New Year, New Sheldon
We're at it again! Always looking for ways to improve the resources we offer to our guests. This winter's project is a full refurbishment of the upstairs of the Pound House. It's a lovely old cob barn which originally housed the farm cider press and hayloft. In the 1960s it was converted into dormitories and in 2003 it was part of our £1m conversion of the main courtyard comprising the chapel, reception, bar, offices, therapy suite, meeting rooms, kitchen and dining room creating a "heart at the centre" of our day to day life and work ever since. It is the six en-suite guest bedrooms upstairs that are now having a complete makeover.
Over the past 20 years we've been equipping Sheldon more for our adult retreat work and phasing out school and youth groups. Taking a fresh look at the bedrooms we've been thinking carefully about what the next generation of guests need. Things like physical quiet, fresh but calming colour scheme, a selection of options for lighting, and maximising use of the available space for comfortable sleeping, reading, writing/working or chilling out. Details include acoustic underlay to quieten footsteps along the corridor, top quality light fittings, blackout blinds or curtains, replacing all the linen plus much of the furniture and fittings, and full redecoration throughout. The shower rooms are being converted to modern wet rooms which makes them brighter and more spacious. The total cost is around £100,000 but on a 20 year timescale that's less than £1,000 per room per year. We know that the quality of your bedroom makes a big difference to the benefits of a retreat so we want to make them as comfortable as we possibly can when they are returned to use at the end of February.
Back in 2003 we also restored the corrugated iron of the barn roof to beautiful traditional thatch. Sheldon roofs have been looked after by the Dray family of thatchers for three generations now, and this autumn the medieval Chapel, the Pound House and the Great Barn all had their 10-yearly replacement of the ridges. It was fun to see Hazel stems being harvested from our own Copse one day and cut into spars to secure the thatch to the roof the next.
Caring for buildings made of cob and thatch helps us think in terms of decades, generations and centuries. This is a really good antidote to running a retreat centre through a pandemic when it can be hard to plan anything much from one week to the next! Since March 2020 we have kept Sheldon open as much as possible, and we continue to maintain high standards of Covid safety. We are being as agile as we can and doing our very best to protect people's much-needed retreat space in the face of the disruptions caused by illness of leaders, volunteers, staff, guests and their families. Clean air is an important part of our vocation to provide "safe space" at so many levels, and especially to keep Sheldon accessible to people with underlying health vulnerabilities.
Many of those in ministry and church leadership continue to carry additional burdens and workloads for similar reasons to the ones we face at Sheldon. As a community we are spending a couple of weeks this month on maintenance of people and place - training, spring cleaning, swapping to a new accounting system, a short community retreat, and praying and planning for the year ahead. As part of this we just sent a survey to everyone who stayed at Sheldon during 2022 to help us understand more deeply what they valued about what we do and where we can improve. Our thanks to everyone sending in their responses - we will try and share the results in another blog post soon.
Our programme is packed with good things from the end of January onwards. Just browse the "Visit" section of our website, or if you're not sure what you need pick up the phone and we'll be pleased to talk through the options. We've added Artists in Residence on many of the R5 weeks and for more structured input we have a fantastic lineup of retreat leaders. The clergy family holiday weeks are a traditional part of summer at Sheldon (increasingly appreciated by single parent clergy families and families with one or more children with special needs). And throughout the year we have all our individual self-contained spaces for private retreats in whatever way you need.
We wish you every blessing for 2023 and hope we might welcome you at Sheldon at some point during the year.