The world of blogging has changed. Somewhere that I once considered a very safe bubble, had started to feel very different. The media likes to batter blogging, there have been misconceptions about blogging being all about freebies, and then the blogging world itself has felt a little fractured of late. Like any job, blogging has its fair share of politics and drama. For me, blogging is no longer shiny and new and I was starting to feel a little jaded. I was slightly fearful that my blogging bubble was about to burst.
Falling Out Of Love With Blogging?
Blogging had become too mechanical. I was fed-up of the relentless social media promotion, looking at stats, worrying about GDPR, etc etc. I wanted to get back to why I blogged. I just wanted to enjoy writing again. That’s why I was over the moon when I first read about the Flea Retreat organised by the lovely Tots100 team and brainchild of Sally from Who’s The Mummy. It promised to be a weekend of creativity, what’s not to love?
The Flea Retreat
It sounded like it had the magic ingredients for an amazing weekend. A small group of bloggers taking part in workshops led by industry experts. Yet, the price initially put me off. It came in just under £300. However, when I totalled it up and realised that I could get bargain flights, I jumped at the opportunity. If anything the price for this weekend was an absolute bargain. For that price you got two nights’ accommodation, all of your food, workshops and more. Where else can you go on a bloggers’ retreat and find yourself having a presenting workshop with actual TV presenters, creative writing the next moment, going on a beach photography walk and then paddle boarding out at sea? This weekend was about living in the now, enjoying every moment, creating memories and the sharing of stories.
The event ran from Friday to Sunday and I had to convince my husband that it was worth him using a day of his leave so that I could go. Luckily, he was all for me going. He was probably visualising a weekend of uninterrupted football once the children were in bed. I had spent the previous months excitedly choosing all of my workshops and I made some last minute changes too. There were so many fantastic sounding workshops that I found it really hard to choose.
I was nervous about going to the Flea Retreat as I felt I didn’t really know anyone who was going. I was also getting more and more anxious about leaving sleepy Jersey and hitting the hustle and bustle of the mainland. So it was at some unearthly hour on a Friday morning that I woke-up, threw bits into my suitcase (I like to live life on the edge when it comes to packing!) and headed to the airport. It took a plane, bus, train and then a minibus driven by the lovely Sarah from Toby Goes To Bananas, before we finally arrived at Croydon Hall in deepest, darkest Somerset. We had found ourselves hurtling down narrow lanes, (even narrower than Jersey lanes!) before we emerged into the sunlight to see Croydon Hall nestled at the end of a long driveway.
Immediately I felt like the journey had been worth it. The setting was stunning and the house was the perfect venue for the weekend. I met my roomie, Tayla from Motherhood The Real Deal, who was pretty much the perfect person with whom to share a room. Not only does she struggle to get a decent night’s sleep like me, but she also likes to retire to bed at a decent hour. We really were like a pair of grannies. Although, Tayla is one very inspiring and kick ass Granny.
On arrival we were given our own personalised schedule and the comfiest hoodie I have ever worn, and continue to wear. In fact, the hoodie might walk to the washing machine in protest soon. We then gathered in the gardens. Everyone was spread out enjoying themselves; there were shrieks from some very brave bloggers who were enjoying the outdoor pool, prosecco being popped (not me as I am still doing the 100 days sober challenge, I may have looked wistfully at it) and people relaxing on huge beanbags. I felt no waves of anxiety. I was enjoying being in the moment, and taking in the glorious view. There were rolling fields as far as the eye could see. I did contemplate galloping around the garden singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music”, but I managed to restrain myself.
As dusk started to approach we gathered as a group and took part in a yoga session.The yoga session was run by the awesome Rachel, who took us through the moves and encouraged us to set positive intentions for the weekend. I finished the session feeling incredibly relaxed but also energised and ready for the weekend. I was full of positivity and I firmly squashed the bubble of doubt that threatened to float to the surface.
After yoga there was a dusk photography session run by the very talented Tom Arber. The light by this point was just divine. The sun was starting to make its slow descent and everything was bathed in the most gorgeous light. You couldn’t help but feel full of peace. We then took part in a scavenger hunt which was great fun. We hurtled round the grounds trying to find the letters that made up the word, which was a clue to the film we would be watching that night. The word was ‘Watermelon’. Can you guess the film?
Dinner was a lovely informal affair. The tots100 team, including Lindy from Squidgy Boo, Monika from Mum On The Brink and Louise from Pink Pear Bear worked hard to serve us some yummy grub. Over dinner I chatted with all sorts of bloggers; there were bloggers who blog for a living, long-established bloggers, new bloggers etc, but we all felt on the same level. Everyone was welcoming and happy to chat, there were no cliques. I am horrendously shy but even I felt at ease.
Writing and Photography
The next day was filled with photography and creative writing. I started the day with yoga session at 7 am. I rose just as the sun was coming up and I was excited for the day to start. The yoga session was brilliant and I felt relaxed and at ease with Rachel leading the class. Again, it was very much focused on setting positive intentions and about gathering our energy for the weekend.
I then attended two creative writing sessions run by the very talented Kirsty Pelling from The Family Adventure Project. She encouraged us to free write, to take inspiration from our surroundings and to write without editing. At first I struggled with the no editing. I have been trying to write a novel for years and a big frustrating part of the process has been that I will just delete huge chunks of the book because I feel that it isn’t good enough. Kirsty has made me realise that I just need to try and go with the writing process a bit more. Let the writing take me forward and stop holding myself back through the excessive editing.
In the first session we were gently encouraged to share our work but I didn’t feel comfortable enough. Instead, I briefly wished for the ground to open up and swallow me whole. I felt massively out of my comfort zone. However, by the second session Kirsty had really put me at ease and I felt comfortable enough to share my work. This is a massive step for me. When I first started this blog, I didn’t tell anyone because I was so embarrassed. However, I have realised that sharing your work is a key part of the process, you need to read it aloud to really hear how your piece flows and works together. I also loved hearing everyone’s work. They were all so unique, and I enjoyed listening to how we all interpreted our task differently.
Kirsty’s workshops were really inspiring and I have come away feeling excited about blogging and my novel again. I have lots of tips and ideas that I hope I will be able to apply to my blogging in the future. In the afternoon, I piled into the minibus with some other lovely bloggers and we headed through the glorious Somerset countryside towards the beach. I probably misjudged where to sit on the bus as I found my stomach swirling and I prayed that we would arrive at our destination before I was sick. The journey was well worth it because we arrived at a perfect pebbly beach with a harbour.
There was so much to photograph and see. Tom encouraged us to spread out, telling us that the best pictures are often taken where no one else is. Instead of looking for the obvious, we should be looking for the smaller details. I set about finding beauty in the less obvious and after an initial stress, I enjoyed experimenting with the camera, and just taking in the scenery. I normally just take photos on my camera phone and leave Mr C to use the proper camera. However, after a week at Flea Retreat, I am ready to experiment with the camera.
Leaving With New Friends
That evening we enjoyed a meal that was cooked by outside caterers. It was lovely to catch-up and chat with friends, and I felt that I left the Flea Retreat with new friends. The next day I was really sad to leave early. However, my taxi driver, Trish, was a font of information and kept me entertained all the way to Taunton. I learnt that Croydon Hall was once a school for naughty children. Obviously the perfect location for a load of bloggers then. I also learnt that Croydon Hall was up for sale and briefly harboured an idea of buying it and opening up a home for worn out bloggers. Then Trish told me that we would need just over 2 million. Hmm, a little out of my price range. Perhaps we should all club together?
Just What The Blogging World Needs
The Flea Retreat is just what the blogging world needs. It was a weekend that took us back to the joy and love of storytelling. It reignited my love for blogging, and it inspired and rejuvenated. In short, it is everything that I have been looking for when it comes to a blogging event. Instead of being sat in a room listening to a talk, we were on our feet, we were exploring and we were getting hands on and learning firsthand. I came away feeling like I had learnt loads, I also came away feeling like I wanted to shout about how amazing and wonderful blogging and the blogging community is.
In short the Flea Retreat was flipping fantastic.
A huge and massive thanks to Sally and the team for putting on such a memorable weekend. I don’t know how you did it and I can only imagine how stressful it must have been behind the scenes.
Now, can you start planning the next one please? 😉