Usually when I write up my holidays, I’ve been somewhere a little more exotic than Shropshire! Last week I headed up to The Hurst, formerly the home of playwright John Osborne, now an Arvon Centre hosting various creative writing courses. While the main house is given over to running the courses, the Clockhouse is just across the way and is home to a permanent retreat. I spent six nights, getting stuck into the second novel while editing (again) the first.
The Hurst is a fabulous location for a retreat. With extensive grounds, I almost wished I’d had more time for walks. The Clockhouse is made up of four apartments – spacious with a separate sitting room/study and a huge corkboard to plan out those restructures. Downstairs are a shared living room/library and a large kitchen. All food is included in the rates and they even have wine already brought in, payable through an honesty box system. Basically, if you want to max out your writing, you can go and think about nothing else.
Spending time with other writers is another highlight of the Clockhouse. All deep into our drafts, it was great to talk shop in the evenings and compare experiences. We even kept to the Arvon tradition of reading a little of our work on the last night. We also ate dinner together which was nice to break up the isolation! Most of the food provided is locally sourced, even the frozen pre-prepared meals, so we ate very well. There are desserts, biscuits, crisps, and loads of healthy stuff as well (we did think there seemed an excessive number of packets of prunes). I lucked out and had two fellow inmates who could cook so we had a curry night, roast chicken, pasta arrabiata – thanks to Susan and Andre!!
I only left the Hurst once, when offered an opportunity to visit nearby Ludlow, a medieval market town. As well as the market, we walked round Ludlow Castle and visited Ludlow Food Centre on the return journey (perfect for any foodie – they have tons of local produce.
The verdict of the group was that the Clockhouse was pretty much the perfect retreat. I think it would be better for writers who have a project underway and just need to crack on and get it done. We all made great strides during the week and I’m already thinking about a return visit.