When Charlotte Church walked into the refectory where we were to have breakfast on my last Friday morning at The Dreaming Retreat, it felt completely natural.

You might think seeing a celebrity would put people on edge, but by this point, we’d all turned Rhydoldog House into our home. She hadn’t been on site until that morning, and it was almost as if we were the ones welcoming her.

On Saturday, fresh from the retreat, I realised how full circle that had been, when I recalled that this time last year I had been watching Charlotte perform in Liverpool at the Eurovision Village. Booking The Dreaming Retreat came at a fortuitous time, rather than purposeful. Now, here I was breaking bread with her, refraining from telling her that her 2005 hit song Crazy Chick should be the Welsh national anthem.

Conversation with Charlotte was a communal affair. Strangers in her home, there was an air of respect, of gratitude for the space she has curated. A reference to her recent Palestine demonstration confirmed she doesn’t regret speaking out, even if it might have an impact on business. When we said thank you to her, she told us not to.

Because The Dreaming isn’t about Charlotte. It’s about slowing down, reconnecting with nature and the land, and leaning into your spirituality. It’s an opportunity to get off the wheel, escape the rat race, and glimpse what life should be like, what it once was. It’s an opportunity for wellness and rest. You may be rolling your eyes at such ideals, but that is what it was: an ideal life. Spirituality is naturally at the forefront of the retreat. One glimpse at the website tells you to expect forest bathing, sound healing, ceremony and wild swimming. Every retreat is different, and each offering is just that: an offering. It’s completely optional. Choose to visit the retreat and if you decide all you want to do is sit and do nothing, so be it.

From Tuesday to Friday, I lost myself in the beautiful Mid Wales landscape, where acres of land give way to mossy forests and natural waterfalls, one you can shower under after a steep ascent to the top. A spiritual man myself, I was there to reconnect with my spirituality, but I was also there to relax, to stop, to indulge. Apprehension plagued me as I drove up the winding, single-track lane towards the old Laura Ashley home. Would I be infringing on female spaces? Would I be welcome? Had I got myself into something too woo-woo, even for me?

The Dreaming invites you to slow down, reconnect with nature and the land, and lean into your spirituality. It’s an opportunity to get off the wheel, escape the rat race.
The Dreaming invites you to slow down, reconnect with nature and the land, and lean into your spirituality. It’s an opportunity to get off the wheel, escape the rat race. (Jack Strange)

I’d booked The Nurturer Retreat, a mid-week retreat. The Brecon and Radnor Express weren’t sponsoring me to go, and I took time off work to attend. I arrived at 3pm and was shown to my room, called The Wanderer, ‘the room for explorers’. The room is south-facing, overlooking the Elemental garden, with a breathtaking view of the Nant Caethon Valley. Being the only man did have its perks after all because I had the room all to myself.

We started with the opening circle at 4pm, where we met our retreat coordinator, Sinnead. Here was an opportunity to meet my fellow retreaters: eight women. As well as those who would be hosting offerings at the retreat, including artist-in-residence, Angeline Morrison who explores traditional songs.

From that moment on, it was time to do whatever you wanted to do. Attend the offerings, which included gentle yoga, celestial blessings, soulful singing, taiko drumming, journaling or connecting with the land. Each day was full of offerings, with enough time to explore the forests, take a dip in the all-natural plunge pool, or simply sit and listen to the birdsong and the countryside.

Our meals - breakfast, lunch and supper - were provided free of charge by a resident chef. All the food was vegan, supporting local farmers, growers and bakers. It was the best food I’ve ever had, and I never once felt hungry.

Some criticism has been aimed at Charlotte for ‘not paying her staff’. True, some people work on the retreats on a work exchange programme. It’s volunteer-based and sees people live at Rhydoldog House with a free room, and free food, in exchange for work. Those I met were inspired and enjoying what they were doing. They didn’t want to leave and extended their time on their work exchange programme for as long as possible. It’s more than just volunteering. I didn’t ask Sinnead or Angeline if they were getting paid. But both lived with us during the retreat, Angeline staying for our retreat and the one before us. I don’t want to speak for others, but everyone on site seemed happy, connected, and relaxed.

It’s easy to dismiss The Dreaming for many reasons. Perhaps you have your preconceptions of Charlotte, informed by misogynistic media reporting. Maybe you can’t help but roll your eyes when someone tells you about tarot cards, astrology, and spirituality.

Describing what The Dreaming offers is not easy. Words can’t conjure the experience and mine can never do it justice. But whether you’re spiritual, or you’re simply looking for a break, you can benefit from the retreat. We all need an opportunity to stop, to not feel stressed or overworked. After all, The Dreaming is a wellness retreat, and when my time was up I left feeling better than ever.

As I drove away, saying goodbye to the beautiful friends I made, I put my music on shuffle, dropped the roof on my car, and drove in the sun. As I left The Dreaming, the opening notes of Crazy Chick came on. A coincidence, or something more?