Perfect holidays on offer up and down England

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ACCORDING TO psychologists January is supposed to be the most miserable month of the year. Financially most people are still recovering from the costs of Christmas and New Year, contemplating whether they can actually afford a trip away at Easter or summer. However, recently, holiday-makers have been rediscovering Britain and realised it doesn’t have to be the Italian Riviera every year. England, itself, is full of places where you can both relax and study a little more about the Christian faith at the same time.

Capernwray Hall in Carnforth, Lancashire, is only a short drive from the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Built in the mid-1800s as a private home, it was purchased in 1946 for use as a Christian holiday conference centre. For nine months of the year it runs a Bible study programme while the rest of the year it is open for holidays.

The centre has around 170 students completing either the winter or spring courses. It also runs holiday options such as ladies’ weekends (March 26-28) and options for churches to book time with them. The Capernwray experience includes full-board, trips into the countryside and lots of Bible study time and discussion. Later through July and August, the centre will run family weeks with speakers such as Rob Whittaker and Trevor and Vivien Paterson.

Capernwray’s Programme Director, Dougie Roy, said: “At Capernwray we run our own programme so it gives church leaders a chance just to sit down and hear some teaching.”

Reflecting on the location he said: “The grounds are beautiful. About 150 acres. There is the large manor house and also some parkland including a lake, woods, gardens, lots of facilities on site including a sports hall and pool.”

He added: “We do hill-walking trips in Cumbria and in the Lake District. On the ladies’ days we often head down into Kendal, Morecambe Bay or Keswick.” For more information on Capernwray hall’s programme’s visit www.capernwray.org.uk or call 01524 733908.

Situated on the dramatic Exmoor coastline, Lee Abbey is Christian community, retreat and holiday centre ‘set in a spacious 280 acres of farm and woodland’. One of my friends who visits Lee Abbey every year described it – borrowing the Celtic expression – as a ‘thin place’ in that God’s presence could be experienced there more readily.

The community is run by a team of more than 90 individuals and families. The centre runs an array of programmes throughout the year and attracts a number of speakers.

Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill, for example, will be speaking on March 1–5, on ‘The Life you Have Always Wanted’. Followed shortly by Mike Pilavachi, founder of Soul Survivor, who will be exploring ‘grace’ in a series of talks from March 15–19. The centre also runs Men’s Retreats including a Dads’ and Lads’ weekend on April 23–25 and Band of Brothers weekend May 28–30. Ladies also have their own Mums’ and Daughters’ event on July 9–11.

Speaking about Lee Abbey, Sarah Prentice, a designer at the Lee Abbey community, said: “It is an amazingly peaceful place that is incredibly welcome if you have come from a busy city, for me that is one of the main draws.” For more information call 01598 752621 or visit www.leeabbey.org.uk.

Further South of Lee Abbey near the Devonshire coast is Brunel Manor. The house was supposed to be the retirement home of the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. However he died before having the chance to live there. The Manor’s management now opens its facilities to Christian and non-Christian groups. It has the facilities for personal retreats, holidays, teaching and activities.

There are lounges and reception areas for relaxing with a chapel that is always open for prayer and meditation. There are also rooms specially designed for those with physical disabilities with a lift allowing access to all floors. The manor is set in picturesque gardens, which are open at all times for those wishing to use them. In 2006, the manor celebrated 200 years since Brunel’s birth. Extensive work has now been done in the gardens, restoring many of the original features that have lain hidden for decades.

Of course the coming months will also see the larger conferences. New Wine takes place in London & South East (LSE) from July 24-30 in Somerset, North and East (N&E) from July 31-August 6 and for Central and South West (CSW) August 1-7. The New Wine network was started in the late 1980s by Bishop David Pytches and the Rev Barry Kissell as part of the Charismatic renewal movement. Its sister festival, Soul Survivor, takes place at the same time (see www.soulsurvivor.com).

The Keswick Convention takes place over July and August and will host Don Carson, Paul Mallard and Alistair Begg as speakers (see www.keswickministries.org). For those wishing to get away a little quicker you could consider Word Alive from April 13-18, in Pwllheli, Wales (www.newwordalive.org).

Here in Britain we have excellent resources for getting away for a week or weekend of relaxation and Bible study. Why not plan it now, the weather’s only going to get better…