Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat: An Island Getaway

Two weeks ago on a sunny Friday morning I was lucky enough to be hauling my bag onto the Wightlink Ferry, with Bodhi trotting along behind me, headed for a beautiful lodge on the Isle of Wight.  Our home for a few days would be the rather idyllic Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat; a Hoseasons site nestled close to Fishbourne, at the end of a long, winding country road, surrounded by forests and coastline.  I took a friend with me and we couldn't wait for some forest-based relaxation on the Isle of Wight.

We arrived around lunchtime on the Friday, and whilst the lovely people on site fussed Bodhi and told us our room would soon be ready, we went and sat in the decking of their onsite bar enjoying a cold cider in the afternoon sunshine.  Lodges on the site are situated deep in the woodland right up to just beyond the shoreline, so it really feels as if you've found a little slice of British paradise - complete with artisan pizza, a country club restaurant and a stylish bar.

We stayed in one of their Nettlestone lodges, which come complete with a four poster bed, with French doors opening onto a balcony with a hot tub.  This is definitely not camping, or even glamping - this felt seriously indulgent.

Hoseasons had kindly filled up the fridge with goodies (even with dog treats for Bodhi!) so upon arrival, lazing in the hot tub with a glass of champagne was definitely in order (not that the journey was particularly stressful - the ferry only takes 45 minutes from Portsmouth and cost £21).  It was a huge advantage that I could take Bodhi - all of the lodges take up to two pets and Bodhi was more than happy lounging on the decking whilst we relaxed in the hot tub.

On the Friday evening we wandered up to their restaurant for dinner.  We had a three course meal including steak (cooked to perfection) and a delicious cheesecake.  Of course after all that eating, it had to be followed by a soak in the hot tub.  Lying under the stars, drinking fizz and staring up at the trees was an experience I'll remember for some time (I even downloaded an app to find out the names of all of the stars - geek for life!)

In the morning it was time for a brisk walk to burn off some of the onion rings and chips from the night before! There is a woodland walk right from the Hoseasons site, and it's an amazing way to blow away the cobwebs in the morning.  The beach at the bottom of the site was totally empty and it just felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.  It was totally relaxing to sit for some time and watch the boats go by.

We cooked a huge brunch in the lodge (the kitchen is incredibly modern and perfect for long leisurely breakfasts) and then it was time for a bit of pampering.  Onsite there is an Aromatherapy Associates spa, where you can get massages, facials, scrubs get your nails done and a wide variety of other beauty treatments.  I chose the Aromatherapy Massage - a one-hour treatment where we selected essential oils based on my needs and lifestyle, which were then included in a full body massage featuring the essential oils, body oils and other products.  It was totally blissful - I nearly fell asleep at one point! The therapist was incredible and I left feeling like I was on cloud nine (or - a cloud nine surrounded by stunning woodland, bathed in warm sunshine!)

After the treatments we went on a long walk with Bodhi, and since it was a beautiful, warm summer's day, we had to stop at the pub en route to keep ourselves hydrated.  The area around the site is very quiet, with boats bobbing on the shore and a few country pubs and restaurants.  We spent the afternoon and evening munching on yummy food from the shops, taking dips in the hot tub and watching films on the huge TV in the lounge.

Sadly on the Sunday morning it was time to wave our woodland lodge goodbye.  I was incredibly sad to be leaving our temporary home complete with swish interiors and huge hot tub! Why isn't drinking champagne in a hot tub a more frequent activity?

I am desperate to go back and visit Woodside Bay Lodge Retreat again soon - I found it gave me amazing headspace just to be away from civilisation and enjoying complete relaxation.  It was incredibly upmarket and felt like a chic, modern getaway rather than anything you might expect from staying in a lodge.  You can stay there for a week from £325, which I would call good value! I'll definitely be going back in the summer when they have their al fresco artisan pizza area open, as well as their South African Barbecue Restaurant which looks and sounded absolutely amazing.  I can't imagine anything more idyllic than sitting outside on a warm summer's evening and enjoying a 'food safari' of barbecue food.

Have you visited the Isle of Wight? If not - you must, it really is so pretty and the perfect UK getaway.  I would massively recommend a Hoseasons stay if you are thinking of hopping across the Solent.

Oh AND - we made a little video of out stay, flawlessly edited by the wonderful Rosie Lord.  I hope you enjoy it!


My first tarot reading

It was last year when I bought my first deck of tarot cards. I ordered them from Amazon, and when they arrived, dutifully wrapped them in a silk scarf and kept them in a pretty box that felt spiritually suitable. At that time, I felt utterly lost and in need of some direction in life. I felt sure that the answers I needed were within me, but I was finding it difficult to tap into my intuition, and was paralysed by fear and uncertainty. I was drawn to the idea of burning candles, unwrapping the colourful cards, sitting cross-legged on my bed and having all of my deepest questions answered.

I started with ‘one card pulls’ – asking a question of the cards and then pulling one out from the deck, journalling my initial reaction to the card and then looking up its meaning and making notes on what it meant to me. The cards I pulled ranged from downright spooky to totally meaningless (in my opinion), and some of the pictures on the Rider Waite cards didn’t really resonate with me. I considered it a learning journey and to this day, continue to pull cards on an almost weekly basis, journalling and trying to expand my knowledge and connection with the cards. I'm definitely getting better at trusting my intuition, and I've done a few readings for other people that have been even more successful than the ones I've done myself.

One of the things that I thought would be beneficial for both my learning and to receive some more spiritual direction was to go for my own tarot reading. Luckily, I found a a wonderful woman called Ruby (Ruby Tarot) who lived just around the corner from me and who offered one-hour readings for £25. Last Monday I found myself knocking on her door (and cowering under an umbrella to avoid the torrential rain), eager to find out what would take place during a tarot reading, and what the cards held in store for me.

Ruby was totally welcoming, and had a lovely house - with candles burning, relaxing music and the cards ready to go on the table.  She let me record the reading as well as take notes, which was really helpful as it's easy to forget things when you're reflecting on it afterwards.  I didn't tell her anything about my life (she said it was easier this way as then she could be led by the cards instead of my personal story) and she got straight on with starting off with a Celtic Cross Formation; an in-depth reading that shows the past, present, challenges, aspirations, subconscious, advice, hopes/fears and much more.  This part of the reading lasted about 40 minutes, and Ruby would ask me to place a card down, give an interpretation and either lay more cards or explain the relationship between the others. During this part of the reading she told me:

  • That I had previously been in a situation where I had started to turn into a negative person and come away from being 'me'.  That I had done my best to work through it but eventually had to get out of the situation.
  • That the dark part is over and my 'tree of life' is starting to blossom
  • That laughter, contentment and joy are in the future
  • That in the past I've had to be tough and forceful, and that I put on a brave face but it was part of an 'act'
  • That I need to focus on keeping balance and not trying to do 'everything' - and that soon I'll have to make a decision
  • That all of 'angels' are pushing me in the right direction and I have to allow them to take me in the right direction and towards the next stage of my life
  • That I need to let others help me and accept I can't 'do it all'
  • That friends and family have often felt that I could do more than I am, and that I need to start taking action
  • That there is a 'wild' side of me that I keep under wraps but that I need to start tapping into.  That I often focus on being the 'nice' or 'yes' person but I need to let it come out.
  • That there is a future for me in helping tired or stressed people
  • That my life is about to change significantly, and that I have to face the fear and 'do it anyway'
  • That I am really engaged in learning new things and I have a future in teaching some of the things I've learned

All in all it was a totally enlightening and spiritual experience and not only did it give me real excitement for what is to come, it also gave me even deeper a love of tarot and what it can offer. Everything that she said to me resonated in some way and there wasn't anything that she said that made me think 'what does that mean?' - it was all totally connected to my life now and hopefully what can and will happen in the future.  After the Celtic Cross Formation she also pulled a card for every month over the next six months and that was similarly exciting and enlightening - in fact, a lot of the same cards came out which was interesting as it really reinforced some of the messages.

Have you ever had a tarot reading, or are you interested in tarot?


Daniel and Chloe

I admit it, I have something of a weakness for watches and jewellery.  When I'm feeling a little more casual I think you can really jazz up an outfit just by layering on bracelets, a statement watch and some pretty rings.  (Well, that's how I justify wearing jeans and a jumper 90% of the time, anyway).

My watch collection is starting to get a little out of control, but my heart will always be true to Daniel Wellington watches - with their classic faces trimmed with gold paired with a chic leather strap, or their unique canvas striped straps (which somehow conjure images of picnics on a riverbank or cloudy lemonade at a cricket match) there's something a little bit special about their timepieces.

Daniel Wellington Classic Warwick Watch, watch.co.uk, £141*

The majority of the watches in my collection are men's watches (or suitably androgynous), simply because I love a chunky strap and a large watch face.  I think there's something quite chic about a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and a large, masculine watch.  This is their 'Warwick' watch, which I was drawn to because I am a long time devotee of rose gold (hashtag basic) and because the striped strap is really different to anything else I own.

I actually wear two watches which does make me feel like a complete idiot, but I wear my Garmin fitness/heart rate watch on my right wrist, and then something a little more stylish on my left.  If I want to check the time I automatically just look at my Garmin so any watches are really just decoration, is that ridiculous?

Because the Garmin watch is quite basic and unfashionable I like to layer on a few bracelets next to it to make that wrist look a bit more aesthetically pleasing! My go-to place for pretty jewellery is ChloBo, whose silver bracelets and necklaces (well - they do much more than this but these are my favourites) grace my jewellery collection and my wishlist.

Hamsa Hand Bracelet, ChloBo, £90*
Star Bracelet, ChloBo, similar : £60

I actually wore the bracelet with the star on my wedding day, as it's dainty and subtle enough to be worn as a standalone piece.  It's going to look lovely stacked with my new hamsa hand bracelet - I also sometimes wear the star one as an anklet as they're stretchy so they can be slipped over your foot and worn with some cute sandals.  They have so many pieces I love that my wishlist is starting to get a little out of control, especially since they have a rose gold section - these hamsa earrings make me wish I hadn't stretches my ears as a naive 17-year-old!

Are you a watch and jewellery fan? Do you think I'm a complete weirdo for wearing two watches? :)


How I found my way out

As I drove away, some months ago, from my old life and a house we had bought only a year before, I was certain of only one thing. I was going to look after myself. I was going to self-care the hell out of myself. In an Ikea bag in the back of my car I had - as well as the essentials - a pile of comfy clothes, my cosiest pajamas, a stack of Lush bath bombs and all my nicest skincare. I took anything from the house that brought me joy and comfort. These items were more important to me than anything else.

That approach (as well as time, friends, family and medication) has helped me out of the darkness and into the light. I have moved (mostly) from waking every morning feeling as if a dark cloud is hovering above me and a weight is pressing heavily on my chest, and into awakening with purpose, smiling at the sound of birdsong, and breathing in a sense of peace. I've been reading an amazing book called Living Your Yoga (all about finding the spiritual in the 'every day'), and in the book Judith explains a section of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. She says: "When carving stone, the sculptor removes everything that is not the statue. She does not add anything to create it, except the willingness to do the work. The art of revealing beauty lies in removing what conceals it. So too Patanjali tells us that wholeness exists within us. Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essence, not Self."

I have been focussing on this concept over the last few months - making space and looking inwardly to find the true Rosie. Instead of trying to create happiness and change myself into someone new, I have instead tried to let go of anything that wasn’t helping, and get really in touch with what brings me joy and what doesn’t. Having time off work and time to myself has really cleared my head and helped me get clearer on what I want from my day-to-day (and more long-term) life. I fill in my gratitude journal every morning and evening and take time to note the things I’m really grateful for that make me happy – and make more time for these. I’ve noticed that it’s the simple things that bring me joy – a long chat with my Mum, listening to the blackbirds outside my window, the first cup of green tea, a drive home at dusk through beautiful countryside, a few yoga stretches, a restful sleep. I’ve realised that these things are not difficult to make space for however busy I am or however many pennies I do or don’t have.

Recently as part of my morning pages exercise I wrote the words ‘When I do ….. I feel good’ and then wrote down as many things as I could think of that filled in the blank. I really thought about the things that made me feel fulfilled, comfortable and happy.

  1. Yoga 
  2. Running
  3. Going to the gym (personal training)
  4. Eating nourishing, good food
  5. Meditation and mindfulness
  6. Writing and blogging
  7. Learning new things
  8. Sleeping well
  9. Staying organised and on top of things 
  10. Pampering – having a long bath or a face mask etc.
  11. Washing my face with my facial brush
  12. Being in nature
  13. Getting fresh air 
  14. Being around animals (especially Bodhi dog)
  15. Being at home (in comfy clothes) 
  16. Drinking green tea
  17. Filling in my gratitude journal
  18. Writing my morning pages or filling in a journal
  19. Reading a good book
  20. Having an afternoon nap 

You might not believe this but a few months ago I couldn’t have written this list. I was totally out of touch with who I was and what I liked. I couldn’t make even simple decisions about things I wanted to do or how I wanted to spend my time. I felt overwhelmed and confused, constantly trying to keep busy and fill my diary, chasing fulfilment and contentment – but sadly leaving myself with almost no time to do the things on the list. The morning green tea would be rushed, I never had time for my gratitude journal, I had no time for running or yoga and I would scroll through my phone at the expense of a good book or a mindfulness practice. I was prioritising things that didn’t bring me fulfilment (shopping, going for drinks, eating rubbish food, going to events I didn’t really want to go to) over the things that did, and then wondering why I felt fried and frustrated.

img credit: elle luna

To help myself climb out of those feelings of hopelessness and depression I knew I had to focus on myself. It made me feel selfish at times but my boss coined a term – ‘Rosie first’. This meant cancelling weekends away, rearranging seeing friends or dipping out of events that I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace for, and instead doing the things on the list. Just walking along the beach with Bodhi, with my headphones off and taking time to listen to the waves was restorative in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I made sure I really soaked up this feeling and stayed present to the sounds, feelings, smells and sights around me. I wallowed in every bath, diffused aromatherapy oils, kept my favourite pajamas washed and pressed, allowed myself entire days of reading in bed and let go of any feelings of guilt about things that brought me happiness (that bath bomb is too expensive, I’ve slept for too long, that notebook is too nice to use, etc.). Even now that I feel much better than I did, I’m still trying to cultivate these feelings and prioritise my own wellbeing. Although clearly I try not to let friends down and I don’t put myself above others in a negative way, I do make sure that I don’t inhibit my ability to do the things I need to – and sometimes this is as simple as keeping a couple of nights a week free to do nothing.

I hope this doesn’t sound somehow boastful or self-righteous. I simply wanted to share the turning point that I’ve made in terms of my own wellbeing. From a very dark place I have found light and brightness – excitement for the future, motivation, creativity. I feel excited for the future and everything it may bring (and hey, as long as it has green tea and Bodhi dog I know it will be great).


How to sleep better - and banning phones from the bedroom

If sleep were a person I think she would be one of those people who drifts in and out of your life; bringing joy and fulfillment and then disappearing again without warning. A wily, elusive mistress – important and rewarding company and yet difficult to pin down at times. No sooner do you think she’s sticking around for good than you find yourself in a scenario where she has bolted again, seemingly without warning. Sleep has been eluding me for some weeks now and I can’t deny that it is wearing me down. I don’t know what’s worse – lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, willing sleep to arrive, or spending the following day like a zombie; distracted and exhausted, confused and completely worn out.

Since I’ve been endeavouring to welcome restful sleep back into my life again, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been trying to tempt her back into my life (I’m dreaming of 10pm bedtimes and waking feeling refreshed at 7am – wouldn’t that be the life?) I’ve also been chatting to the lovely people at Time4Sleep to find out their suggestions for sleeping better – which include banishing phones from the bedroom, eek!

Bedroom in my last house - what a cosy space that was!

My bedroom at the moment is quite light and bright, with blinds that don’t entirely block out the daylight. On days when I’m up at 05.30 for personal training this isn’t an issue, however on days when I’d like to sleep beyond 6am it is not particularly ideal. I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask and spritzing it with Neom Perfect Night’s Sleep Pillow Mist to try and help me drift off to sleep as well as blocking out that pesky morning light. I’m a real fan of aromatherapy at the moment and I have an aromatherapy diffuser that I use to diffuse oils in before bedtime. I’m a big fan of the Tisserand Sweet Dreams Oil as it fills the room with such a dreamy, restful scent (there’s something about the steam puffing out that’s also really calming!) I also have a night-time magnesium spray I spritz all over my body before bed – magnesium is great for calming and relaxing tired muscles. 
The other thing I’ve been doing is using a sleep app before bed. I use the Pzizz app when I’m ready for bed and it guides you to sleep using ‘psychoacoustic’ principles – a mix of voiceovers and sounds. 

Despite all of my best efforts, none of these are really working for me, and my Garmin watch reliably informs me that I’m averaging about four hours’ sleep a night (yep, I’m basically hell to be around right now). So when Time4Sleep challenged me to try a tech detox before bed, it was definitely something I was willing to try. One of the ways I did this was to use the Moment app to enforce a scheduled screen-free time from 9pm every day. What happens then is that if you try and use it after 9pm it comes up with lots of notifications and sounds that make it almost impossible to use! I found using this app really helpful as it forced me to switch off at a certain time and made me more disciplined with it. I kept my bedtime routine the same as before, I just locked my phone at 9pm and then set the alarm and plugged it in outside my door. 

The only difficulty with this is that I’ve realised how many different ways I use my phone before bedtime. I found myself locking my phone at 9pm, but then I would get into the bath just before bed and want to listen to a podcast or an audiobook on Audible whilst I had a soak. I also had to go without my Pzizz app, which I was really enjoying using. Of course the eternal issue of the tech detox is… how do you set your alarm? I don’t have a bedside table in my current bedroom so I don’t have anywhere to put my alarm clock (I previously had a Lumie alarm clock, which I loved) so I rely on my phone to wake me up. Placing my phone outside my room just made me a bit anxious – would I hear my alarm? Had I even set it at all (cue having to get out of bed and check). This actually inhibited my sleep as I was so worried about my alarm all of the time! 

The other thing I realised is how many people I chat to on Whatsapp just before bed. Locking my phone at 9pm made me feel rude if I hadn’t finished a conversation with someone, or I woke up to a few messages from people who I’d normally be up chatting to in bed until much later. This also made me reflect on times when I’ve probably compromised my ability to sleep based on not wanting to finish a conversation abruptly, or appear unavailable. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t reply right away or explained that I was having an early night, and this is something I’m definitely going to work on in future.

One of the huge benefits I have found from switching my phone off at 9pm is that I’ve been reading much more than I did before. I’ve noticed that pre-tech detox I would open up my book and then end up flitting back to Twitter or Whatsapp and scrolling for 45 minutes before realising it was bedtime and I’d barely read a single page (but I’d instead seen lots of puppy gifs and people outraged about politics). Forcing myself to put down my phone has meant I’ve been reading so much more as well as making more time for things like journaling, bedtime yoga and tarot cards that I often intended to do before bed and managed to miss out on due to my scrolling habits!

Overall I’ve decided I’ll definitely be keeping some of the habits from my tech detox. Whilst I probably won’t be putting my phone outside the room (due to alarm anxiety) I’m going to keep up with locking my phone via Moment or putting it on airplane mode to stop me doing the mindless scrolling. I can still use my Pzizz app on airplane mode but I can’t get 8 conversations deep on Twitter so I feel this could be a good solution!

What are your tips for sleeping better? Would you detox technology from the bedroom?

*Post in collaboration with Time4Sleep