Come and enjoy this place of spiritual sanctuary – and warmth.

You can sit …. read …. pray …. Think

Or just sit.

And be renewed and refreshed, as you step away for a while from the busyness of your demanding stressful life, into this place of quiet and rest.

Photo: Lovely warming fire in the retreatants' sitting room! Come and enjoy this place of spiritual sanctuary - and warmth!

Lovely warming fire in the retreatants' sitting room - installed just today!

Imagine sitting here awhile to enjoy BEING

Come for a day.

Come for a weekend.

Come for as long as you need.

Come for refreshment, renewal.

Come for remaining in the Vine (John 15:4)

More details on the Retreats page – click here to reach it


The Vine at Mays Farm is officially launched and open. And it was a very special day, as friends old and new came to help the launch and have a look around. They came from London and Stamford and the New Forest; en route from Cornwall and Edinburgh and from just up the road in the village. My Pilates teacher; friends from university days; villagers we'd not met before; my psychotherapist and her husband; representatives from the Diocese of Derby; members of congregations from previous parishes. What an enormous privilege and joy to have so many come. A steady stream all day!  Gallons of tea were consumed, apples picked to take home, lots of conversations with lots of different people. What a blessing. But the highlight of the day was the fact that the chapel was used for the first time! It so nearly wasn't. An hour before the celebrations were due to begin, the chapel was still a store room, thick with dust and unusable. I was disappointed; there just had not been time to get that ready, with everything that needed to be done. And then one of our dear Trustees picked up a broom and my husband and her husband set to and moved things  - including the grand piano which was still in the middle of the chapel; and just in time, the little room began to come into life. It's not finished, and the money needs to be raised to complete it. But it's usable.

So we had the service of celebration and dedication, and some 35 - 40 of us squeezed in and Phil Lawson Johnston led the worship and I led the prayers. We sang "The Lord's my shepherd I'll not want .. and I will trust, I will trust in Him..." and we prayed for every single room in the house and for all who come to visit and to stay.

"Heavenly Father, make the roof of this house wide enough to shelter all who come; oil the door of this house so it opens easily to friend and stranger ... May all who enter encounter the Risen Lord, may all who visit grow in your love ... "

And the readings -

2 Samuel 7:28-29 -

the verses Kim & I read on one of our early dates and which have been so special to us for years:

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever.’

And my ordination verses, embroidered on my preaching scarf, and now so wonderful for this place with the vine in the garden -

John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine ..  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me ... Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

Some stayed in the chapel to pray for a while afterwards. One guest said  she wanted the chapel service to go on and on, it was so meaningful and glorious. Many  commented on how special the house feels and that there is a real sense of the peace and grace of the Lord.

All day, people were arriving and walking around -  nearly a hundred came, but in a steady stream so that there was time to greet and chat and proffer tea!  They walked around and viewed the rooms - it's all so nearly finished! And the house responds to people; it seems to come alive with the Lord's Presence when there are guests and visitors in it.


The bedrooms are each named after a place where we have lived - and with furniture or pictures of the places too.




There's also Cambridge and South Carolina. Come and and enjoy a retreat and try them out!



And the final prayer that everyone prayed together: might you pray it too for all who will use this place for spiritual sanctuary and sustenance?

Visit O Lord this home with the gladness of your Presence. Bless all who live here and all who visit here with the gift of your love. May your fatherly care shield them, the love of your dear Son preserve them from all evil and the guidance of the Holy Spirit keep them walking in your ways. Grant that they may show your love to each other and to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you. Guide, comfort and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, Lord Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

They came, they worked, they were unsung heroes

Over 125 people nights in our first five weeks of living at Mays Farm. 550 meals served. And still no hob or Aga.

From not a single shower (or loo) working the first night, to 6 full working bathrooms.

Arriving on Thursday July 18, moving in that morning - and our first brave retreatant arriving that afternoon.

She unpacked the kitchen china.

5 communion services.

Many lovely sessions of Lectio Divina and Imaginative Prayer.

Compline in the garden. In the Library. By candlelight. In silence or aloud.

God here.

Blessing people as only He can.

*  *  *  *

Some were old friends; some we had never met before.

They were young and old, ordained or not, local or far away.

Africa, America, Nepal, London, Birmingham, Oxford, Huntingdon, ..... Some had flown from overseas specially, just for a Preview Retreat.

They stayed for free, took part in retreat life morning and evening, but helped for hours each afternoon.

Gardening, decorating, unpacking, creating ....


*  *  *  *  

This last week has been another walking retreat. This time we were all fast walkers and the walks of 6 or 7 miles each morning were a delight in the late summer sun. Castle Combe, Norton, Gorsey Leaze, Surrendell, East Dunley, Lower Dene, Ford - we strode across  fields and through woods. Until the moments when we went slow, slower, slowest, to appreciate that we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made.' (Psalm 139)


Something else was fearfully and wonderfully made - or wonderfully complex, as one translation says. Peter and Richard, two enthusisatic and gifted amateur carpenters, decided to make the communion table for the chapel, from wood found in the house. They had never met before, never worked together before. But the American and the Englishman have created a thing of great beauty which will be used for many years to come in our little chapel. It was amazing to see it take shape over the days.


While they were hard at work as carpenters, others were decorating the sitting room. Ready for future retreatants to sit in comfort to read, relax, reflect.

Or clearing the ivy on the drystone walls in the newly refreshed courtyard.



And further up the garden path, the gazebo gradually take shape in the wild flower meadow.


And so the Preview Retreats have come to an end.

The house is quiet and at rest.

But already we have some bookings for retreats in the Autumn.

When are you coming?

Come alone; or with your small group, your leadership team, your family or friends.

Come for some peace at this place of spiritual sanctuary and sweetness.

Come and take time to abide in the Vine. 

Jesus said, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

*  *  *  *

We have been blessed by those who have come on retreat and given so much of their time and energy.

Our prayer is that The Vine @ Mays Farm will be a blessing to many over the months and years ahead.

The Vine @ Mays Farm

for retreats, 

quiet days, 

quiet spaces,

Spiritual Direction

leadership training

& mentoring


come alone

come with a group

bring your friends

your small group

your leadership team






  • You are very warmly invited to the

    Open Day and Launch

    We would love you to come and enjoy a day in the southern Cotswolds and see what is happening at Mays Farm! 

    You've seen so many photos, now come and see this special place for yourself.

    12noon- 4pm

    Come for as long as you can - call in, or stay!

    Light refreshments served all day

    2pm short dedication prayers in the Chapel

    The Board of Trustees will all be here

    Come and see what is on offer at this place of spiritual sanctuary - 

    retreats for you, for your leadership team, for your small group

    More details coming soon



    We very much hope to see you at The Vine @ Mays Farm before too long.

     Work parties are happening on Friday July 5th and Saturday July 20th - and any day in between that you like to come, we're here working to get it ready!

    MINISTRIES by DESIGN is based at The Vine @ Mays Farm.

    The Vine @ Mays Farm
    for retreats, 
    quiet days, 
    quiet spaces,
    Spiritual Direction
    leadership training
    & mentoring
    come alone
    come with a group
    bring your friends
    your small group
    your leadership team

    The Vine is a place for spiritual sanctuary and sustenance, and the name came partly from the two Vines growing in the Orchard and partly from John 15 where Jesus says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches – abide in Me.”  The Vine offers the opportunity and space you may need  to draw aside from everyday life and spend time ABIDING and BEING, waiting on God, taking time for reflection and repose.

    The house is a 17th Century Cotswold Farmhouse, renovated and refurbished to be a wonderfully welcoming and restful place. There are five large bedrooms, each with ensuite facilities. Breakfast is often served in your room so you can start gently and have time without even rushing downstairs! Lots of places for sitting and dreaming – the Drawing Room, the Library, the Chapel; or the Walled Garden -  the gardens are currently a work-in-progress during the renovations!

An invite to join us as our guests

Winter is coldly here  ... spring is on the horizon ... and  already unbidden thoughts about going somewhere different or special in the summer flit across our minds. Somewhere to allow ourselves the space to BE; to soak in some peace and quiet; maybe some time focusing on the Lord and on our relationship with Him. We know the very place, and this summer we would like to invite you to join us, as our guests.

In late September, Ministries by Design will be opening The Vine@Mays Farm, offering a place for retreat, a spiritual sanctuary from noise and bustle, with visitors taking part in various types of retreats, or coming for a private visit, whether for a day or for a longer period.

At the end of the building project, and before we officially open, we are offering a few preview retreats at no charge (although we will welcome any offers of help with paintbrushes, brooms etc! and any donations are always acceptable, as MbD is a registered charity).

Why are we doing this? Several reasons!

-  We have been blessed already by many many people as we launch out into our new venture. (If you missed the announcement about our moving to Mays Farm, you can read the article hereAnd we want to bless othersWe want to bless you. Come and experience the peace and the quiet, the  opportunity to draw aside from a busy life and enjoy a few special days.

But also, honestly, we need some 'guinea-pigs!'  A few people who will come on retreat and then tell us how it was and what is good and what might be improved.

Some people like to have something to do manually for an hour or two during a retreat; and there will be gardening or decorating, or tidying once the builders have gone; or curtains to hem or raspberries to pick .... and if you wanted to help in that way for a couple of hours each day, it would be much appreciated. It's not compulsory - although it would be an enormous help!


The house will have 5 bedrooms, each with sitting areas, and with private ensuite facilities. You can relax in your room, in the Library or the Drawing room, in the chapel, the walled orchard and grounds, the local countryside ...

All retreats are full board - breakfast, lunch, dinner are all included, tea and coffee making facilities in each room.

There are 2 different retreats and each will happen at least once in July/August/September

1. A WALKING RETREAT - get fit spiritually AND physically!

Arrive on a Monday afternoon, settle in with a cup of tea. First session, then supper. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, after a buffet breakfast,  Penelope will lead you on one of several local walks, each of about 6 miles, with opportunities for spiritual reflections and meditations as we walk. Return for lunch and spend the afternoons as you wish to make the most of this time - praying, sitting in the chapel, journalling, sleeping; and hopefully helping out manually for a couple of hours.  There will be a short session  each day before Supper, which  will be followed by compline and early nights. Final session on Friday morning, and leave  after a light lunch.   Maximum of 10 people, in en-suite twin bedded rooms.

2. A GUIDED SILENT RETREAT - to concentrate on your relationship with God

Arrive on a Monday afternoon, settle in, enjoy tea. First session, then supper, compline and early bed, after which we will move into silence. Breakfast will be served in your room to allow time to rest, reflect, be renewed. Each day there will be individual time with a Spiritual Director, and there will be guidance if required as to how to get the most from this time. There will be opportunity to help manually around the Centre for a couple of hours each day. Meals will be taken in communal silence or you may take your meal to your room if you wish. Leave after a final time with your Director on Friday morning followed by a light lunch if required. Maximum of 5 people, in private en-suite rooms.

Of course, we risk a lot doing this - you might sign up, then as you haven't paid anything, pull out at the last minute! Or you might come and not like it at all and write us a bad review. Or you might not help out manually as needed. But we believe that the Lord is calling us to this, blessing us with so much in this new home and with opportunities for ministry, and in turn we want to bless you. We hope you will know the Lord's richest blessings when you come, and that you will then want to come again, and recommend it to others to come, too. We hope and pray that The Vine@Mays Farm will be one of those 'special places' for many of us, a place where one slips easily into a different rhythm with God, a place to hear His Voice and seek His guidance.

Oh, did I tell you that Mays Farm is just 1hr 40 mins drive from London (M4 jct 17) , easily accessible by mainline trains (Chippenham), near to Bristol, Cheltenham, Oxford, Birmingham, and on the edge of beautiful Cotswold countryside?  Come and enjoy!

If you would be interested in being invited to one of these special retreats for free, as a guinea pig, then email me! (see below) and DO PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS TOO! (men and women all welcomed, but we will take care with room allocation!!!!!)  

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO COMMIT NOW - just express your real interest and ask for an application form. If you are accepted you will be sent the details and the dates soon, and then you can sign up to come.

If you would like an application form for an invite to the free retreats, please email me now:

stating why you think it would be good for you to come and which of the two retreats you would prefer.

Feeling like Barbara Woodhouse - or God

As you may have seen recently, there is a new member of our household. Gracie arrived on Saturday, a tiny scrap of 8 week old labrador puppy. She is asleep on my feet as I type. A gift to us as we leave this ministry and move on to a new one, she brings lots of love  - and lots of hard work! Yesterday, I signed an email to a friend "yours from the puddles and poos."  I rush around with kitchen towel, Mr Muscle and Vanish. An added problem is that I can't let her go into the Vicarage garden - she has yet to have her next inoculations, and we have a brood of foxes in the wilderness at the bottom of the garden, who leave their trademarks all over the grass. North London is full of vermin-laden foxes and rats, so no outdoor activity until injections+2 weeks.  Indoor litter trays seem odd for a labrador. And as I begin to talk to Gracie and 'suggest' various activities, I can hear the stentorian tones of Barbara Woodhouse in my voice, that legendary dog trainer on television, with her emphasis on 'Sittttttttt' and Walk - eeeeeeeees!'  I have yet to don a kilt.

But I can also see me and God in the way that Gracie and I interact. Gracie is totally dependent on me - for everything. Sometimes she runs away from me, sometimes she comes rushing towards me. I love her - unconditionally , in spite of having to clear up after her. A lot.

I know that God loves me like that; unconditionally. In spite of all the messes I create in my life  (figuratively speaking you understand) and all the clearing up and sorting out he has to do for me.  Sometimes I run away from him. Sometimes I rush towards him. HE still looks out for me -  he is El Roi, the God who sees me, wherever I am, whatever my circumstances. (Genesis 16)      I am learning from my little puppy.  One day, I pray that she will be a help and comfort to those who come to The Vine at Mays Farm.


When have you known God as El Roi, the God who sees?