We all need a break from the day-to-day stress that life can throw at us, sometimes we need to relax and unwind for a couple of days in order to reignite our positive emotional feelings and to function properly. We all know that a few evenings of poor sleep can lead to a dysfunctional mind, which in turn affects our working days.

In order to relax, many find the easiest way is to go on holiday, to a peaceful retreat, such as Minsteracres, a Christian retreat based in the beautiful countryside of Northumberland, in the North East of England. The centre is set in 110 acres of beautiful land with a lake and many scenic walking paths around the area.

During your stay at Minsteracres, you can come alone or join a group retreat, depending on the type of stay you are looking for. Further to this, set in their beautiful historic buildings and estate, they have spaces for prayer and room to hire if you want to organise your own retreat or events. Meals are provided during your stay, using fresh and local produce, along with their own vegetables which are planted and grown on-site by the volunteers.

In recent news, Minsteracres have won a £9,200 Big Lottery Fund grant for a year-long project to provide training opportunities for 13 to 80 year olds, to improve the wildlife habitats on the estate. The bid is called ‘Wind in the Willows’, named after Ratty, a character water vole from Kenneth Grahame’s famous novel. There are currently water voles living in the lakes, and this project will help the team to create open water and clear the water banks for the voles to feed and nest in.

Work has already began on this project with 170 pupils and 25 teachers from Bede Academy visiting the retreat earlier in July. During the Academy’s annual environment day, the pupils helped to cut back trees from the water edge, cleared flag iris in the ponds and also started to put posts in for a fence to keep sheep and other animals from entering the waters.

Once the fence is complete, up to 1,000 trees will be planted including birch, ash, willow and alder trees during February next year. From here, woodland management will begin and the new wood will be used to teach green wood working skills.

The environmental consultant who is leading the project, Andrew Pennington explains, “This grant offers us a unique opportunity to have people as young as 13 working alongside our established conservation volunteers – some as old as 80.

“Getting young and old to work together is something I’m really passionate about.” he explains, “When you get people collaborating on a project you can see conversations begin between them which break down the preconceptions of each about the other, and that’s a really good thing.

“We were so pleased to be invited to apply to the fund. It was a simple application and the process was really quick! Now that Bede Academy pupils have kick-started it, we’ll work with our own conservation volunteers and others to complete it within the year.”

If you are interested in learning more about the scheme please visit www.minsteracres.org for more information. On their website you will find information about their retreat packages along with a number of events which are running throughout the year.