Ground & Grow: Reconnecting With Nature On A Cornish Winter Retreat

By Olivia Emily

8 months ago

THE PIG has teamed up with Cabilla Cornwall to launch its first ever retreat

Olivia Emily reflects on her time at The PIG – At Harlyn Bay in Cornwall, experiencing their inaugural Ground & Grow retreat in partnership with Cabilla Cornwall.

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Ground & Grow Retreat

THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay

THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay. © Jake Eastham

Cocooned in a thick, warming duvet atop a cloud-like mattress, I awake with the birds. I’m nestled in a wood clad cabin (known as a Garden Wagon), and though the wintery air is cool as it brushes against my nose, the heady, earthy wood smell is warming, comforting. Big stretch. It’s the final morning of the PIG’s inaugural Ground & Grow retreat, hosted in collaboration with Cornish wellness company Cabilla, and I’m reluctant to pull myself out of this most nourishing of beds. The wind whistles between my Wagon’s rustic wheels and the ground, rustling the leaves on the trees just beyond my windows.

I feel at home with these sounds, more than I did a few days ago. And I mourn their loss when I return home to London, chugging buses and car horns swallowing any bird tweets and tree rustles whole. For now, it’s time to face the part of the retreat I’ve been dreading: cold water immersion. It’ll wrap up this weekend of reconnecting: with nature, and with ourselves. So far, we’ve reacquainted ourselves with the forest and its trees at Cabilla – an ancient rainforest, and perhaps the most mystical place in the UK – as well as with delicious seasonal cuisine sourced within 25 miles (or, at its closest, from the onsite Kitchen Garden), and with seaweed in the form of VOYA’s soothing products in the gorgeously quirky Potting Shed treatment rooms at The PIG, nestled at the rear of that Kitchen Garden.

THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay

The Potting Shed at THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay. © Jake Eastham

To the sea. We clamber as a group down to the coast. A 10 minute blustery stroll brings us to a wide bay (the hotel’s titular Harlyn Bay, to be precise), with buzzy beach cafe and morning dog walkers soaking up the sea air. We dump our belongings beside the wooden Saunas By The Sea (more on that in a second), strip off and rush in. The sand is ice beneath my numbing toes as I womble over to the daunting water. Impossibly, it’s warmer than anticipated – a lukewarm respite for my toes from the sand’s frosty quality. Gosh. I shiver. I gasp. I do everything a cold water newbie would do – including escaping at the first opportunity. But not before I’ve developed a deep respect for the braver women surrounding me, delving into the depths, daring to bob their heads beneath the surface. And not before I’ve felt the breath-taking refreshment of the water for myself.

Ground & Grow retreat

Olivia (centre) braving the cold at Harlyn Bay. © Sophie Bolesworth

Up and out, and a sprint to dry(er) land. Our heady sauna awaits, a black wooden box perched atop a rock. Inside, the heat is cocooning, and the large window frames the stunning vista like a moving postcard. I watch as those braver women shrink on the horizon, heading back in for another go. Instead, I thaw atop warming wood, before returning to the fresh air and inhaling a mug of rich oat milk hot chocolate, watching the world go by.

We trot back to The PIG as a group, pausing on the grass just outside the front door for a moment to absorb. To feel. To sink into the thick ground for a second, feeling the blades with our fingertips. My mind is whisked back to the day before, when my wellied feet ambled across Cabilla Cornwall’s ancient forest land, a mystical, unassuming place surrounded by gritty heathland and gnarled branches on approach. This temperate rainforest – a mosaic of veteran oaks, holly trees and sycamores – is ancient (approximately 3,646 years old, according to peat samples), and you feel a buzz beneath your toes, in the air. You can smell it: that slightly damp, wet, wooden smell teeming with life.

The words of Cabilla’s co-founder, Merlin Hanbury-Tenison, ring in my thoughts: ‘Beneath our feet is nature’s motherboard,’ referring to the spongy mycelium fungus helping the trees to communicate with one another. Are they communicating with me? Is the peace I feel here a message of some kind? I’ve never witnessed such passion both ooze from one person and enrapture so many others. Waxing lyrical on each and every facet of his beloved forest, we’re all enchanted by Merlin’s ardent words, and I jot down the very many new ones he teaches me: epiphytes (the organisms that grow on the surface plants, all sucking and storing carbon from the air), bioindicators (organisms that reveal the presence of something, like carbon, in the air), and Doggerland (an area of land that once connected Britain to Europe, now submerged beneath the North Sea, by which we gained a number of foreign species more than 8,500 years ago, including beech trees and slugs). Absorb it through every sense: the rustling sounds, the heady smells, the gorgeous sights, the feeling of a leaf beneath your fingertips. Or go whole hog and whip your wellies off – walk barefoot and feel the charge rush through your body. At the end, take nature by the root and plant your own oak tree as part of Cabilla’s Thousand Year Project.

Merlin Hanbury-Tenison

Merlin Hanbury-Tenison

Yesterday, by Cabilla’s ultra fresh babbling stream, I felt a moment of calm – and I feel it again on the grass outside The PIG, fingertips tickled by the grass I sit on. We disperse to our respective bedrooms before our final lunch. The Garden Wagons ooze character, even from the outside, dotted across the grounds and between vegetable patches leading to the Kitchen Garden, each donning a different shade of distressed, weathered wood. Bespoke created for the PIG, traditional craft methods squeeze oodles of space into the cosy interior Tardis style, with a King Size bed, cosy sofa perfect for snuggling, wardrobes, side tables and a roomy fridge/cupboard/kitchen area kitted out with a hefty Kitchen Aid coffee machine and kettle – all this fitting into the bedroom area.

Inside a Garden Wagon at THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay

Inside a Garden Wagon at THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay. © Jake Eastham

Reclaimed materials exude that gorgeous natural wood smell here and into the ensuite bathroom, where a huge shower and freestanding bathtub await. It’s hard to pull yourself away from the rainfall shower, especially with the intoxicating smell of the natural products filling your nose. If you’re feeling brave, try the al fresco shower through your rear door. Just outside your front door, your private terrace is the perfect place to enjoy your morning coffee surrounded by delicate flowers – or wrap up in the evening and sip your PIG night time tea beneath the stars, thoughtfully left on the pillow during turndown.

Packing up, I reflect on the weekend again, unable (and unwilling) to shake the renewed feeling instilled in me after our gentle movement class at Cabilla. Led by Pippa in Cabilla’s elegant converted barn, we gathered up all of that natural connection and drew it into the body, guided through a gentle movement glass atop thick, comforting mats and accompanied by magical live cello music sending chills down my spine. Truly extraordinary.

Ground & Grow

© Sophie Bolesworth

Packed, I’m thrilled there’s a final meal to devour: a selection of fresh, moreish salads bursting with flavour and brimming with grains, root vegetables, nuts and seasoning. It’s the perfect send off, wrapping up a gastronomic weekend. Earlier in the weekend, we’ve dined on a cottagecore style breakfast spread, accompanied by a menu of breakfast classics (with items like salmon swapped out for locally-sourced trout). We’ve sampled the hotel’s finest dishes: Cured Port Isaac Monkfish Tail, Tregothnan Estate Venison Haunch, Garden Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake. We’ve feasted on family-style sharing dishes: grilled mackerel, deliciously delicate venison carpaccio, Port Isaac sea bass and roast chicken – all sourced from within 25 Miles, as is the PIG way. Each bite is delicious, wholesome, and nurturing in itself, the perfect accompaniment to a wholesome weekend.

Ground & Grow retreat

One of those delicious salads. © Sophie Bolesworth


Like the sound of this? Lucky for you, we’ve teamed up with THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay to offer one lucky reader the chance to embark on this wintery retreat on either 24–26 November 2023 or 19–21 January 2024. Enter here. But be quick: the competition closes on 12 November.


THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay and Cabilla have announced three upcoming ‘Ground & Grow’ retreats, featuring special guest speakers:

  • Friday 24 to Sunday 26 November (two nights), featuring Sophie Pavelle, author of Forget Me Not
  • Friday 19 to Sunday 21 January (two nights), featuring Lucy Jones, journalist and author of four titles including Losing Eden, Why Our Minds Need The Wild and Matrescence
  • Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 March (three nights), featuring Emma Lucy Knowles, author, coach and meditation guide.

Prices start from £865pp for double occupancy or £1,250pp for single occupancy for the two-night retreats in November and January. March’s three-night retreat starts from £1,125pp for double occupancy and £1,695pp for single occupancy. This includes accommodation at THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay, all meals, talks, tours, meditation, swimming and sauna. Potting Shed treatments are offered to retreaters with a 20 percent discount.

Learn more about Cabilla at

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