Wellbeing and lifestyle review by Holly Hope Harper

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It is easy to be dismissive of the words detox and retreat, I myself had been in detox denial for much of my adult life having considered it a necessity solely for the old, fat and seriously unfit – how wrong an assumption that was. When asked to attend THE RETREAT I imagined an easy ride by the pool while the other attendants suffered at the hands of their own gluttony – but upon arrival I quickly understood that this would not be the case.

Here is my Wellbeing and lifestyle review

The attendants were all ages, shapes and sizes; the week was not weight-loss centric, people had come to learn how to be healthy, something we city slickers forget at almost every rushed lunchtime, at every work function and when ordering the weekly takeaway that many have become all too comfortable having.

Yvonne Wake is a registered public health nutritionist, qualification enough to head up such an operation – but her qualifications go far beyond this. A fitness expert, life coach, university lecturer and Wellbeing and Lifestyle consultant with over thirty years of experience, Yvonne’s knowledge on ‘being healthy’ is mind-boggling.

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THE RETREAT takes place twice yearly in June and September in Penne D’Agenais when you can stay for one week or two, it took little research to discover that this part of southwestern France is famous for wine and tobacco and it was with this in mind that I boarded the plane. Many of the London-based retreaters arrived on the same flight and were greeted by Yvonne Wake and Dan Bentley, resident Sports Masseur and only bloke allowed on campus. An hours drive through green upon green and we had arrived – I can honestly say I have never stayed anywhere more beautiful. THE RETREAT is held in a breathtaking 11th Century old shooting lodge the grounds endless, the pool perfect and the daily schedule far more engaging than one could possibly imagine.


I assumed I would have hours of ‘downtime’ – I packed three books, a to do list of gargantuan proportion and my laptop, but by day three I hadn’t turned so much as a page of Norman Mailer’s American Dream, my work emails remained in my inbox unread, my to-do list un-ticked.

Everyday the retreaters would meet at 8.30AM – dreams of long and leisurely lie-ins long forgotten, and make morning niceties over a cup of hot water and lemon, Yvonne would come bounding in, all energy and glowing health; on occasion she’d still be in her PJ’s but this made little difference to her infinite positivity. Soon enough we would be gathered ready for Pilates or Aerobics by the pool – after an hour or so of jigging about more than any of us were used to at that time of morning breakfast, both delicious and nutritious, would be served.

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By the time breakfast had been consumed it would be gone 11AM, and with a couple of hours to kill before lunch the retreaters would indulge in a treatment, or a softly suggested coffee enema. The package included two treatments – one from Dan Bentley, and the other from Deena Payne, aromatherapist and oddly enough, actress, known best for her 18 year stretch as Viv in Emmerdale. It is advised that you book yourself in for a treatment a day during your stay, something worth taking advantage of as the charge was only £35 an hour. The retreaters would lollop about wrapped in white sheets and sarongs, resting in one spot or another – be it the pool, the massage table or the bathroom floor, where I spent twenty minutes everyday wondering how one would describe the ‘joy’ of a coffee enema on paper.


Not all who came on THE RETREAT indulged in the coffee enema, but those that did felt the benefits and were endlessly vocal about them. Yvonne would suggest partaking by reeling off the endless list of benefits, which included weight loss, cleansing of the colon and liver, reduction of internal toxicity and the improvement of digestion. It became jovially referred to as a ‘Costa’ ie: ‘Just had yer Costa babe?’ – and soon enough those who hadn’t signed up for it, wished they had.

Lunch would be served – all the produce consumed on site was organic, locally sourced and prepared by Yvonne Wake, often asked for the recipes post-meal she would sigh and say she wasn’t really sure; upon further inspection, her preparation technique had more to do with what looked fresh, ensuring there was enough green on our plates and trying to serve as much raw or steamed food as possible. There was no meat offered during the week, twice we were given a sardine, which we all fell upon like a bunch of starved hyenas.

Yvonne’s teaching focused on the nutritional content of what we consume, portion control and daily exercise – the health holy grail.


In the afternoon we would meet for an hour-long walk that followed an hour of silence – which everyone found difficult at first but appreciated desperately by the end. A month on, the daily hour of silence is greatly missed. Dinner was a social affair, and often three courses, not what you expect from a retreat – everything was honestly delicious, which felt like a cheat in itself; you were rarely hungry, even on the ‘just juice’ days.

THE RETREAT is a fantastic experience, bespoke, brilliant and totally educative – the beauty of Yvonne, who is maternal, mad and the queen of spontaneity means THE RETREAT is never boring, two days are never the same, even with a schedule in place. The underlying lesson that you come away with is that this lifestyle is totally plausible – having a wild and wonderful life does not need to be sacrificed to be healthy, if anything, the two compliment each other beautifully.


For further information on THE RETREAT, or for a Health & Wellbeing consultation with Yvonne Wake in London please visit: www.wellbeingandlifestyle.co.uk