Researchers at Oxford University and in particular Professor Sarah Gilbert have announced that they are cautiously optimistic that a vaccine will be available by Easter next year.  Now wouldn’t that be very apt timing—a time of rebirth.  Whether or not this is realised, it gives us a great sense of hope.  It is HOPE that I believe Minsteracres Retreat Centre and all other retreat centres have a vital role in providing in the future.  The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental wellbeing has been equally if not more damaging than the physical effects.  Retreat centres can provide a safe haven from all these worries; space to rejuvenate both spiritually and physically and we are very keen to play our part at Minsteracres Retreat Centre.

To this end we have planned and produced our programme for 2021 and have every intention of running each of the events to the best of our ability, social distancing notwithstanding.  In addition to face to face events we will also be offering online events as like many others we adapt to the opportunities that new technology offers.  This makes it possible to reach even more people and concomitantly lessens the impact on the environment too.  We are conscious that printed media might not be the best thing in the current circumstances so we intend to advertise all of our events on line.  So, please keep an eye on our website. 

We are blessed to have a fantastic retreat team with new members like Kathryn Turner who will be well known to many of you as a very experienced retreat giver.  The team have worked very hard to adapt their offer to suit the current circumstances.  The feedback we have received so far is very positive like this one from  Sue ”Thank you for all your care to create a covid secure safe welcoming environment- A beautiful haven”.

We continue to maintain the buildings and estate as far as financial constraints allow to ensure that they are just as presentable and welcoming as they ever were.  For those of you who may not have visited for a while you will see changes—new cattle grids, a partially re-surfaced drive, new fences, painted window frames and doors and refurbished bedrooms.  We have upgraded the WiFi so that it is now available in most of the Main House and now in parts of the Retreat House.  It is superfast and much more reliable than before.  This has enabled us to live stream events including Sunday mass from St Elizabeth’s, which I know a lot of you have enjoyed.  We have installed a new phone system, which uses the internet to make calls at a fraction of the cost of our old BT system.  All this we do for our guests to ensure that we are as hospitable as we can be within our means.

Finally, I just want to ‘introduce’ you to some new friends resident in both North Park and South Park.  We are collaborating with the Flexigraze scheme, which promotes the use of traditional breeds of grazing and browsing animals to maintain and conserve landscapes.  Thus we have 4 Exmoor ponies and a small flock of Cheviot-cross sheep in South Park and shortly we will introduce another small flock of sheep and a handful of Dexter cattle in North park.  They will be with us, on rotation, for the foreseeable future keeping the grass under control in both parks.  The intention of this regime is to enhance the ecological potential of our grassland for insects, birds and small mammals.