Cornwall Today magazine feature Botelet Cornwall August 2016
I've struggled for a while to grasp the meaning of the word "mindfulness". It's quite trendy at the moment, and I was somewhat sceptical of the need to "be in the present". Isn't that something we just do, all the time? The idea of paying someone to facilitate an everyday occurrence sounded like money for old rope, not far short of quackery.
I soon changed my mind, however, upon meeting Joey Hulin in the beautiful surroundings of Botelet, near Lostwithiel. I came to the sudden realisation that, rather than enjoying each day as it comes, I am often focused in the future, often in a state of semi-panic as the joint pressures of work and home conspire against me. What needs doing? How am I going to fit it all in? Have I forgotten anything? Mindfulness is akin to pressing the pause button on our thoughts, and stopping to savour the moment. "Spot on," says Joey, looking as if she might take notes. "Can you quote me on that?"
Joey launched Horizon Retreats in January, in a bid to "make mindfulness and meditation more accessible to everyday, hardworking people - it's so simple to tap back into the natural awareness that has been crowded out." She adds: "Mindfulness has been designed to improve the physiology of our body and the structure of our brain. It's scientifically proven to do us good."
Her own experience bears this out. "I had a busy job, lots of hours - I was super-stressed. I took time out to go travelling, learned meditation techniques and started practicing yoga. The most valuable insight I gained was that you don't have to run to the other side of the world to enjoy what's right in front of you. It's about appreciating the now.
"It's natural and normal to feel stress and sadness. It's fight or flight. But it's not a matter of running away. It's about bringing things under control, and being safe in the present moment."
We meet at Botelet due to Joey's fledgling partnership with masseuse Tia Tamblyn, whose husband Richard's family has lived here since 1860. Botelet is a 300-acre farm, converted into B&B and self-catering accommodation including some of Cornwall's first glamping yurts. The grade II-listed manor house dates back to the 17th century, with original features including flagstone floors, a huge granite fireplace and a private walled garden. The land is tenanted for grazing by cattle and sheep from April to November, an in countryside stewardship throughout the winter. "There is something really special about this place," says Joey. "You can't help but be mindful here."
It is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty; on the nearby ridge, Tia points out windswept trees marking the spot of Bury Down, a neolithic hill fort thought to be a meeting place for the nomadic peoples who inhabited the land between the Tamar and Fowey, some of whom may have established Botelet. It's also thought tthat a beacon was lit here to relay news of the Spanish invasion to Sir Walter Raleigh.
Today, Botelet is the epitome of bucolic bliss, and the perfect place to learn the art of mindfulness. Joey has run introductions to meditation here, and will host her first residential weekend in September. Today, I'm here with my good friend Sally, an exuberant Australian of Cornish descent. Sally first visited Botelet while exploring her Celtic roots, and felt an instant pull to the place - she has remained close friends with the Tamblyns ever since.
First, we step out on a mindfulness walk. Joey encourages us to concentrate on our environment, noticing the different greens in the trees, each individual blade of grass, the sound of bird song, the smell of the rain - tuning into each of our sense. Mind chatter - the trivial thoughts that pop endlessly into your head - is to be expected and acknowledged, and allowed to drift on. I was surprised at how this felt; usually my mind is on a million and one things, and I have a long-standing habit of talking to myself when I think no one is listening (I blame it on being an only child). Stopping that is hard, but necessary.
We walk around the estate, including the delightful garden, Richard pointing out historical features including a "promenade" that would once have been used by the ladies of the house. Then Joey and I retreated to Manor Cottage for a mindfulness session in front of a roaring log fire. With gentle music in the background, Joey took me from head to toe, guiding me through an awareness fo every part of my body - a deeply soothing experience.
In the afternoon, following a light and simple yet delicious lunch, Tia gives me a deep tissue massage in the house, although she is in the process of building a separate, dedicated treatment room in the garden. Her clientele switches, from visitors in the summer to locals in the winter. It's the perfect complement to Joey's mindfulness sessions, and I leave Botelet reluctantly, yet relaxed, ready to face life with a new weapon in my arsenal.
Mindfulness and Meditation at Botelet, near Lostwithiel
Words by Kirstie Newton photographs by Richard Tamblyn