The annual Open House event took place as usual on the first Bank Holiday in May and it was the busiest yet. Year on year visitor numbers have increased and to keep up with demand, there was even more on offer to showcase Minsteracres!

The popular and long standing House tours and the café remain the mainstays of the day and with around four hundred people through the doors, the tour team and the kitchen teams were busier than ever, coping with increased demand despite the unusually hot weather.

There was the opportunity to try a short meditation session in the Chapel led by Father Frank Trias who had his first Open House experience.  Father Frank said on the day “It was a good opportunity for people to spend a short period in the community chapel and experience a little taste of Christian meditation, with a chance to ask any questions about the retreat work at Minsteracres”.

Displays in the Retreat House highlighted the work of the Outreach and Conservation Teams and for the first time they were joined by Tynedale Horticultural Services who had plants for sale. “Let’s Get Growing” showed some of the goods they make and they also invited visitors to enjoy the beauty and silence of the Peace Garden where refreshments were available in the sanctuary. Katrina and Ross from the Peace Garden commented: “The sunshine drew lots of visitors into the Peace Garden where they enjoyed sitting by the pond, lying on the grass and exploring the whole area. Participants from the Let’s Get Growing Therapeutic Gardening Group took pleasure in serving refreshments, selling vegetable seedlings which they had grown from seed and talking to people about the Project. It was wonderful to see so many people relaxing in the tranquillity of this special garden”.

Of course, Father Mark’s shop was open and did a roaring trade although the popular man himself was on holiday in Ireland.

As in the past, people were attracted to Minsteracres either for the first time to satisfy curiosity of what might lie along the drive or to renew an old acquaintance, “I remember camping out in the woods when I was young. Dad used to drop us off and collect us and we were given milk from the kitchens. I wanted to see if it had changed,” a visitor said.

Open days are hard work – from preparation and planning, car parking and meeting and greeting, from leading tours to working in the heat of the kitchen and washing up, from talking to the visits about Minsteracres, to serving in the shop. The whole day could not have taken place without the great team work of the community, staff and the parish and volunteer teams. So thank to all of the Team involved and to everyone who helped to make it such a memorable day!

Jean Haldane, Volunteer Coordinator