Etch's Fireside & Wellness Retreat returns for its second consecutive year. Production Manager Carly Boulton reflects on her experience.
The night before
If you didn't already know, Etch's Fireside and Wellness Retreat allows for one day and one night under the stars at the idyllic Gambledown Farm in Hampshire. Shop talk is banned, and we're encouraged to let our hair down on night one and relax, refresh, and reconnect in mind, body, and soul at our wellness retreat on day two. Listen up, we've all attended a work 'retreat' that's turned out to be a corporate vision day, but that wasn't the case here, its purpose was clear from the get-go - this was about us not Etch.
This year's wellness retreat was all about 'impactful living', and we enjoyed some brilliant, inspirational speakers and workshops (more on that later) but to kick things off it was time to eat, drink and have some good old-fashioned fun at this year's Fireside event.
As I arrived at the now familiar Gambledown Farm, laughter rang in the air and I was welcomed by the sight of smiling faces, the delicious smell of a feast being cooked up on the braai and of course, in true Etch fashion - a truckload of booze (quite literally).
For those of us staying overnight, we had the luxury of sleeping in safari-style glamping tents featuring spectacular views of the Test Valley and the Salisbury Plains, not to forget our very own pet chicken. Sorry I didn't feed you, chook.
It was truly magical to see faces old and new at the Fireside event and boy did we have some fun! The highlight of this year's Fireside event must be 'The Etch Factor's Got Talent!' Our take on the popular competition talent shows of late.
"It's time to let your hair down and show off your amazing hidden talents," said the judges…. Gulp! I wasn't alone in my apprehension, but I have to say that it turned out to be a great success and we all had a blast!
We were treated to an eclectic showdown of acts that started with an opening number by the esteemed judge, 'Amanda Holden', AKA - SJ with her fabulous rendition of Shirley Bassey's - Big Spender. SJ's sequinned gold dress also deserves a special mention here.
Followed by samba drumming, blindfolded speed-art, human Wordle, conga-lines and toilet roll stacking. Quite a diversely talented bunch, I think you'll agree!
As the sun began to set, we sat around the fire toasting marshmallows, I felt a real sense of togetherness. You see, this is what Etch achieves so well through their events. I sat wondering... how many other employers invest so strongly in their people and their holistic wellbeing? I felt very fortunate.
A rude awakening
Morning came, and the content feeling was rudely withdrawn by ex-marines commando, Gareth Timmins who provided our wake-up call, accompanied by a bugle. My. Poor. Head. It was nothing that a spot of yoga in our gorgeous green surroundings couldn't help with though and I'm especially pleased there was no drone footage this year (for Callum's sake).
After more foodie offerings for breakfast, it was on to our first talk; None other than wake-up extraordinaire; Gareth. What an inspirational speaker and fascinating life story he told. I loved his message of 'acceptance' - allowing yourself to move more quickly to a positive mindset when presented with challenging situations in life. We can all learn something from that and strive to regain focus and perspective when problems arise. Thankfully most of us won't be faced with the 'challenge' of Somali pirates though, as Gareth was.
Next up was Shadi Ganjavian-Connor with her story of 'Impact through Adventure', telling us how she's been able to give something back to society through sheer determination… and a lot of training! It was fascinating to hear about Shadi's achievements across the globe, physically and mentally, as well as the eye-watering funds raised for her numerous good causes. It goes to show; that if you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and stay focussed then you can achieve fantastic things. Say 'yes', then figure it out later.
Following a tea and cake break, we switched gears to 'Purposeful Financial Planning' with Ian Futcher and Lloyd Nunn from Quilter who gave us relatable advice on how to manage and save our money in these uncertain times. It was an informative lesson in planning for our future and one which had me simultaneously reaching for my calculator and assessing my palms' lifeline.
Lunch arrived in a vintage food truck, courtesy of The Tinker's Granddaughter, serving yummy plant-based meals to us all.
With the sun shining, conversation flowing and live music playing, it was an idyllic break to an already packed day, allowing us to reflect on the morning's events and share thoughts with others.
The afternoon was our chance to break out into smaller groups to listen and engage with our guests, each a specialist in their own field.
Aurea Fellows: A registered nutritional therapist and chartered psychologist with a passion for high performance, leadership and wellbeing, Aurea taught us about how to improve our gut health.
Naomi Light: A qualified couple's therapist, NLP practitioner and coach delivered a hands-on workshop entitled 'Befriend Yourself' desined to help us connect with our inner world and offer ourselves the friendship that we have all been looking for.
Zelna Lauwrens: A clinical child psychologist with an obsession for research in developmental psychology and neuropsychology, who taught us to 'Press Pause and Play' with our children.
Geraldine Joaquim: A clinical hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and wellbeing coach who shared her tips on how to 'Sleep Well'.
To wrap up the day, Etch's own Shelly Frame introduced us to the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi; Finding beauty within the imperfections of life. It was interesting to learn how we could appreciate simplicity in our everyday lives and seek meaning beyond materialism. The metaphor of being perfectly imperfect and embracing flaws were certainly highlighted as we each tried our best to repair broken pottery with gold. I'm not sure how beautiful my Kintsugi bowl creation was… but I'll learn to love it, chips and all.
And just like that, another Etch Wellness Retreat ends, but the ideas, inspiration and wisdom prevail through the experience we've shared as a team and as individuals. I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to hit the pause button (in work time) and absorb fresh perspectives on life and health as well as explore my own personal wellbeing and goals.
These events really are what differentiate Etch from other companies, you did well Etch, until next year.