OK, back to my holiday. After a meandering journey down (and having negotiated the usual endless traffic jam on the M5 round Bristol, this time in 30C heat!) I made it to my ultimate destination, the coast of North Devon near Lynton/Lynmouth. I was staying at a Christian retreat, conference and holiday centre called Lee Abbey. I've stayed there many times before (though I think my last visit was as long ago as 2010) and it's a place I love very much. The week I had booked on was a 'Contemplation and Photography' programme: a chance to enjoy my hobby in the company of other like-minded people, to learn, to share the fun and to enjoy some quiet, reflective time too.
The centre nestles in an idyllic setting beyond what's known as 'the Valley of the Rocks'. It has a large estate of fields, woods and its own beach. It has never been an abbey. Originally it was a private house, built in the Victorian Gothic style. It eventually fell into disrepair and was bought in 1945 by some visionary Christians, who turned into the centre it now is.
It is home to a large, resident community from about 20 different nations, many of them young people who come for a year or more, for a variety of reasons: perhaps taking a gap year, exploring community life or a vocational call, developing skills, perfecting their English, living in a close-knit and hard-working Christian community, with all its challenges and joys. There is a smaller core management team of more mature individuals and families, who commit several years to the community but it is all run very collaboratively, a home rather than a hotel. Guests are treated extremely well and it has all the comforts of a good hotel (lots of cake!) with the added bonus of interesting programmes on a variety of topics and the opportunity to join in the spiritual life of the community - or not, as you wish.
I hugely enjoyed my stay, and the weather was as perfect as I've ever known it there, with sunsets to die for! It is truly what I call 'a thin place', where I feel very close to God and creation. I'm using my blog as a kind of holiday journal, so bear with me - but, over the next few days, do enjoy my photos of some of the beautiful places and things I saw.