I never ever (ever) stop, so when I was invited to a bloggers’ retreat at Riverside Cottage with a group of fab family and lifestyle bloggers, I could not say no. The prospect of spending a couple of days doing nothing but relaxing was very appealing indeed. Lovely Donna at ‘What the Redhead Said’ kindly organised the whole thing for us.
Riverside Cottage is a hidden gem in the Hampshire countryside. With its wide open spaces, comfy bedrooms, spacious living areas and open fireplaces, it comes as no surprise that it was featured in the Sunday Times in a feature of ’25 Great British Holiday Rentals.’
My retreat started with a drive from North London with Laura, who is behind ‘Five Little Doves.’ When we arrived at Riverside Lifestyle, we were amazed at how peaceful and breathtaking our home for the next two days was.
We met the rest of ‘team retreat’ outside the yurt, which is open from March to October: Sara-Jayne at ‘Keep Up With the Jones Family’, Bridget at ‘Bridie by the Sea’, Lauren at ‘Scrapbook Blog’, Rosie at ‘Mummy and Boo’, Nicole at ‘The Littlest Darlings’, Donna at ‘What the Redhead Said’, Laura at ‘Dear Bear and Beany’ and Clare at ‘Mudpie Fridays’. I’d only had a very light breakfast that morning, so I treated myself to quiche and salad, followed by a large slice of coffee and walnut cake. Delicious!
We were all giddy at the prospect of doing nothing but relaxing, enjoying the silence and peeing on our own for a couple of days. We happily hopped to the front door of our holiday cottage. Let me take you on a tour…
The ten of us had plenty of room in the five bedrooms the cottage comprised. Holiday rentals can be a tad boring and plain-looking. Riverside Cottage is everything but! The cottage itself is made of three adjoining cottages, and it is full of nooks and crannies where my children would love to play their favourite game: peek-a-boo!
The cottage is brimming with traditional features like open fires, exposed wood beams and even a water pump.
It felt like a home away from home, and I particularly liked the quirky bits and bobs scattered all around.
The bright kitchen, with its island, Aga and spacious sitting area, was without the shadow of a doubt my favourite room in the house, closely followed by the long conservatory in which a large wooden table sat us all comfortably. We spent most of our time sat around the table chatting, eating and plotting future retreats.
Our first afternoon was spent in the pool, shared with the occupants of the Riverside Lodge, which sleeps four. My children would absolutely love the pool and the outdoor play area! So much space to run around…
We all got changed for dinner and guess what?
Prior to our visit, we had all agreed for a chef from The Little Kitchen Company to cook our 3-course dinner (£40 per head).
As our dinner was bubbling away on the stove, we had a glass of my grandad’s rosé champagne.
Our starter was salmon roulade or goat’s cheese served with a beetroot houmous, followed by chicken in a mushroom sauce.
For dessert, we had berries served with cream.
After dinner, a few of us went for a walk. I’ve written about it before: I am not comfortable in front of the camera, but my lovely friend Sara-Jayne made it her mission to capture a decent shot of me in my favourite new dress. Check her out. Dedicated, much?
I’d never worn a maxi dress before. I just thought they wouldn’t suit my petite frame, but I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it online and I had to have it. My girls call it my ‘Princess Dress!’
As the evening progressed, mixologist extraordinaire Donna made us delicious cocktail after delicious cocktail, courtesy of 31Dover.com.
I would lie if I said that getting up at 8 a.m. for yoga was easy, but it was certainly worth it: after a great night’s sleep and a bit of rejuvenating yet gentle exercise, I felt refreshed, full of energy and serene. Shelley was a wonderful teacher!
Now would a retreat be a retreat without a spa treatment? I had booked the ultimate massage experience for myself: a deep-tissue body massage and head massage. For 80 whole minutes, Jacqui applied pressure to my sore, tense body. She removed every knot and relieved my entire body of all stress. I felt like a completely new person when it was over, and I felt so light it was like I was walking on marshmallows. I could not recommend ‘Holistic Hens’ highly enough.
After a few hours in a state of deep relaxation, smiling and barely able to string two words together, I had a quick shower and joined my fellow bloggers for cream tea. The mid-afternoon treat, courtesy of our host Clare, was followed by a flower arrangement workshop with florist Judith Searles. Making a great was a lot easier than I had anticipated and we all had a great time!
That night, we had a takeaway pizza, and I left around 10 p.m. so I could be there on the Wednesday morning to wave goodbye to Crevette, who was off on his first ever residential trip with school.
Lauren also worked really hard to put together these amazing goody bags. My top favourites were the tote bag by Teespring, the London print by Alex Foster, the tea towel by Softer and Wild and the raincoat by Your Shores. The diffuser is already in my living room and the other bits and bobs are already packed for our summer in France and I can’t wait to try them: Lipsyl lip balms, EVY sun mousse, Chandos tights, Zap-It! (a great little zapper to relieve insect bites!) and body scrub.
Disclosure: I was invited on the retreat to Riverside Cottage for the purpose of this review but all photos and opinions are my own. I paid for all extras. Both dresses I wore on the evening and my pretty new sandals are gifts from JD Williams.