of chocolate biscuits, scones etc. served with refreshments. The Centre was accessible, clean, comfortable and set within wonderful grounds. These offered some wild areas, beautiful trees, a rose garden and a mix of the slightly rusty eccentric long-ago used machinery as well as the moving poignancy of the cemetery garden. Kites soared above us and wildlife, fauna and flora were all around. Needless to say, we all spent most of our time outside and we were blessed with good weather.

 Emma Palmer was an insightful and knowledgeable facilitator through our journey with Wild Therapy supported by her able partner, Justin Roughley. She held the boundaries of our work so that we felt contained but unconstrained. The joy of each being given space to find their own special place within the grounds and to pass time there ‘noticing’ the wild and its elements challenged us to be still with all that was there and to understand that they also ‘noticed’ us and so each was affected by the other. Various exercises were carried out over the weekend and I feel the one that had most impact on me was the ‘dream matrix’ in which we shared dreams in companionable silence. The stories and insights in these dreams were quite inspiring and sometimes mystical.

 The group was very special. It felt like a complete whole with each understood and accepted for who they were. I felt a sense of deep connection and was moved in a way that can only be described as transpersonal.

 There was also a good deal of laughter shared and the ‘fire’ get-together on the last evening was superb. The singing of old rock and folk songs accompanied by the music of the mouth organ together with poetry and stories fed our souls, just as the food had nourished our bodies and the wild and its elements our minds and emotions.

Emma asked us to consider ‘what did the wild want from us’ and ‘what did we need from the wild’? There were various ideas and answers forthcoming, and I seem to remember that the core of these meant that for both ways it was:

 Love, Really Noticing and being Noticed, Taking Care Of and Protecting

 A wonderful, life enhancing experience both personal and professional. Thank you to everyone involved.

 Jacqueline  Holloway


Review of the Cold Ash Retreat Weekend, by Julie May

 I went on this weekend retreat, purely from a personal perspective, rather than professional. I had some professional understanding about ecotherapy from discussions with a late colleague, and as I practise in the centre of Fareham town, ecotherapy is not something I could feasibly incorporate into my work currently.

So, I arrived at Cold Ash Centre on the Friday evening, after a somewhat stressful drive, to discover a calm and peaceful space. I was introduced to a warm and friendly group of fellow counsellors and to the facilitator Emma Palmer and her partner, Justin. The nuns and in particular, Sister Tram, looked after our every need and we were well fed, with tea, coffee and biscuits constantly available. The centre was immaculately clean and the grounds offered rural open space for quiet contemplation.

The sessions Emma facilitated, with able assistant Justin, encouraged self-reflection and a  re-connection with nature. Walking and talking therapy in pairs, was an insightful experience, as were the mindful exercises by myself. I am grateful to the group for their support and encouragement throughout my time at Cold Ash. The camp-fire on Saturday night was a highlight, witnessing the hidden vocal, musical and poetry talents of my new friends.

The weekend completely exceeded my expectations and I have come away feeling refreshed, more grounded and with a better focus on my self-care.  I can recommend wild therapy to anyone looking to press pause on the hecticness of life and rediscover a congruent sense of self.

Julie May

 An A to Z Review of the Wild Therapy Weekend, by David Brown

Asking ourselves “What is Wild?”

Beautiful?  Bizarre?

Crazy? Chaotic?

Dignified? Divine?

Elegant?  Ecological?

Finding the Wild in ourselves,

Going into the woods and fields,

Hearing and seeing trees and birds,

Insects, grass, leaves and flowers.

Jewels to be found in pigsty or ditch,

Kitchen garden or graveyard.

Losing ourselves in nature,

Memories and insights arising,

Noticing the passing of clouds,

Opening ourselves to nature.

Perceptions widening,

Questions answered,

Relating to the Wild,

Searching and finding,

Time and place changing,

Understanding and letting go.

Views and viewpoints shifting,

Wildness without and within,

eXternal and internal,

Yin and Yang,

a Zig Zag journey