London’s Green Retreat

By Helen Tindale.

Nurture in Nature

Do you remember the Nice Green Van? Sixty-five musical chimes, spring-green livery, organic ice-cream, parties and festivals on the streets of Camden. It funded after-school cooking clubs and healthy-eating initiatives.  Ice-cream wars drove Nice Green Van off the streets to a safe home at Cecil Sharp House, where for five years we provided the folk folks with homemade and wholesome ingredients until invited to run the seventeenth-century bake-house café in the bucolic heath and woodland of Forty Hall estate in Enfield.

The site is home to a Georgian family house where we plan to develop London’s Green Retreat, an independent arts-based residential wellness centre offering mindful drawing, painting and writing, yoga, t’ai chi, holistic therapies, ceramics, gardening, singing and artisanal cookery set in peaceful green surroundings a step away from central London.

Fully funded places will be offered on ‘Before the Storm’, the non-medical therapeutic arts-based initiative offering early intervention for people undergoing cancer treatment, or suffering from low mood or depression.   

My brother Stephen was a committed environmentalist and social reformer who saw the dangers and risks of the modern world but who retained a sense of optimism that change and progress were possible. His agenda was wide, his interests broad and his work over 30 years touched on many issues: energy policy and the alternatives; a carbon-based economy; the environmental impact of the choices society was making; the quality of the air on Oxford Street; and the persistence of energy policy. Stephen never believed he had all the answers, but he always believed there were answers to be found. 

Two years ago on Stephen’s fifty-fourth birthday his 17-year-old daughter Josie cooked him a birthday supper. Two days later Stephen begged me to take him to the Crisis House at St Pancras. His GP prescribed an anti- depressant and put him on a list for CBT. But suffering from insomnia, anxiety and low mood, and finding nowhere to turn for help, difficulties compounded one upon another and the downward spiral of depression and hopelessness gripped him. On 1 July 2017 Stephen stepped in front of a tube train and died.

Stephen had not found help anywhere other than the chaotic, frightening acute mental health unit at St Pancras and Highgate. 

Keir Starmer, Stephen’s friend and colleague, and a group of others and I, saw the desperate need for a place of serenity and beauty, accessible and affordable.

London’s Green Retreat will be a unique, self-funded wellness centre, a place where people like Stephen can come to be in peaceful green surroundings amongst others. There will be six comfortable rooms in the family house, all spacious and light. A double-aspect kitchen with sociable refectory tables is ideal for preparing food and eating together and there are two acres of grounds for gardening and outdoor activities.

Bed and breakfast accommodation for guests attending functions at Forty Hall and Estate will cover costs and fund GP referrals for places on Before The storm.

Retreats for painters, writers,  artisanal cooks and yoga and venue hire for functions and weddings form part of the business case to provide a sustainable income.

“Go into the arts. The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Before The Storm aims to be a non-medical therapeutic initiative offering early intervention for people undergoing cancer treatment, professional burnout or suffering from low mood or depression. Self-efficacy can be the most powerful of healing tools. We want to be there Before the Storm hits.

“As a mental health professional working with people living with cancer, I wholeheartedly support this therapeutic retreat. It is so important for people to have some meaningful activity and the peace and space in which to conduct it. The sense of accomplishment in creating a tangible product, from start to finish – be it baking, pottery, writing or painting, helps them to experience a sense of wellbeing, healing and regain confidence in skills they had lost. Your initiative sounds like a little bit of light in the darkness’’

Cariline Westfield Lead Clinical Psychiatrist  NHS Trust

Please consider helping in any way you can – we would love to hear from you. or email:

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