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Cambridgeshire business couple offer perfect retreats for book lovers

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(L-R) Sara Noel and Cressida Downing are setting up Reading Retreats for bookworms to go away and have solitude to read undisturbed. Picture: Richard Marsham
(L-R) Sara Noel and Cressida Downing are setting up Reading Retreats for bookworms to go away and have solitude to read undisturbed. Picture: Richard Marsham

Novel way for bookworms to enjoy their favourite pastime

Two women from Cambridgeshire have launched a business which offers bookworms the chance to read their chosen paperbacks in splendid isolation and tranquillity.

Photographer and cook Sara Noël, and business partner and literary consultant Cressida Downing, have set up Reading Retreats where book lovers can immerse themselves in their favourite hobby with friends or simply on their own. It was sparked after the pair could not find anything that catered for book lovers who wanted to get away from the pressures of everyday life.

Like all good ideas, they decided to do it themselves and since last summer they have not looked back, with bookings already in for next year.

Ms Noël said: “Imagine not having to stop to prepare meals or answer emails. No interruptions, no phones, no reminders of those must-do jobs around the home. Most importantly, absolutely no guilt about just sitting and reading.

“The retreats offer guests a fully pampered getaway in the country or by the sea. Small group retreats take place in carefully selected houses around the country. The single priority is to give space and time to read. All meals are prepared, speciality teas, freshly brewed coffee and soft drinks are on tap and guests can choose solitude or shared time with other readers.”

Guests may already have a stack of books selected but, if they are looking for inspiration, Ms Downing will prepare a personally tailored reading prescription. A published author also joins the guests for one evening to discuss reading and their current work in progress.

Ms Noël is responsible for ensuring the guests’ stay is relaxing and comfortable, providing delicious meals to sustain reading, with desserts, elevenses, afternoon tea, and even a late-night snack tray for midnight readers.

She added: “We have booked further venues for February and March and already have bookings.

“The level of interest has taken me by surprise so I am sure we are on to a good thing in terms of providing a service that is needed. It is like a spa weekend, only for readers. I will provide everything people need to make readers comfortable.

“We think there is a gap in the market and we both love doing it. I am really excited about next year.”

Ms Downing added: “When we were doing our research we found lots of retreats for writers, but none that offered something specifically for readers. It’s easy to think you can do this for yourself at home or on holiday, but experience shows it never truly happens as there are so many distractions in busy lives. We offer that precious commodity of space and time to read.”

Upcoming retreats include a beach-front house in Thorpeness in Suffolk in February and a traditional oast house in Kent in March.

See readingretreat.co.uk for more details and how to book a retreat.

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