United by a love for nature and inspired by the spirit of adventure, we collaborated with Carly Slade Yoga to put on a bike and yoga retreat in Exmoor National Park with the purpose of creating an adventure of both the physical world and the mind. The weekend was filled with outdoor yoga, guided meditations, mountain bike coaching, cycle rides through ancient oak forests, camp fires, nature immersed glamping, vegan food prepared for the guests all weekend long, dark sky walks, wild swimming and happy people.
Our adventurers arrived on Friday evening to get to know each other with the friendly assistance of vegan burritos and a camp fire. We filled one of the bell tents with colourful rugs and pillows to act as a socialising area and for candle lit dining. There was also homemade vegan flapjack, cheeky.
Saturday morning began at sunrise with Carly leading an outdoor yoga class, which I was ready for with my unicorn rainbow godzilla leggings. As the whole weekend was themed around releasing our mind and bodies from the chains of regulated society and freeing our inner wild animals, during our yoga class Carly asked us to pretend to be wild mustangs and dance as we wish which brought a lot of joy to the circle. Another highlight of the class was when Carly asked us to sit, eyes closed and picture what we would look like with no restraints from society, personally I was picturing Tarzan looking back at me. By the end of the class both my body and my mind were full of warm energy and I was ready for breakfast and to get out on the bikes.
We started with a coaching session around the camp site teaching essential bike skills to make sure everyone was feeling confident enough to have fun while feeling safe on the bike, playing games that encouraged bike balance and safe braking. We set off across the moors and enjoyed views down to the sea and across to Wales. We then took one of my favourite tracks called Granny's Ride descending down to Horner through ancient woodlands. One of the best things about the natural tracks in Exmoor are that they can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. Half way down Carly taught us about the health benefits of forest bathing so we stopped off in a bed of ferns and bathed in a perfect patch of glorious sunshine, and climbed a tree!
After an impressively colourful lunch spread from Hugo, everyone set off down to explore some of the hidden wild swimming spots around Exmoor. I say hidden but it was about 2km up the river from Horner towards pool bridge, go and find it! You can slide down the smooth rock into the water but I warn you, she ain't heated!
So we warmed up with a very safe LED version of fire skipping while we waited for our candle lit dinner - a sweet potato, cashew, spinach and cocunut curry, complete with naan breads off the fire! It was such a nice vibe all weekend, everybody was so relaxed and open with each other that it felt like we'd all been friends for years, I almost forgot these were 'guests' and this was meant to be 'working'.
That evening Carly had a special treat planned for us called Yoga Nidra, which was my highlight of the weekend. Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping and is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. Carly also made a chocolatey raw cacao drink, a recipe used by ancient native American cultures such as the Maya in ceremonies which made me feel pretty relaxed. We lay in a circle, eyes closed around our candle lit bell tent with the smell of sage filling the air. While in this state of consciousness, Carly asked us very personal and meaningful questions and we were to write the answers into our journals. I was transformed to an instinctive mindset where I felt I could answer questions with no double thought needed. I identified what made me happy and what was holding me back from being the person I wanted to be and through all my different answers to this question, the answer was always that I was holding myself back. The session was completed with a fire ceremony where we chanted mantras and burnt the paper we'd written our personal obstacles on. It felt very liberating and from the emotional energy in the group I could see everybody had been really moved by the evenings experience. Thank you Carly. The evening finished with a dark sky walk to star gaze.
The next morning kicked off with an early start and some early morning yoga. Thankfully Carly had anticipated all the right muscles that would need stretching out after our first days ride, such as the hip flexors and lower backs. After breakfast Hugo led the morning's coaching session, this time focusing on cornering and body positions.
Hugo led a ride that flowed down along the river to the beautiful Horner and then out to the sea front where the group would end up at Porlock Weir where I had prepared lunch for them. They also got these fantastic pictures with TRAIL UNKNOWN written in the rocks, unfortunately they didn't spell 'unknown' right but i'll still give them a 10/10 for the love of it.
After lunch the hire bikes were collected and the group were driven back to the campsite, all except for one. A brave and determined young lady called Claire decided she was going to cycling back up the camp site and of course I would go with her. I think it was a little more uphill than she anticipated from sea level but she handled it like a trooper. Nearing the top, Claire shared with me some of her inner world difficulties. I shared with her some fitting words I'd learned from The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu. I defined the difference between feelings and emotions and that by acting and sharing our feelings as we feel them with those around us, we stop ourselves bottling them where they build and store as deeper emotions. For the rest of the weekend I kept catching Claire openly sharing her feelings and it would make me smile. As if reflecting the shape of life itself, the ups and downs of the hills always bring out a person's true nature. Claire then descended the hardest track of the weekend and the amount of pride I had was overwhelming when we got to the bottom, followed by lots of hugs and whoops. Congrats Claire!
A huge thank you to Carly Slade for making the weekend so unique and meaningful, we will look forward to planning future bike and yoga weekends in 2018. If you can't wait till then, you can book us for a private rewilding retreat or mountain bike trip if you have a minimum of five people by contacting us.
Hugo and Tom are trail hunting fanatics, travelling around the UK to find the best and most beautiful wild riding locations for their mountain bikes. We write about our findings and provide professionally guided mountain bike trips to our favourite spots. We're also big believers in outdoor education for children.