Burrswood House is  a Christian centre of health and wellbeing. It is a truly unique place. It has to be experienced for the profound impact that just a day’s retreat can have on one. Set in the most beautiful grounds, Burrswood caters for physical and spiritual needs. It originally occupied part of Groombridge Place and was the Burr Wood, mainly woodland and some farmland. The property changed hands several times, ultimately becoming the property of Edwin James Johnstone who had the gardens laid out as they are today. The farmhouse was replaced by a new house designed by the young architect Decimus Burton.

A party of twenty-four, plus Matthew, our leader, set off for Burrswood on Saturday, 22nd April at 9am from St.Giles centre. Some regular Burrswood “attendees” made their own way there and not in convoy. Expectations were high and the mood happy. A retreat organised by Matthew at Burrswood is a wonderful day and lifts your spirits in all senses. As you drive past cottages and houses, some very old, and enter the driveway you feel relaxed and look forward to the day ahead.
We were greeted warmly in Reception and given a clip-on badge which states “Conference Delegate”. We made our way to the intimate, quiet room which was ours for the day. The refreshments and meals are served in an annexe. Outside our rooms is a handsome, balustraded balcony with superb breathtaking views of Kent and the grounds where you can take your coffee and lunch etc, if you so wish. Matthew greeted everyone and we started our day with meditation. We relaxed and closed our eyes and Matthew’s soothing voice, at intervals, asked us to imagine a scene connected with the subject of the day. When he asked us to open our eyes we all agreed that we felt rested. When asked how long we thought this had lasted some suggested 15-20 minutes. It was actually 40 minutes! Some admitted that they were so relaxed that they fell asleep! If you suffer with insomnia you know where to go!!! After discussion it was time for tea or coffee and biscuits plus some free time.

Our theme was based around Jesus walking on the water and the fear and lack of faith from the Apostles who were in a boat on the storm-tossed seas. This led to such an interesting discussion and made us look inward to our own fear(s) and faith.

Time for lunch. The most tempting and delicious variety of beautifully made and presented sandwiches with large bowls of crisps complemented with such well arranged bowls of fruit that they would have been the perfect subject for an art class. This satisfying lunch was accompanied with large glass jugs of really fruity orange juice.

After lunch we went on a walk, approximately one mile, through the grounds and woodland. The woodland flanks the formal garden areas and makes a substantial part of the 120 acre estate. The gardens immediately surrounding the house now consist of formal borders, terraced areas and lawns which form peaceful and secluded viewpoints. There are established shrubbery borders with stunning displays of Japanese Maples, Magnolias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons in season. This is the breathtaking view that greets you from the moment you step out of your car. The ambience is perfect for a day’s retreat. Trees are scattered amongst the formal lawn, some of which are dedicated. As you walk together you cannot help exclaiming out loud at the beauty of nature and God’s creation. We stopped and gazed into a large pool with a natural waterfall. The sound of moving water is so soothing. The bird song, the enchanting Bluebell glades, the Wood Anemones, the Primroses and the dainty, white Stitchwort all around you fills you with awe and spiritual feelings mixed with total bliss. One could go on forever singing praises for God’s creations. There are many freshwater springs which provide domestic water for Burrswood and the ponds.

We arrived back at the Centre for our 3pm Communion Service taken by Matthew, a perfect ending to our day of renewing our faith, spirits and friendship. After the service Matthew presented everyone with a small model boat plus tiny oars as a reminder of our sermon and subject for the day. We then had tea or coffee and some tasty homemade cakes.

We all extend a huge thank you to Matthew for his hard work in organising a truly perfect day. Why not join us next year? It is certainly a day that will lift your spirits. We bade farewell to old and new friends and wended our way home.

Sheila Munns

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