More Than Just A Blogger Break -The Retreat 2019

When I popped the date of The Retreat, a three-day residential event organised by Flea Ents into my diary, I was looking forward to some gentle R & R in beautiful Welsh countryside with fellow influencers. I did not expect it to be the life changing experience it turned out to be.

Bloggers at The Retreat 2019

I didn't get to go to The Retreat in 2018 as it clashed with a wedding and my daughter's birthday so I was delighted this year to find I was free on the 17th, 18th and 19th of May, just a few days after my 50th birthday.

About this. I had approached my 50th initially with little concern. It seemed simply like an excuse to have some fun and with this in mind I sorted a few nice things to do to celebrate.

As the date got closer however I realised I felt a bit wobbly. I don't expect to live to 100 so reaching 50 I found it difficult to have to acknowledge that my life is almost certainly more than halfway through. I realised my eldest son is now the age I was when I had him and I twigged that I have lived longer in my adopted county of Hertfordshire than I did in my "home" region of the Black Country.

I have had a difficult year losing some precious people and struggling with my own health issues, some of which can be quite disabling. Many of the work events I have attended recently seem to have been populated mostly by influencers who are younger than some of my children. To be frank I started to feel old.

Driving up to Tyn Ryhd, the gorgeous converted farmhouse nestling in picturesque hills in the Welsh countryside near Devil's Bridge, just outside Aberystwyth, all I could think was WOW!

Tyn Ryhd, Devil's Bridge, Wales

sculpture at Tyn Ryhd, Wales

Tyn Rhyd, Devil's Bridge, Wales #flearetreatTyn Rhyd, Devil's Bridge, Wales #flearetreat

Tyn Rhyd, Devil's Bridge, Wales #flearetreat

It didn't feel intimidating walking in as thanks to a group set up just for this event I knew who was attending and what to expect. It was lovely to see some familiar faces along with some new ones. My room with en-suite bathroom was nice and I already knew the people I was sharing with. You can ask for a single room at Flea Retreat events for a supplement if you aren't keen on sharing.

As a helper for the weekend I hadn't signed up in advance to any of the many workshops and activities on offer like most of the other attendees had.  I was happy just to be around other influencers who understand what this weird world of "influencing" is like and can talk about it all, good and bad.

It's great to be able to compare notes with those who know we don't just get stuff "for free" and to share tips on how to make the most of, and get ahead in this frequently competitive and difficult industry.

Having said that, when I was offered the chance to go gorge walking I jumped at it, mainly because I'd told my adventure-loving 23 year old the programme for the weekend and that was the activity he'd focussed on as a "must do." I felt I'd have let him down if I let the opportunity pass me by.

Now bear in mind I am occasionally bed or wheelchair bound by my disabilities and suffer with chronic fatigue and pain. I thought gorge walking was glorified rock pooling and admit I was slightly baffled by the need for wetsuits and, more worrying, helmets.

madmumof7 squeezing into wet suit #flearetreat

When we crossed the first rickety bridge over the gorge and watched the white water tumbling over rocks I began to think I had made a serious mistake. Before I could change my mind however I'd been coaxed down a rocky slide into the water.

madmumof7 gorge walking in Wales #flearetreat

However thanks to the amazing guides from Adventure Beyond I was not only able to complete the activity, but managed to have the time of my life.

#flearetreat gorge walking

As one who is nervous of heights and terrified of water (actually don't like shower water on my face) I came away from the gorge walk feeling like I had really achieved something. I felt I had banished my previous concerns about turning 50 with a healthy dose of water-based thrill seeking.

As I jumped from a high ledge into a deep pool cheered on by my fellow influencers and the guides I felt like I was giving a huge two fingers up to my disability and my big birthday.  Pictures of the gorge walk ( and the boomerang video below) were taken by Sarah from Toby Goes Bananas.

Age is just a number and although I felt about 100 painfully and slowly working my way back up the hill towards the minibus after my watery adventure, psychologically I felt 20 years younger.

 I'm still feeling the physical effects of swimming, tumbling, jumping, climbing and being carried down that rocky gorge by rushing freezing cold water but it was truly one of the best things I have ever done. I feel the experience has given me the kick I needed to end my pity party and carry on living my best life.

I can't believe I did it. None of my family or friends can actually believe it either but I did, so if I can face the fear and survive once I can do it again can't I? I now feel the world is my oyster if only I am prepared to make the metaphorical leap just like the terrifying physical one I made into the gorge water.

I cannot thank Sally enough for giving me the opportunity to do it and to the fabulous guides who supported us all so well emotionally, physically and psychologically. Even though our group spanned a wide age range pretty much all of us found it a challenging but memorable  experience.

So, could anything top the exhilaration and personal sense of achievement generated by the gorge walking activity at The Retreat?

Well maybe not top it, but video workshops with Tony Hindhaugh, a successful producer and presenting trainer came very close.

Thanks to blogging I have transformed from someone who automatically headed to the back of the crowd for photographs to some kind of performing chimp at the front. 

I have not only got used to posing for photographs (wobbly belly, wonky teeth and all) but have also  presented my own radio show and appeared on local and national television. Pic of me below just after appearing on a panel debate show on Birmingham TV hosted by an old friend from Uni, Carl Jones (far right.)

madmumof7 panellist on Birmingham TV debate show

I may love the limelight now but I know my YouTube channel is not as good as it could be. Up until the sessions with Tony I considered that writing was my forte and I should stick with that and leave the medium of film to others. Since spending a few hours with Tony I have changed my mind.

Tony specialises in training presenters, particularly chefs and social media influencers who want/need training in on-camera skills.  His tips on where to position lighting and cameras was invaluable but for me, it was his expert advice about presenting which I found most useful and fascinating. 

He convinced me that even the best writers can benefit from good video skills and after giving some thought to how my own children and their peers prefer to access information, I had to agree with him. 

Thanks to his top tips and constructive criticism I now am the proud owner of a new set of lights and a renewed enthusiasm for making video content.Watch this space!

In between all of this excitement I got to relax and chat and eat. From the fresh fruit and pastries at breakfast to the hearty soups and pasta dishes, plus more cake and sweets than you could shake a stick at, we certainly didn't go hungry. Many thanks to the team, especially Jen from Mum In The Madhouse, who worked so hard to produce all the meals. I was happy to act as "kitchen bitch" alongside them.

breakfast at #flearetreat 2019 Tyn Ryhd

I also got a new headshot thanks to Jess from Jessica In Your Ear under the watchful eye of Derek Lomas who was running the headshot workshop. Just three shots and she captured this nice pic.

madmumof7 headshot

I didn't have time to get a nail makeover from the lovely and talented Jaime from Exquisite Digits (she also blogs at The Olivers Madhouse) but I enjoyed watching her work with gorgeous Gemini products from BioSculpture.

Jaime from Exquisite Digits using Bio Sculpture products at The Retreat 2019

It was really interesting chatting to her about her intensive training which she found challenging but very rewarding, and her enthusiasm for Bio Sculpture was inspirational. I got to take one of their nail polishes home and it's a joy to use- easy to apply and long lasting and glossy.

Bio Sculpture Gemini Nail Polishes

I never made it into the hot tub, didn't make it to any of the many other sessions and workshops from creative writing to product photography, and I was so exhausted I missed most of the after dinner socialising, but still felt more than satisfied with my experience. A big "thank you" to Sally, founder of Flea Ents and Who's The Mummy? for organising such a fabulous event.

Tyn Rhyd, Devil's Bridge, Wales #flearetreat

I hear rumours of another event in the pipeline (possibly with a festive theme) for November- keep your diary free and start saving now as I reckon it could sell out fast with people who have been to either of the two previous retreat events keen to join in the fun again.

Tickets are due to go on sale in June - keep an eye out on the Flea Network Community Group page on Facebook or on any of the Flea regional groups on Facebook - click the links below to add yourself to your local group. I'm the Communities Editor for Flea Ents so I'll be waiting there to greet you.

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