Eat. Drink. Read. Sleep.
The first ever Book Matchmaker Reading Retreat has been on my mind for a longtime and i have been constantly thinking of how and where we could host it, then as if by fate up popped a email from the company Unique Home Stays advertising a new property on their books called Scarlet Hall which was located near Malpas just 45 mins away.
It ticked every box on paper and the idea just evolved from there. I shared my idea on social media and it had a fantastic response which was great. I set a date and then also a time when the rooms would be available to buy.
Just before the rooms went live i took a drive to the house on a warm September afternoon to meet the owners and take a look around - it was even more spectacular than i had imagined and left me feeling super excited for the future guests of the retreat to see it.
The rooms went live and sold out in just 48 hours which exceeded any expectation I had.
I embraced the organising and enjoyed every minute - it consumed me slightly towards the end as it was all i could think about but it all came together.
What Happens on a Book Matchmaker Reading Retreat?
Guests arrived early evening and were welcomed with a cup of tea and shown to their rooms so they could get settled. Some had travelled far including one guest all the way from Mumbai India! We also had guests arriving later in the evening who had been stuck in traffic on the motorway from Suffolk, it took them 6 hours to get to us and they needed more than a cuppa when they finally got to us! Me and my team cooked up some pizzas, salad and we spent the evening getting to know each other by talking around the kitchen table - we even talked about books believe it or not!
The team were up early to make sure breakfast was all set out, some guests had a lie in and some had a quick dip in the pool beforehand.
The day was a gorgeous spring summer day, so doors were open wide and people enjoyed sitting out on the tables taking in the beautiful 12 acres that surrounded the house. It was lovely to see everyone break off after breakfast and find somewhere to sit and get cosy - some in the designated quiet zones and also some in the kitchen. The day past by slowly and everyone was relaxed, helping themselves to drinks whenever they wanted from the hot drink station and also homemade cake which were delicious.
After lunch our chef for the evening Lajina arrived to prep for Indian afternoon tea and also the evening meal. The guests enjoyed her homemade pakoras, cakes and Indian tea. As Lajina started the evening meal we all broke off to get ready for dinner. We had decided beforehand that we would all dress up and all sit together for the Saturday evening food, nothing too fancy though just clothes that made you feel nice. Me and the team decorated the dining hall with some birthday decorations so that we could also celebrate the three birthdays that were happening over the weekend. Dinner was served and it was delicious, to read more about Lajinas meal please click the photo below to read her blog post.
We all had a great evening, full of lots of chatting and laughing which was great fun.
A couple of sore heads this morning but nothing a full English breakfast couldn't sort out, especially with the best sausages and bacon from local Shrewsbury farm shop Battlefield 1403. Sunday started very misty and fresh, this meant one thing....log fires! It was so nice to be able to light them all and watch as our guests snuggled up in front of them to read, a contrast from the sunshiny day the day before. Today the guests had pre-booked spa treatments from our mobile beauty therapist Rebecca, the guests left the beauty room feeling even more relaxed than before (if that is even possible).
By the time we served the late lunch of homemade soups and crusty bread rolls the sun had burned away the mist and some of the guests enjoyed their lunch outside in the sunshine.
The Sunday afternoon had a much more laid back vibe to it as i think the guests became comfortable and more used to the house and its surroundings. When our chef Adam aka Shropshire Lad arrived everyone was still tucked away reading while he got to work lighting the outside fire pits to start cooking his feast. The evening was a more relaxed affair and after a fantastic meal and a few drinks most people headed off to bed to read to sleep and an early night.
Day Four & Home-time:
Everyone was up early to head back home but no-body wanted to leave. Me and the team headed home, happy and slightly broken as i think we had underestimated how much work was involved - but it was all worth it and i still can't believe that we managed to turn my idea into a reality.
Thank yous and Mentions:
During the organising I reached out to a few small businesses to see if they wanted to be apart of the event and we luckily had a great response. I would like to mention the brands below who donated items for free to our guests to enjoy.
Planet Donut:- A Shrewsbury based business selling the best donuts around! A few guests have even started planning their Shrewsbury visit in the summer just to come and buy some!
Appleby's - Abbey Farm - Donated a pat of butter and chunk of cheddar cheese. Honestly this butter and cheese is so delicious - lets just say it didn't last long!
Berry Fresh Bakery - located just down the road donated some small jars of their award winning jam, we also bought their marmalade and strawberry jam to enjoy.
Risdon & Risdon - another Shrewsbury business who make fantastic aprons and bags, lent us 4 of their stylish black denim aprons for the weekend which all our staff members wore whilst prepping the food for the weekend.
Simple Things Magazine - donated a box of their February edition and also some postcards and badges for the goody bags. All the guests enjoyed reading this magazine whilst they had downtime from their books.
Quercus Books - Donated a stack of books. We popped stars on the spines (so they didn't get mixed up with the owners books) and they were free to take home for the guests which they all loved.
Retro from Scratch - the best bookish decorations ever and kindly donated by its owner Becky. We had welcome bunting made out of book pages and also table confetti which was a really lovely touch!
Last but not least I couldn't of done the weekend without the help of my team. Hannah, Clare and Cerys all three of you were brilliant and the ultimate dream team, thank you so much xxx (we never did get that team photo!)