Retreat in the Peaks

10th August 2016

By Sophie Jackson

So I definitely thought it was about time I did my first blog post here at deVOL, especially since I’ll have been here for a year next month – time flies! I think I was kind of waiting for something really interesting to blog about which is funny, as I always enjoy reading everyone’s blogs no matter what the subject, it doesn’t have to be anything major or exhilarating, I just love how they seem to be little snippets every now and then of anything and everything and life, which I think we’ll forever be fascinated with.

I did, however, have the fun and exciting opportunity a few weeks ago to cater for a retreat that was being run by a friend of mine and her husband. They have an established personal training business in Derbyshire and recently have expanded into running retreats from their villa in Turkey, and this was their first one they were running from the UK.

I was actually on my lunch break one day when she messaged me out of the blue – I hadn’t seen her in a while and she explained how she was wanting to run this retreat and was struggling to find a chef or anyone who could cater for the kind of thing she wanted. I met her through Crossfit and I would always be taking food in to classes with me that I had been making at home for people to try – to the point where if I didn’t walk in with a box in my hand, my coach would be disappointed and ask me to leave! I have always been a passionate foodie – trying new things, experimenting with flavours and I absolutely love making things for other people – I think it’s the waiting for their reaction and seeing how much they enjoy it (hopefully!). So I jumped at the chance to cater for her retreat and started planning and testing out recipes over the next couple of months.

The retreat was run over a long weekend and if I wasn’t catering for it, it would have been right up my street! It included meditation, yoga, fitness classes, workshops, long walks in the beautiful Peak District and of course lots of yummy food! My friend said I was welcome to join in with anything over the weekend but I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me! She wanted the food side of the retreat to be vegan, refined sugar-free and mostly raw. This is largely how I eat day to day so putting together a menu was the easiest part. It was fun then to think of how to present it all to a group of people who wouldn’t necessarily have tried anything like that before.

The Peak District is such a perfect place to hold something like a retreat. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and there’s so much green and nature surrounding you that it’s hard not to immerse yourself in the here and now and to forget about ‘normal life’ for a few days. Not to mention the fact that you barely get any phone signal, which always makes for a refreshing escape.

It was held at Hamps Hall & Barn which was just perfect – pretty, rustic, and situated at the end of the most narrow, winding, overgrown country lane, that I had to stop to double check the address as it felt as though you going where no one else would be! It was, in fact, the right way and I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled up in front of such a tranquil, idyllic setting.



The barn slept 20 people and for the first meal on the Friday night of the guests’ arrival, I chose to make my Ultimate Veggie Chilli with Raw Tacos, Guacamole and Salsa…




…Followed by one of my absolute favourite desserts, my Raw Chocolate Orange Salted Caramel Tart.




I’ve always had a sweet tooth and so I probably find it the most exciting thing coming up with sweet treats that are healthy, as you don’t miss out on any of the taste or indulgence but still feel great afterwards. It was amazing, people’s reactions to the dessert, they couldn’t believe how good it tasted and how satisfied they were. Yay!

After a restful night’s sleep, I was up early on the Saturday to make Supergreens Shots for everyone post-yoga…




…Followed by breakfast which was my Beetroot Bliss Smoothie. Love that colour!




Lunch was served as a buffet style and it was amazing to see everyone piling their plates high and excited to try lots of new things…





After a day full of yoga, workshops and walks everyone was ready for dinner and some relaxation. I made my Raw Courgetti Pad Thai for the main course…




…And for dessert, another favourite! My Raw White Chocolate Berry Cheesecake…




I am an absolute lover of kitchen gadgets so I was super excited when my friend said that I could use her dehydrator over the weekend! They’re amazing to use for making crackers, veggie crisps, bread, granola and so much more! I’ve tried making kale chips in the oven before but they never came out very consistently. True to my nature, I decided to make more than one flavour at the same time, (the first time I ever made a baked cheesecake, I made 4 at the same time because I was too excited to try different flavours!) so I whipped up a healthy chocolate sauce for a sweeter flavour and a ‘cheesey’ sauce for a more savoury flavour, coated the torn up kale and set it all up in the dehydrator to leave overnight – another amazing thing about these! I woke up on the Sunday morning to the most incredible aroma coming down the corridor, I literally leapt out of bed so excited to see how they had turned out! There wasn’t one piece that hadn’t crisped to perfection and they were absolutely delicious. It’s safe to say a dehydrator is next on my list of kitchen gadgets to buy!




After the kale crisp excitement it was onto making Supergreens Shots for everyone, followed by breakfast which was my Zesty Zinger Smoothie…




I was lucky enough to sample some chocolate truffles from the raw chocolate workshop that they did in the morning – incredible!! Sadly no pictures, they weren’t around for long!

After a long walk on a glistening sunny Sunday, everyone was ready to sit down for a late lunch, their last meal at the end of a lovely weekend retreat…





…And after a huge tidy up and lots of goodbyes to some lovely, happily rejuvenated people it was time for a sunny drive home, leaving the tranquil Peaks behind after a fun, food-filled weekend. I almost felt ready for my own mini evening retreat and enjoyed melting into the sofa, with a mixed internal hum of exhaustion, satisfaction and content.



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- 01509 261000

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- 020 3879 7900

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- 020 3837 5900

Need any help? Please email:

Cotes Mill - 01509 261000

St. John's Square - 020 3879 7900

Tysoe Street - 020 3837 5900

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Cotes Mill, Nottingham Road, Cotes,
Loughborough, LE12 5TL.