This article first appeared in our Health Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 24 July 2020. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
At first glimpse of the beautiful Broughton Hall in Yorkshire, you might think it is classic Downton Abbey – and Julian Fellowes did indeed consider the Estate as a primary location for the series.
However, look just a little below the surface and your whole perception will change rapidly.
The 32nd generation of the Tempest family – Roger, the current custodian; Paris Ackrill, his partner and their baby, Aya – are on a mission to turn Broughton into a leading centre of light and a beacon of hope in this rapidly changing world.
A centre of transformation
It’s over 900 years since William the Conqueror sent the original Tempest family member to help to look after these lands, and change has been necessary for the Estate’s survival ever since.
Over 10 centuries it has moved from an agricultural community to a purpose-led centre that’s a force for good, supporting transformation in the mind, body, spirit – and the land.
The newly created Avalon – ‘an island of spiritual refuge’ – is now at the heart of the Estate. It’s a state-of-the-art wellbeing centre that rebuilds the human spirit right across the spectrum.
Fire temples and moon baths
Avalon’s dynamic range of experiences and retreats covers everything from yoga and wellbeing to addiction and recovery, relationships, menopause, anxiety and mental health.
The place activation is subtle but extensive: a primal sweat lodge, sauna, steam, hydro-thermal pool, meditation pod, fire temple and pits, wild swimming, mountain bike courses, yoga, group presentation rooms, cinema screen, the Garden of Cosmic Origin, moon baths – the list goes on.
Retreats and courses here cover everything from eco-therapy and medicinal and herbal support to nutritional and behavioural change – but in each case the experience is fun and always entertaining, framed by a breathtaking panorama of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
A new frontier
‘Avalon is less about revolution and more about renaissance and reformation’, Roger explains. ‘No street demonstrations are needed yet!’
Paris and Roger try to avoid divisiveness and anger with any current issues, and instead promote compassion, understanding, unity and freedom of choice, with a focus on personal responsibility.
‘This island of personal responsibility acknowledges human frailty and weakness’, Roger tells us. ‘It’s less New Age and more New Frontier. The work is led by heart and solutions, and centres on the inner state of human beings. The goal is to give people the strength to define and express their sense of purpose and their art of being.’
Avalon is attracting philosophers, changemakers and lifestyle managers like a magnet. It has hosted Guatemalan Mayan Elders and events and courses ranging from a spiritual Davos, Path of Love and the Hoffman Process to sound journeys, Conscious Cafés, kirtans and pop-up wellbeing events.
Lawrence Bloom, Lily Cole, Tim Freke, Andrew Harvey, Jasmine Helmsley, Yantara Jiro, Malcolm Sterne and Rebel Wisdom are just some of the names in the guest book, and each visitor is part of the sanctuary’s journey.
Rewilding and nature
‘Renaissance and reformation’ is a key theme at Broughton; it goes beyond the reuse of Estate buildings and travels deep into the land.
While Avalon specialises in the inner nature of the human being, a rewilding and nature recovery programme on the 3,000-acre Estate is nurturing the environment as well.
There are plans to plant 180 hectares with woods this year – that’s around 8% of the provisional figure for all new woodland created in England in 2020.
The trees planted will extend to a foraging forest, orchards and a programme with the Environment Agency to ‘slow the flow’ and prevent future flooding by working with nature instead of against it.
The Sanctuary’s in-house forest therapist and Earth shaman is also on hand to help visitors re-establish their connection to nature and continue on their wellbeing journey.
Wellbeing for all
On this historic Estate, it’s fantastic to see conservation embedded in development – and the regeneration of mind, body and spirit running parallel with the loving restoration of the Estate’s land and buildings.
There are over 100 beds on the Estate, from rooms in the 16th-century Hall and farmhouse holiday homes to an idyllic hermit’s hut. A new Recovery Centre is being created on a more remote farmhouse.