You’re in The Womb,” says the manager in the wool hat from The Dreaming, ushering me into a room with a rosy, cozy 1970s vibe. I could have been in The Mush-Room, The Mystic, The Wanderer, or The Moon. In the bathroom I find the ‘vagina shower’ – pink Moroccan waterproof plaster, open and inviting.
Later, 37-year-old Welsh songbird Charlotte Church, who has just launched her retreat at The Dreaming, says they had no intention of creating an official vagina douche. The appearance only suggested the name.
Along with seven other women and a man, mostly in their early forties, I’m here in the remote green depths of Mid Wales for a long weekend, with no Wi-Fi or phone signal, to experience Charlotte’s vision of healing.
Motives vary: one guest from London wants to get away from her family for what she calls ‘me time’, another hates spas and is looking for a new kind of relaxation; a third had seen Charlotte Church’s Dream Build on Discovery+ and want to experience the results for themselves.
Frankly, I’m skeptical of anything ‘magical’ or ‘spiritual’ – but I’m reassured to see that the only magazine available is the New Scientist.
Going wild: Welsh songbird Charlotte Church has just launched her retreat at The Dreaming in the remote green depths of Mid Wales
Josa Keyes attends Church’s retreat along with seven other women and a man. They’re there ‘to experience Charlotte’s vision of healing’
Charlotte tells us she came across what realtors called ‘Laura Ashley’s Welsh mansion’ when she was trying to buy a field for glamping. Overwhelmed by the 33 acres of mossy rocks, temperate rainforest, and rushing streams, she decided to open a full year-round retreat.
“It’s about connecting with nature,” she says. ‘In our busy lives we don’t have time. People are so distracted by everything. Our nervous system burns out.’
A blackboard in the refectory, where we eat, lists ‘offers’, from Nature Crafting and Celestial Blessings to Healing Dance, but this is a self-guided retreat. You choose what to do. I recommend trying everything – and there is also time for forest walks. You don’t have to call it “Forest Bathing” if that’s not you.
On the first night, General Manager Lukus Robbins leads us into the woods, where a fire is burning in what Charlotte has dubbed the ‘Court of the Holly King’ next to the ‘Gateway to the Underworld’.
So goofy so far – but there’s nothing forced about it. Lukus leads us through a short meditation and I begin to relax.
The next day, Charlotte leads our Morning Gathering and we split into pairs for Listening Partnerships – a five minute exercise where we ask the other person how they are doing and actually listen for a truthful answer, unlike in the normal life where we just say, ‘I’m fine’.
Above is one of the retreat’s rooms, which is housed in what realtors dubbed “Laura Ashley’s Welsh mansion,” reveals Josa
“It’s about connecting with nature,” Church says of the retreat
Describing the meals at the retreat, Josa says, “Each meal is a ‘feast’ and the vegan food is prepared by Pete, the handsome chef.”
Pictured on the left is the ‘vagina shower’. Josa says it was not Church’s intention to create an official vaginal douche, but “the appearance only suggested the name.” On the right, guests enjoy an outdoor pool
This warms us up for further sharing and an atmosphere of trust and cooperation grows.
For example, our lone man takes on the role of a (wild) lifeguard, complete with pom-pom hat, standing waist-deep in the chilly Forest Pool, handing us women the slippery rocks. I surprise myself by enjoying the tingling sensation of the water.
Every meal is a ‘feast’ and the vegan food is prepared by Pete, the handsome chef, who comes to tell us what we’re eating pink red from his stove.
My favorite ‘offer’ is the Sound Journey. We settle down in the Healing Room, where festival favorites Tim Wheater and Cherub Sanson have set up their instruments.
The gong in particular is a pleasant, hair-raising physical sensation. Tim plays the shruti box, an Indian instrument that produces a rich drone; and Charlotte sings, wordless – her matchless voice weaves like smoke around the single note.
Josa says the experience is ‘crazy’ but notes that ‘there’s nothing forced about it’
Pictured at left is a waterfall on the property. Josa says Church was “stunned by the 33 acres of mossy rock, temperate rainforest and rushing streams” on the site when she first visited. To the right, a fire burns in what Charlotte has dubbed the “Court of the Holly King.”
Guests can choose from a list of ‘offerings’, including Nature Crafting and Celestial Blessings. Above is the ‘Gateway to the Underworld’ of the retreat
Pictured on the left are stargazing chairs for guests, while pictured on the right is the amazing view of the Nant Caethon Valley
Josa in the Bospond. “I surprise myself by enjoying the tingling sensation of the water,” she writes
Sunday morning at six o’clock there is more singing, while Charlotte wanders the halls like a human alarm clock.
When dawn beckons, she gives us silent disco headphones and I choose the green dance floor bangers channel, just like her. We follow her onto the lawn, with a great view south through the Nant Caethon Valley, and dance as if no one is watching – it’s not long before all self-consciousness melts away.
On Monday morning we gather for the Closing Circle. The most unexpected of us weep with emotional release as we discuss what the retreat has meant to us.
We are invited to write lines for a collective poem, as a gift for the next group, reflecting on the experience: ‘The Dreaming helped the real me feel brave enough to break out’ is a line . Others speak of ‘shared moments, a circle of hearts’ and ‘clarity, tranquility, space, nature, unity, emotion, beauty, calmness and tranquility’.
That’s a list and here’s the surprising part. I find myself agreeing with almost every word.
A three night (Friday to Monday) or weekday (Tuesday to Friday) weekend retreat, including all activities and vegan meals, costs from £450 pp for three people sharing a room. For two parts, £750 pp; single occupancy, £930, thedreaming.nl.