Maxine Gordon seeks inspiration at a woman-only well-being retreat in North Yorkshire

FEELING jaded and in need or rejuvenation? If you’ve resolved to carve out a bit more “me time”, a visit to The Retreat at Split Farthing Hall could be just the remedy.

Run by life coach and yoga and raw food enthusiast Claire Maguire, The Retreat – located in a luxury 18th Century farmhouse in the Vale of York – offers a series of weekend escapes and day workshops to help you set and achieve new goals.

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Whether you want to find a new direction, try a new image, or overhaul your diet, there is a course to suit your needs. New this year is a range of detox and boot-camp weekends run in conjunction with Claire’s partner, personal trainer John Withinshaw.

“We’re about helping women become who they deserve to be,” explains Claire when I visit The Retreat at Bagby, near Thirsk.

We begin upstairs in the spacious attic with some yoga. Sitting crosslegged on mats, our eyes closed, we follow Claire’s lead, breathing deeply and listening to her soft singing and chanting. Things become more energetic when we start to thrust our body weight forward, slapping our hands on the mat, gorilla-style, chanting “hurrrrrrrrrr” out loud.

Afterwards, we lie on the mat, feeing deeply relaxed.

Also on the agenda for the day are some visualisation rituals and raw food demonstrations.

Claire, a mother of two, has been a devotee of raw food ever since she began eating it and started to feel and look better. “I felt absolutely amazing,” recalls Claire. “Something happened in my body which I didn’t expect. I became slimmer, more sculpted and I felt sexy and alive.”

All the food during our visit, from the mini chocolate “brownies” for elevenses, to the “pasta pesto” and “chocolate flan” for lunch, are all uncooked.

The pasta turns out to be thin spirals of courgette, while the dessert features banana and avocado mixed with raw cocoa and set on a crunchy base of nuts. Later, Claire shares some of her secrets in a raw food workshop, rustling tomato salsas, satay sauce and veggie stir-fries, all without turning on the hob.

A trained biochemist, Claire ditched a career in science to set up a record label, before retraining as a life coach. After treatment for breast cancer two years ago, she decided to follow her dream of setting up a women-only residential escape – and The Retreat was born.

The Retreat has four overnight rooms – three twins and one single, all en suite, as well as a airy attic.

Meals are taken in the Orangery, overlooking the orchard with unspoilt views over the Vale of York.

Weekend residents can enjoy the 20- acre garden and, after dark, gather around the outdoor fire pit, where a bonfire is lit.

Many guests will come to The Retreat with a purpose and the weekend programmes are geared towards women looking to set some new goals in their lives.

Claire undertakes several exercises to help women think about how they can achieve those goals – looking at the shape of their lives today and how they would like them to be.

We undertook a few of those exercises – which were both fun and revealing.

Although yoga, meditation and chanting feature in the programmes, Claire stresses The Retreat is not a spiritual getaway. “It is a bit unusual, but when women have been here for a weekend they don’t really think of it as something weird or strange.

With the yoga, on the first day, they might laugh about it, but by the next day, they might get something more out of it.”


Green smoothie

Claire says: “Everyone in the world of raw food has a version of this.

Raw foodies will have one of these for breakfast in the way others will have toast. Spinach makes a great base as has a nice, creamy flavour that is not too overpowering.”

Serves 2
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 banana, peeled and chopped
2 large handfuls of spinach water to desired consistency


1. Peel the mango and put into blender first

2. Peel and add the banana

3. Then add the spinach. Put this in last as it can get tangled up in the blades.

4. Add water. If you want it thick like a porridge, use less water; if you prefer to drink it, add more.

Variations are endless, add some mint or basil for depth. Add red berries or sweeten it up with a date. You can add a few teaspoons of superfood powders such as Acai berry, maca, cacao, suma or spirulina.

Stir Un-Fry

Claire says: “This is a staple meal in our household. It is quick, has endless variations, and you can serve it with meat, fish, shellfish, tofu, quorn or eggs (all cooked, I may add!). Any leftovers taste better the next day.”

Serves 2
½ bell pepper
2 cups beansprouts
2 carrots
2 celery sticks
¼ fennel bulb

2 tbsps tamari sauce (a Japanese, wheat-free soy sauce)
3 tbsps cold pressed olive oil
1 orange
2 cm ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp honey
½ cup sesame seeds


1. Julienne the bell pepper, carrots and celery

2. Dice the fennel

3. Add to a bowl along with the beansprouts

4. Make the dressing by placing the tamari and olive oil in a bowl.

5. Juice the orange and add to the above.

6. Grate the ginger into the dressing mixture.

7. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk up with a fork.

8. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and, with your hands, mix it together. The more you massage the vegetables with the dressing, the tastier they become.

9. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes to soften.

Serve over strips of spring greens. Decorate with spring onions, cashew and/or diced chilli if desired.