Words by Bethany Allen
Images by Lizzie Churchill
When we cross the boundary from earth to water we immerse ourselves in another world, our hearts slow and the clarity of what’s truly important becomes as clear as the water around us.
Based in Port Navas, on the skirts of the Helford river, the Salt Sisterhood retreat is nestled within a beautiful country home, clad in wood with French windows and a terracotta roof; the house blends into the surrounding environment of woodland and wildflowers, creating a welcoming cocoon within nature. “To connect women with each other, to connect to nature and your environment, and most importantly to connect to yourself.” It’s the core concept of connection that runs throughout the Salt Sisterhood’s unique retreats. Run by water soul and yoga enthusiast, Lauren Biddulph, these retreats provide women with the chance to slow down from the pressures and stress of modern society and immerse themselves in the gentle embrace of the ocean’s touch and the woodland’s warmth.
Lauren has been teaching yoga for four years and has worked on various other retreats, giving her valuable insight into what kind of experience she wanted to cultivate for her guests. “When I collaborated on other retreats a seed was sown, and as that seed began to grow, I realised I could create my own retreats where, rather than the focus being on surfing, it would be on yoga and wild swimming instead.”
Surfing retreats are appealing for their own reasons, but the fast pace and intense physical exertion can leave you feeling exhausted, comparably the combination of wild swimming and yoga is an altogether more relaxing experience. The focus here is to slow down and reconnect with our environment and most importantly, with ourselves. “Combining being in the water with yoga and healthy, wholesome food; to nourish mind, body and soul.”
For Lauren, the inspiration to pursue wild swimming stemmed from numerous influences throughout her life. Reading Wallace J Nichol’s novel Blue Mind, for example, opened her eyes to the scientific explanations behind why we feel a connection to the water and why being near water, in any form, has an immediate positive physiological effect on the body. As well as this, Lauren has been an avid surfer for the last 15 years since moving to Cornwall to study Illustration at Falmouth University, and, having grown up on the Isle of Wight, she cannot imagine a life without the ocean at her fingertips. The benefits of wild swimming go beyond the physical: as Lauren has experienced first hand, it also has an amazing effect on mental health. “I used to suffer with anxiety and issues with my mental health in general, one of the things that helped me was getting in the sea because afterwards I always felt renewed. As soon as I dunk my head under the water I let go of everything that superficially worries me. When you get in the water it’s like nothing really matters, you’re just here in this space surrounded by nature, allowing you to reconnect to the bigger truths of life and reset your body and mind.”
When discussing the Salt Sisterhood with Lauren, the thoughtfulness that has gone into creating the retreat becomes increasingly apparent as our conversation progresses. The combination of yoga, wild swimming, a cosy and welcoming country home and nutritious food are already the ingredients for a well-balanced and restorative retreat. Lauren then reveals that there is a theme to each day of the retreat and that each theme relates to an activity. Bravery, creativity, self-care and grounding are the main themes that are engaged with during the week.
“Bravery involves optional rock jumping and this is also tied into the theme of the yoga session, our chefs then try to connect the food to the theme as well, which is awesome. For creativity, our focus is drawing; self-care incorporates notions of mindfulness and meditation and finally, grounding engages with the concept that the earth carries a charge and it’s important for us to connect to this charge.”
The underlying value of connection within the retreat also extends to Lauren and her husband Patrick. Patrick is the retreat’s lifeguard and as an illustrator by profession (Cornish Lines), he leads the creativity drawing session as well. This collaboration between the couple lends another layer to the retreat, one of love and support that extends throughout the group and creates a family-like atmosphere. Guests have commented that the retreat feels like a ‘bubble’, an escape from reality and a safe place where friendships are founded and continue long after they leave the Helford’s mesmerising shores.
The Salt Sisterhood provides guests with the chance to submerge themselves in another world, a rejuvenating cocoon where the fast pace of life slows by the sea’s touch. The restorative yoga classes complement cold water swimming and the wholesome food will energise you ready for the days ahead. In a world that’s so full of distraction, where connections come in the form of blue screens and phone calls, it’s important to value the other connections that we should all strive to maintain. Connections to the present moment, to the natural world and most importantly, to ourselves.