What People Say

Comments on Structured Reflection Time

Les Jardins is not just a great place to relax in lovely surroundings, with good food and stimulating company (which it most certainly is) but it is a place to reflect on life’s problems and pressures and find ways forward. I went there at a time when I needed to identify my priorities, and probably make changes in my overly busy life. Together, in a range of nonthreatening, imaginative, and complimentary ways, Bob and Sue guided me through the process. In Hanc I found that Bob’s skills are complemented by those of Sue in movement, voice and art. These things are normally outside my comfort zone, but, in the relaxed atmosphere of Hanc, I found myself wanting to try new experiences. Working with Sue proved enriching, and, often, great fun. For me the joy of Les Jardins is that it is a safe place to explore thoughts and emotions in different ways and at a deep level, perhaps, like me, with a friend, or maybe with colleagues. I returned home feeling reenergised in body, mind and spirit. I shall certainly go again.
Jackie Jones

Where am I going? When I arrived at Les Jardins des Arts, I might have explained the reason why I’d come with that simple question. A “retreat novice”, I had no idea what to expect from a week spent reflecting on the future with a close friend and two strangers (as they were then). There was no interrogation, no judgment, no instruction: indeed all those were against the (unspoken) rules. Instead, observation, exploration, reflection-through morning and evening prayers, structured sessions and Bible study; conversation over a meal. or on a walk, or sitting in the sun; solitary reading, thinking, daydreaming. Together we invented how the days unfolded. I did not come home with the answer to my question: nobody told me where I should be going. But I knew better how to get there, and I am not as I was. Bob and Sue nourished us and (in every sense) deepened our understanding, rested and revived us and renewed our spirit. It was revelatory, a rare and precious time. What happens at Les Jardins is a blessing. Rosemary Roberts

Comments on workshops

In June last year I went to the first retreat to be held at Les Jardins des Arts, a centre for reflection set up by Bob and Sue Whorton in Hanc, southwestern France. It was called ‘Patientez – the Grace of Waiting’ and was led by oncologist and hospital Chaplain Margaret Whipp. I enjoyed it so much that I went back this year for an art workshop led by Adam Boulter, an artist and Anglican priest serving as Chaplain for the parish, but soon to move to Madagascar to head up a theological college there. Bob, Sue, and Molly have a great gift of hospitality: immaculate accommodation, wonderful food, and lots of licks from Molly, with healing stroking sessions aplenty. Adam provided a number of seeing and drawing exercises, deep silences, stimulating discussion, and an original Communion service with rose petals and minimum words. Apart from drawing, we made, painted, and tried to fly kites. Truly, as one of the other participants wrote in the visitors’ book, Les Jardins des Arts is a ‘slice of heaven’! Joanna Tulloch

Writing a Book

Wendy Billington stayed with us for a fortnight in 2018 in order to get on with uninterrupted writing. Her book Retired and Inspired: Making the most of our Latter Years was published in 2019 by the Bible Reading Fellowship. In her book she talks about her stay at Les Jardins des Arts:
‘While writing this book, I had an amazing taste of peace when I sought refuge from the distractions of normal home life by staying in a cottage within a retreat centre in the depths of rural France. During the first couple of days I switched off and lay back to bask in the warmth of the sun and marvel at God’s creation in the peace of my surroundings. There was no shop, no café, or public transport for miles and I had no car, so I was devoid of distractions and able to concentrate on the job in hand. My host and hostess lovingly provided me with meals, which were my luxury…
All this gave me the opportunity to become detached from the cares of the world and just to be. Then it was down to work, but the peaceful atmosphere urged me on to write. As I beavered away on the computer, I was very conscious of God’s presence with me and of his peace.’ (p.21)