The Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing retreats 2020

The Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing holidays
Yogandspice seasonal yoga and food week-end

Yogandspice was noted for food, foraging and five hours of yoga in the Guardian 10 of the best UK and wellbeing retreats. And of course our spectacular location. We are in the North York Moors National Park, but within walking distance of the beach. We know this is a special place.  But it is great when someone spreads the word as in The Guardians Jane Dunfords piece Recipe for a detox.

Food foraging and five hours of yoga

Food, foraging and five hours of yoga are part of our flagship Seasonal yoga retreats. The next one, featured in the Guardian 10 of the best UK wellbeing retreats, is  Seasonal yoga and food 19-21 June. These are full on week-ends for students who enjoy an energising style of yoga. And for people who want to participate in workshops and activities during their retreat. But there is free time to relax by the Valley View stream too. And a chance to chat with friends around the log fire in our new mezzanine relaxation area with and forest views.

Ayurvedic detox

Coming even sooner is our Spring Ayurvedic detox 20-23 March. While supporting yoga is part of the schedule, the focus of this four day/three night break is the healing power of nature. And eating home grown Seasonal home grown foodseasonal organic food to restore gut health. According to Ayurveda ‘dis-ease’ results from undigested food particles, or emotions/experiences  which form a substance called AMA. This AMA makes its way into the bloodstream and then wreaks havoc in the body. By following a simple diet of vegetables, and easily digested grains and pulses (no wheat or gluten) we can encourage the AMA to make its way back to the digestive tract where it is eliminated.


By joining a group for detox where all meals are prepared you remove a De stresslot of the stress that would accompany following a special diet in your home of work environment. And as stress contributes to toxic build up, de-stressing is part of the detox process.

The schedule includes time for walking, guided relaxation and cooking sessions so you can re-produce the Ayurvedic dishes at home. This enables you to continue the detox at home.

Because, according to Ayurveda we all have a different balance of the elements or ‘Dosha’s in our make up, some foods are more helpful to some than others. Every participant will be do an Ayurvedic assessment at the start of the week-end to make sure the diet and herbs are supportive.


Top ten reasons to book a yoga retreat in the UK

Connect with the natural world on a retreat.
Connect with the natural world on your retreat.

Yoga encourages us to be aware of the impact of our choices on our own health and that of the planet. As a species we haven’t done brilliantly so far. A retreat is an opportunity to live mindfully for a short period at least. To connect with yourself and the natural world

By choosing a UK venue for your retreat you….

1) Don’t have the stress of the airport experience, from packing and parking, to time pressure, to the to the hustle and bustle of security and the potential for delays.

2) Don’t need to worry so much about your carbon footprint.   Choosing not to fly is somewhere you can make a difference.

3) Don’t put your body out of balance before you even arrive. Even if there is no jet lag involved, plane travel is dehydrating, the food is not fresh, the atmosphere is artificial and harbours germs. In Ayurvedic terms flying increases your VATA (air and space element) while yoga retreats should be all about grounding.

4) Don’t have to readjust to a climate or diet that is not necessarily suited to your body type. Ayurveda teaches us that our gut health is best nurtured by eating food from our own country, in season of course.

Time for the positives….. you….

5) DO have a chance to car share with other participants – so making friends before you arrive. Most retreat organisers will be only too pleased to put you in touch.

6) DO have the option of using the our bus services which so need your support. According the the Department of Transport only 4 per cent of journeys were made by bus last year. When you travel by bus you help to save buses for others. And in our area we have the amazing Coastliner service too. So why not take the coast road ?

7) DO perhaps travel by ferry from The Netherlands  or Scandinavia. It’s low stress; low impact and climate difference  is not significant. 

8) DO spend your retreat connecting with the energy of the seasons – something the UK does very well.  

8) DO open your eyes to the beauty of the UK countryside with its immense variety and abundance of flora and fauna – and wildlife

9) DO have the flexibility to stay on one more night – or longer. Easy for drivers and pretty feasible with most forms for public transport too.

10) DO (and here’s where you may see my bias!),  visit some amazing places. Whitby, which has just been named the UK’s most popular holiday destination, is only two miles walk, cross country, from our protected woodland site: Yogandspice at Valley View.


My digital detox dilemma

Digital detox

Back in November I reached an all time high for daily screen time. An average of 4 hours 3 minutes every day for a week. But in that same period the Yogandspice Facebook reach, usually around 150, hit 2,638! This sums up my digital detox dilemma. And I don’t think I am alone.

Screen time drains your energy

We, like many businesses have a product that we are excited about…….. it’s a beautiful retreat venue where, along with home grown vegetables and the freshest of air, we suggest a digital detox to allow guests to enjoy the healing power of nature. Screen time drains your energy, physically and mentally, especially if you are hunched over a mobile. And, while selling the idea of connection, it limits your real life connection with the world around you.

But, as far as I can see, there is only one way to tell the world about Yoga & Spice at Valley View – our amazing venue where you can connect with yourself, with like minded people and the great outdoors – and it is via the internet. I have been some great on some great Marketing Seminars run by  North York Moors Tourism (which is how I know that Facebook reach is more important than likes or comments) and the message is loud and clear.

Communicate with customers

Building an on-line presence is practically the only way to find, and communicate with, customers. Unless of course you just hand your publicity over to one to the big boys. In our case the company is called Book Yoga Retreats. And yes, we have done that too:

Leave the phone at home

Notwithstanding the need for promotion, my New Year’s resolution is to leave the phone at home  – and not turn it on until after breakfast. The first is not so hard as I don’t go out much (too busy on social media). The second will take some self-control. Ask me to say no to chocolate or a glass of wine and I have no problem.  But starting the day without a quick glance at the mobile is proving harder than I thought.

But that’s all the more reason to stick to my resolve. As yogi I am particularly aware that addictions come in many guises, usually first described as habits. And they limit us from reaching our full potential.

Wake up call

And that four hours (forget the three minutes) was a wake up call! In four hours I could meditate; take Rosie to the beach; clean the house; phone a friend or family member – and get my accounts in order. But then of course I wouldn’t have any accounts if I didn’t have any business. Back to my dilemma.

And I just thought of something else. My phone is my camera. If I don’t take it with me how can I show you all the beautiful sights around Valley View. But if do, I compromise my own experience of them. What to do?


Is JOMO on your agenda?

Have a joyful festive season

……….however you spend it.

We all know about FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. But what about JOMO? Can we find joy in missing out?

FOMO stems from social media posts where we are all having a great time. And Christmas and New Year provide ample photo opportunities – and of course genuine heartwarming times with family and friends. And most of us wouldn’t miss them. But do we have to be having a great time all the time – and telling others about it too?

No…… appears though that FOMO is on the way out for many millennials. More and more people now value time and space above material possessions.

So if FOMO is being replaced by JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out what does that mean for you?

If you stop looking for photo opportunities and start just looking you may see the world a little differently. When we take time and space we notice new things about ourselves and our surroundings. And becoming aware of a behavioural pattern is the first stage towards changing a bad habit or nurturing a strength. That is what yoga teaches us.

Tuning into our natural environment is the only way we can begin to minimise our negative impact on the world. And as we work with nature we begin to feel it’s power to recharge us. That’s what Ayurveda is about.

I’ll make this a short post – as I need a little JOMO myself. And I am hoping that if you fancy some, or want to give a special gift in 2020, you’ll be touch.



Take the coast road

Coastliner Bus from York to Whitby
Leeds or York to Whitby in comfort

Last week-end I ditched the car and travelled 250 miles by public transport. The highlight was the Coastliner bus which runs from Leeds and York direct to Whitby, stopping at Ruswarp, one mile from Yoga & Spice at Valley View. While I wasn’t enthused with the idea when I set off, I can’t wait to do it again.

Not only were the views from the bus stupendous, but I could charge my ailing phone on a USB point. As a late starter in the world of digital tickets the prospect of a flat battery had been causing me concern. There was even a free wifi and a lap top friendly workspace. Not that it tempted me as I was too busy looking out of the window…….

So back to the stunning scenery. The route starts with historic York with its Roman walls and famous Gothic style Minister. It passes through the market towns of Malton and Pickering. Then it crosses the spectacular North Yorkshire Moors National Park, passing by the awe-inspiring Hole of Horcum.

Goathland of Heartbeat fame

There are stops at picturesque towns and villages including the riverside Malton and market town of Pickering. The highlight is probably Goathland, home to the ITV series Heartbeat.

Goathland of Heartbeat fame

All year round

And this amazing service operates seven days a week all year round For anyone considering a retreat or relaxing holiday what better way to make the transition from hectic life to peace and tranquility?

My New Year’s resolution is to look for public transport options first. Another joy of my recent travels was the friendly exchanges I had with fellow passengers. In this era of answer machines and computer chats it was truly refreshing. And if a comfortable seat, wonderful scenery, nice people, and a stress free journey aren’t enough, there is always the carbon footprint benefit too.




Are yoga retreats for beginners?

The short answer is yes – yoga is for everyone. And the variety of yoga retreats and yoga holidays available in the UK alone is increasing daily. It seems that people are looking to take time out to do something that will relieve some of the stresses of modern life. And, the word is out that yoga might do just that.

Different styles of yoga

Many prospective yoga students are daunted by the range of styles. There are energetic hot yoga classes which sweat out toxins and tension. Or restorative classes where you are propped up with bolsters, blankets and cushions to begin the process of letting go.

Some styles, including Ashtanga and Sivananda, follow the teachings of a guru and have a set sequence of postures and their students. These can be very powerful as the movements become a sort of mindful meditation. I have personally enjoyed two Ashtanga retreats but would say that both a level of the physical fitness and a knowledge of the postures made that possible.

Other styles you might come across when researching classes or retreats are Vinyasa Flow (where the postures flow, almost like a dance) or Iyengar, which has an emphasis on correct alignment. Retreats often include an evening Yin class with deep postures. Then there is Hatha, which simply means posture. Hatha classes are usually slower moving class with plenty of explanations and modifications.

Making your choice

My experience is that all yoga teachers are welcoming and help students work at their own level.   But I have  seen students put off by a style of class where the postures are physically too demanding. And others who felt that the class was not as challenging as they would like.

If you are a sporty type, you may well be able to participate in a stronger style of yoga with little experience. Though it might not be as beneficial to you as a class that helps you to slow down and become more aware. On the other hand, if you have aches and pains, or are not particularly fit, then you will most likely feel happier in a slower moving class. Then the teacher can help you find the posture variation that works for you.

Best for beginners

In the Yogandspice programme some retreats are particularly suitable for beginners. In particular our Whitby yoga holidays introduce you to yoga. Our Yoga and walking breaks also introduce the yoga postures in a way that is accessible to all – starting with traditional Hatha classes. Of course experienced yogis can enjoy these retreats too. As a they will know, there’s a lot more to yoga than correct alignment in the postures. But that is for a different blog……..




Cook Chinese vegan food

Traditionally vegan
Sichuan aubergine – traditionally vegan

‘Cook Chinese in Yorkshire’ was the name of a Facebook Group I set up when I returned from 10 years in China. I have just renamed it ‘Cook Chinese vegan food’. http://Cook Chinese vegan food.

I can hear the cries of disbelief. Not many vegan specials on the menu at your local takeaway. Nor many vegans in China, except by necessity. And yet, for me, a vegan Chinese meal is the easiest to plan and cook.

The vegetables are the dishes

In China, the word cai means vegetables. It also means a dish of food ……..the vegetables are the dishes. A Chinese chef treats vegetables as ingredients in their own right, not insignificant sides. And in China veggies are cut, seasoned, and cooked to a turn; not roughly chopped and boiled or steamed.

multi dish meal
Multi dish

In most Asian countries, a meal is a selection of dishes and everyone shares. It is polite to take a bit of each one, whether you like it or not. In the West, on the other hand, we choose what we like, and eat all of it. And more, often than not, its mainly meat or fish.

Meat, in China, was always scarce and used in shreds or small pieces. It was mainly pork. Pigs use the least resources and recycle the most. As committed vegetarian, I don’t dwell on this, but it made sense at the time.

So Chinese people have hundreds of ways to cook delicious vegetable dishes. Vegan not vegetarian, simply because Chinese cuisine never adopted dairy.

Legumes and rice

Soya beans were the major source of protein in China. Tofu, in many guises, is made daily. I won’t discuss the pros and cons of soy; it has fed billions for generations. And any pulse, combined with rice makes a complete protein. If you are not a fan there are other pulses which you can use in your multi-dish meal. Mung beans, also used in China, are the most digestible.

Meat dishes travel

So why is it so difficult to find tasty vegan dishes at Chinese restaurants in the UK? It comes down to two things. Profits and practicality. Meat commands higher prices, has a long shelf life, and it is easy to source (pork is pork). Vegetables, on the other hand, need to be bought daily, and tend to vary from country to country.


Happy with meat based menus, and their higher profit margins, Chinese chefs have made little effort to make Chinese style dishes with local British ingredients.

Watch this space.



Worms retreat too….

Or why we don’t clean up for our guests


Our woodland at Valley View is a wildlife haven. We see barn owls at night, and deer at dawn. The local badger population love to raid the fat balls that we buy for our bird population. We just hope they are storing rather than gorging. Because as winter approaches supplies will become scarce.

So, while we keep the path to our secluded log cabin swept clean and safe, we are careful not to clean up areas that could provide valuable habit. And, as the leaves begin to cover the ground we leave them lying. Then the humble worm can do its important work.

Our soil is heavy clay. When a worm pulls a leaf down into the ground it creates a little track or tunnel. This aerates the soil and makes drainage holes and, most importantly spaces that the growing tree roots can move into. And not only do we humans need trees to breathe but trees house a myriad of other species too.

Space for tree roots 

Space was the subject of our last blog. Now we’re are talking about space for tree roots. We have four acres where we can nurture wildlife. We leave dead tree trunks for insect life and piles of brash for hedgehogs and mice and creepy crawlies which in turn feed owls and birds. Even fungus feeds the eco-system by breaking down old wood and turning it into nutrients. And similarly worms pre-digest mouldy leaves which in time becomes food for plants.

Of course, if you have a smallish garden you may struggle with the idea of leaving it unkept. And while we know that our barn owls will keep the mice from our kitchen you  may be keen to keep little creatures at bay.

Worm rules

But there are small things at everyone can do for worms and wildlife :

  • Avoid using coverings as weed control. It kills the soil and and all it harbours.
  • Let leaves lie a little longer, at least in some areas, so the worms can do their work
  • Use organic products such as rotted chicken or horse manure as fertiliser; synthetic products will endanger your worm population and more.
  • Remember worms retreat too.



Yorkshire, yoga and the missing element

Yorkshire waterfall - positive ions

Yorkshire, yoga and the missing element

In 2020 Yorkshire will enjoy The Dark Skies Festival in the North York Moors and Dales, Stargazing at Tan Hill, the highest pub in North Yorkshire and Underneath the Stars Music Festival in Barnsley, West Yorkshire. The skies are big in Yorkshire, because Yorkshire Dark skies has plenty of good quality air and space for that air to move. And when air moves freely, especially near water or in woodland, it creates negative ions.

Negative ions

Negative ions improve our ability to absorb oxygen. Increasing your concentration of negative ions has been shown to benefit health and improve mood.  But you don’t need a scientific study to prove that spending time near a waterfall or river, in the forest or elsewhere is nature makes you feel good.

Funny that, the negative ions are the good ones and positive are the bad guys. Positively charged ions are increased by fluorescent lights, carpet, metal, plastics, microwaves and air pollution. All things that make the modern world go round and yet don’t really make us feel good. In fact more often than not the positive ions they generate make us ill. Studies have shown  a link between positive ions and many chronic health conditions including asthma, allergies and even depression.

Let go

Which brings me on to yoga and the missing element. And I am talking here by the way, of yoga as a philosophy or way of life, rather than an exercise class. There is a yogic term ‘Dukkah’ which has many translations but my favourite is ‘unsatisfactoriness’ – that feeling that hangs around and leads us to believe that life would be better if………………and will often lead to the acquisition of more stuff. In yoga we try to let go of some of that stuff and be in the moment. (Which is where a yoga class comes in). And when we do that we let in the element that is missing in so many of our lives, which is space.

We need space. We need it for  mind and body to function optimally. And we need it in our hearts and souls.  In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science,  Space or Ether is the first of the five great elements, which is then filled by the others. Winter is the season of Ether when all is laid bare. It is a good time to explore the emptiness in the the knowledge that best way to fill the space is not with stuff but by physical and emotional nourishment. By fresh air and food and with nurturing relationships.

Big skies

So back to Yorkshire, with its big skies, and low levels of light pollution. Yorkshire has ancient woodlands, rushing waterfalls and grand expanses of rugged countryside.  It has a turbulent and fascinating history and its ancient civilisations thrived by living close to nature.  And you can still find space today.

Give someone space

And a heartening trend, as Christmas approaches, is the move towards buying experiences not things as presents. An experience can be nourishing in a way that a material item never will be. It will provide an opportunity to live in the moment and it will almost always involve a degree of social connection. And it doesn’t create landfill.

So, as the festive season, with its long tradition of exchanging gifts, approaches why not consider giving your loved ones some space? There’s plenty in Yorkshire.

Our Yoga & Spice site at Valley View is brimming with positive ions from our own waterfall and protected woodland. And we can introduce you to woodland paths,  trickling brooks,  cliff tops and spacious beaches. With yoga and relaxation practices to help you find inner space too.