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Imagine a journey along narrow, winding and lusciously green lanes. The sunlight creeping its way through the tiniest of gaps in the green canopy of tree branches bowing together on both sides, as if to shield this beautiful scene from the skies above. Then, two women in a car, neither especially outdoorsy nor accustomed to the high speed driving of the locals, in awe of the magnificence of the nature unfolding before them, with a convoy of vehicles behind. Awaiting us, once we finally arrived and the locals sighed a relief at not being behind the overly cautious city driver, a splendid country home that would be our home for the next week. Excitedly leaping out of the car to view our impeccable surroundings, we made our way to the traditional-style house to join the rest of our group and find our rooms. Thus commenced a week at Goddards, Surrey, for some members of the IRIHS team on a writing retreat. 

A break away from our normal daily routines, we found ourselves enjoying a relaxing breakfast outside whilst discussing everything from the creaking floorboards and architecture to global healthcare systems and our plan of focus for the day. It was very easy to lose oneself in the vast grounds and the estate provided sufficient variety to find a suitable work space for each individual’s needs.

Writing retreet MonaI settled in at the grand dining table, poised to make a start at writing my transfer report. In the absence of Wi-Fi and cell phone reception, I found distraction in the faces of the Mirrielees family peering down from their prominent place on the wall. Goddards was built by Edwin Lutyens for Frederick Mirrielees in 1898 to serve as a holiday rest home for 'ladies of small means,' a private charity of Mirrielees. Interesting that this forward thinking view for its time was providing the inspirational backdrop for a group of academics from Oxford.

I discovered early on that it was not enough to merely sit, write and hope that something meaningful would result. Verbalising ideas with peers and senior colleagues before spending hours attempting to bring them to life was the best part of the stay. The support and reassurance, that I had something worth exploring, was a phenomenal motivating factor. I found it so much easier to formulate thoughts and interpret my data after explaining what I was working on and gaining immediate feedback or probing questions, mostly over meals or daily walks in the woods. 

Verbalising ideas with peers and senior colleagues before spending hours attempting to bring them to life was the best part of the stay.

I occasionally glanced up from my book or laptop screen to find my colleagues immersed in reading or writing, all very focused on their respective writing missions and in so doing spurred me on to sit and persevere with my report. We bid Goddards adieu on Friday each with a completed paper, report or proposal.

Sara, Nick, Alex, Lucas, Asli, Maryam, Jackie, Koot, Helene-Mari and I thank The Landmark Trust Futures Scheme and Trish Greenhalgh for winning such an amazing experience for us all.

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Find out more about the Landmark Trust Futures Scheme for free study stays in Landmark’s amazing historic buildings here.

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