Questions people ask ...

What's it like to come on retreat at The Vine at Mays Farm?  Are there comfortable beds?

Is the food any good?

And what's it like spiritually  ... is it safe? helpful? How does it FEEL?

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One of the recent retreatants, who came for a couple of nights, has just posted a blog in which she describes her time here. And she has very kindly given me permission to reproduce it for you to read.

The Revd Claire Maxim is a full time Anglican priest, who blogs and tweets regularly. You can read her blog below, or you can go straight to her own website and read it, if you click HERE.





Stolen from The Vine at Mays Farm websitePhoto stolen from The Vine at Mays Farm website

No, I haven’t turned into a surrender monkey, cheese eating or otherwise. But I did run away for a few days last week, to The Vine at Mays Farm. I heard about it via Penelope Swithinbank, who tweets as @minstriesbydsgn. Mays Farm is a beautiful, and until recently decrepit, farmhouse in a small Wiltshire village. Penelope and Kim saw it, loved it, and rescued it, as part of their vision of running a retreat centre.

I’ve followed the story of the uncovering, rebuilding, and sheer toil of restoring the house with great interest, although I didn’t do anything useful to help. But once it became known that retreats could be booked, I booked.

I had the joy of being the only guest in the house that week. And it is no exaggeration to say I felt instantly at home there. Many of you who know me will know how much I like to “know” where I am, that I like to study the maps, that I can only relax once I have got the hang of the layout of buildings that are new to me. For some reason, this didn’t apply to Mays Farm at all. I did eventually study a map – I went for a walk on one morning, trying to dodge the rain. Penelope had given me a 1:25000 OS map, and some directions for different walks, all in a plastic folder. (The plastic folder is important, trust me.) I set off confidently, and then, yes, it turned into a typical Claire walk. I managed to get myself lost not once but twice, which wouldn’t have happened if I had a) followed the map correctly; b) read the directions properly; and most importantly c) some idea of which side is left and which side is right. And it poured. I was quite literally dripping wet by the time I got back.  But I had a great walk, the countryside was beautiful, I scarcely saw another soul, and my soul was restored. Knowing that I could have a hot shower and lunch when I got back helped too!

Practicalities? My room was beautiful to look at, warm, airy, and as comfortable as the bed. Everywhere was not only scrupulously clean, but cared for. The lounge was a haven with its wood burning stove, and the food…..Penelope, you are a wonderful cook!

But the feel of the place is what I will remember. I needed a safe space where I could wrestle with some difficult stuff that has been accumulating over the summer. Penelope helped me with that (she’s a talented priest who does spiritual direction). But what helped even more was the feeling of being in a place filled with love, prayer, a generous spirit and a genuine care for people. I will return.

Penelope, Kim, and Gracie the dog, thank you.

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So now you know. And if you would like to come and stay for a night or two or more, get in touch (01666 838332 or email

Come by yourself. Or come on an organised retreat. 

- There are still a few spaces available on the Advent Retreats (*see below for details)

- In January and February there will be some themed weekends Hotel Du Chocolat, using chocolate as an illustration for God's extravagant grace (with chocolate tastings, chocolate fountain, hot chocolate around the fire pit in the evening ... but you don't have to like chocolate to come!) Bring your women's group and choose your weekend dates!  There's a midweek one planned for clergy February 24-26.

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Looking forward to welcoming you to The Vine  .... where you are encouraged to spend time to reconnect with the One who said, "I am the Vine, you are the branches ... remain in me." (John 15)


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Dec 9-11          Mainly for clergy and those in full-time ministry. Arrive Monday late afternoon, leave Wednesday after lunch

Dec 13-15       Weekend retreat, open to all. Arrive Friday late afternoon, leave Sunday after lunch.

Stressed already with thinking about preparations for Christmas? Needing some space to be reminded of what the next few weeks are really about?  This Advent Retreat will include brief meditations, times of silent reflection, some prayer and worship. Sit by a roaring wood burner to have some down time; enjoy a brisk country walk to clear the mind; have an early night and a long sleep in a comfy bed  - with breakfast in bed the next morning if you would like.

Led by Penelope Swithinbank, it will be fairly casual– the whole idea is to have a place and time to escape the madness of the Christmas rush! Take just a few hours to be intentional about watching and waiting for the coming of the King and it could make all the difference to your Christmas this year. 

2 nights full board: £90 per person sharing twin room with ensuite bathroom; £110 single occupation of twin room with ensuite bathroom



take a look at our new website! 

It’s the retreat part of Ministries by Design